IF YOU DON’T DO THE RESEARCH – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Sunday – Mentor


I never think of myself as having had mentors. I suppose I thought they were supposed to announce themselves or wear an ID that said “Mentor” on it. They were the teachers that listened to me. Who really read the papers I wrote and didn’t give me an automatic “A” because I was good with words.

My favorite grade was an A+/D. It was a 40-page paper and I thought it read pretty well. So what kind of grade was that?

I went up to him after class and said “Huh?”

He said: “Great writing. Pity you didn’t do the research. Writing is a wonderful skill, but if you don’t do the research …”

If you don’t do the research — or ignore the results of the research — you become Fox News.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

The Senior Issue, by Rich Paschall

Recently a friend of mine commented that if Congress cut Social Security and Medicare, they will see a lot of angry seniors vote them out of office.  Many Republicans promised to do just that before the last election.  If they maintain control of both houses, they almost certainly will do it now.  The problem here is why would seniors wait to see if something bad is going to happen before taking action?

While seniors historically vote in larger percentage than other age groups, there are still many who stay home as if the election does not matter.  Yes, some are physically unable to vote and do not get any help to get to the polls or vote by mail.  Others are victims of political actions attempting to deny them the vote.  But for many, the excuse is the same as other age groups, “My vote doesn’t really matter.”

Of course it matters.  In the coming midterms it matters a lot for seniors and those about to reach retirement age.  The Republican party has targeted what they term “entitlements” as a reason for the deficit and hope to cut back on them.  You may recall, however, this same group of legislatures engineered a massive tax cut that primarily benefited corporations and the one percent, and resulted in a deficit of almost a trillion dollars at this writing.

It is often repeated, but seems to fall on deaf Republican ears, that Social Security and Medicare are not “entitlements.”  These programs are not some sort of hand-out to seniors and the disabled.  We paid into these programs for all our working lives. We didn’t have a choice, either. We have the right expect to receive back the pensions (Social Security) and medical coverage (Medicare) we were promised.

Then along come Republican legislators who have their pensions and medical care secured for their retirement, and now plan to cut yours.  Their campaign promises should not be dismissed lightly.  They are coming after your retirement savings, which they control.

In the federal budget, Social Security, Unemployment and Labor are the largest piece of “mandatory spending.”  Military is the largest piece of “discretionary spending.”  The military spending for 2016 was 36 percent of the global total, or more than the next 8 nations combined.  If you suggest we could cut military spending, Republicans will paint you as un-American.

There is something important to be noted about the Social Security payments.  They are covered by the SS Trust Fund.  The money we have been paying for years goes into a trust to pay out when you retire.

According to Marketwatch, “For the first time since 1982, Social Security has to dip into the trust fund to pay for the program this year.”  If revenue has more than covered payouts for many years, what is the problem, exactly?

No, the feds are not “raiding” or “stealing” from the fund as some suggest.  They did that under Reagan. If there were more money, they’d still be “borrowing” it. Note: Do they not understand the concept that “borrowing” implies returning the money at some point?

It also indicates a lack of budgetary knowledge.  There are ways to make the fund viable well beyond the projected 2034 date currently being given as when Social Security won’t be able to cover 100 percent of payments. But that’s another issue.

The point of concern for seniors now is that the Republican Congress wants to cut payouts now as if Social Security is adding to the deficit, rather than the loss of revenue due to tax breaks for the very rich.

Republican Ronald Reagan told us that Social Security had nothing to do with the deficit, something current Republicans likely do not want to hear.

In 2017, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, one of the poorest states in the nation, told us that the tax cuts for the wealthy would pay for themselves. Now he says of the increasing deficit “It’s a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”  And according to McConnell those “real drivers” are “Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.”

Really. And all that money we paid in? Where did that go?

In fact, a whole host of leading Republicans have promised to cut these programs as early as next year.  There is no reason to believe that they don’t intend to do it.  If they maintain control of both houses, they can fast-track these ideas and cut the social program virtually every administration since Franklin Roosevelt has vowed to protect … except for this one.

If your thoughts are that they would not dare do such a thing to a large voting block, you had better think again.  They have shown a willingness to serve the one percent at the expense of everyone else, so why would they not cut these programs if they have the votes to do so?  If you are here in the US and are a registered voter, you have a voice in this.

I suggest you use your vote.  You may regret sitting out this one.

In order to try to keep the votes of the many seniors who voted “red” last time out, the Republicans are engaging in scare tactics.  “The Democrats’ plan means that after a life of hard work and sacrifice, seniors would no longer be able to depend on the benefits they were promised,” President Trump recently wrote for USA Today.

The column, however, was filled with “false and unsubstantiated claims” according to NPR.  Of course, that will not matter in Trump country if his followers believe the lies and vote for those who will ultimately cut their benefits.


While I have used this space for social commentary a number of times, I don’t like to give up my Sunday space for a political piece (satire and fiction aside). I thought this was too important to not speak up.

