Elder Brains and Multi-tasking
Home Maintenance in Old Age

Elders and Obama's Speech

category_bug_politics.gif Did you watch President Obama's speech yesterday afternoon? Whew! It was better than I feared it would be. Kinda busy today (Wednesday) so mostly I'll stick to the major points affecting elders.

If you will recall, Paul Ryan's deficit reduction plan, widely praised by Republicans, would turn Medicare into a voucher program which, as the president said, “would end Medicare as we know it.”

“It says that ten years from now, if you’re a 65 year old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today,” said Obama. “It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck – you’re on your own...”

“They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.” [emphasis is mine]

Write that down, everyone. Paste it on your desk and as the debate on the budget continues in Washington, let's not let him back down.

One of the biggest budget busters in Medicare is the prescription drug plan. Rammed through Congress during the Bush II administration by a Louisiana legislator, Billy Tauzin, who almost immediately left Congress for a $2 million per year job as head of the pharmaceutical industry lobby, the bill specifically denies Medicare the right to negotiate drug prices as the Veterans Administration does.

Yesterday, Obama sounded like he wants to rescind this horrendously expensive giveaway to big pharma:

“We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare’s purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market.”

Medicare is the largest purchaser of prescription drugs in the country and allowing negotiation would go a long way toward reducing Medicare costs. I'm pretty sure the board rooms of drug companies are going ballistic this morning while planning their assault on Congress members to reject this idea.

Referring to Medicare and Medicaid, Obama said he would reform these programs, “but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.”

”That includes, by the way, our commitment to Social Security,” he continued. “While Social Security is not the cause of our deficit, it faces real long-term challenges in a country that is growing older...

“[B]oth parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.”

Okay, he rejected privatization of Social Security. That's good. He wants to protect current beneficiaries and not “slash” benefits for future retirees. That's sort of good. Unfortunately, he left the door wide open for some kind of cuts for people younger than 55, for smaller cost-of-living adjustments and made no reference to maintaining the current retirement age.

And there was no mention, either, of raising the salary cap which, if it were to be eliminated, would fix almost all the Social Security shortfall for the next 75 years. So, there are still some red flags to Obama's commitment that we need to keep our eyes on.

Those are the big points relating to elders. I like it when Obama gets all warm and gooey about what America is (or should be), as in this passage of his speech:

”The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share.

“We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare.

“We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.

“This is who we are. This is the America I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms.

“We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.”

Nevertheless, I was struck by the president's offhand acknowledgment of a sad truth about you and me and everyone who is not rich. While enumerating the many things wrong with the Ryan budget proposal, Obama said,

“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. [emphasis is mine]

That's the president saying out loud that if you're not rich, you don't have a say in government which implies that any benefits for the middle class and poor are left to the largesse of the corporate controlled government. Oy vey. What an admission.

If you missed the speech, the full text is here.

Okay, that's the best I can do right now. Beginning today, my entire home is being painted and yesterday (while writing this too), I needed to prep for it by removing everything from the walls and moving stuff around to make space for the painter to work.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Madonna Dries Christensen: Touching Norma


Great column, Ronni! You & our good president have got me "fired up," & that's a good feeling. Good luck with the painting. Dee

Thanks Ronnie for this important post in the midst of redoing your home. Don't laugh if I suggest that a post or two on elder home upkeep/redecorating might be appropriate. I've been to too many estate sales where the home's walls are stained, the upkeep not kept up, and life in that house frozen in the 1960's. That too is an important part of aging.

Since moving to Arizona, I feel like I no longer have any political "clout." While living in Washington, I met and knew and had email discussions and even occasional in-person discussions with my legislators. Here I send letters, sign petitions and even take part in phone conference calls with my (Republican) legislators and get nowhere. Of course, my district rep is Ben Quayle and my state senators are Kyl and McCain...sigh...

Oh, how lucky you are,Kathleen, to have Senator Kyl representing you.

Isn't he the character who claimed that Planned Parenthood's main function was performing abortions? And when he was called on that pronouncement he said that it wasn't meant to be a true statement?

As a matter of fact, PP provides many health services and screenings to over a million women a year and abortion is only 3% of what they do for the women they serve.

Then the geniuses on Fox news announced that women can always get their pap smears and breast exams at WALGREENS.

