Last Sunday my wife and I hosted an annual rotating summer BBQ that centers upon my former college roommates and friends, who happen to have moved to Colorado from the Midwest where we went to a Big Ten School. Last Sunday we didn't set out to have an enlightening, revealing and educational political conservation among a diverse group of voices but because of the dynamics and our new station in life, (turning 55 or there abouts), the discussion took place in a private social atmosphere. Normally I do not discuss politics with these friends outside of three who were there. One is a former college roommate and fraternity brother whom I basically adopted because he needs it and whom I can say I have been instrumental in saving his life---twice, he is rightwing[nut]. The other two are friends from political and church network and both possess Ph.D's where we often discuss politics at many intellectual levels, but never outside in social gatherings.
The BBQ's tradition dates back into the 1980's when over a dozen friends happened to emigrate to Colorado and mostly the Denver and Fort Collins area after our college days. Some of us were fraternity brothers, others friends of friends, girl/boy friends or classmates who were connected to a larger social core group of interconnected personal networks---basically we often partied together. Back in 1982-'83 I lived in Denver when this got started and seven years ago rejoined tradition the it when my family moved to Colorado Springs. This year we hosted it where many had to make the day trip from Denver Metro or Fort Collins.
Originally reserved only for collegiate friends and their spouses/companions the gathering now has morphed to where the host to invites their local friends as the group has reduced or decided not attend anymore. The biggest deal this year is that many of us have recently or soon will be turning 55-years old, which has taken on huge significance other than the usual jokes that now I am the "old man" or how many direct mail pieces do you receive from AARP?
Naturally I am referring to Medicare and the purported 'serious' legislative proposal that my former Representative, Congressman Paul Ryan and his 'policy making-Czar', candidate Mitt Romney has adopted, thereby making it a lynchpin to their presidential bid. This arbitrary line where only us born before 1957 will enjoy the "permanent" social insurance that our parents and grandparents enjoyed is both highly dubious and troubling. It was this real life flashpoint now that my age group is facing as we cascade into our senior status that prompted and ignited an unusual political conversation among social friends and something I would like to share.
Some background: (I am going to have some literary fun and try to write this in a Shakespeare structure of narrator and dialogue.)
Narrator: On a late August 2012, the hottest year recorded in human history on the planet Earth and the United States continuing a 238 consecutive monthly run of breaking monthly average temperatures, a small group met in the backyard in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a city that recently experienced a wildfire storm that cascaded down the mountain side and burned to the ground 347 homes bucolic homes on the city's edge. The day was one of the only pleasant summer days that summer ranging in the low 80's attracting an assembly of sixteen upper middle aged to beginning seniors for mostly a vegetarian BBQ.The dialogue is below Kos's digital rendition of an early childhood 'etch-a-sketch' doodle.
The eldest happened to be 63-years old, the youngest was 48. Half (8) were 55 years-old (or soon to be) one was 57, while the rest fell between the ages of 51 and 53 years old (5). Fourteen were White, one considered a Hispanic from an old line New Mexican family who could trace their family heritage back to the 18th Century and another who is of Black-American and Korean parents. Eleven of the gatherers possessed college degrees, (though fifteen attended college, the other reached Staff Sergent in the AF) while four possessed graduate degrees (3 who had Ph.D's, 1 of them even possessed two), one with an MS. Three were collegiate professors, one remains active, another was a school psychologist, there waa sales executive, a medical administrator, an insurance underwriter, four are underemployed working in education, government services, and distribution. In the group was a retired AF senior officer, a disabled vet,and two who are fully retired, while three that were unemployed due to the economy.
The political affiliations within the group ranged the gambit: Four were admitted liberal Democrats, three identified themselves as moderate Democrats, five said they were Independents, two called themselves moderate Republicans and two said they are Right-Wing Conservatives as in Tea Partiers. The original purpose of their assembly was simply to enjoy the social company by reliving old memories and lie about their gloried pasts to new friends.
The scene is set as the group sitting under two canopies on our patio consuming many fine appetizers and varietal wines. It was after about an hour after exchanging polite introductions and catch-up's where the assembly was getting comfortable when the single, 57-year old, active professor in public policy took the conversation into a new subject that involved an article that outlined the prospects that a couple in Chicago who are 55 and 53-years old respectively would have their Medicare benefits split with the Romney plan.
