Hillary Clinton and Dems At AARP Debate – Obama Still AWOL

Reminder:  Bill Clinton on The Daily Show at 11:00 p.m. ET.


We speculated on why Barack Obama will really not be at tonight’s AARP Debate. Hillary Clinton and the other Dems with offices in Iowa will attend the debate.

The AARP Debate starts in a few minutes. Obama is still AWOL.


From the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa.  Moderated by Judy Woodruff.

Judy: Opening remarks.  Few rules, closing statements.  Introduction of candidates.


Judy:  All your opponents (to Bill Richardson) voted for expanded health care bill, how would you vote or change it? 

Richardson: Deal with components of health care such as prevention of diabetes and cancer.  Take Iraq money for health care at home.

Judy: to Clinton, would you add to the program. 

Hillary: I voted against the medicare bill because I thought we could do better.  No donut holes – no coverage when benefits expire.  We can get better coverage by negotiating to get costs down.  We need to lower costs and expand benefits.

Judy: to Biden, Would it be better to see how states do health care?

Biden: Not much difference between all our plans, the difference will be in who will take on insurance industry.  They spent a hundred million to destroy the Clinton plan. We can do a great deal by getting rid of the tax cuts for the wealthy.

Edwards: This is a national problem.  The drug companies and lobbyists have prevented health care.  We need a president who will stand up to them.

Judy: In your health care plan you envision $100 million in savings.  What about a lockbox for that money?

Clinton: My plan opens up the congressional health care plan and shares responsibility.  The drug and insurance companies will have to change how they do business.  The savings (about $77 billion) should go to tax credits for indivduals and small business who can’t afford coverage. 

Judy: Why haven’t these savings been done before? 

Clinton: this is a system that makes a lot of money for a lot of people.  Until we have a broad consensus we can’t get the political consensus.  Bush today is angry because we tried to raise taxes on tabacco. 

Judy: Comments Senator Dodd?

Dodd: Health care costs have gone up 87% during Bush.  We need to bring people together.  It’s what I did in the Family Leave Act. 

Judy: Dodd, What would you do for caregivers like family members who do not get paid?

Dodd: We need tax credits for these caregivers.  Also paid leave for care givers.  Work with states to provide support to these caregivers.  Include respite care.

Biden: The states have a foster care system where people get paid.  We should do the same for caregivers.


Richardson: Caregivers are usually moms.  We need to provide tax credits.  I have a program to give care at home electronically.

Clinton: This is a issue that affects all of us.  I passed a lifetime respite act.  $300 billion would be needed to replace these caregivers.  We need to do this.

Judy: JE, Your plan calls for getting rid of the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy but that will not be enough to pay for your plans.  Will you raise taxes?

Edwards: I was first with my plan.  Glad others are joining in.  I have a specific tax proposal too.  We need to raise capital gains tax.  Treat work with dignity.

Richardson: I disagree with Senator Edwards.  We pay 2.3 trillion in healthcare in this country.  We need to shift the 1/3 of administrative costs to actual healthcare.  Give choice.  Step 1, end waste, 2, prevention, 3 electronic filing – we don’t need a new tax.

Edwards: My plan does all those things.  We need to tell the truth.  Tell the truth on how much it will cost. 

Judy: are other’s lying?

Edwards: No, but Iowa always gets promises.

Judy: You have criticized Clinton on lobbyists.  Was her health care plan influenced by lobbyists?

Edwards: Her plan is good.  It’s like mine.  She has a plan 7 years later.  I do think we have differences.  I don’t believe you can have lobbyists and compromise.  That does not work.  the system is broken.

Clinton: Been there, done that.  15 years ago I was fighting for health care.  I got health care for children and veterans.  I think what was a lonely struggle is now a unifed effort by Democrats.  Republicans don’t want health care.  A political coalition was not possible 15 years ago.  My experience makes me a lot better prepared this time. 

Judy: Would the health care system be better without insurance companies?

Dodd: Better oversight is an answer.  I’ve had some opposition from insurance companies.  I’m for universal healthcare.  I can pull people together.  Not enough to talk about failed plans.  We need leadership to get this done.  I have 26 years experience.

Richardson: I’m the only one here who is a governor.  We made up for medicade shortfall.  We will ensure everyone.  States can’t do it alone. 


Judy: Are you all tip-toeing.  Should we have a government plan?

Biden: We need to change campaign finance.  Richardson is a great governor but we are talking about 300 million Americans.  I love Hillary but what has changed that Hillary will be able to get 15 Republicans, Edwards can’t get the votes either.  Who has the record to get red state senators, 15 republicans to vote for health care.

