AARP's Secret Social Security Meeting

The Constant, Wearying Assault on Elders

category_bug_journal2.gif On Sunday, while I was reading and gathering information for yesterday's post about the AARP secret meeting on Social Security, I could feel how tired I am of it all.

“All” being the necessity to maintain a constant watch on politicians and their corporate overlords together with exhausting and usually confusing details of our financial and medical lives.

You can depend on current elected officials, local and national, to have something new almost every week that will negatively affect elders. Maybe this week a legislator wants to cut Medicaid or it could be funds for the local Meals on Wheels they propose slashing and sometimes what they do is just plain – well, there is no other word for it: evil.

Example: where I live, last fall the state, with no notice, suddenly ended a property tax deferral program for elders that had been in place for many years – and they announced it just one month before the tax was due and payable – as though anyone could come up with thousands of dollars in 30 days.

Things like that are just the local guys. Anyone who hangs out here knows how often members of the U.S Congress, some federally appointed commissions (and at least one president) have done their best to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

Actually, they never stop. Today, for example, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, releases this year's federal budget proposal. He even made a YouTube video ahead of today to promote it. Here it is – be sure to swallow your coffee first:

It is expected (as I write this on Monday) by those who know such things that the new Ryan budget will include a revised attempt to privatize Medicare with a voucher program along the lines of the joint proposal he made with Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden last December.

According to one preliminary report on Ryan's new budget, this Medicare provision

“...would still give future seniors a fixed amount, but it would allow them to use the money to stay in the traditional Medicare program. They would have to pay out of pocket if the costs of the program were higher than the government subsidy - or buy an alternative plan.

“...[according to some experts,] most seniors under his plan would face considerably higher costs for health care in some cases many thousands of dollars a year.”

As though the majority of elders can pay that. In 2008, the median income of people age 65 and older was, from all sources, $18,208. For 40.6% of the age group that year, Social Security provided more than 90 percent of income.

Aside from the cost which, as the proposal apparently anticipates, average Medicare beneficiaries would not be able to afford, there would be the annual window of opportunity to change insurers.

You already know what that looks like - we do it for Medicare Supplemental policies or Medicare Advantage policies and/or Part D – prescription drug policies every year.

I'm exhausted thinking about it: dozen of plans each year with different premiums, deductibles, co-pays, networks, etc. all to be weighed against one another as we try to sort out the best coverage we can afford.

Due to the kinds of work I did for 50 years, I have decades of experience at sorting large amounts of information and making sense of it. In addition, as far as I can tell, I still have all my faculties.

So although I dislike the tangled process of deciding if I need or want a new Supplemental or drug policy each year, I know I can do it. But will I always be this sharp? Maybe not. And lots of old people can't do this either at all or without help.

Yet every proposal for Medicare creates increased calculations and paperwork for elders, much of it so poorly explained that I'm pretty sure the people who write the regulations don't get it.

None of what I've mentioned includes the details of bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards and other financial dealings that need constant attention in an era where those corporations are eager to make “mistakes.”

Is there any wonder I'm exhausted. There is no other way to describe this except “assault” - the paperwork and eternal vigilance against the nonstop attacks on programs we spent a lifetime paying into for our old age.

I get so weary of it all and just want some peace and rest.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Stroppy: The Monster in My Garden



Does it make you feel any better about all the struggling you do to untangle the web of lies and deceptions that are constantly being thrown at us to know that we depend on you to "tell it like it is" and make some sense out of it for us?

I ,for one, appreciate your efforts on our behalf and hope you have the mental strength to continue informing us about the deceptions and schemes they constantly think up, so we can be better prepared to fight them at the ballot box.

The sad part about this is there are the same assaults going on regarding children, the poor, the sick, minorities, everyone who isn't in the wealthy class.

In terms of minorities, look at what happened to Trayvon Martin-- and it's not just that this black youth was obviously hunted down and killed by someone who should never have had a gun; but what the police have done since then-- rather not done. I read such stories too often and each is shocking but then nothing happens to change it. Florida even has a law that protects someone like the murderer of Trayvon.

