Boomer Mojo; Our Time Has Come Again

The guest on this past week’s show (11/6/11: David Mills, author of 10000 Days: A Call to Arms for the Baby Boom Generation that asks of us “what do we plan to do with the last 10K productive days we have left after turning 50?”) believes we Boomers can use our past activist experience, combine it with the wisdom (hopefully) and decades of knowledge we’ve accumulated, and once again fix what’s wrong with our country.

This inspired me to ask this question of our followers on the show’s FB page: “Do you think we Boomers still have the collective to power to make great changes to society like we did in our youth?”  (feel free to go to the page and be heard)

Here’s a few of the responses:

  • “We have the collective power to make tremendous change. Need strong leadership and lots of people talking and sharing ideas.”
  • “We can and we are…”
  • “Sorry I believed we did in my youth but in the end I don’t feel we made a difference.”

Now, admittedly we’ve gotten the proverbial bad rap from the younger generations, feeling that we pursued what was in our own best interest at everyone else’s expense.  And indeed, as I mentioned in my last post, once we got into positions of power, we did all the things we derided our elders for doing (bespoiling the land for profit; taking kick-backs for influence; filling our corporate coffers at the expense of our workers’ well-being) – only bigger and with less discretion.

But as a generation, we also propelled more positive societal changes than any other generation in the history of our nation.  Hey, younger ones, enjoy the freedom to live together before you get married, and divorce without societal derision if you find you married the wrong person?  Thank us.  Ladies, glad you can no longer be overlooked for that big promotion simply because of your gender?  Thank your local Boomer.  And, for those of you who think clean air and water is a nifty idea, that river in Ohio would still be so toxic it’s on fire if not for our unwillingness to accept such polluting ways (for you kids, here’s the link for the back story on the burning river thing).

Well, my fellow Boomers, our time has come around again.  We have the numbers, the power, the finances, and the experience, to make this country proud.  We know how to use activism as an efficient tool for change.  Unfortunately, right now, the only members of our generation using it well are the members of the tea party (45% of which are white, male Boomers).  And I say “unfortunately” not because I disagree with their positions; it’s unfortunate because they are a minority of us – the rest of us are remaining dangerously disconnected from our immense ability to influence positive change.

Here is a brief list of powerful things we can do, individually and collectively, to regain our generational greatness as propellers of the social changes needed today, just as we so famously, and successfully did for those that were needed in the 1960’s/’70’s:

  • Lead by example
    Keep your promises; say what you mean/mean what you say; give more than you receive; be a mensch
  • Get involved in something that betters things
    Now that the kids are grown and if you’re not taking care of an elderly relative, give some of your time to something designed to make our world better, whether volunteering for a cause that tugs your heart, or pushing for needed changes in your community; at the very least, regularly communicate with your representatives so they know just what you want from them, and if you don’t get it, find someone who will do what you know needs doing
  • Agitate for changes to the way Congress handles our nation’s business
    A great place to start is by insisting on changes to the way Congress treats itself; if our little Princes & Princesses in DC are treated like the rest of us, we will have more true citizen representation – those who simply love the power will no longer want the job, and those who want the job will want to get the job done and go home.  Here’s a petition I’ve started circulating to insist on just such changes; download it, sign it, and pass it on: 
    Petition to Congress
  • Be a resource champion, not a resource hog
    Did you know that the improvements to the environment we fought for and won 40 years ago, are in the past few years being undone?  Air pollution is now worsening.  Go back to your roots of good earth stewardship; we can start with eliminating our own wasteful habits, from things a simple as reusing rather than immediately disposing, to driving a more fuel efficient car and downsizing everything.  And, become a proponent of both clean and renewable energy sources.

So, to that last respondent of the FB survey, I say; we absolutely made a difference – refusing to see our accomplishments, and build on them has been our mistake.

I believe it’s not a matter of being unable to make the changes we need, our children need, our grandchildren.

It’s a matter of being willing.

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Forget “Voting “Em Out”: Here’s the Real Remedy for Bad Legislators

cleaning up Washington DCI think we know now that we can keep ’em in, or vote ’em out, and still get the same result:  our legislators do whatever they want once they’re in office…which is most assuredly whatever their highest bidders demand, no matter what was promised us on the campaign trail….right?

That’s because we’ve been approaching this from the wrong perspective: we’ve been “treating the symptom” rather than curing the disease.

And what is the disease that, if cured, will make our legislators much more beholdin’ to us, more connected to our reality vs. their insular world, and get them doing something of substance once in office?