[Names and initials changed to protect the friendships]
[PK]: "I am now sitting here thinking that most of us are going to be affected either way if this legislative political initiative goes forward. How many of you are 55 and older?"
[Group: Those paying attention raise their hands totally nine.]
[EH]: "Charles you just turned 55!" cried our sister-in-law at her husband of six years who was more interested in consuming some humus. [He then raised his hand.]
[PK]: "So the six of you, all who are married to these jokers being they are all men, will be left out with this voucher program to supplement the purchasing of medical insurance.?"
[Wife]: "PF, please we are having such a good time let us not let this turn into some political screaming match."
[PK]: "SN, I am confident that we can keep this polite and civil. Everyone, SN has been such a gracious and accommodating hostess can we all agree to a person to be respectful and civil if we are going to talk about this thing that might effect each of our lives?"
[Group: Most nod in agreement, sedated a bit by the weekend and the party atmosphere].
[Wife]: [As my bride of over a quarter-a-century is now dotting over the fixin's.] I am not worried about our guests but my husband!"
[PK]: "Bob can you be civil and polite to your guests?"
[PK]: "Let us go around and see if everyone can agree, if anyone can't control their self please let us know and I will not go any further it, this is something that must have 100% consensus if it is to work."
[Group: I notice everyone looking around and like myself wondering what one of my college professors is up to. No one objects.]
[PK]: "SN, how about you, we cannot go any further unless the woman of the house agrees."
[Wife]: "Only as long as there is no yelling, swearing, or otherwise stupid angry behavior."
[PK]: "Ok, here are the ground rules, and again you all have to agree." [PK surveys the group as now she appears to have everyone's attention. "Think of yourself as a focus group, I know you are not meet statistical standards but I bet it is closer than you think. Bob do you an egg timer and some note paper and writing instrument?"
[ME]: "Not an egg timer, but I do have one of those old fashioned game hour glass that is one minute."
[PK]: "Even better can you get it and while you do everyone fill their wine glasses one more time for this will be it until I am done."
[Group]: [PK has everyone running off like dutiful college students on their first day.]
[BH]: A retired senior military officer and also a professor on sabbatical writing a book speaks, "PK where are going with this?"
[PK]: "Stay with me BH, I think we can all learn something."
[Group and Me: Everyone returns with either more wine, food, or soft drinks and I return after finding the game timer.]
[PK]: "First let us survey the group and find out some basic demographics, first your age, occupation and party affiliation if any."
[PK starts out pointing left to right in the large circle on our patio as she records the answers in a spiral notebook.PA-53, volunteer & homemaker, senior care provider, BS Economics, Dem
WT-63, retired professor and analyst, PhD Economics, Chemistry, Indy
SN-52, education assistant, 2 yrs Education, Dem
EH-51, unemployed retail, BA Journalism, Dem
CH-55, sales executive, none, Rep
BB-55, sales and independent contractor, 3 yrs college, Rep
LB-48, restaurant mgmt, 2 yrs college, Indy
TP-55, unemployed, BS Public Affairs, Rep
MT-53, Hosp Admin, BS Nursing, Indy
ST-55, Apt Mgmt, 3 yrs college, Indy
JR-55, Ins Underwriter, BSBA, Indy
JR-55, Psychologist, MS Psychology, Indy
HB-55, govt services, PhD Poli Sci, Dem
DB-52, govt services, BA English, Dem
RN-55, educator, BA Poli Sci/Econ, Dem
PK-57-professor, PhD Poli Sci, Rep]
[TP]: As I declare my affiliation TP exclaims], FLAMING LIBERAL SOCIALIST!
[PK]: "Thank you. I bet there were a few surprises except for maybe Bob and HB, and as for TP, that exclamation was out of bounds regardless of your intent, that does not promote civility that is necessary here if we are to accomplish anything."
[TP]: "I was just having some fun."
[PK]: "No you weren't, fun is when everyone has fun, jokes are when all laugh, you were labeling and with that those who declared their affiliation please give me your shade, moderate or liberal or moderate or conservative.PA, Dem Liberal[PK]: "Now those who said they were Independent state whether you lean left, right or strictly in the center?
