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Hirono and Case diverge on Social Security

The isle Democrats running for Senate debate each other at a hotel on Maui

By Derrick DePledge


KAHULUI » U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case vowed Tuesday to preserve Social Security and Medicare for future generations, but Case said he would consider raising the retirement age under Social Security for younger workers to help keep the program solvent, while Hirono ruled out that option.

The two Democrats who want to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Senate discussed federal entitlement programs at a one-hour debate hosted by AARP Hawaii at the Maui Beach Hotel.

Hirono and Case both oppose privatizing Social Security and would lift the $110,100 cap on earnings subject to the payroll tax that finances the program so higher-income workers would pay a greater share. Case, however, said he would also gradually raise the retirement age for younger workers. Seniors can now get early retirement benefits at 62 and full benefits at 65 or 67, depending on when they were born.

"I believe that you have to preserve Social Security by making some tough decisions, some unpopular decisions, and I will tell you that one unpopular decision has to do with retirement age," Case told an audience made up mostly of seniors.

Hirono said the distinction is rooted in her values. "It flows from the values that we have, because Social Security, as I said, is not a program to be managed. It is a commitment to be kept. That is a value that I have," she said.

The debate — the second of five joint appearances before the Aug. 11 primary — gave the Demo­crats the chance to directly question each other for the first time in the campaign.

Case asked Hirono whether she would support a Social Security lockbox, which would limit borrowing from Social Security trust funds to help pay for other federal programs. Hirono said she would be open to a lockbox.

Hirono, in a more biting question, asked Case whether he regretted voting against the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit for seniors when he was in Congress. She said the benefit has "provided millions of seniors with access to lifesaving medicine and saved them millions of dollars."

"I don't have any regrets at all that Medicare Part D took place in a way that delivered prescription drug coverage to seniors," Case responded. "My objection at the time — and continues to be — that it was unaffordable over time. It was not paid for."

But the most revealing moment of the debate came after moderator Gerald Kato, a University of Hawaii-Manoa journalism professor, asked the candidates to explain the sharpest differences between them.

Hirono said she has a collaborative style and could work with colleagues in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Hawaii. She suggested that Case, who has often stressed his independence from the Demo­cratic establishment, would be less adept at the relationship-building necessary in the Senate.

"I bring a style of leadership that is collaborative," she said. "I don't stand on the sidelines and say I'm independent and not work with my colleagues, both in my own caucus and across the aisle."

Case countered that Hirono has not been forthcoming with enough of a detailed policy agenda for him to know the sharpest differences, eliciting annoyed objections from a few Hirono loyalists in the audience. He said he and Hirono have some differences on economics but are both progressive on social issues.

"But as to what those other differences are, I hope we find them out in the next two months before you make one of the most important decisions in your voting life," he said.

The AARP Hawaii debate — recorded for broadcast later this month on Akaku Maui Community Television and shared with ‘Olelo for potential broadcast elsewhere — is one of three between the candidates this week. Hirono and Case will appear on Hawaii Public Radio tonight and PBS Hawaii on Thursday night. A forum originally planned by Oahu Demo­crats for late May was postponed and is being rescheduled.

Case said he hopes Hirono agrees to additional debates closer to the primary. "So I hope that she changes her mind, and I still hold out hope that she will," he told reporters.

Hirono said she believes primary voters will have enough information to separate the two Demo­crats. The primary winner will likely face former Gov. Linda Lingle, the leading Republican candidate, in the November general election. "I think people know enough about my rec­ord and that they know that I stand with them," she said.

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MalamaKaAina wrote:
on June 13,2012 | 01:34AM
coco96734 wrote:
I agree wholeheartedly!
on June 13,2012 | 05:53PM
wiliki wrote:
Looks like the HPR debate is the first to be on the internet. I just checked and it looks like both did quite well..... http://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/content/hpr-hosts-senate-primary-debate-between-hirono-and-case-audio
on June 13,2012 | 09:40PM
wiliki wrote:
IIRC they next debate on PBS Hawaii TV. And the Maui TV stuff will probably be archived next month on Akaku Television.
on June 13,2012 | 09:59PM
false wrote:
Yes so that Mazie could collect, while Case has time, although I do not think Mazie would accept Social Security because of her high politcal success, if anyone could call it that. She lost once to Linda already, so what is she thinking?
on June 13,2012 | 02:31AM
wiliki wrote:
I worked for the feds. They don't have SS. I'm sure that's the same with Congress.
on June 13,2012 | 09:56PM
wiliki wrote:
This is what is quoted in the Maui news about the Maui debate. Looks like we'll have a chance to view the debate in the archives of Akaku (Maui) Television....

