By Julian Clarke
Rep. Jim Himes, D-4, met with constituents Wednesday at The Marvin Senior Community in Norwalk to discuss Social Security, Medicare, health care reform, housing, education, immigration and other issues.
"In times of difficulty, I think it's particularly important to have a robust dialogue with my constituents, especially seniors because there is so much demagoguing happening over Social Security and Medicare," Himes said. "The reform of Social Security and Medicare is the most important issue in the American fiscal environment."
Himes' personal remarks were focused on the solvency of Social Security and Medicare. He stressed that, regardless of what happens in Washington, retirees will not see changes in those programs.
"We do need to start the process of thinking about how to reform them in a fair and equitable way, but they are not in crisis today," Himes said.
Himes said changes were definitely in place for future generations -- such as a higher retirement age and raised pay cap -- and the question was when, not if, Congress would act. Himes predicts the Social Security fund will be solvent until 2027, at which point it will begin using general funds.
Questions were asked on a wide variety of issues, from the housing crisis to illegal immigration. The audience let out an audible groan when the congressman informed them of a rate hike on student loans from 3.4 to 6.8 percent that is set to take place in July barring congressional intervention. On student loans, Himes said "we have got to fix that."
Jim Griffin, a board member from the Alliance for Retired Americans, thanked Himes during the talk for his concise explanation of Social Security and his legislative efforts to help the automotive industry.
"He's been there trying to protect Social Security and Medicare and support all of our senior citizen issues," Griffin, a member of United Auto Workers, said. "On a personal level, he was there to support the loan for General Motors and Chrysler. If these companies went bankrupt, a bankruptcy judge would have stripped the retirees of their retirement and pension."