HOOSER: The Case against “Build Back Better Agenda”

Today, if you are a senior citizen on Social Security and Medicare, you have no dental, hearing or vision coverage unless you purchase it yourself.

Imagine the quality of life (or lack thereof) of kupuna without teeth, who only hear half the words coming from their grandchildren’s mouth and are homebound because their vision is so poor.

This could all change in the next few months IF the current majority of Democrats in Congress stick together and vote “yes” in support of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion (over 10 years) “Build Back Better Agenda.”

Unfortunately, every single Republican in Congress has indicated they will be voting no.

Three of our four Hawai‘i members of Congress, Rep. Kaialiʻi “Kai” Kahele, Sen. Mazie Hirono and Sen. Brian Schatz, have expressed strong support for this once-in-a-generation legislative initiative.

Only Rep. Ed Case has expressed hesitancy. While publicly expressing support, he appears to be working at cross purposes — attempting to undermine rather than strengthen the legislation.

According to multiple media reports, in addition to the opposition coming from Republicans, a small group of conservative Democrats including Case are attempting to delay and impede the efforts of Biden and the majority Democrats who are in strong support.

Case’s group is pushing for the measure to be “de-linked” from a separate, physical-infrastructure bill which is also poised to pass into law. Biden and the majority leadership in Congress oppose the de-linking, as that action is widely seen as a maneuver that ultimately weakens the prospect of passing the larger, $3.5-trillion package.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the only thing standing between 61 million Medicare recipients getting their teeth fixed, a better pair of glasses and finally that hearing aid they have been waiting so long for, are 12 Democrats, including Case, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and nine others in the House of Representatives.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “Thirty-seven million people, or nearly two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries, have no dental coverage. Not coincidently, half of all beneficiaries reported they had not been to a dentist in the past year, and 15 percent said they had no teeth at all.”

The National Institute for Health estimates “about one-third of those between 65 and 74 have hearing loss, as do nearly half of those older than 75. On average, hearing aids cost between $1,000 and $5,000.”

In addition to the long-overdue expansion of Medicare, the Biden “Build Back Better Agenda” includes provisions that will lower costs for families with young children and will reduce taxes for 25 million low-to-moderate wage workers. The plan also invests heavily in fighting climate change, expanding opportunities in education and supporting the construction of millions of affordable homes.

“The Build Back Better Agenda will create jobs, cut taxes and lower costs for working families — all paid for by making the tax code fairer and making the wealthiest and large corporations pay their fair share,” according to a White House fact sheet.

This could all happen in just a few weeks’ time, or it could take months and be dramatically reduced in size and scope. Or it could fail completely.

If passage of the Build Back Better Agenda is important to you, I encourage you to call every member of the Hawai‘i congressional delegation today and let them know: Ed Case, 808-650-6688; Kahele, 808-746-6220; Hirono, 808-522-8970; Schatz, 808-523-2061.


Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.

  1. YuCalJoe September 17, 2021 3:49 am Reply

    If you’re a senior as stated, passing this agenda will take away your money in the form of taxes. Don’t fall for this classic shell game of “You get this free!” scam. It’s no different that the email scam of “Hi, I’m the Prince of Nigeria and I will give you one million dollars in helping me out.” Nothing is free. It’s the ongoing political lie that is now larger than ever. Everyone will suffer is this agenda is implemented. Yes, do call. And demand a “No” vote in favor of common sense.

  2. Morris Bacon September 17, 2021 4:13 am Reply

    The power of big pharma is overwhelming. Those who oppose this legislation receive vast amounTs of “contributions” , aka bribes”, and have little interest in changing the status quo. Large insurance companies also oppose this bill in order to continue selling expensive supplemental insurance
    for Medicare. I pay almost $100 a month for dental insurance above the Medicare part B premium. I am lucky to have Tricare for Life which covers part D and the 20% not covered by part B. Follow the money and you will find the reason for most votes in Congress.

  3. Natural September 17, 2021 4:40 am Reply

    If you haven’t noticed, we’re 30 trillion in debt.
    Spending more will only add to inflation, higher taxes, bigger government, and lower quality of life.
    Democrats and republicans have bankrupted the American dream for a socialist agenda. Your social security is diluted by illegal immigration, your healthcare is diluted by bureaucracy. The bigger they make the system, the more control you lose.
    Things are going really well right now aren’t they?
    Cost of living
    International threats
    Well you get what you vote for.
    Time to get all incumbents out, and let individuals have their freedoms back to do what our forefathers envisioned in the constitution, after all, that’s what made America the envy of the world and all of our lives better in the first place.

    1. Fred September 18, 2021 5:06 am Reply

      And therein lies your delusion – you think you have control – you are pretty much an ant floating down a river on a stick. Your ego will tell you otherwise.

      1. Natural September 18, 2021 3:45 pm Reply

        I consider myself more like an eagle than an ant.
        Communists and socialists are more like ants.
        Still flying free here.