“These debates, of which two will be broadcast statewide on public radio and television and one held on a neighbor island, will give us the opportunity to continue engaging in a meaningful discussion of the challenges and issues our families face like creating more jobs and a self-reliant Hawaii,” said Representative Hirono.

Great debate. But I find that Case's comment about raising the retirement age inappropriate when those who are on the lower half of the income tax scale have only had an increase of two years in their life expectancy past 65. We have already raised the retirement age by two years to 67 for younger unretired as a way of controlling costs. Why make it worse?

on June 13,2012 | 03:13AM
false wrote:
Well it is not really the retirement age I think. Nowadays one can still collect Social Security when one becomes 62 and a half, I think.
on June 13,2012 | 04:07AM
wiliki wrote:
People in poor health often opt for that. They don't expect to collect much if they retire at 67 since they may be dead by then.
on June 13,2012 | 04:24AM
false wrote:
How is your health Mr. Engineer?
on June 13,2012 | 05:00AM
wiliki wrote:
Good enough to have waited til 65 for SS.
on June 13,2012 | 12:31PM
palani wrote:
Actually, if one believes the actuarial tables, and there are many very successful life insurance companies that do, then encouraging retirement at age 62 would actually help the system. By age 76, a worker who waited until the "full retirement" age of 66-67 recovers all of the foregone social security benefits that he would have received had he retired early. After that, he will always be ahead of the early retiree, who is locked into a lower monthly benefit amount for the rest of his life.

As I have commented before, both Medicare and Social Security could be self-sustaining if all employer/employee contributions over a normal 40 year career were continuously invested in 30 year Treasury Bonds. This holds even for the unusual case of someone who never earns more than minimum wage. This would serve the secondary purpose of helping to finance our federal debt. Of course, we know that our contributions are simply spent before they are even received, so the solution may be unrealistic, absent a dramatic change in our elected leaders.