SN, Dem Liberal
EH, Dem Moderate
CH, Rep Moderate
BB, Rep Conservative
TP, Rep Conservative
HB, Dem Moderate
DB, Dem Moderate
RN, Dem Liberal
PK, Rep Moderate]
WT, center[PK: As she adds up the group she says;] "7 D's to 6 R's and 3 swing, unbelievable! Bob how did you do this, age and political spectrum, this really could be interesting."
[BH once a candidate for a significant political office and I were sitting next to each other and being trained in both quantitative and qualitative political science were also impressed with the unintentional demographics.]
[BH commented quietly]: "Normally in social gatherings there is not this kind of diversity these days, this could be very interesting if PK can keep it civil".[PK]: "Now I am going to read to you a passage from an AP article that I clipped this morning that should interest all of us seated here...[pulling out her smart phone PK went on line and accessed the AP story mentioned above. She began reading aloud.]
CHICAGO (AP) — Mike O'Malley is 55; wife Sharon is 53. So what? So they're on opposite sides of the age cutoff in Mitt Romney's Medicare plan, and that could create a bumpy transition for the suburban Chicago couple and others like them. It would be the difference between being in the traditional program for the elderly and a less certain future.
As the issue rises in importance in the presidential campaign, it's leading to inevitable comparisons for couples and siblings who are just a few years apart — and sometimes perhaps a touch of envy."
[PK] Pausing after reading she looked up over her reading glasses dramatically to say.]
"Two questions that I am going to ask around these tables; one, have any of you thought deeply about Medicare as having a serious chance of changing to the degree that privatization may occur? And two, if so is there any envy or anxiety that you may have about proposed changes?
[PK points again to the person seated to her left and says,] Bob let me have that game hour glass and each of you will have the allotted time to speak.
[RN]: "We will call it Dorothy time." [chuckles where then HB a far more advanced sarcastic quiper says,]
[HB]: "How about Kansas time, as in 'what is going on in Kansas?' [Only the few flaming liberals and PhD's seemed to get the joke and chuckle, where then the beginning of an agitated TP said,]
[TP]: "whatever, no going over though."
[PA-53, Dem Liberal], "No I haven't really thought much about it since I can't conceive that the Republicans would be so stupid to do such a thing. But now thinking about it if my husband got full Medicare and I had to go out and purchase insurance every year where only the government provided a set supplement for premiums I would be mad and envious."
[PA-53, Dem Liberal], "Because I know as I got older and sicker I would eventually not be able to afford the rising premiums or they would restrict the care so much that I would suffer and die sooner."
[TP interrupting and voice being raised]: "No that is what the government would do!"
[PK]: "TP, there is no interruptions, you will have a turn, and if you interrupt again I will have to take some of your time away, though I hope not for I am really interested to hear what you have to say."
[PA-53, Dem Liberal], "TP that is just the opposite, we just lost my mother to a long slow decline from her diabetes and Medicare was there all the way. The fact is that 90% of the average cost of a person's lifetime medical costs come in the last 2 years of their lives. We might be able to reduce the costs from the providers soaking the last billing out of dying patient but private insurance companies will not pay for a dying or ailing person."
[PK]: "Times up, WT?"
[WT-63, independent-center], "I have thought about the prospects and have to say on one hand am a bit relieved that I would be included in Medicare, though I am certain that if this program was instituted that the political forces will try to suck it dry like how they don't fund the VA. Among other things I am a trained economist and as many of you know worked at Langley so I understand how these things work, either we fund Medicare properly or there will be a reaction in U.S. far beyond what we witnessed in the 1960's I am confident. This Occupy thing was merely a foghorn in the night."
[PK]: "You have more time."
[WT-63, independent-center], "Can I bank it?"
[WT-63, center-Independent], "Well I am okay but I also concur with my wife's comments about what private insurance will do with senior medical care."
[PK]: "SN you are up"
[SN-52, Liberal Democrat], "Can I pass I need to make sure we got things going for dinner."]
[PK and Group] "No SN, we can get to that, please tell us what you think."
