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.



God and Campaign 2012


Cover of "God and Politics"

Cover of God and Politics




10-0: the number of times Republicans mentioned God in their platform versus Democrats’ references to the Deity—until Fox News noticed the discrepancy. Which means Republicans are faithful to God, while the Democrats are guided by—Satan, I guess. Republicans, of course, know who God is and exactly what God wants us all to believe: that stewardship of the environment is unrelated to faith, that women lack the moral fiber to make decisions about their own bodies, that homosexuality is a sin. Since Republicans know with certainty what God wants, they’d surely govern according to God’s rules. Therefore, God-fearing people should vote Republican.


It’s name dropping, so many references to God, not all that different from my trying to gain your confidence by frequently mentioning my close friendship with Laura Bush or Oprah (neither of whom I, in fact, have ever met).


Nowadays people with money contribute a lot to political campaigns. Anonymously. Of course their wealth is the result of having worked hard, very hard. (Apparently the mechanic who’s been fixing cars for decades, older waitresses in our local restaurants, and nurses’ aides in their fifties haven’t worked hard enough. Or they’d be rich too.)


We admire the wealthy. On TV we look enviously at their houses. We want the kinds of cars they drive, the clothes they wear. Trying to be like them we give them power to influence us. We come to believe their words that what’s good for them is also good for us and that they know what’s best for the country.


To gain our confidence they rely heavily on name dropping: God this and God that. TV commercials costing PACS millions of dollars affirm our core values, tying God to patriotism and freedom. Wealthy supporters pay consultants big bucks to manipulate us into liking what they want us to like, hating what they want us to hate. We’re against welfare queens though we have no first-hand knowledge of them. Though few cases have been documented, we’re upset about voter fraud and support a candidate favoring rules to make voting more difficult. We don’t pause to ask who really benefits from such positions. Who is harmed?


May we not someday wake up to discover we’ve been hoodwinked and that our country has paid a great price. Because we believed them when powerful people said God this and God that.


Civility in politics: Let’s keep Archie Bunker out.

Before Archie Bunker came along we Americans pretty much kept bigoted thoughts to ourselves. But in 1971 he entered our living rooms, and for twelve years viewers laughed at his diatribes against blacks, women, and foreigners. Were he on TV today he would surely vent about our mixed-race President and Mexicans illegally crossing the border. He was a man who had an opinion about everything, with little regard for the facts.

Publicity photo from the television program Al...

Publicity photo from the television program All in the Family. Pictured are Carroll O’Connor (Archie Bunker) and Michael Evans (Lionel Jefferson). In this episode, Archie visits a local blood bank to donate and meets his neighbor, Lionel Jefferson, who is also there to donate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As negative and blustering as Archie was, the show’s mostly white audience came to love him. Maybe that was because, like many of us, outside his home he had little power or influence. In the 1970s women and blacks were challenging white male privilege. A new generation, represented by Archie’s son-in-law, was upsetting the old codes of morality. Archie wanted the world to be like the one he’d grown up in. Many white Americans felt the same way.

Now we hear of politicians who are admired because they “tell it like it is,” “say what needs to be said.” Sometimes, like when they support broad generalizations with pseudo-facts, they sound a lot like Archie. My concern, however, is not that they sound like him but that they’re using fear and a sense of powerlessness to turn decent hard-working Americans into clones of Archie Bunker.

This is an effective approach for reaching people like me, that is older white folks. The rapidly changing technology and shifting morals leave many of us feeling out of the American mainstream. Republicans have long exploited this discomfort and stoked the fires of fear—fear of gays, immigrants, blacks, Muslims. Especially fear of government, how big it is, how powerless the individual is by comparison. Yes, we potential Archie Bunkers stand before them, frightened of a future bearing little resemblance to the world we grew up in.

Instead of those who appeal to the Archie Bunker in us, we need leaders who nurture our noblest qualities: compassion, generosity, an openness to new ideas. Leaders who can unite young and old, black and white, foreign born and native born.

So that our decency might prevail.