By: Barbara Easterling, President Alliance for Retired Americans
Budget debates in Washington are serving as a wake-up call for retirees, a
key voting bloc in next year’s elections. While success among older
voters in 2010 propelled Republicans to victory both in Congress and in state
capitals, recently we are seeing signs of buyer’s remorse.
House Republicans are having a rocky time back home, with much of the wrath
coming from seniors. Their anger is fueled by a House-passed
privatization of Medicare that would drive up seniors’ health care costs as
they fend for themselves in the wilds of the private insurance market.
This plan, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), opens the door to cuts in Social
Security benefits and a higher retirement age; the latter would be devastating
for workers in physically-demanding blue collar and service sector jobs.
Also, Medicaid – which helps seniors afford nursing home and long-term care –
would be run by state governors such as Scott Walker, John Kasich, or Chris
Christie. Seniors in those states better pray for good health.
As seniors learn more details of this plan, plus hear the heated rhetoric
around the debt ceiling, they are beginning to feel that the very future of
retirement is on the line. What about their children and grandchildren –
will they ever be able to retire?
For this awakening of older voters to grow, seniors will need more reliable
information than is currently provided by a news media that is easily
distracted by sideshows of birth certificates and royal weddings.
Americans must know that Social Security does not cause our deficit (it is
supported by worker and employer taxes and has a $2.6 trillion surplus).
Additionally, we cannot allow people to fall for Ryan’s shrewd but cynical ploy
exempting those currently over age 55 from Medicare privatization. It’s
not only bad policy, but also the tired politics of divide and conquer.
In the 2012 elections, the Alliance for Retired Americans will use
organizers in key states, paid and earned media, and retiree-tailored fliers
and fact sheets to help develop and mobilize politically savvy seniors who know
the issues and where the candidates stand.
The past few months – marked by irresponsible spending votes that break the
promise of Social Security and Medicare – have been both a sobering reminder
and a wake-up call that a safe and secure retirement should not be taken for
Cross-posted from FDL