Retirement activist plays to a full house in Port Townsend

 

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Mark McDermott,senior activist and brother of long time U.S. Representative Jim McDermott (7th District), brought an outreach presentation to a crowded community hall in Port Townsend on Tuesday evening. Representing the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA) he addressed a crowd of almost 100 people, mostly older, on the topics of saving Medicare and Social Security. His call for new members to join his organization and help drive legislation at the State and Federal levels fell on fertile ground in Port Townsend, part of the oldest county in Washington State and likely it’s most liberal.

If you want to skip to the audio track and just listen to it, go here:

Audio recorded by Sonny Flores & sound engineering by Gary Engbrecht

PSARA appears to be an organization with a 25  year history in the Seattle Area and it also seems to have deep ties to the Seattle labor movement.  They also have two registered lobbyists working for them in Olympia. So that’s a positive thing, as they are actively working on change in the state capital. That they did not seem to have a good handle on bills that they are supporting in the current legislative session at this late date, but said that they would be announcing those bills soon, is something that  would havebeen  expected them to have available to a crowd like this. To put it in perspective, most environmental organizations have their bills in the ready before the legislature, so it’s a bit disheartening that there were not concrete actions that Mr. McDermott and PSARA president Robbie Stern had for the crowd to take today, beyond joining the organization. It was also interesting to hear them using the argument that Senators Murray and Cantwell didn’t support the non-binding  amendment that Senator Bernie Sanders introduced (among others), when it has been already discussed by politifact that the: The vote was more symbolic than substantive. It was an amendment to a Senate budget resolution, which is a non-binding measure that doesn’t get signed by the president or become law. Rather, they set a framework for committee chairs to work within when deciding how to spend money. It’s important to know that every one of the 13 senators listed in the meme voted in favor of a separate amendment that did urge lower drug prices. This other amendment effectively prevented the Senate from considering legislation that did not “as promised by (President-elect Donald Trump), lower drug prices, as certified by the Congressional Budget Office.” Neither amendment passed.

It appeared that McDermott’s pitch for activism played very well to the crowd, and likely won PSARA a large number of new recruits. Given that it’s essential goal of strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are goals so many of us in Washington State voted to support by supporting Hillary Clinton, it is good to get people out from behind Facebook and into action defending the proper legislation. There is a  need for a continued national push to counter the new Congress and President. And PSARA needs to push beyond Liberal friendly Puget Sound and take their message into eastern Washington, among other locales where getting people to stand up to their Republican representatives might hold a swing vote or two.  It did seem  a bit like preaching to the choir tonight. It’s hard to imagine Derek Kilmer voting to seriously weaken these core Democratic values.  But PSARA needs to get voting instructions to their new members quickly, to get them to do the work to pass State legislation.

PSARA’s main goal is to “Scrap the Cap” of Social Security taxes, above the approx. $127,000 level currently. This would affect, according to McDermott, approx. 6% of the population to pay more social security and would keep the fund solvent for decades to come. It has not been fully backed by all Democratic lawmakers at this time.

It was mentioned that there will be a Senior Lobbying Day on February 23rd in Olympia. Given my experience at previous lobbying days, I highly recommend you put together a car pool of friends to go down. If you have never done it before, it is a very useful and educational day.

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