Three national organzations — a business group, a union and the lobbying group for senior citizens — have joined to try to force presidential candidates to promise action on health care and Social Security reform.
John Hale, AARP’s state president, says AARP’s 380,000 Iowa members will be encouraged to quiz the candidates as they campaign through Iowa. He calls it the "largest and most significant campaign in the association’s 49-year history."
AARP, the Service Employees International Union and the Business Roundtable have struck the alliance, and Bill Novelli, AARP’s CEO, admits that may seem an unlikely alliance. "Our organizations do not agree on everything…but we have joined together because we believe that all Americans should have access to affordable, quality health care and peace of mind about long-term financial security," Novelli says.
A recent AARP survey of Iowa voters found two-thirds believe the political system in Washington is seriously broken. "We intend to change the political climate," the AARP leader says. "Our leaders in Washington are not getting the job done."
John Aschenbrenner of Des Moines-based Principal Financial, which is part of the Business Roundtable, says there’s a reason an insurance company is now part of this coalition pushing the candidates to address health care reform. "Issues around health care and around retirement security in the United States have become so serious that they really threaten the prosperity of Americans, of our businesses and of the economy in general," Aschenbrenner says.
Former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is now the president of Des Moines University, which trains ostepathic doctors and he’s part of the effort, too. "We have a unique opportunity here in Iowa because of the First-In-The-Nation Caucuses and because of the attention of the candidates," Branstad says. "I think it’s critically important that these critical issues of health care and long-term financial security be addressed."
The three groups intend to schedule up to 40 forums in Iowa between now and Caucus Night to pressure the candidates to address those issues.