[SN-52, Liberal Democrat], "Well, actually I hadn't thought about it much at all. We or Bob knew Ryan when he was younger and he says he is as dishonest and scheming as Romney and all the rest but our family has been without health care once, and it was horrible. We fight the insurance companies now, I just fought Memorial and our group about getting my mammogram paid. If I had to get private medical coverage and Bob got his Medicare I would be pissed and I would know I would be getting screwed and yes WT if that were so I would be part of something in the streets."
[EH-51, Moderate Democrat] "Well I also hadn't thought about until Bob was on the phone the other day and mentioned it, and suddenly I began to think about this long term care insurance we bought from AARP and its guarantee was that it couldn't run out, it is a form of pre paid supplemental but then I called them Friday and found out that if this passed I wouldn't guaranteed since I wouldn't be part of Medicare anymore. I got this pit in my stomach afterward and now am full of anxiety for AARP said this is in part why they oppose the Ryan Plan. And I have to say if CH was getting his because he was born in 1957 and me not because I was born in 1961 I might take it out on him."
[CH-55, Moderate-Republican] "Boy they better not pass this or I will be cut off for life!" [Chuckles] I hadn't thought about it much either, thinking it was more political posturing but the more this is in their platform and campaign, I now see it is real threat. I don't trust any of this, my government pension is at stake, my VA is untrustworthy and these were solemn promises by the government when I signed up. Now Medicare is not solemn either. But then I do know the present system is unsustainable, you can't tax millionaires at rates below minimum wage earners, but then will millionaires and billionaires participate if they are taxed fair."
[PK]: "So you have found out there are more entanglements if Medicare is changed as proposed, and you would hold some envy. Your husband not paying much attention does not trust government but also says there is an inherent tax inequities but you fear the repercussions if they are made fair, interesting household."
[BB-55, conservative-Republican], "We can't afford this growing national debt, and we cannot be taxed into submission to pay for it so I think Medicare needs to go. We have spent too much money on people not deserving and until we get that and other things straight this country is in trouble. Also I think that if we don't stop this socialism there will be trouble in the streets."
[LB-48, right-leaning-Independent] "I don't have any envy since I don't believe that Medicare will be around for me or my husband anyway, it will be bankrupt. From my standpoint I see that the country has been in the dumps ever since Obama was a candidate and what has happened in America has reflected that. The stock market crash of 2008 took place once Obama began taking the lead in the polls. He gave the banks that bail out, then he has given his base the welfare and we got nothing. I think those people in the article are simply looking for more government handouts."
[TP-55, conservative-Republican], "This might surprise you all but even if I qualify for MediCAAARRE I don't want it, I won't take it it is socialism and it is killing America. I know my mother and father used it but that was then. I have lived without health insurance for almost twenty years and I choose to live without it. So they can kill it for all I care. By the way this November socialism is going down."
[MT-53, left-leaning-Independent], "Hell yes I would be pissed if they took away Medicare and made into some kind of voucher system so aging America can somehow purchase insurance in the free market. I know what the costs are, especially in the last twenty years of a lifetime, and I know what the insurance industry is like and there is no way not every single American outside some billionaires are going to go broke and then finally bankrupt if this Romney & Ryan plan goes through. As for TP and BB thinking that Medicare needs to go I think we need to remove the age limits and all of us can go into the system. [TP sitting next to the person that once took him in during his hour of need, looked at her with disgust and got up and walked away from the circle, followed by BB.]
"You know that Medicare only has 1% of its costs on admin costs as the VA while we just got a letter from United Healthcare that they were 2% over the regulations and that they had to give my employer back some money. Then my HR depart said there would be a small reimbursement to my contribution and whether I wanted it applied to this year, private insurance for healthcare does not work the same that private fire departments didn't work either. And SN if they do this I will be next to you girl, rioting in the streets like the women in Paris."
[PK], "MT you are the first one to almost use up your time. TP and BB are you going to come back and join us since getting up and walking around like that could intimidate those speaking."
[MT-53 left-Independent] "By the way TP, how can you make that statement about refusing Medicare, heck I helped you get Medicaid before and now I hear you are without medical coverage."
[PK] "Let us not get personal."
