Several dozen West Valley residents showed up Tuesday afternoon to the Glendale offices of Rep. Trent Franks to deliver petitions, asking the longtime lawmaker to take a more vested interest to ensure Medicare and Social Security remain top priorities in Washington, D.C.
The concerned citizens, primarily from Peoria and the Sun Cities, called on Franks to separate discussions involving the ongoing debate of raising the nation’s debt ceiling and the funding of social programs like Medicare and Social Security.
“We know what America is supposed to be about and this isn’t it,” said Sun City resident Deanna Stropes. “We need to be looking out for others. Social programs and safety nets are important to people’s livelihood.”
Congress has until Tuesday to raise the debt ceiling — or federal borrowing limit — or the government will run out of money and possibly default on its debt obligations. If lawmakers miss that deadline, the federal government will be far short of the cash it needs to pay all its obligations, and Social Security payments could be affected.
House Republicans say they won’t raise the debt limit without equal spending cuts, while President Obama and Democrats insist higher revenues must be included and that raising the debt ceiling equates to federal spending that has already taken place.
AARP officials and those attending Tuesday’s petition delivery believe Republicans’ proposed spending cuts would unfairly put the heavy burden of fiscal budget cuts on the backs of America’s seniors.
They also believe while health care and other entitlement program costs can be vetted down the road, arguing these costs are tied to the nation’s spending problems is unfair and jeopardizes whether these programs can withstand lawmakers’ scrutiny.
“Earned benefits need to be protected,” said Ginny Creager, who serves on AARP Arizona’s executive council. “Cutting Medicare and Social Security would do immediate harm to seniors. AARP believes these programs should be maintained for current users and future recipients.”
AARP, which collected 5,900 signatures from concerned Arizona residents and delivered them Tuesday to Franks’ offices, believes ineffective government spending and the cutting of corporate tax loopholes would solve some of the nation’s financial woes.
That message was spread loud and clear as a number of concerned citizens, holding signs that read “Raise the debt limit and start taxing the rich” and “Don’t destroy Medicare and Social Security,” took to the streets near 71st Avenue and Bell Road to demonstrate their cause.
The expression of dissatisfaction then moved inside Franks’ offices, where AARP officials presented Don Hay, district chief of staff — Franks is the midst of debt ceiling talks in Washington D.C. — with the petitions.
In between shouts of support for Obama, residents then shared why funding Medicare and Social Security is not only important to their livelihood, but also their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Peoria resident Maureen Fauss is a longtime Social Security recipient who has seen her share of monthly funding dwindle while lawmakers, she said, continue to throw the program under the bus and delegitimize its worth.
Fauss, who has three children and seven grandchildren, said it’s imperative Social Security is around for future generations who are dealing with one of the worst economic recessions she and other Americans have dealt with in their lifetimes.
“Children are suffering everywhere,” she said. “Corporate America needs to pay its fair share of taxes like everyone else. This is so wrong. Wake up, America.”
Monica Emmis, a retired educator from Goodyear, said the loss of financial safety nets like Social Security has a domino effect on families. As cost of living increases and wages remain flat, Emmis said school leaders see firsthand how the economic downturn forces families to the streets as parents lose their jobs and homes, thereby affecting children’s performance in school.
In a letter to Obama, Franks, along with 57 other lawmakers, believes Democrats are politicizing debt ceiling talks and using “scare tactics” to sway the American public that conservatives do not care about seniors and the funding of Social Security and Medicare.
Franks said reaching a consensus on debt ceiling talks means not increasing taxes and deficit spending levels.
“True leaders should never utilize scare tactics to push their political agendas, much less at the expense of the most vulnerable Americans and those currently putting themselves in harm’s way to defend our nation,” he stated in the letter.
“What my colleagues and I are asking for now is simply that the president assure the American people that, come hell or high water, military personnel and both Social Security and Medicare benefits will be paid in full, not used by Democrats as a political bargaining chip.”
Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.