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Our Voices, Our Votes

category_bug_politics.gif For those of us too poor to purchase a president or even a congressperson to do our bidding, election day is the only chance we have for our voices to be heard about what we believe is important to our democracy, to our nation.

To me, the act we perform today, marking a ballot, is sacred. It is the guiding principle of our country, the bedrock of our society.

And it is bred in our bones that however much we may disagree with the majority that wins an election and however slim that majority may be, when the votes are counted we accept the outcome and move on. But these days, Republicans make that an uncertain proposition.

Not enough has been made this year about the attempts throughout the land to limit voting rights. On Sunday, The New York Times wrote of the threats to a fair election today:

”…many Republicans are assembling teams to intimidate voters at polling places, to demand photo ID where none is required, and to cast doubt on voting machines or counting systems whose results do not go their way.”

As I write this in the early afternoon on Monday, it is being reported that wait times for early voting in Florida are up to eight hours long. The Times again:

”…even after long lines formed last week at early-voting stations in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend the period an extra day. In Ohio, a judge had to restore early-voting days that Republicans had tried to cut.”

And this too from The Times:

”One of the saddest signs of the politicization of the voting process and the counting of ballots has been the armies of lawyers assembled by both parties in the swing states where the vote is likely to be the closest.

“Much of this would be unnecessary if not for the requirements that Republicans have tried to put in place, which force Democrats to make sure that provisional ballots are not thrown out or mishandled.”

In every place where attempts have been made – are still being made – to jigger with the election, it is Republicans who are doing it, not Democrats. That should tell you something important.

The first presidential election I cared about was Eisenhower/Stevenson in 1952. I was a kid, 11 years old, and had to beg my parents to allow me to stay up past my bedtime to listen (only radio back then) to the returns.

No one, in those days, had to wonder if the presidential election results were fair and square (although local races could be dubious).

Today, as in 1952, I’ve got my pad and pen at hand to take notes. I’m ready with my list of individual state contests I’m interested in, ballot initiatives I care about and a map to mark as states – and, therefore, electoral votes – are announced.

So much is riding on the winner this year and I’m hoping with all my heart and soul that there will be no reason to question the outcome.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Another Time

Elder Wii Bowlers Face Charges in Doping Scandal

     A group of Wii bowlers from six assisted living facilities in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, were indicted yesterday by a Federal Grand Jury on charges of Physiological Doping for the Purpose of Racketeering – a Class B felony.”

They almost pulled it off,” said Sgt. Richard Morgan of Center Valley, Pennsylvania’s Geriatric Crime Unit. The unit – affectionately called the Geezer Squeezer by local residents – was established in 1988 to protect families living in eastern Pennsylvania from the myriad scams perpetrated by assisted living residents in their communities.

Morgan explained the Wii bowler scam . . .”A 90+ year-old resident would approach an unsuspecting family and wager that they “could bowl more games than all the family members combined.” Before they began bowling, the resident would re-inject their own blood which had been previously extracted and stored in liquid nitrogen. The new blood infusion provided a burst of fresh hemoglobin, red cells and oxygen.”

“This is so unfair,” said Richard Daws, a resident of Our Lady of Unimaginable Sorrow, an assisted living facility in Easton, Pa.,  and one of the individuals indicted.  ”Of course we steal,” but how else are we to survive? I pay nearly $7,000/month for my little 450-square-foot room. Who’s gonna’ pay that $7,000 each and every month. You?”


Medicare and the Republican Ticket

category_bug_politics.gif I’ve only glanced at this week’s Republican convention coverage on the teevee because I can no longer bear either the faces or voices of the Ryan/Romney ticket, especially those two standard bearers, but many of their surrogates also.

So I read the news and transcripts after the fact of their speeches. It keeps me from feeling sick for the future of the United States and its people if the Republicans win the White House and Congress.

This is being written on Thursday so I do not know what Mitt Romney said yesterday evening. But that doesn’t matter because he has bought into Paul Ryan’s extremist future for Medicare. As Kaiser Health News notes:

”Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has embraced the broad outlines of Ryan’s proposal. Like Ryan, he would replace Medicare’s current defined-benefit coverage of all medical costs incurred by a beneficiary with a defined contribution toward premiums [vouchers] for private health insurance or traditional, government-run, Medicare.”

