New York Times/CBS News Poll taken between September 8th and 12th of over 1100 "probable" voters. While the poll showed the president had an overall advantage, the part I found most interesting (and troubling) was when it broke the preferences down by age group. The president led among 18 to 29's by 8 points, among 30 to 44's by 5 points, and among 45 to 64's by 7 points. There was only one age group that preferred Willard Romney, the over 65 group, and they favored Willard by a whopping 15 points.
And this is not the only poll showing this phenomenon. Poll after poll has shown the same thing. And frankly, I don't understand it at all. If there is a specific age group that would be hurt more than any other by the Republicans returning to power, it would be the elderly.
Most of the elderly, except for a fortunate few who were lucky enough to retire rich, must depend on Social Security for an income, and it is Social Security that is keeping them from dropping into poverty. In fact, Social Security has been one of the most successful of all federal programs, reducing the percentage of elderly people in poverty from a majority down to under 10%. And what do both Willard Romney and Paul Ryan want to do to Social Security?
They want to privatize it, putting retirement funds in the very risky stock market (and letting rich bankers get even richer by taking their cut of those funds). They completely ignore the fact that small investors (which most Americans would be with their retirement accounts) lost trillions of dollars in the 2007 stock market crash. They would take a program that has provided a dependable income for seniors for decades (and could easily be fully funded far into the future by just raising or eliminating the cap on FICA taxes) and gamble those funds in the stock market. This should scare the hell out of the elderly -- if not for themselves, then for their children and grandchildren.
And the same thing is true for Medicare, the program that provides decent medical care for all seniors. Both Ryan and Romney want to actually abolish Medicare and replace it with a voucher program that puts seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies (companies that show no mercy), which would cost seniors many thousands more dollars out of their own pockets for medical care. The Republicans claim this would only affect people under 55 years old, but that is not true. It would affect all age groups, including current seniors, by deflecting money from the current program. Once again, if seniors aren't worried about themselves, they should be terrified at what this would do to the medical care of their children and grandchildren.
For seniors, voting Republican in the coming election would definitely be voting against their own best interests (which lie in protecting both of these excellent programs). And what makes it even worse is that they have a real choice. The president and the Democrats have pledged to protect Social Security and Medicare. Here is what the president has said:
“And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street.”
Why are so many seniors willing to vote against their own interests? I have thought a lot about this, and I can come up with only one reason. It is the generation that was alive during the years of segregation and many of them went along with the racist laws in effect at that time. Is there still too much lingering racism among the elderly? Are they unwilling to accept that an African-American is in the White House? Are they willing to put their own health and financial security (and those of their children and grandchildren) at risk, just to satisfy their own racism (whether overt or latent)? I believe this is true -- not of all seniors, but of far too many.
NOTE -- In the interest of full disclosure, I am over 65 myself.