Union retirees endorse Bill Bradbury for U.S. Senate

The AFL-CIO-backed Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) endorsed Democrat Bill Bradbury in his race to unseat Republican Gordon Smith. At an endorsement rally Oct. 10 at Kirkland Union Manor in Portland, Bradbury, appearing with ARA Executive Director Ed Coyle, defined the differences between himself and his opponent on issues important to Oregon's seniors, such as protecting Social Security and implementing a Medicare-based prescription drug benefit.˜

"Oregon seniors have a clear choice when it comes to selecting the person who will represent them in the U.S. Senate over the next six years," said Bradbury.˜ "I will hold government accountable in ensuring 38 million seniors get a comprehensive prescription drug benefit under Medicare.˜And on the other hand, you have Gordon Smith who only supports an election-year Medicare prescription drug proposal that, by the way, leaves out two out of three Oregon seniors."

Bradbury said Smith has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from big pharmaceutical companies. "I have not accepted one thin dime from the pharmaceuticals," he told retirees. Coyle said the ARA and its labor allies face a $7 million disinformation campaign about prescription drugs for seniors, launched in selected congressional districts by the drug lobby, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PHARMA).

PHARMA's ads back lawmakers who voted for its company-run "voluntary" prescription drug plan, using federal funds but with company choice on who can get the drugs and at what price. PHARMA's members are dumping more Medicare beneficiaries.

President George W. Bush backs the PHARMA bill and the GOP-run House passed it. The Democratic-run Senate blocked it, but GOP senators in turn filibustered the Medicare prescription drug plan to death. Bradbury said Smith voted eight times against a comprehensive prescription drug benefit, favoring instead a private plan. "But in an election year he sponsors a Medicare-based proposal that would exclude two-thirds of all Oregon seniors," he said.

Bradbury and Coyle said the Republican agenda also is to privatize Social Security and that if they control the House, Senate and White House, "it will happen within the next two years."

Bradbury pledged to hold government accountable by ensuring that Social Security benefits are not cut or privatized and the trust fund is not raided for other purposes.˜ He said Smith voted twice in favor of establishing private accounts for Social Security that would weaken Social Security's guaranteed benefits.˜

"People deserve to know that if they work hard all their lives, Social Security will be there for them; yet Gordon Smith wants to weaken Social Security, privatize it and cut benefits," he said. "And by supporting a $1.3 trillion tax cut, Smith helped to raid billions of dollars from the Social Security trust funds. That's not what I call being accountable to Oregon's seniors."

Bradbury said he would have opposed Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest of Americans because much of that money came directly from Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

The ARA was established last year to replace the National Council of Senior Citizens. It has a $5 million budget, and one-fifth of that will be spent on politics this fall, Coyle said.

October 18, 2002 issue

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