Medicare was the centerpiece of Ryan’s speech on Wednesday evening although he hid the true nature of the changes he would make. Get a load of this claptrap:

“In Congress, when they take out the heavy books and wall charts about Medicare, my thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville,” said Ryan on that Tampa stage. “My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer’s and moved in with Mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved.

“We had help from Medicare, and it was there, just like it’s there for my Mom today. Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.”

Don’t you like all those warm-and-fuzzies about his mother and grandmother? And that stuff about “honor” and “promise” and how he and Romney will “protect and strengthen Medicare.”

DO NOT BELIEVE A WORD OF IT. It is vital to the Ryan/Romney ticket to lull old people into believing the candidates are on their side because it is the only age group that polls higher for the Republicans than the Democrats. (It is forever to my deep chagrin the stupidity of the majority of old people who vote against their own best interests.)

What Ryan’s Medicare plan really does is “protect and strengthen” private insurance companies. But it will impoverish many old people and add many others to the rolls of American citizens who cannot afford health coverage at all.

You probably know by now that Ryan’s plan involves giving elders a voucher, a coupon if you will, to shop for private coverage. Here is how Kaiser Health explains the plan [emphasis added]:

”The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that Ryan’s proposal from 2011 would require a typical 65-year-old person to pay thousands of dollars more for Medicare by 2030 than would be the case under its current structure.

“However, his latest plan, included in the fiscal 2013 House budget resolution, is missing key details, so the CBO has said it is unable to assess its impact on beneficiaries.

“Although Ryan would give future seniors the option of remaining in the traditional, government-run Medicare program, it would have to compete with private plans.

Critics predict that traditional Medicare could become unaffordable if it attracts the sickest people while private plans lure the healthiest. They also say that beneficiaries might have trouble finding physicians if they abandon the program because their rates are cut.

Nearly every time they speak, both Romney and Ryan attack Obamacare and vow to repeal it if they are elected – “on day one” according to Romney.

What they do not tell you is the moment a repeal is signed into law, Medicare recipients will lose the screenings and tests for a variety of conditions and illnesses that now come with Medicare and the doughnut hole, now being gradually closed a little more each year and saving elders thousands of dollars for prescription drugs, will immediately re-open to its full, original size.

Those are the ways Ryan/Romney intend to “honor the promise” of Medicare and in the deeply untruthful and hypocritical nature of the Republican campaign this year, Ryan accused President of Obama of being the one to destroy Medicare:

”An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn’t even ask for,” he told the party faithful on Wednesday. “The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it.”

It is a lie that the Affordable Care Act steals money from Medicare but as this now-infamous tweet shows, that does not matter to Ryan/Romney:


There were so many lies in Ryan’s speech Wednesday evening that even Fox News called him out. Believe that there will be even more in the weeks leading up to election day. But the ones they are promulgating to keep old people on their side are about Medicare and Medicaid.

It is going to take a lot of money, persuasion and television ads from the Obama/Biden campaign to counter the Republican surge to maintain and expand their hold on elder voters, now at about 53 percent.

We who blog can help by repeatedly posting the truth and all of us can help by doing what we can to help friends and neighbors understand that a vote for Ryan/Romney is a vote to end Medicare – their children will never see it.

The Kaiser Health News FAQ I quoted above is a good starting place for clear, simple explanations of the Democratic and Republican Medicare positions and their probable results.

With apologies to Mike Lukovich; it is too good not to bend the rules today:

Lukovich Ryan Medicare

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Gussie Water

Romney/Ryan Relying on Greedy Geezers

category_bug_politics.gif It’s pretty funny watching Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his surrogates trying to distance him from his running mate’s budget that explicitly states, among other draconian measures, there would be more tax cuts for the wealthy while increasing taxes on the middle class.

When an empty suit who has not a single conviction about even the time of day “hires” someone overflowing with cocksure confidence that he knows what’s best for everyone else, you’re going to be stuck with his budget plan, not your own. Odd that the man they keep telling us is so smart didn’t know that.

