Helen Mirren – An Advocate for Elder Women
INTERESTING STUFF – 15 November 2014

What the New Congress Means For Elders

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Ha! This started out to be a short, little warning about what's ahead for Social Security and Medicare and it somehow turned into a rambling political discourse. Sorry about that. The whole thing just got away from me and I ran out of time to fix it or even to clean it up a bit.]

It cannot have escaped your notice that the midterm election resulted in a Republican majority in the Senate.

This gives the entire Congress of the United States to the party that for the past several decades has been trying their damnedest to kill Social Security and Medicare or, failing that, cripple the programs by privatizing them.

In the nearly two weeks since the Republican win, I've been keeping my eye out to see what the political experts and knowledgeable reporters who regularly cover these beats expect from the Republican majority after it is sworn in in January.

The man who will become the new Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, spent the entire campaign avoiding any mention of Social Security and Medicare. Here is what the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), an organization that has been fighting for these two programs for more than 30 years, had to say about that:

”However, House Speaker John Boehner has no problem laying out the GOP plan. There are no real surprises here, it’s basically the GOP/Ryan Budget version 4 (or 5, we’ve lost count) which has only avoided full passage because of the formerly Democrat-controlled Senate.

“As usual, lowering corporate tax rates while cutting Social Security and Medicare are items #1 and #2 of the GOP 5 point plan. Lower taxes for businesses, Couponcare for seniors and raising the retirement age for Social Security are now back on the table with the Republican-led Congress.”

In a story published Wednesday, Jonathan Weisman, Congressional reporter for The New York Times concurs:

”Congressional Republicans intend to present a plan to overhaul Medicare,” Weisman wrote, “calling for voucherlike 'premium supports' to steer people 65 and over into buying commercial health insurance, and to transform Medicaid, which would be cut and turned into block grants to state governments.

“They also intend to set up a new commission to study options on Social Security, while relying on what one House Republican aide called 'the solid foundation' of the Ryan budget plan.”

This will, of course, be proposed by Republicans – as it always is – in the name of budget and deficit control. But, whatever they try to tell us about the dire state of the budget this time, it just ain't so as Weismen notes:

”The deficit has fallen from $1.4 trillion in 2009 — or nearly 10 percent of the economy then — to $483 billion, or 2.8 percent of the economy, in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Measured against the economy, the deficit is now below the average over the last 40 years..."

Which won't stop the Republicans from trying to cut as much from social services programs as possible to avoid reductions to the Pentagon budget.

Meanwhile, there is a movement to expand Social Security by providing earnings credits toward future Social Security benefits to people out of the workforce while caring for a family member.

As Social Security Works reports, The Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, sponsored by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), would institute [such] a credit.

In a recent survey by Lake Research Partners, reports Social Security Works,

“'More than two thirds of every demographic, political, and geographic group supported this proposal. 71% of women and 63% of men favor it, Pollster Celinda Lake said...”

Take a look at demographic chart from Lake Research. No meaningful number of likely voters (LV) opposes this legislation:


That's impressive. It's rare for such a large number of Americans to agree on one thing.

For years, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the few elected politicians who has been fighting the forces that would demolish Social Security and Medicare along with Medicaid, food stamps and every other social program you can name.

Now he has taken a first step toward running for president in 2016, as Robert Costa reported in the Washington Post a couple of days ago:

”Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has spent months fishing for a strategist to guide his potential 2016 presidential campaign. On Monday, he hooked a big one: Tad Devine, one of the Democratic Party’s leading consultants and a former high-level campaign aide to Al Gore, John Kerry, and Michael Dukakis.

“'If he runs, I’m going to help him,' Devine said in an interview. 'He is not only a longtime client but a friend. I believe he could deliver an enormously powerful message that the country is waiting to hear right now and do it in a way that succeeds.'”

With unlimited campaign wealth available to any candidate who will to cave to corporate interests (thanks to Citizens United), the country desperately needs a politician of such integrity as Senator Sanders.