Richardson: We need someone who can manage healthcare.  I’m a governor.  Why Joe are you denigrating experience?

Judy: single payer, yes or no?


Judy: Alan Greenspan writes that medicare faces financial crisis and that for seniors it will have to be self financed?

Clinton: I disagree.  In the Clinton White House we had surpluses.  That gave us the tools to ensure that Social Security and medicare would be stable.  Fiscal responsibility and the way it works, value oriented, must be adopted.  We want doctors not insurance companies to determine patient care. 

Edwards: The drug company lobbyists got what they wanted in the medicare bill.  What we senators wanted did not matter.  The lobbyists wrote the bill.  Give the power back to the American people. 

Dodd: Social Security and medicare have to be defended, they have bought senior poverty rates down.  Just negotiating for prescriptions would have saved over $300 billion.  They want to destroy these 2 programs.  Greenspan is wrong.

Biden: Greenspan wants to protect the stakeholders. 

Richardson: We need universal health care.  But by 2025 there are financial risks and we need a bipartisan solution. 


Judy: Social Security, what will you do to save it?

Clinton: Republicans want to destroy Social Security.  When we left the White House Social Security was solvent until 2055.  Because of the fiscal irresponsiblity now it is 2041.  Let’s quit taking money from Social Security to fund the war in Iraq and other things.  [Cheers]

Biden: Hillary is right.  This is not a tough problem.  This is true for every aspect of all our financial problems.  Bush has created a horrible deficit. 

Judy: What about raising the retirement age?

Dodd: No.  A mistake.  Let’s reinforce this.  Bush has accumulated more debt than all previous presidents combined.  This a red herring.  Republicans want to destroy Social Security.

Richardson: I disagree with Joe Biden.  I take privatization off the table.  Balance the budget, invest in education, universal pension with portability.

Edwards: Biden mentioned it, but you only pay taxes on $90,000 of income, let’s raise it. 

Judy: Does everyone agree?

Clinton: Before we do anything else, let’s clean up the fiscal mess first. 

Judy: Democrats are critical of Bush on Social Security, but if you take everything off the table aren’t you being as irresponsible as Bush?

Dodd: We need to encourage investment by individuals in their own financial security.  Social Security has to be even for all in all economic circumstances.  This will destroy Social Security too. 

Biden: I was there in 1979 when we fixed it.  We raised retirement age slowly.  We fixed the system in a bipartisan way.

Judy: For the same reasons, would any of you support ending early retirement age.

Richardson: I am for a balanced budget amendment, with war or emergency exemption. 


Richardson: We must restory fiscal responsibility.

Judy: what about the disappearance of private guaranteed pension plans?

Biden: We need to guarantee pension plans.  CEOs are wiping out pensions but getting money.  We need to change the bankruptcy code to stop this.

Clinton:  The decline of pensions has undermined peoples lives.  Halliburton shed the pension responsibilities while giving Cheney $20 million.  We need to change the tax and bankruptcy code to stop this.  Automatic IRA etc. 

Edwards: Strenghten the rights of unions to organize.  CEO pensions have to be treated the same as other workers – by law. 

Richardson: With bankruptcy laws the workers don’t get their benefits.  We need to change the law and provide portability.

Judy: Iowa has 9th biggest foreclosure rate in country.  What is government going to do?

Dodd: Greed is responsible.  Brokers luring people into teaser rates which people could not pay.  Probably 3 million people will be faced with foreclosure.  The brokers and bankers have to be made to fix this.  The FED also did nothing.  No regulation was provided.  This requires leadership in the country.  We need to push back on this issue.

Edwards: I have proposed a national predatory lending law.  Cap on loans of 36% on these loans.  A home rescue fund. 

Judy: The FED cut interest rates by 1/2 this week.  Is this good/enough?

Biden: This is severe because these hedge funds are not regulated and they bought up these mortgages.  We need regulation.  There was no way to know.


Richardson: I passed a law in New Mexico with many of these things passed.  We need to keep liquidity in the markets.  Regulation.  People in the industry are supervising this.  I am blaming the president.  Mortgage lenders became loan sharks. 

Judy: How is FED chair Ben Bernake doing?

Edwards: He is trying.  Liquidity. 

Clinton: This is a looming crisis and we cannot rely soley on monetary policy.  We are not going to get Bush to lead nor probably legislation.  Bush is not showing the needed urgency. 