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget plan promises that people age 55 and older would not be affected by his plan to kill Medicare; they would be able to keep traditional Medicare. In a comment on yesterday’s post, I said this:

”I am continually amazed that politicians who want to cut Social Security and Medicare…appeal to us by saying the changes will not affect anyone 55 and older.

“It’s my experience over nearly nine years on this blog and elsewhere, that elders are care a great deal that the two programs remain in place for their children, grandchildren and beyond.”

I finished it off by going all snarky on you:

I wonder why the politicians believe current elders are willing to throw their progeny under the bus. Oh, right – I forgot: because the politicians are willing to do so.”

It’s not all snark; I believe what I wrote yesterday and then I ran across a political writer who believes it is the actual strategy of the Romney/Ryan ticket to rely on exactly their kind of greedy geezers to elect them:

”Last year, when Ryan’s (sic) was pushing his Medicare overhaul, he and other advocates specifically stressed to seniors at town hall meetings that they would continue to get the system’s guaranteed benefits, an explanation that drew applause from some voters in that age group but prompted concerns from others,” writes Robert Parry at OpEdNews.

“For instance, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, 64-year-old Clarence Cammers hesitantly asked Ryan a question that got to the heart of the matter. After describing himself as a disabled veteran living on Social Security, Cammers said he could stand some cutbacks for himself; that wasn’t his concern.

“‘I will be fine,’ Cammers said. ‘I guess what I’m saying is, what are all these changes going to mean for my son?’

“Cammers was noting the hard truth that it would be younger Americans who would face Ryan’s scheme of replacing Medicare with government vouchers that would fall short of covering the costs of private insurance.”

Apparently, a large number of elders are not as concerned about their children as Mr. Cammers is. Yesterday, Fox News website reported:

”A recent Rasmussen poll showed that 31 percent of likely senior voters gave Ryan a “very favorable” rating, compared with 21 percent of all legal-age voters giving him that rating. Just 16 percent of seniors gave him a “very unfavorable” rating.”

Other quickie polls taken since Paul Ryan joined the Republican ticket on Saturday show strong numbers in support of Ryan among elders. In an ABC/Washington Post poll, people 65 and older

”…moved in Ryan’s favor, from a 28-28 percent favorable-unfavorable view prospectively to 46-28 percent this weekend.”

(I guess you can tell I was trawling right-wing websites yesterday.) reports on a new Gallup/USA Today poll:

”…the age group most receptive to House Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s plan to deal with the budget – seniors. The poll finds 48 percent of seniors (those 65 and over) support Ryan’s plan over President Obama’s plan, while 42 percent back the president.

“That’s the highest total among the age groups tested – a 47 percent plurality between the ages of 50 and 64 backed Ryan, and a 45 percent plurality of those between 30-49 backed Ryan. But young voters overwhelmingly sided with Obama by a 23-point margin, 53 to 30 percent.”

It is still early in Ryan’s campaign and other polls show that not many Americans know much about him yet so as the Democrats define him more sharply over the coming weeks, elders may begin to see that a vote for Romney/Ryan is not only a vote against their own interests, but their children’s interests too.

Or not. Perhaps Messrs. Romney and Ryan know what they’re doing by counting on the elder vote. As Robert Parry concludes his story at OpEdNews:

”And for those already on – or soon to be on – Medicare, the Republican bet is that these seniors and near-seniors will be the greediest of geezers, enjoying the health program for themselves but willing to take the risk that their children and grandchildren will be left at the mercies of private insurance giants.

“The Romney-Ryan calculation suggests the Republicans really do believe that today’s senior citizens represent the most selfish generation in American history.”

And Monday’s polls seem to confirm their belief. What do you think? Are we, in aggregate, the greediest ever?”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Go Phillies

How the Romney-Ryan Ticket Affects Elders

category_bug_politics.gif Until Mitt Romney announced Wisconsin Republican Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate on Saturday, he had already promised deep spending cuts to the federal budget if elected president.