They used to say if you ignore this unfairness to minorities, they will come to you next, well guess what.

If you follow what's going on around the country with the violent assaults on the Occupy demonstrators, who usually have been middle class people and been totally unprepared to imagine the police would use violent crowd control; and too often, as evidently in St. Louis, with no provocation. This is happening around the country with a police force being trained in more and more violent control of the populace.

This legalizing what is unimaginable, taking away rights, breaking promises, the assault on women and their control over their own bodies, it is happening everywhere.

I have also wondered how can it be such a constant barrage against all who are weak. The only thing I can think of is it is the extremely wealthy and the big corporate interests through their lobbyists (lobbyists whose numbers have grown exponentially), and it provides the fuel for these legal assaults and everyplace they can possibly take away rights or get more money for themselves. Frankly it's scary and it should be. I've read propositions to give Congress more staff so they are less dependent on lobbyists for their positions and information. I am not sure I trust that will help. They will just have that staff coming from these groups who are assaulting average Americans on every level. Congress wants the money and benefits they get from those lobbyists.

It's all very frightening because they are doing all they can to assure future generations don't begin to have the opportunity that our generation had. The answer has to start with lobbyists who have a lot of money to spend and are busy all the time with their particular agenda which soon becomes the American agenda for those like Paul Ryan, Ron Wyden, Eric Cantor and all who want more power or future positions with those firms.

The thing is with the dumbing down of Americans through making public education either less effective-- or getting rid of it totally, and with the kind of entertainment Americans are using as a kind of sedative, I don't know if it is already too late. It's very worrisome when slick political ads and money can buy any result someone powerful wants. That only works because of Americans who let it. The problem is how do you stop it? Romney is buying his election but with who he is running against, you wouldn't think it would have taken as much money as it has to do that.

The only thing I can think is we have to support those running for Congress who stand up for the average American's rights, who have voted how they talk, and urge new people to run for office, who will care about the old, the sick, the real future of our country, fairness, economic justice, and the future of the middle class. Too often, we don't even have someone like that as a voting option. :(

Thank you for all that you do. Really.

I'm on the verge of 'burn-out' over this entire outrageous change in Americans, too. I'm sure everyone like me who is being assaulted on several fronts (I'm an Elder and a woman) feels this way!

But WE CAN'T GIVE UP the good fight or we're lost.

I and many of my friends in the 1960s felt the same way, but we all just took a deep breath and kept on fighting even though our insides were being eaten away. And I'm sure that all those who came before us -- the Sufferagets and those of like ilk -- felt the same way.

Take a deep breath, Ronni, have another cup of coffee, take a brain-break, go for a nice cool walk.

It doesn't get any better ... but it could get a whole lot worse if we don't keep putting our fingers in the dike!

Thank you, Ronni!!!! We appreciate your vigilance!!

The State of Ohio is cutting assistance to low income elders in a HUGE way.

Ronni, you are so right about the ever-increasing complexity.

I, too, have been up to sorting it all out (so far) but anyone who has been to a "Medicare Advantage" sales presentation or "chooses" a drug plan understands how unreasonable it is to expect ordinary citizens to tease out and evade the deceptions crafted by platoons of corporate lawyers. Nothing fair about it!

Perhaps that is the strategy of the far-right Republicans -- to wear us down until we cry uncle. Everyone hang in there and be sure to vote -- barbara

As an ex-pat who has deep American roots but has lived in Canada for 45 years the average American's self-obsession is astonishing. It's politically expedient, because if Americans *knew* that other countries' health, child, maternal and elder care are so much superior to their own supposed "best in the world" they would run the lobbyists out of Washington and get the government their taxes should be paying for. Jingoism is the cheapest political trick there is, and the most expensive. Bread and circuses. Except for many, especially the old, the sick, the poor, the immigrant, the minority, it's come down to just the circus. The bread is not so certain.

I appreciate your appreciation of my reports here, but I'm kind of embarrassed at your mention of it and that wasn't the point of today's post - personal whining. I think this affects every one of us.