Dodd: I think Bernake is doing well.  He lowered the discount rate.  Hillary is right this is just the monetary side.  We needed regulation.  I give him good grades at this point.

Biden: We have to find a way to have these people keep their homes, for their and the economy’s sake.

Judy: Global warming – the most effective way is a stiff carbon tax on polluters. 

Clinton: Global warming impacts us in ways such as home insurance for homes near the sea shore.  We can put together a package that will work.

Dodd: I support a corporate carbon tax.  We need those funds to make alternative fuels competitive with fossil fuels.

Judy: Alternative Minimum Tax – 50 million people soon.  Will you repeal?

Edwards: No repeal.  We must change it.  Broad tax reform.  This is part of a bigger problem. 

Clinton: It is very expensive.  We need to remove the impact from people it was not meant to effect.  Middle income must be removed.  We need broad economic and tax system reform [cheers]

Judy: Missing Obama proposed a big tax cut.  With big deficits, crumbling bridges and roads are new tax cuts appropriate?

Richardson: I’ve cut taxes, but you have to pay for them.  We have to be creative with the tax code.  I was energy secretary.  Cap and Trade is better than a carbon tax.  [back and forth with Dodd]  You reduce 30% by 2020.  A tax just taxes without results.

Edwards: We need tax cuts, I have proposed some.  We have a negative savings rate.  We need to make sure that wealthy Americans pay their fair share. 

Judy: Dodd has proposed paid leave for home care workers.  Is this a burden for companies?

Biden: Chris is right.  We introduced a tax cut 10 years ago.  We need to get our house in order.  Delaware is going underwater because other countries (Chinese) are building polluting factories rapidly.

Richardson: In the pay scale women are discriminated and we need to help them

Clinton: Equal pay for equal work, we need to repeal the Supreme Court decision. 


Judy: Iraq.  Will your partition proposal work?

Biden: Many agree with me.  Just like the Bosnian accords.  It’s simple.  You can’t govern Iraq from the center.  Give local control in a federation.

Judy: Does anyone disagree with Biden?

Dodd: the Iraqis need to make that decision.

Richardson: It is one of the solutions after a political solution.  After we get our troops out. 

Judy: Finally.  Most experts think we need to leave residual forces in Iraq.  One year after you are inaugurated what will be the size of American forces?

Biden: If no political solution – zero forces.  With a political settlement, we will see.  In Bosnia there is now no political killings.

Edwards: We are going to have an embassy that needs protecting.  No combat troops. 

Richardson: I disagree with Edwards.  Our kids are dying.  We must get all our troops out.  No reconciliation until we are out.  We need to end this war now.

Clinton: None of us knows what we are going to inherit.  I will on the first day ask out people to find out what is going on.  We need to find out.  Then we will have a plan and troop withdrawal.  We don’t know what we are going to inherit from Bush and Cheney.

Dodd: We should not be talking about troop withdrawals in the future.  Let’s do it now.

Closing statements:

Edwards: Economic insecurity, gap on haves/have not, stop the war.  We need an honest president, who we can trust.  Restore trust.

Dodd: We care about our families.  We need leadership that will care about our families.  And get results.  Produce results.  We are exhausted with debate. 

Biden: Many bodies being brought home.  Bush is handing the war over to the next president.  the next president has no margin of error. 

Clinton: I want to set big goals for America again.  Restore America’s leadership.  Stop the war.  But we have many problems.  Rebuild the economy.  We are going to face the most difficult days ahead. 

Richardson: Sensible priorities.  When FDR died the train traveled the country with his coffin.  A man crying said “FDR knew me” – that’s the kind of president I want to be. 


It’s over. 


Barack Obama’s Social Insecurity

[Please Note: AARP DEBATE TONIGHT – 8:00 P.M. ET, 7:00 CST. We’ll be blogging the debate. Hillary will be on several talk shows this Sunday morning. Right now we know of Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday, with Chris Wallace. Does Hillary ever sleep?]

Today the Quad-City Times notes that Obama will be at a fundraiser in Atlanta (with Usher and Dominique Wilkins) instead of at tonight’s forum The forum will also discuss important issues which have been on the back burner so far. Should the Social Security retirement age be raised for white-collar office workers (who have relatively “easy” jobs) and blue-collar workers (such as mine workers who have their bodies broken by years of hard work at early ages)? We won’t get an answer from Obama – he’s busy raising more money.

AARP scheduled this forum to elevate some issues that haven’t gotten top billing in this caucus campaign: health care and financial security. Remember Social Security? Four years ago, these pages were filled with letters and columns demanding immediate change to save this teetering entitlement. When the president’s plan to privatize a portion of it failed, the entire issue seemed to disappear.