As with his tax returns, Romney has refused to elaborate on just what those spending cuts would be, but now we know: Ryan’s budget would starve the government of pretty much all funds that keep America’s most vulnerable citizens from – well, starving.

Before we get to the axes Ryan’s plan takes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, let me be clear: you, I and other elders are not the only people who would be harmed by Ryan’s budget plan: your children, your grandchildren and successive generations would suffer even more.

Ryan’s overall budget plan retains the Bush tax cuts for rich people, reduces them further, raises taxes on the middle class, cuts anti-poverty programs and many government services.

But today, let’s examine how it would effect elders.

First, in one of his few definitive statements about anything, Romney has said outright that as president he would repeal Obamacare, and so would Ryan’s budget.

They can’t do it on their first day in office as Romney has said he would – they need the help of Congress – but here are some of the things that would happen immediately to you and me and other elders if the Affordable Care Act ended:

• All free preventive screenings and tests would end

• The free annual wellness examination would end

• The prescription drug doughnut hole would immediately return to its full original size, increasing drug costs to millions of elders

• Elders with Advantage plans would again be charged more than those with traditional Medicare for some medical procedures

• States would again be able to cut elders from Medicaid

But those changes would hardly matter because the Ryan budget essentially kills Medicare and Medicaid. All the reporters and pundits use the qualifying phrase, kills Medicare “as we know it.” That’s just journalistic “fairness” horse pucky. It KILLS Medicare. Here’s how.

All the details, qualifiers and bureaucracy aside, the underlying promise of Medicare is that it is a guarantee that works amazingly well for most of us. That guarantee would end with Ryan’s plan which would create, instead, a voucher program for elders to buy private plans which no expert believes would cover premiums. Plus, out-of-pocket costs would increase.

It is estimated that average cost for elders would go up by at least $2500 per year. Millions cannot pay that.

Traditional Medicare would remain as an option among private choices. However, if it winds up costing more than the government voucher, the elder pays the difference.

The other big Ryan money-saving idea is to increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67 over twelve years beginning in 2023 with people born in 1958. Every year, fewer and fewer employers offer health coverage so millions of 66- and 67-year-olds would be without coverage for that period.

I went through that when I couldn’t get coverage at age 64 and I lived in terror of getting sick or hit by a truck every day. It was just dumb luck that I stayed healthy and safe. Not everyone does.

Ryan would turn Medicaid, which mostly serves elders and the disabled, into a block grant directly to states, removing the federal guarantee, under a formula that predicts huge cuts. From The New Republic:

“According to estimates commissioned by the Kaiser Foundation [pdf] and made by researchers at the Urban Institute, the end result would that between 14 and 27 million low-income Americans lose health insurance.

“That’s above and beyond those who are supposed to get insurance from the Affordable Care Act, starting in 2014, but would not because Ryan wants to repeal the law’s coverage expansion.”

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Paul Ryan was a leading proponent of privatizing Social Security, a proposal that President Bush unsuccessfully tried to sell the nation in 2005.

The idea was so overwhelmingly rejected by the people that Ryan has taken a different tack with spending cuts in his latest plan.

First, Ryan rejects raising the salary cap on payroll taxes along with any other proposal that would have rich people contribute a percentage of all their income as most Americans do. He also rejects any other proposal whatsoever to increase Social Security revenue in any way.

Ryan’s plan instead adopts Simpson-Bowles ideas (Ryan served on that Commission) which proposed to cut Social Security benefits to the majority of recipients, weaken connections between earnings and amount of benefits and to decrease the COLA. In past versions of his budget plan, Ryan has backed private accounts and so that possibility remains should Romney/Ryan be elected.

All conservatives (and President Obama) who want to slash Social Security use as their reason that the program is, as Bush kept repeating in 2005, “broke.” Of course, that is not true. There is more than $2 trillion in the trust fund and eliminating the salary cap would insure the program could pay full benefits for the next 75 years.

A further argument holds that the trust fund is empty because every administration has borrowed the excess replacing it with U.S. Treasury bills now said by those who want to kill Social Security to be worthless.