It struck me that the barrage of attempts to destroy our income, health coverage and other financial assets at a time in life when we have no recourse, when those kinds of concerns should be mostly behind us and when our energy and stamina are not what they once were is a kind of evil. Not just for me, but for all of us.

I don't believe it used to be this way. However much penny pinching individual elders needed to do in the past, I don't recall that the various governments in their lives were trying to make it worse for them.

That's what is happening for us: elected officials, undoubtedly at the behest of their corporate overlords, work very hard, every day at trying to take what little money, health care and peace of mind anyone has.

Aren't you exhausted too?

Yes, I'm exhausted right along with you. But, I still do see a very small glimmer of hope......there are some really serious, vigilant average citizens out there & like them, we must prevail. :)Dee

The complexity is wearying and I doubt anybody totally understands it. We have been dealing with my mother-in-law's health care for the past few years. Choosing a supplemental plan, monitoring and paying bills, changing providers (which she had to do when moved from PA to an assisted living facility in NJ), constant changes and update notifications received in the mail -it is endless, needless, wasteful, and older folks cannot or do not want to be bothered.

MerCyn hit it on the head.
What about those who are not college or business educated? How do they get through the paperwork? I know it takes three of us to get through my mother's paper. Still there are openings for abuses of the system because she is eligible for things, even if she may not really need them.

I fear the Ryan budget. It goes after every public servant- including retired and current military. It goes after the elderly, the poor.It assumes that the "community" will learn to take care of their own. When did he miss that "community" left the building about the year he was born. One the other hand I fear a deficit budget that could simply collapse our system.

Thank you for taking the time to work through the issues.

Attention Readers:
Please be careful about college snobbery - that is, assuming people without college degrees are uneducated or incapable of understanding the same things people with degrees can handle.

Particularly elders who grew up in an era when a high school education was more than equivalent to what students learn today in 16 years.

Additionally, it annoys me who spent only 10 years in school and never went near a college except when invited to lecture in later years.

I've known an awful lot of really stupid college graduates in my time.

Wish I could opt out of the system. As it is, I have the least possible contact with it. But it's still too much.

I must add my words of appreciation to the many you've received, Ronni. It takes a lot of time and effort to summarize complicated information so that ordinary people (both college grads and non-grads) can understand it. Unfortunately, we don't seem to have many advocates who can do that, which makes what you do all the more valuable.

I keep up as best I can, but in semi-retirement, I reject spending ALL my time fighting "the system". I still work P/T and have two volunteer gigs--one that takes a lot of time and another that takes some. Sometimes I want to simply "opt out".

I'm so disgusted with the Far Right and the way our country seems to be headed. How can Republican women continue drinking the Kool-Aid that powerful Republican men keep handing them? Don't most women over 60 remember when we were little more than chattel and needed our husband's signature to open a bank account? I do--vividly!

I've known some pretty stupid college grads in my time, too. Aren't all (or almost all) of our stellar "representatives" in WA D.C. college grads? That should speak for itself!

I know just how you feel, and more and more I am finding myself grateful to be so close to the end having to observe the massive and incessant boobery that America "democracy" has become.

That is why I put college or business. The most successful people in my family are all business trained- men and women. Today as well as in the past.
No offense, certainly no snobbery, intended.

Ryan and his cohorts continue to hammer the public with the following messages, all of which are either out-and-out lies or are meant to mislead the American voter:
1. Social Security and Medicare are "entitlements," implying that elders are living off the American taxpayer, when, in fact, we have paid for these programs and continue to pay for Medicare.
2. That Social Security and Medicare contribute to the National Debt, when they don't.

These two lies lead many non-elderly voters, who are afraid of the increasing National Debt, to agree to cut or amend or end these programs.

We need Obama to stand firm and to make straight-forward statements to clear up the issue once and for all. And to keep repeating that message until the election.

