THE BLOG

VP Debate: We Can All Agree...

10/11/2012 11:41 pm ET | Updated Dec 11, 2012

Joe Biden is 69 years old. Paul Ryan is 42. And clearly in tonight's vice presidential debate they disagreed about a hundred things. But, notably, there's one thing this intergenerational coupling agreed about -- that Medicare and Social Security are essential to America's seniors and next generations. In fact, both men know it personally. After all, Joe Biden is himself a senior citizen and Paul Ryan used the Social Security benefits following his father's death to pay for college. And both men know that the American people love Social Security and Medicare -- and don't want to see either program change.

Yet considering this, precious little time was spent detailing what either ticket would do not only for the future of Medicare and Social Security but to meet the other needs of America's quickly growing senior population. Within the next 10 years, 79 million Americans will turn 65. And the fact is that while they need sound and stable Medicare and Social Security programs to age with dignity, the next generation of seniors needs more. They need home care workers to help support them -- to take them to doctors' appointments, monitor their medications, help cook and clean and do the things on which the elderly rely to live independently in their own homes. And for the 79 million baby boomers turning 65 in the next decade, that means jobs -- if we do it right, good jobs, that will help seniors, help build the middle class and help strengthen our economy.

It's not surprising when our politics devolve into back and forth nitpicking, especially when so much of the campaign has been defined by misrepresenting basic facts and avoiding specific details. And yet the forest of our elder care needs is being lost through the trees of this campaign. The millions of Americans turning 65 in the coming years, and their millions more children and grandchildren who care about their immediate future, need to hear a comprehensive aging strategy from both parties. And the workers who care for our elderly need to hear what Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will do about the fact that most home care workers only earn $10 an hour, with no basic workplace rights and benefits.

Elections must be about more than polls and he-said versus he-said horse race analysis. No matter how petty our politics may seem, ideas still matter -- especially to the people whose lives those ideas directly impact. Fortunately, the debates are not the only opportunity for the candidates to seriously address the range of substantive needs and issues facing our nation's elderly community and their care workers. Unfortunately, the window is narrowing for the candidates to speak up on these matters before the election.