on June 13,2012 | 06:38AM
false wrote:
One could also retire before age 67 and decide not to collect Social Security.
on June 13,2012 | 07:02AM
palani wrote:
True. Unless there's a terminal medical condition or family history of early death, it's almost always better to wait to collect Social Security, if one can afford it.
on June 13,2012 | 07:11AM
false wrote:
Yes, like if one has an IRA, or one is related to Warren Buffet.
on June 13,2012 | 09:04AM
wiliki wrote:
I agree that it's better to wait. Another benefit is doing occasional work and not having to worry about a decrease in your SS benefits. Problem with SS is that people do get sick or other accidents happen. Stuff happens and SS becomes your primary means of survival. Not everyone will have a 40 year carer of increasing salary. Today we expect the job situation to be very unstable for our kids, and I wont be surprised if they are not able to have a good retirement pension. Especially going through many employees. I tell my kids to try to put away the maximum in your 401Ks. It's hard to even get them to buy mortgage insurance, much less some kind of term insurance for possible health problems.
on June 13,2012 | 09:53PM
allie wrote:
Retirement age is 66 hon. For those in their late 50's or 60's. Check the SS web site.
on June 13,2012 | 11:24AM
Pacej001 wrote:
You check it, hon. The full retirement age for those born 1960 or later is 67.
on June 13,2012 | 12:07PM
Kuniarr wrote:
Everyone needs to recognize the realities faced by Social Security - dwindling number of workers compared to increasing number of retirees. Everyone needs to understand that when there are less workers than retirees, that means less money going into Social Security and more money going out That means that the entire Social Security fund would soon become empty. There are only two ways to avoid the Social Security treasury to become empty. (1) Raise the retirement age and keep the payroll tax rates the same which is what Case is proposing or (2) What Mazie is not telling us - Raise the payroll tax to unimaginable heights so that a small number of workers can support a large number of retirees. SO TAKE YOUR CHOICE: (1)Case - who proposes no payroll tax increase by raising retirement age or (2) Hirono - who is not telling us that to save Social Security payroll taxes needs to be raised.
on June 13,2012 | 12:34PM
aiea7 wrote:
waipahu - pure trash and speculation. case wants to increase the retirement age because he does not want to rail the SS taxes, but this is only a campaign rhetoric. if elected, he will vote with the repubs to raise the SS rate. remember when he was in congress he voted against medicare part D (drug benefit for seniors). if the retirement age is raised it will hurt the people who are currently retiring or thinking about collect SS. for you info, almost every year congress has increased the SS tax by increasing the cap on what wages are subject to SS. this places more burden of the "richer" people, as those below the caps, there is no increase. Obama for the past 2 years have reduced the SS taxes, but this is only temporary. as originally envisioned SS was only supposed to be a supplement to one's retirement income; however, to many, now that is their only retirement income. case will not look out for the senior, he thinks more like a repub. on the other hand, mazie has respect and compassion for seniors, case only for himself.
on June 13,2012 | 01:33PM
hawaiikone wrote:
So because mazie has all this respect for seniors she's willing to let SS go bankrupt? How's that gonna work for those who will be seniors? Rather than blatantly pander to a crowd of seniors, she should have explained how she intends to preserve SS. Oh, I forgot, no one was there to tell her what to say....
on June 13,2012 | 03:15PM
coco96734 wrote:
...for real!
on June 13,2012 | 05:56PM
Kawipoo wrote:
Mazie does not want do anything to reduce the cost of social security or medicare. She has no plan on debt reduction. How long do politicians like her think the country can continue without making hard decisions?
on June 13,2012 | 05:01AM
false wrote:
Two years.
on June 13,2012 | 09:08AM
Highinthesierras wrote:
