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.

IS THERE MORE MONEY THAN MONTH? OR MORE MONTH THAN MONEY? – Marilyn Armstrong

Depletion is our current financial state. This is because this is the time when we pay the mortgage.

It’s The Big Bill of the Month and it pretty much sucks us completely dry until the next fly by of Social Security. We get through the month, but there is usually more month than money. They would have to take away at least a week of month (and probably add one more check) to make it come out even.

I am also contemplating whether or not having taken — as of this morning — THREE antibiotics and a good deal of Flovent — if I am improved from yesterday. I thought when I could get up from the john without a sky hook and grabbing onto the sink, I must be better. But I don’t feel better right now and going back to bed sounds way too yummy.

Regardless, I need to sit up for a while. Drainage. Garry’s sore throat is gone. Now he feels bad everywhere. Welcome to my world.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I actually had to put the drugs from the doctor on a credit card yesterday. I hate that. The clouds are piling up, the temperature is dropping and we are getting sleet for the weekend.

How is this fair? I ask you? Okay, don’t make me rich. Just make me warmer. Make a few flowers bloom.

Is that too much to ask?

GOP TO SENIORS: JUST DIE ALREADY

If you’re on Medicare, that’s the message you’re getting.

Paul Ryan wants to bring back allowing insurance companies to refuse insurance based on pre-existing condition. In other words, if you’re really sick, you definitely won’t get medical help. He also wants to eliminate additional help for people with serious illnesses who need expensive medications and long-term care. Way to go Ryan. What a guy.

medicare__estelle_carol___bob_simpsonIf this stuff were to actually go into effect, a lot of people will die. I’m very likely to be one of them. Our death certificates won’t say “killed by their government,” but that will be the truth. Nine years ago, I almost died because I didn’t have medical insurance. I got lucky. I was saved by a great doctor and his hospital who performed the surgery I needed. If not for them, I wouldn’t be writing this or anything else.

Even without any additional cuts, out-of-pocket expenses of Medicare have been going up annually. Ever-higher deductibles and premiums and the massive doughnut hole in prescription coverage keeps going up … while Social Security doesn’t. Many of the most fundamental, critical medications aren’t covered at all — emergency and other inhalers for asthma sufferers, nitroglycerin, newer antibiotics. This year, I did not get a CAT-scan as part of my cancer check up. I haven’t had a scan for three years because I can’t afford it.

Vaccinations are no longer a medical expense either. Instead, they are now classed as prescription medication and fall under Medicare Part D. Of course, none of the prescription plans actually cover vaccinations — except for flu shots. They’re free. Anything else will cost you. Hundreds of dollars. It’s cheaper to let us get sick — maybe we’ll die and save even more money — than vaccinate us against preventable diseases. Millions might avail themselves of preventative measures (we are old, not stupid), but many fewer will contract the illness. It’s all about the good old bottom line.

Medicare-Payment-Methods-1024x768

Ever since I turned 65, it’s been a downhill slide.

The day I turned 65, I was dumped by MassHealth (Medicaid). I hoped I’d be protected by my disabled status. I’d been on disability for years which was why I was entitled to MassHealth.

No problem getting around that. Social Security reclassified (sound familiar?) me as not disabled and switched me to standard Social Security. This eliminated the extra protection and medication support I’d been getting.


“Why don’t you just die already?”


Social Security and Medicare is not charity. This is money we paid into the system during our working years. It is an entitlement as in “we are entitled to that money.” Because it is our own money supposedly being returned to us. As promised.

They took our money and promised it would be our safety net when we were no longer able to work. When they make cuts to Medicare and Social Security, they are stealing our money. Remember that when you hear the rhetoric.

YOUR BUSINESS IS IMPORTANT TO US

It’s an epidemic, a pandemic  — of bad service.

Do you remember when the customer was always right? I do. It wasn’t that long ago.

Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until approximately 2002, at which point everyone — more or less simultaneously — decided to save money by “automating” customer service, eliminating it entirely, or shipping it overseas to be handled by people who speak heavily accented English and don’t know anything about the products they are supposed to be supporting. That was when you and me, the customers, the ones who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services, became unimportant.

outofserviceThat was the year when we all became not worth the effort of answering a question, or supplying documentation. The gold standard for customer service became … nothing. These days, after slightly more than a decade of working out the details, most organizations do not offer any service to their customers. At all.

The overall attitude is “do the least you can — nothing, if you can get away with it. All customers are liars and thieves. Treat them as such.”

