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The way you treat your elderly today is how you will be treated tomorrow

Politics / Social Issues Oct 17, 2015 - 03:52 PM GMT

By: Michael_T_Bucci


The fact that there will be no COLA (Cost of Living) increase in 2016 for 65 million recipients of Social Security will be acutely painful in Maine, which hosts the oldest population in the nation; and in Lincoln County, Maine, the second oldest county in Maine where public transportation is non-existent, community outreach is at best minimal and in which 25% of the population is age 65 and over. (1) Furthermore, 30% of Medicare beneficiaries — an estimated 17 million Americans — could see their Part B premium and deductible rise 52% because of provisions in the Social Security law.

Social Security recipients have lost nearly a fourth of their buying power over the last 15 years, according to the Senior Citizens League. The cost of housing, often a retiree’s greatest expense, rose 44% since 2000; heating oil, 159%; eggs, 117%; and gasoline, 76%. In contrast, Social Security COLAs averaged just 2.2% per year since 2000, or just 36.3% overall. (2)

Next year will mark the third time since 2010 that seniors have received no COLA, a period of shifting priorities in Congress that placed greater emphasis on reducing government spending, sequestration and promoting general austerity chiefly at the expense of the most vulnerable Americans: the elderly, poor and disabled. Maine, reflecting this shift, emerged to twice elect Governor Paul LePage whose neo-liberalism is matched only by the most reactionary conservative governors in the nation.

The Federal Reserve has spent trillions on quantitative easing, maintained interest rates at near 0% for the benefit of banks, hedge funds and speculators who, rather than invest in Main Street, small business or capital investment in infrastructure and industrial expansion, invested in stock markets reaping returns of 300% or more since the Great Recession. Arguably, this layer "did nothing" to earn these gains yet crowned themselves "job creators" and stewards of our economic health.

The military-industrial complex has spent trillions more on Messrs. Bush and Obama's "endless war" with sacrifices paid by many dead and wounded young Americans.

Wealth concentration in the hands of the few is not limited to America. According to Credit Suisse, 50% of global wealth is held by 1% of the world population. (3) The Credit Suisse report notes the particularly rapid rise in inequality since the Wall Street crash of 2008 and relates it directly to the stock market boom that followed the bailout of the banks, initiated by the Bush administration and greatly expanded by the Obama administration

What kind of country will America become if the present system of wealth allocation to the rich further expands? If monies continue to be redirected from social welfare, Social Security and entitlement programs to fund financial sectors, stock markets and wars? If more and more safety nets are removed from more and more people? If those who play no active, productive and profit-enriching role in the economic order (e.g., elderly, disabled, retirees) are deemed marginal and ultimately abandoned? Is the future to find America further devoid of national cohesion and social consciousness?

Someone once said to judge a nation's humanity and civility measure how it regards its elderly. While fundamental change in this nation's value system toward the vulnerable is unlikely to be delivered by any current Republican and Democratic presidential candidate — only more Wall Street, economic disparity and global wars — it can occur from the ground-up, as it did in the 1930s and 1960s.

It is eighty years since FDR signed the Social Security Act and fifty years since President Johnson signed the Social Security Amendments which established Medicare and Medicaid, promising that they would "improve a wide range of health and medical services for Americans of all ages". (4) By 2015, the New Deal and "Great Society" have died; the guarantee of a secure future for all Americans has been betrayed by both political parties; the alleviation of poverty, protection for the elderly and vulnerable, and provision of health care "for Americans of all ages" has seen health care become a lethal political football undeserving of the label "civil"; the poor become invisible and unrepresented; the elderly to face a narrower and narrower range of health and medical services and potentially undeserved abandonment by the country they supported, fought and died for, and help become prosperous.

It is over 100 years since the RMS Titanic sunk. Cunard Line claimed its ship was "unsinkable" and did not provide lifeboats for all passengers. As the ship was sinking, the measure of civility shown in 1912 guaranteed that woman and children go first into the lifeboats, the others last. First Class passenger John Jacob Astor IV relinquished his fortune, home at 840 Fifth Avenue and a seat on a lifeboat to drown with others in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. (5) That was in 1912. What is the measure of civility today? Who will go first into the lifeboats and who last?

Since each and every American is predestined to age and most to someday become elderly, the way you treat your elderly today is how you will be treated tomorrow.

1. Quick Facts: Lincoln County, Maine, US Census 2014

2. "Government: No benefit increase for Social Security next year", USA Today, Oct 15, 2015

3. "Global Wealth in 2015: Underlying Trends Remain Positive", Credit Suisse, Oct. 13, 2015

4. "The 1965 Medicare Amendment to the Social Security Act", LBJ Library

5. "First Class Passengers: Colonel John Jacob Astor", Encyclopedia Titanica

(c) 2015 Michael T Bucci

Michael T Bucci is a retired public relations executive currently living in New England. He has authored nine books on practical spirituality collectively titled The Cerithous Material.

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