Saturday, September 24, 2011

Geezer Invasion

20,000 elders are in Los Angeles attending the annual AARP conference, and they are not happy, now should they be. The two pillars of their security, Social Security and Medicare, are under attack by national politicians who have decided to reduce the federal budget deficit by paring the two programs. From the White House, to the Super Committee, to Congress as a whole, to those campaigning for 2012, all seem to consider these two "entitlement programs" (which we geezers have freakin' paid for over our working years) fair game. And the uncertainty over what will happen is weighing heavily on those who rely on the programs.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Brown and other seniors, gathered in downtown Los Angeles this week for the annual conference of the AARP, expressed fear and anxiety about aging when Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are under attack both in Washington and on the campaign trail. More than 20,000 seniors are attending workshops, speeches and concerts during the three-day conference, which has taken over the Convention Center, L.A. Live and the Staples Center. The sessions end Saturday afternoon. ...

Seniors are increasingly relying on Social Security and Medicare to finance their retirement and healthcare, AARP chief executive officer A. Barry Rand told a packed house of seniors at the Nokia Theater on Thursday.

"If these benefits are cut, as many political leaders now propose, it would force millions of older Americans and their families out of the middle class, closer to the dangers of poverty," he said. "We are all fighting and we must all fight to make sure that doesn't happen."

The AARP, a powerful lobby for seniors that also offers insurance and other services to them, issued a statement against Obama's deficit reduction plan, saying that it opposes any proposals that would raise costs or cut Medicare benefits. But the organization praised Obama for not suggesting the eligibility age be raised.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of AARP. I quit the organization when it backed the deeply flawed prescription drug plan known as Medicare Part D. As the article reminds us, AARP had a horse in that race because of its various insurance plans, which is how the group makes most of its money. That said, however, I think their stance on the current issue is solid and their education efforts at this conference extremely important and hopefully effective in getting the elders to start pushing back and pushing back hard.

Elders vote, and they are an important voting bloc in all states, not just the retirement havens of Florida and Arizona. The latest members of this bloc, us Baby Boomers, don't have the luxury of the pension plans our parents had which provided decent health care and a good income after retirement. For many of us, Social Security is the mainstay, supplemented by IRAs and 401ks which are affected disproportionately by the stock market. Medicare provides us with the only health access we can afford. Mess with those programs and we hit the bottom.

So, I find myself cheering on AARP this weekend. I just hope somebody has been smart enough to draft a petition which has been circulated at the conference and which can be sent home with the attendees letting our national leaders know just how unhappy we geezers are.

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