I call it the “Royalty Syndrome.”  If we eliminate it, we will see the kinds of action we so deserve from our elected officials.

The Royalty Syndrome is based on the following facts of public office in the U.S., particularly on the national level (but we see it on the State & Local levels too, just to a degree that diminishes the farther from Washington they are):

  • Legislators are treated like…well…royalty…with all sorts of perks, assistants, deference, and special programs (like their own terrific health-care plan)
  • With such treatment and expectations, they quickly and easily lose focus on their constituents, replaced by a sense of self-importance
  • Once they’ve had a taste of such royal treatment, no way do they want to lose it…so they’ll do anything/everything to avoid that

Here’s the cure:

  • Eliminate their perks, from special health-care plans to town cars & loads of assistants (they can have one…just like other managers in the real world)
  • As a Legislator, your children must attend public school
  • Pay them the equivalent of the average wage-earner’s salary in the US, which is $81,400 according to the Census Bureau (members of Congress currently make $174,000)
  • They cannot travel by means other than public transportation (cabs in town, commercial airlines across country) and they must fly coach
  • They must read all bills before voting on them; “I didn’t know what I was voting for” can be grounds for serious sanction (after all, this is the main part of their job)
  • They must poll their constituents no less than 2X per year to get our input to all main issues before them for a vote.

There’s more we can add to the list, be these are great starters.

This does a number of things to hit the proverbial “reset” button back to true representation of us, not special interests:

  1. Eliminates those who run because they love power and prestige (which right now is almost everyone…I’ve always believed that anyone who wants the office is someone I wouldn’t want in it, because they desire it for the wrong reasons…)
  2. Replaces them with folks who don’t mind hard work, are not in it for self-aggrandizement, and will want to get in, get the job done, and get out
  3. Eliminates what is right now a very insular culture within the ranks of Legislators, fed and magnified by their “royal” treatment – when they are treated like the rest of us, they will act like “regular folks”
  4. Serves as a constant reminder that they are servants of the people, not Emirs

Only when our legislators are treated like the rest of us will they remember who we are, what their real purpose is, and what is needed by the majority of citizens.

So, my fellow Boomers, this is what you want to be pushing for, rather than staying with the same tired approach we’ve been using all of our adult lives, that simply hasn’t worked.

How’s that for change?

The Extremists & The Rest of Us…A Fairy Tale…

Once upon a time, in a land that was the mightiest throughout the world, the people in charge known as “Boomers” became very disgruntled and returned to their roots of activism; well, actually, only a small number of them did, but the media made it seem like it was lots & lots of them…

Yes, the protestors, on both sides of the political divide, became very ugly…ooops, uh, vocal… about their unhappiness with many things the rulers of the land were doing, things like:

  • Passing “health care reform” where the peoples’ money was to be used to keep lots & lots of loyal subjects from, well, dying because they couldn’t afford care
  • Or not passing any reform on the practices of big entities called “greed factories”…oops, sorry again, “financial institutions”]
  • Or not addressing a problem called “illegal immigration” whereby millions of people from other lands could sneak in without permission & get work, a  place to live, healthcare, and generally act like they belonged there…

The most well known protestors were called “tea partiers” (not because they were much for partying or tea…but that is another fairy tale for another time) and they were lead by a beautiful & vapid princess called “Sarah” who brought them to frothy heights of discontent with beautiful images of mustached tyrants, bucolic concepts of “reloading” as in guns,  and “death panels.”  And they were portrayed by the mainstream media as representing what most people of the land believed.

But low and behold, the tea partiers were actually:

  • only 24% of all registered voters, including the Boomers
  • overwhelmingly White & male
  • retired or semi-retired so they had lots of time on their hands
  • or unemployed so they had lots of time on their hands and they were really cranky…

These subjects’ main complaint was that government programs designed to help the people of the land, are bad…except the ones they use (as, alas, many of them were on a thing called “Social Security,” a government program designed to help the aging people of the land…or something called “unemployment compensation,” a government program to help people pay their bills while they’re out of work…).

And they vowed to take their revenge on any of the land’s leaders who voted for any new such programs like health care reform, which they didn’t believe to be needed since most of them would soon be eligible for “Medicare” – another government program providing medical coverage for older subjects…

But alack, what about the other 76%?  Where did they stand?  What did they want?  Why were their voices not resounding out across the land?  Where were the women?  The non-White ethnic groups?  The non-retired & employed?