That is true only if you believe that the financial instruments China and other countries purchase are not backed by the “full faith and credit” of the federal government. Obviously, since those countries continue to purchase U.S. treasuries, they reject that notion and expect to be paid interest which regularly occurs.

The federal government is no less beholden to the debt in the Social Security trust fund than to the debt China holds. Default is not an option in either case.

There are many more details to the Ryan proposals for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that along with the rest of his budget and taken together pretty much threaten what little security the 99 percent still possesses while greatly increasing the wealth of the one percent.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: Movin’ In

Foreclosure Crisis Hits Eldest Americans and Minorities hardest

AARP Foreclosure crisis graph

AARP reports that the mortgage crisis is increasingly hitting older adults — especially those 75-plus — and that Latino and African American elders and their families are the hardest hit of all Americans, according to a new study released today.

Between 2007 and 2011 about 1.5 million people over age 50 lost their homes to foreclosure and another 3.5 million aging boomers and older in the U.S.  “are at risk of losing their homes,” according to the report, “Nightmare on Main Street: Older Americans an the Mortgage Market Crisis.”

It remains true that those under age 50 are more likely to be in foreclosure, but the report found that the risk of “serious delinquency” on mortgages is growing at a much more rapid rate among those over age 50.

The New York Times reports:

While the study classified even baby boomers as “older Americans,” its most dire findings were for the oldest group. Among people over 75, the foreclosure rate grew more than eightfold from 2007 to 2011, to 3 percent of that group of homeowners, the report found.

“Despite the perception that older Americans are more housing secure than younger people, millions of older Americans are carrying more mortgage debt than ever before, and more than three million are at risk of losing their homes,” the report found. “As the mortgage crisis continues, millions of older Americans are struggling to maintain their financial security.”

The report, conducted by Lori A. Trawinski of AARP’s Public Policy Institute, shows that Hispanic and black elders suffered “double the foreclosure rate” of older white borrowers. While Latinos and African Americans 50-plus with prime loans saw foreclosure rates of 3.9 percent and 3.5 percent, the level for whites was 1.9 percent in the five year height of the crisis.

According to AARP:

  • More than 600,000 people who are 50 years or older are in foreclosure.
  • About 625,000 in the same age group are at least three months behind on their mortgages.
  • About 3.5 million — 16 percent of older homeowners — are underwater, meaning their home values have gone down and they now owe more than their homes are worth.

“The biggest problem we found is for the oldest of the old, those age 75 or more,” said AARP director of policy Debra Whitman in a press briefing Wednesday, July 19.

“Older homeowners often rely on their home equity to finance their needs in retirement – things like health care, home maintenance and other unexpected needs.

In 2007, one out of every 300 homeowners 75 or older was in foreclosure. By 2011 that number jumped to one in 30.

Whitman said many of those eldest homeowners may have lost income, such as the retirement benefits of a deceased spouse, they were counting on for retirement. Older homeowners often rely on their home equity to finance other needs in retirement, such as health care and home maintenance, Whitman said.

“The fact that so many older Americans have no equity at all is troubling,” Whitman said.


Peter O’Toole Retires With Legendary Grace

Peter O'ToolePeter O’Toole, who turns 80 in August, announced this week he is retiring from theater and film. The renowned stage and movie actor received eight Best Actor Oscar nominations in his extensive career and was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2003.

O’Toole was a prolific performer right up to  his announcement and will yet appear in almost half a dozen films still in production. With his typical style and grace O’Toole announced his retirement in a heartfelt statement:

“The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back,” O’Toole wrote. “It’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay. So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.”

It’s not easy giving up your life’s passion and moving into a new phase of life, whether you’re a blue collar worker or an internationally-acclaimed film star. O’Toole had the good fortune and talent to continue performing groundbreaking roles late in life, including in the 2006 film Venus, a poignant and funny exploration of aging through the eyes of a retired actor who finds himself falling in love with a young woman as he grapples with his own aging and deteriorating health due to prostate cancer.

In his farewell statement O’Toole thanked both his colleagues and the film industry that sustained him for more than six decades:

“My professional acting life, stage and screen, has brought me public support, emotional fulfillment and material comfort. It has brought me together with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.”