Customer disservice. I think I’m permanently pissed off. Even thinking about calling a customer service department gets my blood boiling. I’m shocked if I’m treated well. Delighted, but shocked.

SO WHAT DO I HATE?

Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching. Calls that display on caller ID as familiar phone numbers, but they’ve hacked your data or bought it from someone from whom you bought something.

waiting

Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of breast cancer research or some other form of advocacy. Who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.

“Surveys” that are nothing but scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.

“Discount cards” for every shop you go to, all of which are a way to collect your personal information so they can sell it. Because you may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.

Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t recall the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on and on, until you are ready to scream. Worse, you have to listen to the entire spiel every time you call. The message starts with “Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. Our menu choices have recently changed …” Recently was 10 months ago … or a year or more. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.

CustServCartoon

Many places no longer offer any option of speaking to a live person. Try to find a live human being at your electric company, cable provider, or credit card company.

Our electric company had customer service. Today, if you can find their phone number, a recorded message will tell you to visit the website. Online. Not quite what you need when the power’s off. Make sure you have their actual phone number on your device. You can’t look it up online when there’s no electricity because if there’s no electricity, there’s also no cable or WiFi.

If your whole life is online, it’s over when the power goes out.

Death cust serv

Assuming you can worm your way through voice mail and finally push the magic number to connect you to a live agent, you hear: “Your business is important to us …” followed by Muzak and a 40-minute wait on hold. Better yet, it’s the long wait, followed by a disconnect and dial tone.

96-Waiting-Worcester

Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers are probably playing games on Facebook while you listen to their 5-minute voice-mail message. All you wanted to do was ask on which night they are open late. By the end of the message, you no longer care.

THERE ARE STILL SOME GOOD ONES OUT THERE 

Amazon and Audible. Audible is an Amazon company now, but they always had terrific customer service. The more I deal with Amazon, the less I want to deal with anyone else. They are proof getting service does not have to be a nightmare. Trauma need not part of all interactions with vendors, medical facilities, utilities, or other corporations.

AT&T is good. Not as good as Amazon, but you can eventually get a real live person who knows what they are doing. And oddly enough, Medicare and Social Security. Though you may need to wait on hold for a while, you will get a live person in the end — and they will speak your language. They will stay on line with you as long as it takes. Credit where it’s due. These underpaid public servants try hard to help you.

L.L. Bean has wonderful customer service. Land’s End is good too.

To everyone else, I offer a big raspberry and a Bah Humbug in honor of the season.

WHEN DID I GROW UP?

When I was in my late twenties, we had a couple of friends who were in their 50s. One day I asked Betty at what point she felt “grown up.” By then, I was working full-time as a writer. I never worked professionally as anything else — I was always an editor, writer or both. I was raising a son, taking care of a home and had been married for more than ten years (married at 18).

At the Hall of Fame, September 2013
At the Hall of Fame, September 2013

Betty looked at me and said “I’ll let you know.”

When I was a child, I wondered when I would feel grown up. Through all my working years, I never entirely lost the feeling I was only pretending to be an adult. I did adult things, had adult responsibilities. I was a mother, in charge of making my son into a responsible citizen … but I felt like a child wondering when the world would discover I was a fraud.

It turned out getting older and having a child made me responsible, but it didn’t make me mature. I continued to wait for someone to see through me and realize I was really just a kid, playing adult games.

Now, I’m a senior citizen. We live on social security and pensions and barely scrape by. How ironic that we finally feel grown up. I don’t know exactly when it happened. It just slipped by and I never noticed. It took getting old to get it done. Now, finally, we have no one to depend but each other. More of our lives are behind us than ahead of us. We no long feel like frauds, pretending to know what we are doing. We actually know what we are doing and we don’t like a lot of it.

What comes with the package? We are impatient with the angst of the young. I listen and try not to show my restlessness, try not to say what I’m thinking, which is “Oh puleeze! Get over it. Move on!” I have zero interest in gossip, fashion, current trends in anything other than history or philosophy. I’m still interested in politics, but my perspective is very different. I’m far more cynical than I ever imagined possible.

I like my dogs better than most people. I don’t miss parties and don’t worry about being popular. The only people whose opinions matter to me are my few really good friends and some of my family.

I am not anyone I recognize anymore, but you couldn’t pay me to be young again. I would love the body and physical health of youth, but not the brain. Yikes. Imagine suffering through high school again! Root canal sounds better!