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PORTSIDE  April 2011, Week 4

PORTSIDE April 2011, Week 4

Subject:

The New Elderly Generation Can Provide the Spark for an American Rising

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Date:

Mon, 25 Apr 2011 22:10:25 -0400

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Talking Revolution: The New Elderly Generation can
Provide the Spark for an American Rising

by Dave Lindorff

This Can't Be Happening April 22, 2011
http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/575 

Reposted on Common Dreams April 25, 2011
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/04/25-5


I am 62 and have just reached the age where I could
apply for Social Security retirement benefits. Of
course, I'd be crazy to do that and collect some $700 a
month for the rest of my life, when I could keep
working and wait until I'm 70 and get $2000 a month.

But the point is, I've arrived. I'm a "senior." And now
I'm paying a lot more attention to what the Right and
its paymaster, the corporate lobby, are trying to do,
not just to my retirement plan (which is Social
Security. period), but also to Medicare, the program
upon which my medical care will depend once my wife
decides to retire from her university job.

The picture is not pretty. Both the Republicans, and
the pathetic Democrats, led by President Barack Obama,
are talking brazenly about cutting back on Social
Security, and on Medicare. The Republicans openly say
they want to kill Medicare and secretly want to end
Social Security too, which is the agenda of most of the
corporations which fund lobbies like the US Chamber of
Commerce, the National Assn. of Manufacturers, the
Business Roundtable, etc. Oh, I know they say they're
only talking about "changes" for people who are under
55, but that's just for starters. The goal is to ruin
the program for younger workers, and then make them
resent what we older folks still get. Then the next
step will be to eradicate both programs altogether.

But here's the thing. The reason these parties and
lobbies are trying so hard now to use the recession and
the national deficit as cover to decimate and destroy
these two proven and critically important social
programs into which all working Americans have been
paying all our working lives, is that they realize what
most 50 and 60-something Americans haven't realized
yet: that we are about to become the most powerful
political force in the country, and that we are
certainly going to demand both an excellent government
Medicare program, and a decent retirement program.

The way I see it, we in the Baby Boom generation--those
people born between 1946 and about 1964--are just
starting to hit retirement age. In another 10 years, we
will become a political force twice as powerful and
certainly more than twice as noisy and demanding as the
current senior lobby. We can either wait until then,
after they have successfully gutted the two programs we
depend on, making it so we have to fight to recreate or
restore them, or we can start organizing now to defend
and improve them, and save ourselves a whole lot of
trouble.

So here's my proposal.

Let's start building a coalition of Baby Boomers,
working through every conceivable organization--labor
unions, churches, veterans organizations, alumni
organizations, political chapters, etc.--with one goal:
Defending and improving Social Security and Medicare.

Here's my idea for a slogan:

Tax the Rich and Save Social Security! No Cuts in
Medicare! Make it for Everyone!

Here's the argument. Social Security is said to be in
danger of "running out of money" in 2037, because there
will supposedly be too many retirees drawing checks and
too few younger workers putting money into the
so-called Trust Fund. The Trust Fund itself had its
trust broken by our politicians, Republican and
Democrat, who have for years been raiding the money we
put into it, leaving us with government IOUs. These
IOUs, the Republicans and the corporatists now say,
they don't intend to honor. (The main reason for these
raids has been to fund America's imperialist wars,
which the public never would support if they had to pay
for them up front through higher taxes.) Well, first
off, we need to demand that they honor those IOUs.
Second, since that would mean raising taxes to fund our
retirement, we need to demand that the money come not
from our working kids and grandkids, but from the rich.
It's really an easy fix. Require that the FICA tax
which pays for Social Security benefits apply to all
income, not just the first $106,000 of income, and make
it also apply to investment income, which currently
pays no FICA tax. (I'm not talking about retirement
investments. They can be exempted. I'm talking about
regular taxable investment income.)

As for Medicare, which we're told is going to run out
of money sometime before 2017, the answer there is to
stop making it a program just for disabled and old
people, and to expand it to cover everyone, which is
what President Obama should have proposed way back in
2008, instead of the outrageous health "reform" that
was pushed through Congress and which is going to be
undone by the courts anyhow.

Poll after poll shows that Americans love Medicare.
It's a program that works, that only spends 1% of funds
on administration (compared to almost 30% for the
private medical system), and that has vastly improved
the health of older Americans since it went into effect
in 1965. It's a program that actually is very similar
to what all Canadians have (which is a program they
also call Medicare), but here in the US you have to be
either over 65 or permanently disabled in order to
qualify.

That is nuts!

The truth, which our politicians are loath to discuss
(both houses of Congress refused to include a
discussion of a Medicare-for-all option during the
health "reform" legislative process, and the Obama
White House refused to bring in Medicare-for-all
advocates to its planning sessions, or to invite
experts from Canada to explain their program), is that
a universal Medicare program in the US would provide
care for every citizen, while costing significantly
less than our current outrageous mix of private
insurance for most working Americans, Medicaid for the
poor, Medicare for the elderly, Veterans Administration
care for veterans, and no care or charity care for tens
of millions of poor people.

Think about it: right now the program funds the oldest
and sickest part of the population. As it is, 90% of
the cost of Medicare is for the care of the oldest 10%
of the Medicare population. It doesn't cost that much
to care for the "younger old." It would cost even less
to provide medical care for the rest of the population
that isn't even 65 yet. And covering everyone with
Medicare would mean that Medicaid, Veterans care,
charity care, employee disability insurance, etc.,
could all be eliminated, along with all private medical
insurance!

We "new oldsters" need to demand Medicare-for-All not
just because it's right, and not just because it's the
most efficient, cost-effective solution, but also
because it makes strategic political sense. Why should
we let the Right divide us by creating a bogus
generational conflict? Why let them claim we "greedy
codgers" are making younger workers pay for our health
care? We don't want that anyway! Those younger workers
are our own kids and our grandkids! They should have
access to decent affordable healthcare too, and
shouldn't be bound to their employers like serfs, or
forced to pay extortionate premiums to vulture-like
insurance companies in return for problematic coverage.
We should demand that they get the same thing we get:
Universal health care! Medicare for All!

Such a campaign for secure retirement income and for a
program of government health insurance for all could
become the rallying point for a resurgent progressive
movement that could grab back our politics and our
government from the narrow special interests that have
hijacked them.

If we fight and win on Social Security and on Medicare
for All, who knows what other issues we could fight and
win on!

[Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and
columnist. He is co-author, along with Barbara
Olshansky, of The Case for Impeachment: Legal Arguments
for Removing President George W. Bush from Office (St.
Martin's Press, June 2006 and paperback 2007), he is
also the author of three earlier books: This Can't Be
Happening! Resisting the Disintegration of American
Democracy (Common Courage Press, 2004), Marketplace
Medicine: The Rise of the For Profit Hospital Chains
(Bantam, 1992), and Killing Time: An Investigation into
the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Common Courage
Press, 2003).]

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