    2. kauaiboy September 18, 2021 8:11 am Reply

      Yeah, let those kapuna’s teeth fall out. Let them go blind and deaf. To heck with them.

      I’ll never get that old. I’m unvaccinated. I’ll probably die first anyway…

      1. Natural September 18, 2021 3:48 pm Reply

        So go to school, become a dentist, doctor, or ocular professional and give away your services to the kapuna for free.

  4. Jojo September 17, 2021 6:30 am Reply

    I am very concerned about our national debt and spending that is “nice” but not essential and really does not focus on those who really need help. We keep hearing of how people/business are able to fraudulently access this money- need quality control on this process…..

    1. kauaiboy September 18, 2021 8:12 am Reply

      Yeah, let those kapuna’s teeth fall out. Let them go blind and deaf. To heck with them.

      I’ll never get that old. I’m unvaccinated. I’ll probably die first anyway…

  5. Kauaidoug September 17, 2021 6:57 am Reply

    This bull needs to pass so we can make changes to help the people bit making over 400000$ a year. There are a whole bunch of people who won’t make that in their life!
    We need this bill to get all kinds of people back to work. We need this bill to get daycare so to get women back to work
    People working are too busy to sit and grumble at their FB page or whatever they are stuck at home watching.
    It’s time for some money be spent for the workers of the country. Who, for the most part DO pay taxes

  6. LTEreader September 17, 2021 9:13 am Reply

    “Only Rep. Ed Case has expressed hesitancy. While publicly expressing support, he appears to be working at cross purposes — attempting to undermine rather than strengthen the legislation.”

    Shame on you! Do you have dental, vision, and eye care insurance? Of course you do! Some of us were working our *ss off before you were even born, paying into the system, yet we get the bare bones minimum! SMH.

  7. Payback September 17, 2021 4:03 pm Reply

    You don’t like to be reminded of this, Gary, but here it comes again: as a failed business owner you left your employees holding the bag dealing with your angry clients while you were out surfing all day. Then it took eleven years of you kicking and screaming before settling your debt. Let’s see, what was your excuse again? Oh yes: “I couldn’t afford to pay those taxes.” Then as council member you had the nerve to vote to raise the excise taxes on the rest of us. Thieves will accuse others of stealing, liars accuse others of lying, racists accuse others of racism and tax dodgers accuse everybody else of being too selfish to want their taxes increased.

  8. Boyd Ready September 17, 2021 4:06 pm Reply

    Borrowing money to pay for individual’s medical care is ….. not a responsible thing to do. Raising taxes on the rich to do so is a way to drive the ‘rich’ to move away and shift their activities to avoid the costs. Problem is Social Security and Medicare are schemes enforced by law to put too much money at too low an invested return into Federal coffers for use by…guess whom? the Congress to borrow from the trust funds and write itself an IOU. In the end it’s all paid through taxes and/or by inflation eroding the value of the currency, a huge tax on everyone as prices go up. Instead of adding more benefits, move the money into investments with better returns and switch to private accounts (could be funded partly by current taxes/withholding), like Chile does, and get real returns on the money. US Government is a terrible investor and is self-dealing in the whole thing.

  9. MisterM September 17, 2021 5:16 pm Reply

    How about proposing a novel notion that you save for your old age? Why are hard-working taxpayers picking up the tab for the lazy and profligate? Enough is enough.

  10. TomK September 18, 2021 4:37 am Reply

    Gary – You neglected to tell the readers “Why” dental benefits are not included in Medicare. Back in 1965, when Medicare was created, the dentists looked at the proposed program and said “ no thanks we’re not going to participate.” And almost 60 years later they still don’t. So how is the Federal government going to make dentists do something today, they haven’t done in 60 years???

  11. Patrick Flores September 18, 2021 4:58 am Reply

    Mr. Hooser, Congress is the legislative body of government as you well know, they could correct these issues at anytime if they cared to.

    Patrick H Flores, Nampa, Id

  12. Islandtime September 18, 2021 6:31 am Reply

    I for one am proud that Rep Case has the audacity to question the political lockstep that has become our partisan politics. 3.5 Trillion is a vast sum of money. 2 times the state budgets of all 50 states combined in 2020. While there may be some great provisions in the bill, there is a tremendous amount of partisan pet project pork. What we spend today we saddle our kids and grandkids with to pay for our fiscal excesses. Bravo Ed Case. Keep up the good work. Oh, and if the democrats were serious, they would use their majorities to get us single payer healthcare, and cut out the ultra greedy insurance companies. But, as a previous poster said, you need to follow the money Gary, that is why President Biden, like President Obama before him would not put fourth a bill for medicare for all.

  13. Stressed out mama September 18, 2021 7:42 am Reply

    Free health care for the elderly they say, come on man! Don’t you care about grandma hearing you and being able to chew her dinner? Oh yay we do also have some trillions in there for us in government to. Better controll you all with higher taxes to pay for all this future debt that even our children’s childrens children’s will not be able to pay off with a life time of working 9- 5 jobs for 40 plus years. Oh but remember grandma or your the evil one right!!

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