[MT-53 left-Independent] "Well TP goes off about socialism and we helped him get his food stamps, medical care, other assistance, I don't get it."
[SN-liberal-Democrat], "MT who are these women in Paris"
[Almost in unison, WT-63, independent-right, BH-55 moderate-Democrat, MT-left independent, PK, and Me], "They were the market women of Paris [someone said mob] who stormed Louis and Marie Antoinette's palace of Versailles."
[SN-liberal-Democrat], "I still don't get it?"
[Me], "Honey, MT was using an analogy from the French Revolution when people were starving from a flour shortage that took bread prices beyond a day's labor for a loaf of spoiled bread, the women stormed the palace, killed the guards and not only took Louis and Marie prisoner but found flour stores that are estimated to feed Paris for 5 years. This lead to..."
[PK interrupts], "Bob are you using your time?"
[Me], "No just filling in the short hand."
[PK], "ST-55 , you are next up." [After conversing quietly off on the side TP and BB sit down again, but BB sits next to MT.]
[ST-55 center-independent], "Bob where did it lead to, is that acceptable?"
[PK] "Maybe, but we are talking about Medicare, ST."
[Me], "Well eventually it lead to the guillotine."
[BH moderate-Democrat], "I hope modern society has moved forward considerably since then."
[Me], "Are you referring to the rich class setting up a system that only the commoners are taxed while the Church and nobles are not at the same time manipulating and speculating the food markets so the poor and commoners starve or pay more than a day's wages..."
[BH-55 moderate-Democrat], "Are you suggesting that crimes of social class be punished by capital measures?"
[Me] "Well I don't condone any form of capital punishment including starvation, lack of medical care, conquests for natural resources..."
[PK], "Esteemed politico's we have digressed already, but SN do you understand the analogy now?"
[SN liberal-Democrat], "Well kind of, is it that to fix this country it might be women to storm Washington?"
[ST-55 center-independent] "This is getting interesting. Okay let me start. Eight years ago we purchased a house with a mortgage that was one of those sub-primes, [looking at TP], it had this balloon deal where we had to re-finance in 5 years, but 2009 the real estate market was crashing and the house was upside down, the mortgage company would not renew and we were told to come up with the balance of the loan or get a new one, but to do that we had to come with 20% of the new value and also pay off the old value. So we were able to short-sell and lose the original down and half the the short difference that we are now paying monthly. My point is the whole thing was a broken promise, the promise that the market place would be fair and regulated.
Now what you don't know is that until 2002 we were part owners and operators of dog kennel, but it went bankrupt because we could not get a loan to carry forward after 9/11. Our partners decided to sell the property and we were on the hook for all the kennel improvements. More broken promises but we knew the risk then.
Now they want to kill Medicare. I have worked since I was 13 years old contributing, 42 years and will probably work until 67 or 68 until Social Security. But the promise was that Medicare would be there. Here is what I am saying. They gave all these tax breaks to the rich, billions and billions and now the system is broke and the economy never returned but melted down. Kill Medicare and we might storm the palaces."
[TP-55, conservative-Republican] "ST and MT I have apologized over and over again but who knew the market was going to crash, heck I lost my home of 18 years."
[ST-55 center-Independent] "We trusted you, but now I read that the entire industry was about generating more fees and profits from sub-prime loans, and that is what you did with us."
[PK] "Times up but ST, do you connect Medicare with the Bush Tax Cuts?"
[ST-55, center-Independent] "It is all connected, we had this budget surplus, gave it away and now can't afford to keep our promises. Sounds like what we did to Native American's Treaties. 'Cause the simple man baby pays the thrills, The bills, the pills that kill' Meaning we paid for it all and now they want us to hold the bag."
[PK] "Interesting this is what a swing voter is feeling, [Pointing to JR, you are next."
[JR-55 (female) center-Independent], "Since I am in the insurance industry I have to concur that I am unsure how privatization will work since all insurance is based on groups. Groups are arbitrary but created from employers or associations or some kind of group but how do you group millions of seniors suddenly coming into the system, how do you rate them. Secondly like the VA once we get into Medicare we will be the last year and how can we be confident that they will adequately fund the program the program when some of us get to 85, 90 or even 100? Now that is countered on whether we can fund the program that exists. Two workers for one recipient is not a sustainable ongoing system.