It's easy to sit back and say he doesn't have a chance so why bother and, obviously, that attitude from too many voters becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. However, at bare minimum, a presidential run by Sanders guarantees that a great deal more than corporate platitudes must be attended through the campaign.

Hardly anyone stands up for elder interests in Congress. We need Senator Sanders to fight for Social Security and Medicare over the the Republican onslaught over the next two years and we might need him for president too.

This is a recent interview with Sanders from Bill Moyers. Here's my question: Why don't all politicians speak about the real lives of real people as Senator Sanders does?

(By the way, regarding the Richmond, California municipal election Chevron tried to buy that is discussed at the top of this video: the people - hurray! - defeated Chevron on 4 November.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Wendl Kornfeld: My Sweet Bird of Youth


Bill Moyers did an interview with Richmond, California, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin that should be a cautionary tale for all local governments. Small towns are no longer immune from large corporate attacks. [I can't find a link to it.]

With only 36% of the voters choosing our leaders, we need to get the money out of politics. I'm quite sure half those voters chose their candidate from misinformation. We need Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren front and center.

I spoke to a friend yesterday whose daughter threw away her ballot when it came in the mail. She's a Democrat - but didn't feel she had the time to fill it out and mail it in, so she treated it like junk mail. This isn't a youngster, she's 50.

'Too busy' isn't a good enough excuse to throw our democracy in the waste can.

I inwardly groaned (loudly!) at the official and expected announcements that the same congressional "heads" were re-elected. While being an elder, I also welcome innovative thinking and embrance change, regardless of age, and am not looking forward to the same big 4 going at each
other like kids in a sandbox - they're all looking (being?) out-of-touch while they play their games, clutching onto their over-sized egos, and accomplishing zero.

I'm mad as hell, but need some time distance from this election to regain enthusiasm for something other than a revolution!

"It's easy to sit back and say he doesn't have a chance so why bother and, obviously, that attitude from too many voters becomes self-fulfilling prophecy."

I am less willing to support and fight for a Hillary candidacy than I am a Sanders one. Bernie at least does reflect the realities of our economy and doesn't pay lip service to powerful monied-interests. It's a vote well worth it even if he doesn't win the nomination. I'd have no regrets voting for him.

I am trying to avoid cynicism after the last election. I fear unless we can find a way to spread the message of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to all of those who failed to vote, (or voted Republican) in the last election, our democratic form of government is doomed.

An ignorant and apathetic public is the biggest obstacle to saving this nation from the corruption of money in politics.

Bernie Sanders may not win with all of the corporate money against him, but the attention he will get as a candidate will spread the message to a wider populace and perhaps force them to realize just how disastrous the Republican platform would impact their lives.

Wow, and I thought I was a liberal! Someone like Sanders and Warren is what this country needs. We need real people-people in D.C., not the cardboard cutouts that are currently there.

Susan: go to Moyers.com and type Gayle Mclaughlin in the search box. The interview is there.

Unfortunately, if the Republicans have their way, the burden of caring for an aging population will fall on local municipalities who have always shown much more compassion for their citizens than the federal Government whose views about Social Responsibility is mired in the 19th Century.

Suz and Larry, I agree with both of you.

Mad as hell and seeing revolution as the only way--so, trying to back off for a bit.

While Hillary may be a choice, I, too, see Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as ethical persons who
are on-the-money, so to speak, as far as the pertinent issues to our having a democracy in the

My hope is waning as to the ability of anyone to be
elected rather than be bought as it stands now.

This is a great essay today, Ronni. I am so disgusted with younger, uninformed people who don't take the time to know what is going on in this country and will vote against their own best interests and that of their parents. We need to get big money out of politics and I don't see that happening with the current Supreme Court and the Republicans in control of the House and Senate. Rant on Ronni! We need to be reminded to keep up the fight.

Agreed on the Sanders and Warren approaches! Today we have social media to combat the lazy and greedy traditional media. Think we should take every opportunity to reach all generations and urge them to think outside the money corrupt boxes in which we've complacently sunk.

