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2nd District candidates support keeping Social Security, Medicare

The Illinois 2nd Congressional District candidate debate hosted by AARP Victory Apostolic Church MattesMonday February 18 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times

The Illinois 2nd Congressional District candidate debate, hosted by AARP, at Victory Apostolic Church in Matteson Monday, February 18, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 20, 2013 6:16AM



Speaking before an audience brought together Monday by the American Association of Retired People, 11 candidates vying for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s former congressional seat weighed in on the future of Social Security and Medicare.

In a wide-ranging debate, the majority of candidates for the 2nd Congressional District seat said they favored keeping such benefits intact, but wanted to find ways to reduce inefficiencies throughout the system.

“We need to put affordability back in health care,” said Robin Kelly (D-Matteson). “It’s not the problem itself, but the soaring costs.”

The forum was held at the Victory Apostolic Church in Matteson. Chicago Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), Ernest Fenton, Victor Jonathan, Kelly, Debbie Halvorson, Larry Pickens, Joyce Washington, the Rev. Anthony Williams, Fatimah Muhammad, and Republicans Beverly Reid and Eric Wallace attended.

They are competing for the seat vacated by Jackson, who resigned in November and was charged last week with allegedly misusing $750,000 in campaign funds. A special primary election for his seat will be held Feb. 26 and a general election for the seat is set for April 9.

Opening the forum, the candidates were asked how they would address Social Security if elected.

Beale said he would change the laws so that people who make more than $250,000 would pay more money into Social Security.

“Right now, we constantly send rich people to Washington, D.C.,” Beale said. “It’s a rich people’s club.”

Halvorson, a former member of Congress, said more women would be impoverished and homeless if it weren’t for Social Security. She vowed never to raise the retirement age.

“It makes me sick people want to tinker with it,” Halvorson said. “People are already working backbreaking jobs.”

Kelly said she also opposed raising the retirement age, but endorsed borrowing from the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund to maintain adequate Social Security funding levels.

Reid said she was tired of seeing Social Security used as a “political football” during the campaign. She did, however, say that Social Security needed to be protected for the use of future generations.

“At some point between 2035 and 2050, the system will run dry,” Reid said. “It’s the best domestic program the country ever had. I need it, and you need it, too.”

To maintain money for Social Security, Wallace said there should be a means test for those who receive it. People who make enough money shouldn’t receive the assistance, he said.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure it’s still viable for those like myself so that when I’m 80 years old, the benefits will still be there,” Wallace said.

Williams suggested creating a federal lottery, making the winnings tax-free, and using the cash generated from sales to fund Social Security, Medicare and other federal programs.

Kelly said that Medicare expenses can be reduced by eliminating waste and fraud.

“We need to look up bulk buying power and technology because there’s duplicate services we don’t need,” Kelly said.

Fenton also recommended cracking down on health costs, whether for prescription medicine or doctor visits.

“It’s absurd that if you go to the hospital and you need an aspirin, they will charge you $30 for a pill of aspirin,” Fenton said. “We need to redo this thing from the inside out.”



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