[PK], Thank you JR.
[JR-55, (male) right-Independent] "This might surprise you but I am a mixed racial man who predated Obama by about four years like him went to a Catholic School on an athletic scholarship and used that to get into college my father a Korean War vet could never afford. That all said I believed in the conservative values, individualism, hard work, industry, responsibility, self-reliance. But I never believed in party affiliation. As a psychologist I believe in rational personal accountability and understanding what brings about trustworthy personal character. This is why I used to vote for Republicans, like work for welfare, that was a good reform. That said I know we still need welfare programs because the statistical fact is that the market place and some persons are unable to take care of themselves so society is responsible for them.
Medicare was developed because society realized that elderly, the retired can never be expected to get market place insurance that will be both profitable for the company without it being like Nazism and affordable. We say that for forty or fifty years contribute to society and we will take care of your health needs when you are unable. The trouble I see is that both the medical for profit industry and participates are abusing the system. All forms of treatment are either cosmetic, not necessary or the providers juice the program. But you cannot cure Medicare's ills through a privatization."
[PK], "Now my esteemed former professorial colleague who has been biting his tongue."
[HB-55 moderate Democrat], "I consider myself a Blue Dog Democrat, and currently use TriCare which is a good system but beholden to political whims of funding as is the VA, which is a great system but again beholden to funding whims. The question is not anything but funding. The real issue is between fulfilling our promise to a generation and succeeding generations against the cost of maintaining a global military empire where our expenditures is $700B where the next nation is China at $225B and Russia under $90B. I used to be a senior military officer but we do not need this and could reduce by half tomorrow and still be the largest military nation. The other is the tax code, equity and fairness must be legislated and followed through. It really is that simple.
[PK] "What about the social and political ramifications of greatly reducing the Military Industrial complex and probably reducing the military's personnel by over half?"
[HB-55 moderate Democrat], "Much less than having market women storming the Congress."
[DB-52 moderate-Democrat], "The question is would I be envious and I would, not towards my hubby but I think it would make the Occupy Movement look like a peace rally. That is all."
[PK], "Bob the floor is yours."
[RWN-55-liberal-Democrat, Me], As ST said we have been paying into a system for 42 or so years, and my wife is not far behind, while my father paid in 23 years while my mother paid in 10 and both enjoyed full benefits. My father is still alive and now is in his 20th year of being a recipient. The question about fairness, fulfilling a promise and lastly and more importantly taking care of society as JR stated, doing it as best as it can be done, like roads or public education or ports or fire and police private marketplace can not do this well. So as HB said it comes down to cost or willingness to pay for the promise and doing it well. Yes it is a form of socialism through it is not like Britain it is more like Germany or Canada. But let us be real honest, this is not about an emergency that suddenly the government is bankrupt, it is about a right wing revolution that seeks to radically reorder society into some regressive idyllic. Like any revolution it has an ideological purity basis, no different than what constituted the revolutionaries of Marxism or Fascism and Nazism, therefore the Right is predisposed not to compromise for it is impure--as some regressive American Idyllic it possesses some form of American Evangelical Fundamentalism that is tied to scripture literalism---ironically at time when science and knowledge is exploding---so they deny science especially when it comes to the math and climate change. All this goes to the heart that they deny any fact that contradicts their idyllic beliefs therefore they can lie and lie and make assertions. When confronted they can't stand any dissent or proof they are wrong where finally they hate any form of government---because it is not in their circle. Thus by killing the social democracies working systems, public education, Medicare, Social Security they prove that government can't work.
[TP-55 conservative-Republican] You think you are so smart, but socialism is dead. Yes I don't think government works. I don't any of my tax dollars going to any of the blood suckers, the lazy the welfare queens. [Getting up in a huff he storms to the door.] You all think you are so goofy, but if we raise taxes the best in this country will leave, and Obama is going to lose, Trillion dollar deficits, unemployment, and finally Barry is a Muslim born in Kenya...there I said it." [TP continued to go through the door as we sat]
[PK] "What is going on?"
