09/28/2012

As the election nears, retirees are getting behind Obama

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The way Ken Goodfriend sees it, this year's presidential election is about choosing between two very different views of the future—especially when it comes to healthcare for seniors.

The retired educator is concerned that under "a President Romney," changes made to Medicare and other healthcare programs would have a negative effect on senior citizens. "While they say there will be no change in actual benefits, the costs to seniors will increase. But no one ever mentions that," says Goodfriend, noting that the Romney-Ryan plan would replace Medicare's guaranteed benefit with a voucher that would reduce the government's contribution toward the cost of healthcare premiums.

The plan increases seniors out-of-pocket costs by $6,000 a year both now and in the future and makes it harder for seniors to choose their own doctors.

Goodfriend, a retired member of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla., was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention this summer, and he's still buoyed by what he experienced there. Being at the DNC "reinforced how important it is to ensure that Medicare and Social Security will continue to be there as a safety net," he says. An active member of his Florida retiree chapter, Goodfriend is coordinating its phone banks and letter-writing campaign, where he and his colleagues are encouraging other retirees to vote for President Obama by early voting or by absentee ballot.

Determined to ensure that the progressive agenda of the Obama administration is not toppled by a "sharp turn to the right," retiree Tom Luvison spends every afternoon helping manage a phone bank at the Cleveland Teachers Union office. In addition to the usual issues that concern seniors—healthcare, Medicare, a decent retirement—Luvison wants to help preserve the middle class for his grandchildren.

"We are at a crossroads," says Luvison. "Do we want the progressive agenda—which cares for the majority of people and advocates for social programs that promote the general welfare—to continue?" On the other hand, he says, a Romney administration would steer the country toward privatization and promote an attitude that Luvison describes as telling people "you have to survive on your own."

St. Louis retiree Phillip Graves is a phone-banking newbie. But he's eager to reach out to members and encourage them to vote Nov. 6. "It is extremely important to get President Obama and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill re-elected, especially when you consider the alternatives," says Graves, who believes the president needs more time to carry out his agenda. A lot of damage was done to our economy, Graves adds, "and it's going to take more than four years to clean it up."

And Graves is bothered by Mitt Romney's remarks describing nearly half of the electorate as being dependent on the government. "You don't write off 47 percent of America." [Adrienne Coles]

September 28, 2012