I also didn’t want to make this look like a research paper but I thought it was important to show this was not merely a political rant, but a serious issue for most Americans.

Remember: You may be young now, but you won’t be forever.


Here’s a list of references you can check:

“Dozens of black senior citizens ordered off bus taking them to vote,” October 16, 2018, thehill.com
“Voter-Suppression Tactics in the Age of Trump,” October 29,2018 issue, newyorker.com
“U.S. Budget Deficit Swells to $898 Billion, Topping Forecast,” September 13, 2018, bloomberg.com
“The Top 15 Countries For Military Expenditure In 2016,” Niall McCarthy, forbes.com
“Social Security to tap into trust fund for first time in 36 years,” June 6, 2018, marketwatch.com
“Policy Basics: Understanding the Social Security Trust Funds,” June 29, 2018, Center On Budget and Policy Priorities, cbpp.org
“McConnell eyes cuts to Medicare, Social Security to address deficit,” October 16, 2018, msnbc.com
“GOP Revives Medicare Scare Tactics As Election Nears,” shots, Health News from NPR, npr.org, October 30, 2018.
“Trump’s False Claims On ‘Medicare For All’,” Fact Check, npr.org, October 10, 2018.

WHY YOUR VOTE REALLY DOES MATTER – Marilyn Armstrong

I hear a lot from many people, including in my own family, that “my vote doesn’t matter.” The reasons given range from “I live in the country and it’s just the votes in the cities that make the difference.” There’s some truth in that and it is frustrating, particularly on a local level.

Then I hear “None of this has anything to do with me.” That’s pretty hard to accept from a kid living in HUD-managed reduced cost housing and who survives on Social Security Disability. And a woman.

Others include “This state is so blue, my vote won’t matter.” That’s how we elected Trump.

The thing is, the vote isn’t just YOUR vote. Your vote is one of the millions of votes never given.

In the last election, more people didn’t vote than did.

One person doesn’t vote? No big deal. A dozen people don’t vote? Still no big deal.

When millions of people don’t vote? That’s a very big problem not in a single election, but in all elections. For years, we have had more non-voters than voters in national elections and in mid-terms, the voting is even worse.

If everyone like you and me will vote, we fix the problem. Voting means millions of people will get their ballots counted. I know my vote doesn’t count because not only do I live in a hugely blue state but because Boston has so many more votes than the rest of the state combined. However, Boston goes, so Massachusetts also goes.

This is true in every state that has one or two major cities which hold the concentration of voters. New York, for example, sets the votes of the state. As New York city votes, so goes the rest of the state — even though New York is a large state and is primarily rural.

You’d never know it from the vote count. Those of us who live in the country don’t have much impact. But if everyone who can vote actually votes, it would change the country’s demographics.

Because the truth is, we don’t know how those non-votes would vote. There are so many of them, they could create a third-party that could change our entire political system.

Collectively, we matter. Unless you are planning to run for office, you will always be one of many. Or as we say “E Pluribus Unum.”

It’s our national motto and it means “One From Many.”

Be one. Be part of the many.

Many things need changing, but we need people in office willing to change the status quo. To create an amendment that eliminates or massively alters the Electoral College. A serious rewrite of the second amendment. We need some legal requirements about who can hold office, especially the presidency.

We have a great constitution, but it is hundreds of years old and needs an upgrade.

WILDFLOWERS AND SOME AUTUMN LEAVES – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – November 4, 2018


Photos: Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

We had a serious wind and rain storm last night and this morning. Big limbs all over the driveway. Watching the oaks wave in the wind … which is actually kind of eerie.

Those oaks are big (tall!) trees. When they fall, they take down a lot of stuff with them. Watching them move with the wind is a bit scary.

Wild asters and a big bee

But so far, so good. We just lost a lot of branches which Garry tossed into the woods. The driveway was effectively blocked.

Women by the river – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

In the course of events, most of the trees are bare. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice, but Monday and thereafter? Who knows? More wind, more rain, and the rivers are beginning to crest. It was bound to happen.

The last branch

And Garry’s best shot of October, introducing THE SQUIRREL!

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Gray squirrel by the Blackstone

MEMORIES OF SUMMER – Marilyn Armstrong

Memories of Summer – FOTD – November 2, 2018


Suddenly, I realized that it is really getting to the end of the year and I don’t remember very much of it. One of my two (the small one) bird feeders arrived today. I have to dump the flowers to hand the feeders and I haven’t bought any feed yet. But I will. We get money on Thursday and bird feed is on my list. I have no idea how much to buy, either.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

One is designed mainly for bigger birds and holds sunflower seeds. The little one is for the little birds and holds “regular” birdseed.

I will work it out.

Bright lilies

Meanwhile, I thought I’d show off a few actual flowers.

Memories of summer, the daylilies, and roses