[ST] "I think he is leaving, he was beginning to shake and I heard one of those stutter's. I hope he is not taking that Xanax again."
[LB], "He came down with us, I think he is just taking bathroom break."
[PK-57-moderate Republican] "Guess it is my turn. Boy Bob, you laid out some Poli Sci on us, haven't thought of the Tea Party and Conservative Movement in those stark revolutionary totalitarian terms. As for Medicare, I can't see how they can split this into classes where at 55 years or older you are in one class and 54 or younger you are in another class. Inside marriages and households this will be more than problematic. The envy will then carry over into politically funding the old system and then there will be the providers who will drop serving the old class. But I am moved by what JR and HB said. Ultimately once the screaming is over and people start deconstructing this as we just did I can't see how this will go unless they go voucher for everyone or continue the system. Okay let us take a break and if you all agree to continue the discussion we will move on.Act Two
[After fifteen minutes eating and socializing, TP returned from a walk, complimenting us on a nice neighborhood. BB and LB agreed to leave because TP was visibly unhappy.]
[PK] "Guess we lost three who all happen to be on the far right spectrum which is too bad. Now the remaining thirteen of us are you willing to continue our discussion?"
[Group, everyone seemed truly interested in continuing as most of the small talk after the three left centered on what people were thinking.]
[PK] "Okay here is the rest of the article that I think is relevant and after I read it I think we will have a free flowing exchange though everyone gets a turn before they can speak again."
PK reads out loud the AP article Split]"Given the popularity of original Medicare, however, many experts think the Romney-Ryan overhaul will be a tough sell — like former President George W. Bush's ill-fated attempt to introduce private accounts to Social Security.
"Any change is viewed with skepticism, and that is just a starting reality for most people," said John Rother, president of the National Coalition on Health Care, a nonpartisan group representing a broad range of players in the health care system.
Indeed, even a majority of Republicans — 55 percent — prefer the idea of keeping Medicare as it is, according to a recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
"Most people are not thinking of the role Medicare plays in the federal budget," Rother added. "The idea of (Medicare) insolvency is an abstraction. What matters is, 'It's there for me. It works. I can count on it.' The idea of change is a threatening idea, particularly if it's couched as being necessary to fix the federal budget."
The O'Malleys have been married 30 years and consider themselves political independents. They both voted for John McCain in 2008. Mike owns a travel agency. Sharon is a nurse. They have three grown children and have put away some money for retirement. She worries their savings may not be enough.
As she imagined what Ryan's vision of Medicare might be like for her, Sharon said it could be confusing to shop for insurance among multiple private plans. In her job, she already sees elderly patients flummoxed by the Medicare prescription drug program, which offers seniors a choice among many different plans.
"I truly think they make it very difficult for Medicare recipients to know all the rules of Medicare," she said. Nearly four in 10 seniors, including younger members of the baby boom generation, would be in the new system by 2030.
So far, most of the debate about the Romney-Ryan proposal has focused on financial risk for future retirees, the chances that health care inflation would outrun the fixed insurance payments they would receive. If so, an older spouse on original Medicare might have to cross-subsidize the younger spouse on the new plan."
[PK]"For purposes of how many here voted for Obama in 2008, just raise your hands? [Nine], 56%, small sample size. Obama won 54%, Bob how did you find a way to assemble this small focus group. Okay before we had this discussion how many were thinking of voting for Romney? Let us assume the three who left were. [Seven raise their hands.] Based on this discussion how many are inclined to change their minds? [Four]. How many of us four has this changed their minds? [Two, both moderate Republicans].[The group then agrees that we had enough of discussing politics and I go and fire up the grill to fulfill my BBQ promises.]
My comment: The power that deconstructing the Medicare issue into what it means to the individual personally instead of the abstract national issue is quite powerful. I think Current TV or MSNBC or CNN should put together a focus group and do the same thing on TV live. I watched as friends changed their minds as they became informed and cognizant of the consequences of the election and the policy.
Also I watched as two of my old friends, smitten as angry white's have been addicted to the far right wing, how confronted with their friends not agreeing with them found ways to exit and not engage. I think they were embarrassed but still emotionally are so deeply effected that they want to find the enemy being government and anything Democratic.