Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst was criticized Wednesday by an unlikely source — a famous singer-turned-Social Security advocate.
Jon “Bowser” Bauman, a member of the 1970’s-era band “Sha Na Na,” now is a senior advisor to Social Security Works, a national organization working to protect one of the nation’s most popular public benefits.
Bauman also is president of Social Security Works PAC, the group’s fundraising engine.
The event, held in Des Moines in partnership with Iowa Voices and Progress Iowa, was centered on Ernst’s comment that Social Security reform should be discussed “behind closed doors” in an effort to avoid scrutiny in the public and media.
“There is no earthly reason why anyone needs to go behind closed doors to figure out what to do about Social Security,” said Bauman, in front of a small group at the Forest Avenue Library. “Social Security is arguably the most successful domestic program in the history of the country.”
Bauman’s appearance in Des Moines was the first of many, he said, in Iowa and across the country.
“I think that the more people involved in these discussions, the better,” said Emily Holley, executive director of Iowa Voices and Iowa Forward.
Iowa Voices has produced videos and social media ads knocking Ernst on her Social Security comments and her votes in the U.S. Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Social Security Works data show one out of every five Iowans — 638,322 people — received Social Security benefits in 2017. The benefits totaled $9.8 million with an average annual payment of $15,352.
“It’s a modest program, but it’s a program that keeps older people out of poverty,” said Bauman. “It keeps millions and millions of people out of poverty nationwide.”
For Bauman, his mother was his inspiration to take up this cause.
“My mom was able to live a life of dignity and independence that was completely unknown to my grandparents’ generation,” Bauman said. “And she was able to do that because of two programs, that brand new program Medicare … and of course, that program that had been around since 1935, Social Security.
“Those two programs: dignity and independence. They have changed the lives of older Americans, and how dare Joni Ernst, how dare she say that legislators are going to go behind closed doors to cut those programs. That’s the only reason to go behind closed doors.”
Social Security benefits are not only for retirees, he pointed out. It also provides financial compensation to families who lose a parent that was the primary income earner.
None of the organizations participating in the event this week claim a partisan affiliation.
“This is not really at its core a partisan issue,” Bauman said. “It’s the most kitchen table issue of all the kitchen table issues.”
As part of his visit, Bauman treated the group to a couple of musical numbers on the piano, including an ode to Ernst.
“Goodnight Joni Ernst. Well, it’s time to go,” Bauman sang. “Don’t hate to leave you, but we really must say — maybe — goodnight Joni Ernst, goodnight.”
By Elizabeth Meyer