Dear Mitt, please, not a repeat of the 1950s

Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger
You needn’t try anymore

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I’m warning you…

Burt Bacharach & Hal David, recorded by Jack Jones 1964

When I see Mitt Romney , his hair slicked like Robert Young’s in Father Knows Best, I’m reminded of the late 1950s. It’s an era for which Republicans seem to feel nostalgia. A family with a father who goes off to work every morning, a wife who greets him in the evening wearing high heels and makeup. And who has dinner waiting. Back then our society had order—or appeared to.

Back then most white people were still unaware of African Americans organizing for equal opportunities and the right to vote. Men were unaware that women were searching for opportunities to use their gifts for the benefit of society. Straights were unaware that gays and lesbians were running our banks, teaching in our schools, playing on our professional sports teams.

During the fifties my mother had the skills to run a corporation. Her job title was secretary, though she did the hiring, firing, and book-keeping for a chain of three drugstores. Once, when she complained that her workload was too big, her boss handed her a ten-dollar bill and said, “Here, go buy a hat.” Eventually he hired a book-keeper, a man of course, who made twice her salary.

With women on TV either for decorative purposes or as the recipients of men’s scornful humor, we girls had only the role model of teacher, nurse, social worker. I settled for teacher but soon discovered I didn’t really like kids—at least not thirty at a time. So I wasn’t disappointed when school district policy dictated that I quit my teaching job when I was four months pregnant. Women, you see, couldn’t reveal in any way that we were sexual beings.

Of course girls couldn’t either. While “boys will be boys” permitted all sorts of male behavior, girls had to pretend that our hormones were dormant. A few were called loose; occasionally one disappeared for a semester. Among girls the word “contraception” was seldom spoken above a whisper, if at all. In 1965 the Supreme Court ruled a Connecticut law banning contraception unconstitutional. Not until 1972 did the court rule that unmarried couples have the right to possess contraception.

Unless a second income was necessary for survival, husbands went out into the world and carried the burdens of government, church, and community. Women had little say over our lives; men made important decisions.

Now the Romney-Ryan ticket, along with other Republican men, would have us return to the 1950s. Before he changed his stance in the foreign-policy debate, Romney cited Russia as our biggest geopolitical threat. It was. During the fifties. Republicans want to return to the order—or at least the illusion of it—they remember: African-Americans in their place, women and their sexuality under the close supervision of men; gays and lesbians back in the closet.

But you can’t stuff toothpaste back in the tube. Today cultures live side by side and demand equal rights and prosperity in our country. Young people are growing up in settings that bring together races, ethnic groups, male and female, gay and straight. I admit I’m not comfortable with all the changes in my lifetime.

But who in their right minds would want our society to return to the way it really was in the fifties?

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Voucher plans vs. Medicare: one more decision

English: image edited to hide card's owner nam...

English: image edited to hide card’s owner name. author: Arturo Portilla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I search the toilet paper aisle. One ply or two? Scented? How do costs compare? On to the grocery’s cracker aisle. Whole wheat? Herb flavored? I spend five minutes studying the nutritional information on the boxes. These are simple choices compared to buying a cell phone and computer, or deciding how to invest my pension. In fact, modern living demands so many decisions that I sometimes throw up my hands in frustration, postpone making them, and miss the deadline.

When my husband and I went on Medicare, we spent hours researching supplemental health insurance companies. Next we studied options for Medicare, Plan D. Since we enrolled in Plan D, the co-pay has increased drastically, and when my medication needs changed, the company wouldn’t cover much of the new prescription’s cost. So we’re again on the internet researching our options.

Now Republicans want to replace Medicare with a voucher plan. The G.O.P. platform says it wants to “empower millions of seniors to control their personal health care decisions.” Hey, Republicans, seniors find empowerment through freedom from fear that an illness or injury will wipe out our savings. We find empowerment when we have enough financial security to engage in activities that energize us. Those activities include volunteering in our communities’ schools, hospitals, shelters, and churches.

A voucher plan doesn’t empower America’s senior citizens as much as it forces us to spend precious time making yet one more complicated decision. Stories abound of unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of vulnerable seniors. TV ads, mailings, and phone calls will promise us anything to get our business. (At the same time Romney plans to eliminate the Consumer Protection Agency.) What if I choose an insurer that quits financing the care I need? I’m left feeling—certainly not empowered.

Under a voucher system wealthy individuals can hire professionals to study the options, pay lawyers to apply pressure if an insurer doesn’t come through. But most Americans have neither the time nor skills for weeding through contracts where one whereas follows another. I’ve been told that changes in Medicare won’t affect me. As if I’m so self-centered that I don’t care how my adult children will fare when they’re my age.

When extensive research is necessary and papers are to be signed in triplicate, when terms of agreement are written in legalese, thanks, Mr. Romney, but having the choice does not leave me feeling empowered.