It was Democrat versus Democrat at times during Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s event in a Des Moines retirement center Tuesday. But a woman’s emotional plea for help is what captured the attention of room full of dozens of retirees.
Harkin hosted the event with a number of Democratic-friendly groups, including the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans, Progress Iowa, The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy For America, MoveOn.org, Social Security Works, and Credo Action.
Harkin, as well as some speakers expressed frustration with President Barack Obama’s previous push to change the way the government determines the yearly increases in social security benefits.
The change could have meant a smaller annual adjustment for recipients. Harkin told the crowd, “I’m sorry to say the president of my own party has advocated this and he’s wrong.”
Instead, Harkin reiterated his bill that would increase monthly benefits for recipients by $65 a month. He would raise the necessary money to do that by lifting the cap that currently taxes the first $113,700 of a person’s income for social security. Harkin said, “Now you might say, how can you do that, Harkin? I’m so tired of people saying we’ve got to cut social security. No, you can increase social security.”
Near the end of the event Sheryl Tenicat, of Des Moines, told her story through tears. “$624 a month. That’s what I live on. 99 of that goes to my Medicare Part ‘A’ and ‘B’. After I get my check in two weeks, it’s gone. I have nothing. I live on what I eat here (at the senior center). I don’t want my cost of living cut because I’ve paid in since I was 16.”
Tenicat, who is retired, said she is looking for a job because she can’t pay her bills. Her car broke down and she can’t afford to fix it. So she rides the bus to get to the senior center to get her free meals. She finished her plea for help by telling Harkin she is out of ways to save money, “There is no way for me to eat less.”