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Iowa Seniors Target Candidate Accountability

Iowa is one of the states where a new AARP campaign to pin presidential candidates down on their exact plans for Social Security is being launched. Credit: AARP.
Iowa is one of the states where a new AARP campaign to pin presidential candidates down on their exact plans for Social Security is being launched. Credit: AARP.
November 10, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa – Three out of every 10 Iowans age 65 and above rely on Social Security as their only source of income.

That's an important figure, according to economic analysts, because in order for future generations to receive benefits, the system will need to be updated. AARP is spearheading a national effort called Take a Stand, to require presidential candidates to talk about how they would fix the system.

Kent Sovern, state director of AARP Iowa, says the national effort is beginning in Iowa because of its first-in-the-nation caucuses.

"Social Security is an indispensable social program that provides financial security for seniors," he says. "It has operated in terrific style for the past 80 years, but our members are telling us over and over again that they want Social Security to be around for their children and grandchildren."

The effort is also rolling out now in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first primary states.

In addition to the website at 2016TakeaStand.org, Sovern says AARP members are asking presidential candidates directly about the issue.

"We have a concentrated effort here where our volunteers are showing up at every candidate event where we possibly can, in our red shirts," he says. "We're asking the same question of candidates. 'What would you do to update Social Security and put it on stable ground for current and future generations?'"

To date, 11 of the 18 active candidates have proposed specific plans to update Social Security.

According to Sovern, while the system is solvent today, it won't be for much longer without an update.

"It is absolutely essential that we begin having this kind of leadership conversation now, because if nothing happens, it's a guaranteed 25 percent reduction in benefits beginning in the year 2033."

In addition to the Take a Stand website, Sovern says AARP will discuss the candidates' plans through advertising, social media and the group's publications, which reach 22 million American households.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA