Toni Walker knows all about Social Security.
She first received it as a young girl when her father died. That monthly check, she said, was all that kept her family going. It also helped put her through school.
When politicians talk about Social Security, she said, they need to remember that it benefits both the young and the old.
Walker told the story Friday at a roundtable discussion with former Gov. Charlie Crist, Belleair Bluffs council member Joe Barkley and 14 other seniors. The meeting was part of a listening tour Crist is making while running for the Congressional District 13 seat currently held by David Jolly. Crist, a Democrat, will face the winner of the upcoming Republican primary – Jolly or Mark Bircher – in the Nov. 8 general election.
Crist also released his latest campaign video. The video, “What Dana Jo Would Tell Congress,” talks about the need to protect, not privatize, Social Security and Medicare.
Friday’s discussion at the Gulfport Library was supposed to center on Social Security and Medicare. There were plenty of comments about both. But the conversation also drifted far from those two topics.
Concerns about the Medicare program ranged from the difficulty disabled people have of getting Medicare to the lack of coverage for items such as glasses, hearing aids and dental care to the high cost of prescription medicines. One woman suggested lowering the qualifying age because so many debilitating conditions start earlier than age 65. Perhaps if care was given sooner, she said, money could be saved.
Roundtable participants were unanimous against privatizing Social Security. And they objected to the disparity in benefits that most women receive. That’s because women were discriminated against in the workplace so they made lower salaries than men. That bias results in lower Social Security payouts after the women retire.
Crist said one issue he has with Social Security is taxes. Workers pay taxes based on their salaries, then Social Security is taken out, he said. Then, when workers retire, they pay taxes on the income they receive from Social Security.
“You’re taxed on the income,” Crist said. “You’re taxed again when you receive it. That’s ridiculous. … You’re double taxed, essentially.”
Crist said that, if elected, he would work to eliminate the tax on Social Security income.
The discussion went further than Social Security and Medicare. Among the other concerns were the failure of the government to act quickly to deal with the Zika virus, climate change, solar energy, the need for a single payer health insurance system, and gun control.
Crist said he supports the Second Amendment but does not understand why there are not more stringent background checks on people who buy guns. And, he said, assault weapons should be banned.
Crist also made one other promise. If elected, Crist said, his office would always be open to help constituents.
“It’s been very helpful to me,” Crist said of the discussion. “I will not forget this day. I will not forget the importance of eyeglasses.”