Oh, yes, I am so tired of the shenanigans of our politicians. I hate the politics but I can't ignore the morass because all too often there is something in there designed to make my life far more difficult, if not nearly impossible. So often I feel as if those self-righteous (choose your own epithet, I am out) have written me out of the American society. I feel like the Irish protesters I saw on one news program who held signs declaring that the bank debts aren't theirs and protesting the austerity trap paying that debt has placed them in. I didn't agree to two wars that were carried off the books until Obama became President. I didn't agree with the bank bailouts and I don't believe they have really paid any of it back. But to now cure the deficit they want to reduce, if not cut entirely, the Social Security I depend on. Not to mention the Medicare I am still too young to qualify for.

I have to echo Rain's comments, the second response posted here, that things are much more threatening than just the assault on elders. The poor, or even just average people without influence and clout, are unlikely to come through the next decade without a lot of pain and suffering.

NPR's "All Things Considered" devoted Monday afternoon to discussing the future of healthcare. I haven't had a chance to listen to all the edpisodes yet, but I plan to. One of the people I did hear was Uwe Reinhardt, a Princeton professor who specializes in the economics of healthcare. He closed his bleak comments by saying that with the growing cost of healthcare and the battle between funding healthcare, defense and education, that defense would be the one left standing, while healthcare would be reeling on the floor and education would be dead. Let's hope he's wrong. Remember the scene from Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" where the Spirit of Christmas Present opens his robes to reveal two gaunt children, a boy and a girl? The boy was Ignorance and the girl was Want. We were advised to fear them both, but fear more the boy. I do.

Yes, I'm tired of it. Perhaps more than tired, I am angry that we have this hanging over our heads and yet have no voice in the process.

I am very old and I cannot remember a time when I was more frightened for my country. We used to be the best and now we are rated the very bottom on every measurable standard that makes life worth living. Every comparable industrial country is beating us and our representatives are busy finishing us off. I have never bought into conspiracy theories before, but it is so blatant and pervasive now that I begin to wonder what evil entity is pulling all the strings.

I am scared to death for my children and grandchildren.

I wrote a long comment here, but after previewing, it disappeared. Am too tired to try to re-write on this exhausting topic.

Yes, all these issues that are under assault become almost too much to think about at times.

I agree that many people seem not to either care, or understand, the importance of all the matters impacting each of our lives. Instead they're focused on what some might describe as the "opium of the masses." I think interests today are more fragmented than ever before in my lifetime. Perhaps, that makes it difficult to create a more unified population that will act meaningfully.

Still, never before have we had such mass communication available to the individual which provides the potential for sharing a message -- but who's listening?

I need a periodic break from all the issues, but will always keep coming back to them.

"Yet every proposal for Medicare creates increased calculations and paperwork for elders, much of it so poorly explained that I'm pretty sure the people who write the regulations don't get it"

Them that have the most marbles get to make the rules and they have been at it since FDR first proposed Social Security.

They are relentless and only through staying organized and fighting as a group can we fend them off.

Thanks for all you do in this battle Ronni.

I too share your frustration on being constantly bombarded with new threats against seniors and other vulnerable people. Please also understand that your readers are so grateful to you for making us aware of attempts to threaten our health and security. This is the most important blog that I receive and I truly appreciate your efforts and providing information for us so that we can follow up with responses to the appropriate contacts. Thanks a bunch, Ronni.

It all makes me very angry. We worked hard for these rights and benefits all our lives and now there's a very concerted effort to take them away or cut them back. Haven't the politicians anything better to do than attack long-standing, long-established benefits? Sure as shootin' every single one of them has or had aging parents. And yet they think nothing of taking from everyone else's parents. And while they are at it, they are also trying to roll back women's right, subvert our constitutional rights, etc. When did the people lose control? When did our government stop working for us and start working against us? We worked all our lives for the benefits we contracted for and now rely on. I expect them to honor the promises made to us. It's absurd to assume that retirees on limited incomes can somehow make up the difference out of thin air if our benefits are cut or taxes are increased.

I appreciate all that you do to keep us informed. You rock!

Ronni, thanks so much for helping keep us informed and for doing so much sifting. I too am tired of it but I was blaming my poor limited brain. Now at least I know I have alot more company and am not alone in my thoughts and struggles. Please "keep on keeping on"

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