The attempt to destroy Social Security was THE big Bush agenda item for his second term. The failure to pass schemes which were Trojan horses meant to destroy Social Security effectively destroyed the Bush government immediately after it had supposedly won re-election. Karl Rove pushed for the privatization schemes and the other ploys such as “personal” accounts (which were politically meant to shift resources from public program Social Security into “personal” accounts, none of which actually did what they were advertised to do – because the real aim was the destruction of the Democratic and successful New Deal and Social Security). Democrats understood the real purpose behind the Bush proposals and opposed them effectively and in unity. TPM on privatization:

This is all another way of saying that the Democrats do have an alternative on the table: preserving Social Security rather than phasing it out. (Once again, let me say that in a later post I’ll discuss why our values are only honored by a system like Social Security.) Democrats already have and will continue to propose adjustments to the system to handle potential shortfalls which are decades in the future. But this debate — for anyone who understands it, indeed even the White House now concedes the point — is not about solvency. And the fact that Kristoff does not grasp that point is not their problem, though his confusing the two issues certainly complicates preserving the program.

Obama has problems with Social Security and the issues surrounding financial security. Perhaps that is why Obama is missing tonight’s forum – because Obama does not want to answer questions before a very knowledgeable audience and side by side with his Democratic opponents.

Instead of debating his opponents in front of the national media and a very knowlegeable audience of seniors Obama is leveraging his big money purse to buy ads speaking about financial and Social Security and health care with ad buys instead of speaking to voters impacted by these issues, or as he derides them “special interest voters”. Obama is supposedly writing an op-ed article for publication on Friday to discuss Social Security and hosting his own “Senior Town Hall” in Ames on Friday.

What is Hillary’s vision on financial security and Social Security?:

“Just seven years ago we had a balanced budget and a surplus and we had a plan to ensure Social Security’s solvency until 2055,” the presidential contender and former first lady told thousands of senior citizens attending an AARP lifestyles forum. “Now we have been set back, by endless deficits.”

To groans from the audience, Clinton added: “You know, right now we’ve basically funded the two big priorities of the administration – tax cuts for the wealthiest and the Iraq war – from two sources,” the Social Security trust fund and borrowers such as China.

“I do not think that those are policies that will make America strong again, and I reject them,” she said.

Clinton, now a New York senator, jabbed at rival Barack Obama. She suggested the Illinois senator is wrong for considering raising the retirement age or payroll tax rates to help ensure Social Security’s long-term solvency. Clinton favors improving the national economy to avoid any more trust fund withdrawals.

“Putting everything on the table is not the right answer,” Clinton said. “Raising the retirement age is not an answer. Cutting benefits is not an answer. We need to get back to the fiscal responsibility that we had in the 1990s, when we weren’t draining the Social Security fund any more.”

On July 23, 2007 in an article called CNN/Youtube Debate – Desperate Househusbands Vs. Hillary Clinton we wrote:

Obama is going to have some explaining to do on his social security answer as well as his “meet the dictators” answer. Obama has as one of his advisers Jeffrey Liebman (we’ll have to have a bigger post on Obama/Liebman at some later date).

We have not forgotten that promise. We will be discussing Jeffrey Liebman (a top Obama advisor who co-wrote a “personal” accounts plan with John McCain advisor Maya MacGuineas and Obama’s positions on Social Security and the Trojan horse of “personal” accounts as well as Obama’s promise to “put everything on the table”, regarding Social Security.

Let’s understand, Obama is afraid of being confronted on Social Security. Tonight’s AARP debate will not take place before a Naderite crew of bobby-soxers in love with an airbrushed poster of a candidate. Obama is afraid of being called out by Hillary before a very sharp audience in a televised forum.

Hillary offered what was a pretty rare shot at one of her rivals speaking to the AARP convention in Boston this afternoon, on an issue that doesn’t get lots of media buzz these days but matters a lot to, among others, the aging Iowa caucus goers.

“I’m going to make putting Social Security on a sound track one of my highest priorities. I’ll tell you, putting everything on the table is not an answer. Raising the retirement age is not an answer. Cutting benefits is not an answer. We need to get back to the fiscal responsibility that we had in the 1990s so we’re not draining the Social Security trust fund anymore.”

That “putting everything on the table” line is a reference to Obama’s May statement, in an interview with George Stephanopolous (after the jump), that “everything should be on the table” when it comes to reforming Social Security, including raising the retirement age and raising payroll taxes.