The two candidates who will face off in November for the 11th Congressional District seat met on a stage in Novi Thursday, speaking to seniors at Fox Run about Medicare, Social Security, taxes and health care.
While Kerry Bentivolio, a Republican from Milford, and Canton Township Democrat Dr. Syed Taj found a little common ground in their mutual desire to preserve Social Security, their positions on most issues were starkly different. But the point of the event, organizers said, was to make sure the retirement community's residents know what those positions are.
Members of Fox Run's Resident Advisory Council, which works with administration and residents, recently formed a Political Awareness Committee because "it was important for our residents to be aware of what's going on," said committee member Peg Quigley. There will be another forum on ballot issues, and residents also hope to draw U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and her opponent Republican Pete Hoekstra, she said.
Sam Ray, who is also an advisory council member, went into the event supporting Taj, but said he felt both speakers were very well prepared and answered residents' questions on Social Security, Medicare and taxes. "These are the things residents here are most concerned about," Ray said.
Resident Twila Nissley found herself disappointed at the end of the forum, which ran for more than an hour and was followed by a meet-and-greet with the candidates. She said while the candidates talked about issues, "they didn't tell us what they're going to do when they get (into office). They're not telling us that."
Here are a few of the candidate responses to questions seniors posed; the full debate will air on Novi's city channel 13 (Bright House) beginning Sept. 9:
Cuts to Social Security
Taj: There will be no cuts to Social Security as far as I am concerned. I also do not agree with increasing the age of eligibility. I know the body does not function the way it does when we are younger ... You can increase the ceiling (the income cap on eligibility). The ceiling has not been changed since the 1990s.
Bentivolio: I believe in preserving and protecting Social Security. As far as I'm concerned, you made a contract ... you pay into it and you collect at age 62. But Social Security is going to be a bust is we don't fix it for people 55 and younger. It's time to make a new contract, and give them an opportunity to invest, while preserving the agreement we have with people now.
Grover Norquist "no new taxes" pledge
(According to Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform website, signers agree "to oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business;" and "to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.")
Bentivolio: I signed that pledge with Grover ... He keeps a close eye on us for that. If you get out of line, you'll get a call real quick. The Republican Party and I believe the money is better in your hands.
Taj: How do you run a government without revenue? I pledge that I will never raise taxes for middle class and poor people, but people who make over $1 million ... I am not your friend. I will raise taxes.
Taj: People elect us not to go keep fighting about ideology. To be successful, you have to learn to compromise, that's the message I'm taking from Canton Township. I was one Democrat among seven (township trustees). They could have sidelined me, but they did not. (Taj earlier explained that he worked with Republicans in a bi-partisan manner.)
Bentivolio: Compromise is very important, but there are a couple of things I won't compromise on, and that's my grandchildren's future ... There is a $1.5 trillion debt. Who's going to pay for that? My grandchildren. Our former Congressman voted for a study of cats in Africa, and not the big cats. You're not going to see that from me.
Taj: Voucher program is not going to work ... The best insurance company is the government insurance company. The reason is, they're a not for profit organization, their cost is about 1.3 to 1.8 percent, whereas a multination corporations, they make 60 to 65 percent. If you go out and buy your insurance in the private market ... you won't have money to buy it, which means you are going to suffer.
Bentivolio: The (Republican) plan that I support would leave your benefits unchanged and would leave benefits unchanged for anyone 55 or older. Syed Taj, on the other hand, supports Obamacare, which will cut $700 billion from Medicare, that's $70 billion a year ... and instead, they've decided to have these panels to determine what kind of medical care you're going to get.
Taj: It's not from the benefits to the people who are enrollees. The money came from the pharmaceutical industry, from the lobby companies, from the hospitals... This money is going to put in for having prescription benefit drug coverage ... and also, it's going into preventative care.
Bentivolio: They're going to lower the cost of what they pay doctors. If a doctor isn't making enough money, why would he even take care of anybody on Medicare? That's where the money's coming from. And $70 billion is going to be cut, read the plan, per year from Medicare and go to Obamacare.