Unfortunately for the mighty land, based on a type of governance called “democracy” whereby it was the peoples’ votes and knowledge of the issues that the rules of law were made, as it turns out the majority of its subjects didn’t vote, got there “issue knowledge” from 2 minute “sound bites” designed to inflame more than inform, or just stayed silent in their own discontent about the discontented minority.

Then there were things called “polls” whereby subjects were asked what they thought about things.  And one such poll in a part of the land called “FloriDUH” showed that most subjects were against the new healthcare reform.  Alas, the poll had what was called a “margin of error” (how likely the poll sampling reflects the rest of the land’s views) of 15% – a credible poll has a margin of error of no more than 3%; 10% is considered highly unreliable – which meant that the poll reflected the actual views of… those polled….  And they lived in a State where subjects regularly re-elected legislators who polluted the environments on which the main source of income was dependent (tourism), decried “government spending” while grabbing their share of it, and balanced their budget by giving their big businesses lots of tax breaks while decimating all the programs for their most vulnerable subjects (from the developmentally disabled to abused/neglected children).

Thus, over a short period of time, and with help from the entire range of main stream media, it appeared that a minority of the land’s subjects would be able to dictate what the majority would get & what they “should” believe.  Why did the majority put up with this?

Would they remain silent no more, understanding that so long as they did, the country would not be “majority ruled” any longer?!

We don’t as yet know the answer, but the moral of the story is:

In a land where the majority rules, and that majority is a “silent” one because they are either apathetic or “too busy to get involved,” the many will see their fate sealed by the will of the few…and in any other land, that is called “dictatorship.”

The Real Issues for Health Care Reform

Boomers face the highest levels of unemployment since our post college days, which, of course, includes loss of medical benefits – none of us yet qualify for Medicare.

So, reform is crucial for us, particularly at our age (we need insurance more to stay healthy).

Yet some of us remain vehemently opposed to this legislation, purportedly because it unacceptably adds to the federal deficit, and/or does too little to impact change that is significant enough to matter.

Both objections are founded in specious reasoning (or for some, no reasoning at all, unfortunate for the most educated generation our nation has ever had…).  According to the CBO, the bill will reduce the deficit, and the elements of the bill clearly provide long overdue protections, some immediate.

The issues, it seems, are not those on which Boomer objectors have based their lack of support.

They are:

  • How the insurance companies will respond to the legislation… Will they increase their prices as soon and often as possible?  And what protections exist for that scenario?
  • What else is needed to ensure consumer protection in a capitalist system where businesses, designed to make an impressive profit for their shareholders, are key players in our health care.  And, in the case of health insurance companies, they can do so without regard for their impact on the lives of those they “serve”

So I ask my fellow Boomers to concentrate on all the ways we can make this legislation better, and more cost efficient – including Medicare Advantage plans which pay for member perks by charging all Medicare recipients – meaning the majority who don’t use/get those perks (since in as little as one year, this will impact us)

We know this process is far from over, so let’s make sure that by 2014 we have something really excellent.

We Americans, all of us (particularly our children and grandchildren), deserve it.

Medicare for Younger Boomers…

…a great idea, or an expansion of a program that has gone beyond it’s effectiveness?
Well, by the response of those Boomers chanting “keep your hands off my Medicare” it would seem the answer is clear.
I wrote the White House & a number of Senators around 2 months ago, recommending that an expansion of Medicare be the alternative to a “public option” – i.e. why reinvent the wheel; just fix the wheel you have (Medicare does need some overhauling to keep it solvent and make it far more efficient) and use it, I opined.
Although my thinking was to use it for all age groups, to start by offering it to most of we AARP types makes more sense.  If that works, it can be further expanded from there.
Given that a whopping 12% of Boomers 55-64 (4.3M) are uninsured according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, coupled with a huge number 55 & up being forced to retire early and as a result losing the healthcare coverage that goes with their job, we represent a large portion of the population in need of coverage, at a time in our lives when such coverage is essential.
Expanding Medicare is the most palatable way to do this, with far less resistance to it than any other “public” option.  And certainly those citizens who are oh so happy with their Medicare coverage but don’t want the uninsured to have the same security if that means everyone must give a little for more to get, this may calm their fears.
And the time-frame prior to any healthcare reform legislation kicking in will give the Feds the time to clean up Medicare prior to expanding it.
My fellow Boomers, many of our generational colleagues need relief, now.  It is up to all of us to ensure they get it.
Expanding Medicare is the most efficacious way to do just that.