Letters to the Editor

We may be old, but we’re not dumb

I am 82 years old, and I live on Social Security, a modest pension from the company where I worked for 32 years, and some savings. Put it all together and I’m light years away from having to worry about taxes for those making over $250,000 a year. I’ve got a few medical problems, plenty of aches and pains that have shown up in recent years, and while I might not be able to tell you what I ate for breakfast two mornings ago, my aging mind can clearly recall things that happened in 1938.

My guess is that there are hundreds – if not a few thousand – men and women a lot like me who live in the Horry and Georgetown area, and while we may share a lot of the issues noted above, that affect older folks, we are not dumb. Oh yes, some people think we are, and they try to scam us, con us, rip us off, swindle us, cheat us, and just plain lie to us, but while we may have fallen for some of them in the past, we have also learned a lot. Now when I am told “take our word for it”, the red flags immediately go up. When it is suggested “oh, no problem there,” I can smell snake-oil in the air. If I am told “don’t worry about it” or “it will all work out,” I really, really start to worry.

The terrible truth is that in the past I was bamboozled and duped on more than one occasion – sometimes by real experts. As an example, after Sept.11, I rallied behind President George Bush and the key people within his administration when they told us – unequivocally – that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which threatened the United States and our allies. “Just take our word for it,” they said! There were – as we all now know – no such weapons. Nonetheless President Bush and his advisers led us into one of the longest wars in our history, wasting thousands of American lives and billions of American dollars. When there were questions about paying for that, and the war in Afghanistan, we were told “it will all work out,” and the national debt grew and grew.

At the same time the Bush administration had us fighting both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars one would think that I would know better than to be taken in again, but I didn’t. The Bush administration convinced me that reducing taxes (even for wealthy taxpayers) was a good thing. It was supposed to create jobs – but it didn’t. They also got applause from senior citizens like you and me when they enacted the Medicare Prescription Drug Program. We didn’t realize until we read the fine print that while the program might benefit some older folks, the insurance and pharmaceutical companies were the real winners. As with the two wars we were engaged in, no taxes were imposed or provisions made to pay for the program. Yes, another big hit increasing the national debt even more, but we were told “don’t worry about it.”

Since I obviously have more time than money, I’m in a position to study and examine the proposals of both the Democratic and Republican parties on how their respective candidates for the job of president of the United States would govern. What finally convinces me that President Obama and the Democrats are a far better choice is that too many of the current Republican proposals and projection simply don’t pass the snake-oil test.

The proposed Ryan/Romney budget is especially scary, sending up absolutely all the cautionary red flags and smelling strongly of snake-oil. They suggest that it would be just peachy to give out yet additional round of tax cuts (with the wealthy again benefiting the most). While doing that, they would pour much more money into the military than has even been requested by those who lead our armed forces. Finally, Ryan and Romney claim with a few minor cuts to the rest of the budget – if you consider doing brain surgery with a Boy Scout axe minor cuts – they could balance the budget in 30 years. When he was heading up Bain Capital, my guess is that Mitt Romney would have fired anyone who suggested a 30-year operating plan and/or projection.

The Romney folks tell us to “just take their word for it” and “it will work out.” Smells and even sounds like super-concentrated snake oil to me!

The thoughtful and careful consideration of the Romney/Ryan proposals on Social Security and Medicare also deserve your review. You may – as I did – find them equally as troubling. As senior citizens we naturally have to weigh in politically on those things which do and will affect us. At the same time, we want to do our best to assure that the interests and welfare of our children, grandchildren (and in my case great-grandchildren) are protected. That can’t be done with snake-oil.

The writer lives in Pawleys Island.