I tend to repeat stories unintentionally (ugh), but on election day, when public schools are closed and I have the grandchildren the reasons for voting as I do are retold intentionally as they accompany me into the voting booth.

When my daughter picked them up later that evening, I just had to ask … did you vote? The answer was yes … whew!

Those who don't take the time from their hectic schedules to vote are worrisome.

My grandson (28) didn't vote and my daughter just voted "no" on all the propositions. We will not be keeping our democracy if people cannot take the time to read the literature and or newspapers. Sure glad I am old so I wouldn't have to see the chaos.

If Medicaid is changed to a state block grant program, and/or if funding for health care for the aging and indigent populations falls to municipalities, we are in deep trouble.

I am in fact a resident of Richmond, California. I'm not sure it can quite qualify as a small town--it is contiguous to El Cerrito, next to Berkeley and Oakland, and a half-hour's drive (on those rare days the traffic moves) from San Francisco. Regardless of its size, I am of course THRILLED with the outcome of the recent election. I did volunteer work for Tom Butt, and have, I might add, been wiping the greasy dust off my camellia leaves for the decades I've lived here. Let's hear it for better regulation of Chevron's Richmond refinery!! Which will be considerably easier with the city council peopled by folks who feel free to speak and vote their minds. HOORAY!!

"Why don't all politicians speak about the real lives of real people?"
Perhaps they don't know any.
Here in Australia, in the past, politicians had jobs and careers before they went into politics. Today, most go directly from university to become assistants or advisors to politicians and then are tapped on the shoulder by the parties to become one themselves.

Ronni, I don't think you went on and on at all! I wish you'd go on even more . . . !

maryellen Bess, I read the California propositions and still voted NO for all of them. There is no oversight of the monies collected on so many of these propositions. Also, one proposition allowed all minor felons to get out of jail free. The money saved on jail is supposed to go to education. Huh? It actually passed. Now, the prisons are releasing inmates at a record rate, as I type.

The reason "our" representatives in WA don't talk about the real lives of real people is simple. They aren't real people and haven't been for years in most cases. They are primarily rich, privileged white men-- bought and paid for by the Koch brothers and their ilk and elected by voters in gerrymandered districts.

I hope that as young people mature, they will become more politically aware and support public servants like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but I'm not optimistic. As I've said before, unless and until We, the People, somehow realize that we must get "dark money" out of politics, nothing will change in our favor. The middle class as we know it will cease to exist, and the U.S. will be a true oligarchy.

Like a couple of other responders, I'm not ready to die just yet but I'm glad I won't be around 20-25 years from now unless a miracle happens and the Republicans' agenda is thwarted. Yes, there may need to be adjustments to ensure the survival of S/S and Medicare but they don't need to be meat-axed.

My dream team: Melinda Gates and Elizabeth Warren.

What a team that would be. We ordinary citizens, including elders, might actually have a chance for a decent life. The one small sliver of hope I still possess is based on Republican overreach. Many of them already believe they've been specifically "anointed" by mandate from on high. If they slash and burn as severely and obviously as they're promising to do, maybe it will get the attention of the rest of us in 2016 and beyond.

At a twice monthly breakfast meeting of retirees (all, engineers or pilots) yesterday, I had to leave because I was so upset with the garbage of the other engineers was spewing about how Pres Obama is a Muslim (he could tell by the ring the Prez wears?) Before leaving, I let him know that I thought the idea was stupid; but, if the Prez were not Christian, so what? Gah!! The guy is in his early 80s, BTW.

I knocked on a lot of doors in Ohio and made a lot of phone calls in Austin for Obama and cheered and almost cried tears of joy watching the results come in in Cincinstti but I didn't vote this time Didn't see much point especially here in Texas. Obama was a huge disappointment and big money is now very much in the driver's seat. Bernie Sanders is a little old for the job but maybe he can step down after his first term and let Warren run. Could get behind a Sanders/Warren ticket

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