I guess you just walk down the KY Jelly aisle until you come to the stirrups,then you hop up and wait for a clerk to come and do your pelvic exam.

I must say that Senator Kyl does the work of two men, LAUREL AND HARDY!

Obama got back his groove. I missed the speech because I was having a blue light treatment. I saw enough clips in the evening to shout Hallelujah. He didn't promise everything, but it was great to hear him give the Republicans a dressing down.

Kathleen, I am a long suffering Arizona resident and we have the most ideological nincompoops in the world for our representatives. My daughter calls our state the 'red menace'.

We do have one good representative; Raul Grijalva. Notice that the good guys in our legislature and in D. C. all come from Tucson and the bad guys from the Mesa/Phoenix area.

When Gabby Giffords is able to return to Washington, we will have two good guys representing our interests. Not everyone who lives in Arizona are rabid right wingers. Take heart; Kyle is retiring after this session. Hard to believe this know-nothing is a lawyer, isn't it?

I am reserving judgment on Obama and what he does on economics. Talk is cheap and he's good at it. We'll see how he follows up and for what he really fights.

I agree with Rain. While it was refreshing to hear his speech, the proof will be in the pudding!

Oh and don't get me started about Planned Parenthood! Since PP cannot by law use federal funds for abortions what is all this crowing about???

I, and many of my friends, used PP when we were in our late teens/early 20s and still living at home. How were we to find a gynecologist? They were truly compassionate, thorough and professional in talking about birth control. I still remember a phrase one nurse said about being careful "Remember, men are like basketball players, they dribble before they shoot!"

How about letting our legislators & the president know how we feel about the speech last night? And yes, Rain, talk is cheap, but how about holding them to their word & frequently reminding them that, yes we do pay attention :) Dee

Hope you'll have pictures of you place post painting. I could use some inspiration.

Instead of phasing in cuts to entitlements, why not gradually phase out the Bush tax cuts (for the rich) and phase out the salary cap? What's good for goose is good for gander!

As Ronni and John point out, many of the Federal budget problems could be addressed by phasing out the Bush tax cuts (I would add getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq). As President Obama said, there is NO reason for millionaires and billionaires to get any more tax breaks than they already pay their high-priced attorneys and accountants to find. Many of the future problems with Medicare could be solved by allowing the government to negotiate drug prices (sob! sob! I can almost hear Big Pharma's lobbyists now). Social Security's solvency could be greatly enhanced by raising or eliminating the salary cap so high earners pay more into the program.

It was interesting to read that Rep. Paul Ryan, who wrote the Republican budget, is an acolyte of Ayn Rand. There was a time during my college years when I, too, found her wildly individualistic, free market theories fascinating. However, I was raised in an upper middle class household which resulted in a privileged and somewhat self-centered world view. The real world is nothing like I thought it was back then. Part of becoming an adult is recognizing that you have to SHARE your cookies--they don't all belong to you, especially if you had more than your share to start with!

I still like the man overall and I do enjoy hearing him speak but we have learned that he can talk the talk but often stumbles on the walk.

We just need to keep that fire lit under his feet while working twice as hard with Congress. The squeaky wheel gets the oil they say.

Congrats on the painting as that's a project for the future here that was put on hold. Can understand those who for a variety of different reasons haven't been able to keep up a house's interior as they might want and can no longer undertake it themselves as they might once have done.

I, too, was encouraged but guarded about implementation of items in Obama's speech.
I certainly hope he stands firm.

I saw President Obama speak yesterday and I liked his presentation. At last, economics for adults. The republican response was very predictable. Throw a verbal temper tantrum and say no tax increases as part of the solution.

I follow the DailyKOS blog and there was a very interesting post with a useful chart. The suggestion is to simply do nothing and let the all of the Bush era tax cuts expire. The will quickly eliminate a huge part of the deficit.

Here is the url

There are some negatives, the low income people lose the 10% brackets and cap gains rises for everyone. I personally think that if we are to solve this problem we ALL need to accept that taxes are going up. The nice part is that this can be the presidents default position after the election. This would force the republicans to negotiate unless they want to see all taxes increase. Obama can simply respond that he tried to find middle ground on taxes but the republicans wouldn't deal.

great for hearing! i learned something for my future life.

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