First-time candidate Val Arkoosh has based her candidacy in large part on her experience as a physician and that focus was rewarded this weekend with the endorsement of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM).
“As a physician in Philadelphia’s hospitals, I’ve seen how programs like Social Security and Medicare are more than a promise – they are lifelines,” Arkoosh said in a campaign email announcing the endorsement. “That’s why I’m honored to announce the endorsement of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare – a leading voice in protecting and expanding Social Security and Medicare benefits for the last 30 years.”
Arkoosh also noted that she previously worked with the Committee when she was the President of the National Physicians Alliance. They worked together on improving healthcare for seniors as part of the Affordable Care Act.
The NCPSSM was founded in 1982 by James Roosevelt, a U.S. Congressman from 1955 to 1965 and the oldest son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization representing the views of millions of members and supporters nationwide,” according to the organization’s website. “The mission of the NCPSSM is to protect, preserve, promote, and ensure the financial security, health, and the well being of current and future generations of Americans.”
Margolies and Social Security
On the heels of the endorsement, Arkoosh’s campaign was quick to contrast their position with that one of their opponents, Marjorie Margolies.
To fully understand the circumstances, it’s necessary to have a refresher in the politics of the early years of the Clinton Administration. In 1993, Margolies was a freshman Democrat in a much more conservative 13th district that she won by a mere 1,373 votes. The President needed her vote to pass his omnibus budget bill through the House. Clinton got her support, the bill passed by one vote, and Republicans literally taunted her with chants of “Bye-bye Marjorie”.
Her support earned her the eternal gratitude of Bill and Hillary Clinton, especially after Margolies was swept out of office in the “Gingrich Revolution”. Their families become friends and years later Chelsea would marry her son Mark, making them in-laws. All the while, the subsequent success of the 1990’s economy turned Margolies into a martyred hero for Democrats.
What seems to have been lost in the passage of time, however, is that Margolies still had to face a tough election in 1994. So, in order to prove to her constituents that she was concerned with the deficit and appear more centrist, the Congresswoman took up the issue of reforming entitlements.
When she voted for Clinton’s budget, Margolies extracted a promise that the President would attend a summit in her district about entitlements (Fun fact: The NCPSSM wasn’t invited) and in May 1994 she introduced two bills to reform Social Security. These pieces of legislation would gradually raise the retirement age and limit cost of living adjustments.
Now, running in a much more Democratic 13th district, Margolies is being hit by the Arkoosh campaign for her attempt to change Social Security. This is being done despite the reality that the bill is almost twenty years old, never saw the House floor and was likely little more than a political maneuver.
The Margolies campaign is countering the charge by noting that the NCPSSM does not endorse Arkoosh’s attacks.
“The National Committee confirmed with me by phone on Friday that its endorsement of Arkoosh had nothing to do with Marjorie’s record in Congress nor do they endorse in any way the Arkoosh campaign’s attack on Marjorie,” said Margolies’ Senior Campaign Advisor Ken Smukler.
Arkoosh’s team, however, points to an interview Margolies conducted last December to prove that she still hold the same views as she did in 1994.
According to audio obtained by the PA liberal blog “raging chicken press” while addressing members of Montco Democracy For America, Margolies spoke about her views on Social Security.
“I think this has to be addressed but I’m not so sure that there’s a panic button approach to Social Security,” she said, also saying that all options were on the table in the debate about reforms.
When asked about raising the age for Social Security eligibility, Margolies talked about her 1994 bill but commented that she believed “we’ve ceilinged out on that.”
Overall, Margolies statements were vague and noncommittal, which is a not at all uncommon tactic for candidates when answering voter’s questions.
Finally, in an attempt to fully rebuke the charges of the Arkoosh’s team, the Margolies campaign shared with PoliticsPA the NCPSSM questionnaire the candidate filled out in July 2013 in which she stated that she would oppose cuts to Social Security to balance the budget.
When asked flatly, “Do you support raising the Social Security retirement age beyond age 67?” Margolies wrote “No. The retirement age should stay where it is.”
Ultimately, it appears this battle over Social Security will remain a central theme in this race as it heads into its final months. The other candidates in the PA-13 Democratic primary along with Arkoosh and Margolies are State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia) and State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Mongtomery).