In Honor of
Ageism and Oprah Winfrey

“The Commitments We Make to Each Other”

category_bug_politics.gif TGB Reader John left a comment after President Barack Obama's speech yesterday:

"The speech was wonderful. Fox news headline: Obama declares 'Hands off Entitlements.' Hooray!

Well, Fox News, as frequently happens, got it wrong. What the president said is not nearly as definitive as that headline.

An inaugural, of course, is mostly a ceremonial occasion where the newly sworn-in president sets out his forthcoming agenda in only the most general terms. (There will be more specifics next month in his State of the Union address.)

But there is a two-minute section in the middle of yesterday's speech where Obama spoke of our – yours, mine, everyone's, the government's – commitments to each other that is heartening. Take a look:

As you can see, Fox News read way too much into what Obama really said. There are acres of wiggle room in his statement.

As encouraging as Obama's words are, it's not like he hasn't let down elders in the past nor that he might not do it again. But there is a promise in that statement and, as he said, a “commitment.” So when they start trying to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - which will be done soon - we can hold the president to this. Or, at least, do our best to hold him to it.

And it is up to us because the billions of dollars long lined up by opponents of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are being spent.

There is a good point about all this in another clip from Up with Chris Hayes over the weekend coming from a politician who is on our side for sure and who has experience in how it works in Washington. The first speaker is California Representative Barbara Lee. Then, pay close attention to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown:

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That's a famous old story about Franklin Roosevelt telling some progressive labor leaders: “I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.”

Sherrod Brown did a nice job of reinforcing the FDR story and he is right that it is you and me who must make Obama do it: “We need the public to be really engaged...The people need to keep [the president] on course and not break these promises."

I thought you should see these two clips now to give you courage and stamina when the time comes – soon - to do the work to protect earned benefits for ourselves and for future generations.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ruth Parmet David: The Great Escape


I was heartened that the issue was at least addressed. As you have pointed out, we seniors aren't so selfish as to be willing to sacrifice our children and grandchildren's wellbeing for our own, either. My concern extends beyond my own wellbeing to that of my 30-something daughters and sons-in-law, all the way to my grandchildren, especially one struggling with multiple disabilities that will absolutely impact her job hunting and insurance-securing efforts one day.

Thank you, Ronni. As encouraging and invigorating as the day and the speech were, this time around we MUST "make [him] do it". Together.

The power of words. Karl Rove used it mercilessly. When did the 'right' start using the word 'entitlement' for Social Security? It is not an entitlement, but the word makes it sound like the government is giving elders a handout. Now the Republicans have a new ploy. It's their mantra that the elders are robbing the young by gobbling all of the money from the government with their 'entitlements'. Of course we know they don't care for the young any more than they do the elders, but it is just another way to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. (Why not cut the Pentagon's bloated budget instead? Do all those golf courses make you feel safer?)

I think Obama touched on that very pointedly. Now we can hope his deeds match his words. And it's up to us to keep reminding him.

Did you hear Ezra Klein on Friday night as host on The Last Word? He finally called out the big mouths making huge saleries who claim it is no big deal to cut Medicare and Social Security. If you can find a clip, it is worth watching.

Thanks for the rundown on this. It was hard to avoid it for the last three days, but I had no interest in watching an overblown repeat inauguration. I spent about 20 minutes watching BBC coverage. Our own coverage is just too full of predictable, gushing hyperbole.

I think President Obama's heart is in the right place, but you're right that he can't do it alone. The superrich will fight like cats and dogs to "sequester" their millions. As candidate Romney pointed out repeatedly--as he refused to divulge his tax returns--he wasn't violating any laws (that we know of). However, evading taxes, by legal or other means, is simply not the right thing to do, and the American people understood that when they rejected his candidacy last November.

Those who have profited mightily from the existing system (think hedge fund managers, real estate tycoons like Donald Trump, and folks like Pete Peterson and the Koch brothers) need to pay their full fair share of taxes. These people are catered to and protected at every turn. Many feel that, simply because they are rich, they are "entitled" to make the rules for the rest of us. Talk about a sense of entitlement! How can they possibly understand the problems confronting the average worker or retired American? They can't, and with some notable exceptions, they don't want to.

We, the People, need to make clear that they do not speak for us, and there are many more of us!

Ronni, I am elated to have my comment make it into your blog. Thanks for all your hard work to protect our benefits and rally us to their defense.

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