Mazie is in the maize, thinking we can graze like fat cows forever.
on June 13,2012 | 05:37AM
bender wrote:
One of the other big differences between the two is that Case would support repeal of the Jones Act while Hirono thinks it's good to keep Hawaii under the heel of Matson and Horizon.
on June 13,2012 | 05:41AM
kahaluu96744 wrote:
Mazie once said that Social Security and Medicare are fine and nothing needs to be done to "fix" it, yet everyone knows that if nothing is done, both funds will be bankrupt in the next ten to twenty years. She says the things that people WANT to hear, not about the hard decisions that only Congress can and HAS to make to keep these funds solvent. She wants to keep the programs without showing how they would be financed. The difference between the two of them: Despite her claim of having a collaborative leadership style, Mazie votes straight party line. What "collaborative" achievement does she have while in Congress? Ed is a Democrat who has positions which may not be in line with the establishment Democratic Party, but which he feels is important to the nation and Hawaii. Do you want more of the same or is it time for a change?
on June 13,2012 | 06:01AM
allie wrote:
well said. But lingle hiopes to buy this election and end all safety net programs. With lingle, you are all on your own. With lingle we will be fightiung wars for Israel and suffering horribly here at home. Mazie or case are far better.
on June 13,2012 | 06:26AM
palani wrote:
on June 13,2012 | 06:41AM
false wrote:
u of voting age?
on June 13,2012 | 09:06AM
hawaiikone wrote:
scary thought....
on June 13,2012 | 03:16PM
coco96734 wrote:
Mazie is a puppet of the "old guard" dinosaurs. We need fresh thoughts and solutions!
on June 13,2012 | 06:00PM
localguy wrote:
Mazie didn't have a clue while in office here and ditto while in office in the beltway. She fails to understand the age limit for Social Security needs to go up as the level of funds available is going down. So Mazie, how would you make up for this shortfall? Your values? Sorry, those are so out of date they are no longer applicable. You have to change as the world changes around you. Fail, and it will pass you by. Oh, it already has, you are falling further behind. You should go to Europe, they can use a Socialist bureaucrat to go even deeper in debt. Goodbye, do not let the door hit you in the okole.
on June 13,2012 | 06:10AM
false wrote:
Is Mazie not near age 60? She is older than me, so in honor of my ancestors, we always honor those that are older than us. However we also know that there were dumb people born before us, so we need to bend the rule of always honoring our superiors.
on June 13,2012 | 08:56AM
allie wrote:
Mazie is intellectual. She is just shy
on June 13,2012 | 11:22AM
SandBar wrote:
Are you kidding!?!?!? We do not want a shy Senator representing us!
on June 13,2012 | 11:31AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Yeah. Shy of knowledge, intellect, and character.
on June 13,2012 | 12:09PM
coco96734 wrote:
on June 13,2012 | 06:01PM
lee1957 wrote:
You should see a doctor about that tumor, it's affecting your cognitive ability.
on June 13,2012 | 12:11PM
allie wrote:
False..she ia strong supporter of early childhood education and is well respected nationally for this. You really want Lingle to buy your vote and hurt hawaii and the USA?
on June 13,2012 | 11:24AM
lee1957 wrote:
I hear she also strongly supports breathing air.
on June 13,2012 | 12:12PM
Pacej001 wrote:
There you go again, revealing Mazie's primary competency.
on June 13,2012 | 03:00PM
WesleySMori wrote:
on June 13,2012 | 04:06PM
palani wrote:
Mazie as "collaborative"? I guess as long as collaborative is defined as strictly voting the party line, never straying towards indepndent thought of any kind, then she might describe herself in that manner, in a delusional sort of way.
on June 13,2012 | 06:18AM
Graham wrote:
It means listening and doing what Uncle Dan wants.
on June 13,2012 | 07:59AM
false wrote:
Oh, not King Dan?
on June 13,2012 | 08:47AM
coco96734 wrote:
Exactly! A good puppet, if that is what you want?
on June 13,2012 | 06:03PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
"I think people know enough about my rec­ord...

