Rep. Mike Honda’s social security town hall raises some concerns, few benefits

Rep. Mike Honda at a town hall on social security
Wednesday morning in Fremont.

CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT |
For someone poised to introduce his third piece of social security legislation in the past few years, Rep. Mike Honda appeared flummoxed by the intricacies of the benefit at a town hall Wednesday dedicated to the subject.

Honda is expected to reintroduce next month a bill that would “scrap the cap” on social security incomes taxes collected above the current threshold of $118,000. This week is also the 81st anniversary of social security.

But, aside from the political aspects surrounding social security, namely the perennial push by Republicans to privatize it, Honda often appeared clueless over the details of the entitlement so important to the livelihood of seniors.

On two occasions when Honda was unable to grasp the concept of a constituent’s question, he desperately looked to the panelists seated to his left to handle the confusion. “Do you want to take it?” Honda said to one panelist. In another instance, Honda sidestepped a question entirely by handing it off quickly to another. “You take it,” Honda instructed another panelist.

When a constituent claimed he was being required to pay more for prescription drugs because of an increase in his monthly income, Honda’s responded by glancing toward the others, asking, “Are we aware of it? Are we aware of it?”

A minute later Honda’s smartphone began ringing uncontrollably, the speaker paused to allow Honda to mute the ringer. But that wasn’t the only slightly embarrassing moment for Honda. At one point, Honda referred to the social security expert seated next to him, an advocate named Ernie Powell, by the wrong first name. This came after introducing him correctly at the start of the event.

Near the conclusion of the town hall, Honda twice admonished a staffer after she attempted to ask another constituent to wrap up their comments. “Let’s finish this,” an exasperated sounding Honda told the staffer in an attempt to allow the speaker to continue.

Then, when the staffer kindly instructed the man to contact the district office, Honda again interjected, “Let him finish.” The staffer then flashed an embarrassed grin as the congressman wrapped up the meeting. The same pained and sometimes perplexed expression was also evident on the faces of other staffers at the Wednesday morning event, like a group of employees walking on egg shells.

Honda, though, by the end of the event, seemed to understand his grasp of social security was lacking before thanking the panel for “making complicated questions understandable to me.”

Whether or not the roughly two dozen seniors at the Fremont Library were enlightened by the town hall is unclear, but a woman seated next to me was unsatisfied and remarked by its end, “Well, I didn’t get anything out of this.”

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