Speaking to about 1,000 elderly people here Thursday, Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy teed off on his opponent’s record on Social Security, Medicare and nursing home reform, arguing that Republican Sen. Pete Wilson, along with Vice President George Bush, has turned his back on senior citizens and their families.
McCarthy accused Wilson and Bush of perpetuating “inhumane” and “anti-family” policies on aging that “drive people into the poorhouse before their spouses can get help with nursing home costs.”
The audience, one of the largest McCarthy has addressed, was gathered at the Scottish Rite Temple on Wilshire Boulevard for a Democratic rally that originally was to include Presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis. Dukakis’ mother, Enterpe, spoke in his place, along with McCarthy and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. Dukakis canceled, aides said, in order to prepare for Thursday night’s debate with Bush.
The event gave McCarthy a chance to hit Wilson where he thinks the senator may be most vulnerable, on his record on issues affecting old people. During his 20 years in state government, McCarthy has made care of elderly and disabled people something of a personal crusade.
Two weeks ago, McCarthy said that if he is elected, he will propose $1 billion in aid for home health care for severely disabled people.
Last year, Wilson introduced a bill, which is still pending, that would allow federal employees to convert a portion of their life insurance to long-term care insurance. Meant as a pilot program that could be extended to the general population, Wilson’s approach would avoid federal spending. McCarthy has dismissed the bill as woefully inadequate.
In his speech, McCarthy attacked Wilson for voting to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, voting to increase Medicare premiums and voting against an amendment that would have transferred $62 million in “left-over money from Star Wars"--the Strategic Defense Initiative--to programs that deliver meals to elderly people who can’t leave their homes.
McCarthy said that Wilson, who is a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, has shown up for fewer than one-third of the committee’s meetings and missed sessions on fraud against the elderly, the future of Medicare, health care costs, Social Security, pensions, home health care and many other issues.
McCarthy’s speech addressed one of several subjects, including the environment, labor, housing and education, which the McCarthy campaign sees as the main concerns of working families in California. Each week, the campaign has focused on one of those issues, presenting McCarthy as a champion of the family--"a Senator for us"--and Wilson as a benefactor of corporate special interests--"a Senator for them.”
On Thursday, McCarthy once again tied the issue at hand, care for the elderly, to the broader well-being of the family.
“When an older person becomes ill and can’t afford adequate health care, it affects his or her whole family; when their Social Security check doesn’t keep pace with inflation and they have to borrow money from their kids just to pay for a prescription refill, it affects the whole family,” McCarthy said.
“So, when a senator votes to cut Social Security, when he does nothing to improve the quality of nursing homes, when he drags his heels or fights new ways to improve Medicare, he’s not just hurting seniors, he’s hurting the American family.”
Wilson has acknowledged voting “reluctantly” to freeze cost-of-living increases in Social Security and Medicare as part of an effort to bring down the federal budget deficit. But he has pronounced McCarthy guilty of a similar action six years ago when McCarthy voted for a state budget that denied cost-of-living increases to 700,000 low-income Social Security recipients.
Wilson’s campaign manager, Otto Bos, argued Thursday that McCarthy misrepresented Wilson’s record of service on the Senate Committee on Aging.
“McCarthy deliberately did not tell his audience that Wilson held four very important field hearings on low-cost housing, health care, Medigap insurance fraud, and crime,” Bos said.