What record would that be, Mazie? What the heck have you actually accomplished? Other than dodge debates in a wide public forum. We know your Mom was poor and Japanese but really, what have you done?

on June 13,2012 | 06:25AM
false wrote:
Maybe the one that is kept by the department of corrections, lol?
on June 13,2012 | 08:39AM
false wrote:
Or the 78 RPM one recorded in 1949?
on June 13,2012 | 08:39AM
loquaciousone wrote:
I wanted to watch the debate but I had more interesting things to do. I went down to the beach and counted sand.
on June 13,2012 | 10:38AM
WesleySMori wrote:
What Was The COUNT???? "LOL"!!!
on June 13,2012 | 04:10PM
Opelu wrote:
As any race there are candidate positions, issues, style and personality, upsiade and negatives. Mazie has my vote, Case's past and style is just a bit harsh to trust.
on June 13,2012 | 06:34AM
false wrote:
Well definitely there will be support for all candidates. Words have different meanings and race and run are two unfortunate ones for politics.
on June 13,2012 | 07:04AM
soundofreason wrote:
"Hirono said she has a collaborative style and could work with colleagues in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Hawaii. She suggested that Case, who has often stressed his independence from the Demo­cratic establishment, would be less adept at the relationship-building necessary in the Senate.">>>> Part of the problem IS the relationship building. It's not about "getting along", it's about getting the job done and being able to sell your position when it is a difficult one. If it IS valid - it will sell. If not - then not. I don't want legislation being approved because one politician "likes" another. If that's the case, then just fill the legislative halls with a bunch of downs kids - then there's bound to be a lot of hugging.
on June 13,2012 | 06:35AM
sluggah wrote:
She might as well put a ring in her nose so Reid can lead her around. Not exactly an innovator, just the same old, same old.
on June 13,2012 | 07:19AM
false wrote:
Ring? A little harsh. However, now we know the limits of HSA, and if I got put into the dog house for some of my past transgressions, then HSA u r not fair.
on June 13,2012 | 08:57AM
allie wrote:
Mazie is a far better Congresswoman than she is given credit for. Please check your facts
on June 13,2012 | 11:23AM
WesleySMori wrote:
"YUP" ALLIE, BUT??????
on June 13,2012 | 04:32PM
WesleySMori wrote:
on June 13,2012 | 04:43PM
Publicbraddah wrote:
Not yet sure if Case is the answer but I wish they'd ask Hirono a straight question or two. What have you accomplished in your time in Congress specifically? What bills have you authored (leader vs follower)? How does your voting track record compare with Dan Inouye? Can we get some clear cut answers for a change?
on June 13,2012 | 07:05AM
false wrote:
They have asked, and she has not answered. Case closed, and I do not mean Ed Case.
on June 13,2012 | 08:47AM
Publicbraddah wrote:
OK, folks. We have a choice between Case, Hirono, or Lingle. Everyone else is an also ran. So once again the voter is stuck with the lesser of 3 evils. No wonder our voter turnout is so low.
on June 13,2012 | 07:09AM
false wrote:
Maybe we needed to have Ben throw his hat into the ring.
on June 13,2012 | 08:42AM
McCully wrote:
Maize needs a teleprompter as she has no clue how to debate face to face. She needs help from King Dan.
on June 13,2012 | 07:40AM
false wrote:
Have u not heard? Dan is now Prince Dan.
on June 13,2012 | 08:42AM
sunnyhi wrote:
It's about who will demonstrate the best leadership out the gate in the Senate for Hawaii. If Mazie wins, it'll be more of the same and she'll fall in line behind Inouye and follow whatever he says. If Case wins, he will not be afraid to exercise his leadership for the issues he feels strongly about for Hawaii on day one. Ed's leadership will position him to seamlessly ensure Hawaii continues to receive federal funding that we will certainly lose when Inouye is no longer in office. Mazie, on the other hand, will lose her safety net and Hawaii will suffer until she finds her own footing. Rest assured, when Inouye leaves office, the chalkboard is wiped clean and we start all over again to some degree. If Case and Mazie were racehorses, I'd pick Case to help me reach the finish line.
on June 13,2012 | 07:56AM
false wrote:
If I were Mazie, I would have let sleeping dogs lie and keep her House seat. Now it will be a quick return trip to Oahu, or Japan.
on June 13,2012 | 08:44AM
WesleySMori wrote:
on June 13,2012 | 04:18PM
Peacenik wrote:
I guess collaboration might be a good word. However, I've also seen it done to aid lying and dishonesty by majority rules against a lone voter who is honest but unpopular with the cliche, in a he said, she said situation.
on June 13,2012 | 08:47AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Collaborators were executed during Worl War II. We can't do that with collaborators in Congress, but we can vote them out of office.
on June 13,2012 | 09:22AM
WesleySMori wrote:
on June 13,2012 | 04:20PM
HD36 wrote:
Why don't they fess up and admit the social security sytem is an unfunded broke Ponzi Scheme.
on June 13,2012 | 08:52AM
false wrote:
No no can. We already honored FDR with his profile on The Dime.
on June 13,2012 | 08:58AM
false wrote:
On the other hand, my Mom is still collecting as a result of my Dad's death, so .... let the money train keep on coming. Not to make light of the situation, however my Dad served in Korea in the early 1950s.
on June 13,2012 | 09:00AM
loquaciousone wrote:
collaborative -- translation -- kiss a.........ssssssssss
on June 13,2012 | 09:56AM
WesleySMori wrote:
"LOL"!! :-)
on June 13,2012 | 04:22PM
Kuniarr wrote:
Everyone needs to recognize the realities faced by Social Security - dwindling number of workers compared to increasing number of retirees. Everyone needs to understand that when there are less workers than retirees, that means less money going into Social Security and more money going out That means that the entire Social Security fund would soon become empty. There are only two ways to avoid the Social Security treasury to become empty. (1) Raise the retirement age and keep the payroll tax rates the same which is what Case is proposing or (2) What Mazie is not telling us - Raise the payroll tax to unimaginable heights so that a small number of workers can support a large number of retirees. SO TAKE YOUR CHOICE: (1)Case - who proposes no payroll tax increase by raising retirement age or (2) Hirono - who is not telling us that to save Social Security payroll taxes needs to be raised.
on June 13,2012 | 12:35PM
false wrote:
Or Choice Three: Do not vote in the Democratic Primary.
on June 13,2012 | 08:57PM
FluidMotion wrote:
Mazie just keeps telling us the old folks what they want to hear. I wonder if she knows SS is going broke. Oh well, nothing a new tax can't fix right Mazie?
on June 13,2012 | 02:09PM
cgsailor wrote:
Mazie is part of the legislative body that has utterly failed in one of their primary responsibilities - to pass a budget. And since she (and her colleagues) cannot say how they will fund all of the promises they make they have forfeited the right to be taken seriously when it comes to fiscal affairs. The Democrats will win every contest this fall IF they pass a budget and demonstrate that they have a plan for paying for all of the things they have promised to do. They can't (here's a hint - it will take a whole lot more than dumping the "Bush Tax Credits") and won't even counter the ones supplied by the Republicans. Congress is a joke and the Democratic Party is the punch line.
on June 13,2012 | 06:16PM
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