November 11, 2016
A Post Election Plea from NYSARA President Barry A. Kaufmann
I write this article with a heavy heart. The election results are now in and the American people have spoken. Many of us are despondent, disillusioned, fearful and anxious. The “unspeakable” has happened and some of the things that we value most are now at risk. With the election of Donald Trump as President combined with a narrow Republican majority in the Senate and a slightly smaller majority (-6) in the House the handwriting would appear to be on the wall in terms of the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and other issues that matter to Seniors. We also maintain the status quo in the NYS Assembly and Senate with the Republicans picking up one seat in the Senate and holding the outright majority (including Simcha Felder (D) who caucuses with the Republicans)
Members of NYSARA have said, “My younger daughter, mother of my two grandchildren, said she cried all day. My wife also said she cried most of the day and she reluctantly voted for Hillary, while holding her nose. My older daughter expressed her displeasure but being a scientist did not display emotion. My family is probably no different from other NYSARA families. There are probably hundreds of stories like mine.”
It is hard to deal with the visceral reaction that Donald Trump engendered among those that supported him as well as those who opposed him. Sometimes we ask how someone could have voted for a person that seemed to have as many fatal flaws as Mr. Trump. Make no mistake about it anger, fear and frustration with the status quo always obliterates hope and logic. This is certainly indicated by the fact that Latino voters, who were especially targets of his rhetoric, voted for him in higher percentages than they had voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and union households voted for Hillary Clinton 10% less than had voted for President Obama in 2012.
What is especially troubling is that 53% of those over 65 voted for Donald Trump even though it was against their interests and only 45% voted for Hillary Clinton, who had a positive record and plan for the issues impacting seniors/retirees. Having said that, instead of dealing with the election with the remedy in the picture below, this election has given us the opportunity to change things for the better and build a structure that puts the needs of seniors in the forefront of thought in America. It gives us the opportunity to educate other seniors about their issues.
We have all dealt with adversity before. We have many arrows in our quiver and much experience in activism. We have a unique opportunity to educate young and old. We are hopeful that President Elect Trump will expand on his populism, will not be an ideologue and will return to his Democratic roots. However, if he and Congress want to gut the things that we value most and that make our country great then we will fight them every step of the way. Things that seem to be in immediate jeopardy, based on the rhetoric from the President elect and the Republican majority in Congress are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.
Social Security is an issue that George W Bush and some in Congress attempted to change at the beginning of his second term in office. With our activism we were able to make this issue a poisonous one for members of Congress. Subsequently, the ideas that proposed to change our Social Security system for the worse were dropped. Currently, there are calls to “save the system” by increasing the age, which will cost beneficiaries 13% for each year the retirement age is raised, to means test benefits as well as instituting the chained CPI which decimates the annual COLA. In an attempt to blunt the outrage by seniors, Republican leaders in Congress have pledged not to change Social Security for those approaching retirement (55+) or those already retired. That should NOT quell our concern and activism. We do not want to be the LAST generation to be able to retire with dignity. We want all our children and grandchildren to be able to look forward to a retirement that does not mean descending into poverty. Even now this is becoming more and more difficult with defined benefit pensions becoming more rare, and the inability to save enough for retirement. If we compound that by allowing the diverting of a portion of our Social Security to risky 401k instruments we then risk having the trend of people HAVING to work well into their 70’s continue and expand. When we divert funds into those 401K’s it reduces the guaranteed Social Security benefit. Remember, those same 401k’s tanked during the recession forcing people who had planed to retire to extend their working career. We need to fight for Social Security for future generations.
The promise of Medicare is in jeopardy as the attempts to offer vouchers to seniors to pay for Medical insurance are on the top of the list for some in Congress. The vouchers are not enough and would not keep up with the increasing costs of health care for seniors. Congress wants to shift costs to recipients of Medicare and Medicaid instead of allowing for negotiation of drug prices and the refusal to rein in drug prices by big Pharma.
We all know that the first target of the President elect is the Affordable Care act. However, the law of unintended consequences is at play here. I had a conversation with a retired construction worker that I play golf with during a frost delay this morning. His statement was that he was glad that Mr. Trump was elected and that he was going to get rid of “Obamacare”. I asked him if he knew the things he would lose if that happened. His reply was I’m for repeal and replace. I acknowledged there were problems with the Affordable care act but repealing it was not the answer. Making changes and improving it might be the way to go. Further, in the 7 years that the law has been in place not once has a plan to replace it emerged from the opponents of the ACA in congress, the same people that voted to repeal this law 52 times. We then discussed what would be lost if the law was repealed. Over 20 million people would lose their insurance and cost insured people extra in premiums, he and his family could be denied coverage because of his wife having diabetes, there would no longer be free mammograms, pap tests, prostate exams, annual physicals etc., women and other groups like pre Medicare individuals could be charged extra and his grandchildren could no longer stay on their parents medical insurance until the age of 26. He then said that he went off his parents insurance as soon as he got a job. I reminded him that when we were in the workforce most employers offered health insurance as a benefit and that no longer was the norm. The point of relaying this conversation is that my opportunity to “educate” my friend was successful as he informed me he left with a new perspective about this issue.
There is POWER in information. We need to quickly get over our mourning and the malaise that enveloped us on Tuesday night. We need to fight and increase our activism. We need to recruit more activists to join us. We need to educate ourselves about our issues so we can engage people. We need to speak truth to power.
We have dealt with adversity before and have always found a way to emerge stronger and more united. Do not despair. We continue to be a force that can effect change. Join us.
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