Post by Donald Singer, Retiree activist from New York (AFSA, ARA)
We all are members of many families. Our immediate families (our own children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews); our professional family (fellow retirees, Associations, Political clubs, etc.); and our social family (clubs, friends, religious institutions, community centers, etc.).
Many of us consider ourselves "activists," because we belong to retiree groups and/or retiree organizations such as AFSA, CSA RETIREES, AARP and ARA. Is that enough?
Is there a connection between "family" and "activist?"
Most definitely!!! And as the State Legislatures and Governors around the country are screaming for "givebacks" from the "greedy public service unions" there has never been a more vital time for us to be active!
Issues that continually face retirees including pensions, social security, health insurance, Medicare, a fair taxing policy and affordable housing must be approached at all levels with which we have contact.
We as the "elders" must take the responsibility of sharing with all groups mentioned above. We should explain and teach about the values of pensions, Social Security and health care. We must emphasize that these "benefits" were not "entitlements," but the results of 40+ years of work, savings, and that they are not "unfair" burdens to our communities.
For example, our children and grandchildren must understand that Social Security is not a drain on our society's resources; that it is a self-funded retirement/survivor/disability policy for those who have contributed parts of our salary so that we and our children and grandchildren will accrue a dividend for their investment in their own retirement plan.
For example, when discussing health care, we must continue to advocate for reforms with the U.S. National Health Insurance Act to essentialy expand Medicare for all Americans, to lower the cost of health care, to allow the government to negotiate costs of prescription drugs and to maintain the integrity of health plans which retirees enjoy.
For example, when talking about tax reform and the budget, shouldn't we look at a new tax policy, closing "loopholes,' how Wall Street "reforms" are playing-out. Why should hedge-fund managers have a lower federal tax rate than middle-class teachers, nurses, firefighters and police officers?
So many other issues are of importance... housing, victims' rights, funding public education and, employee rights to unionize - just to mention a few.
When talking with our families, we must remember the "Social Contract" upon which our middle class was formed - the "family" must support the youngest through their years of schooling and post-High School education, and, at the same time, help the older generation retire in dignity and comfort. The families to which we belong will be supporting us if we support them. The challenges will be constant, but families will make facing those challenges easier.
These conversations could take place at our family and friends' dinner table and at parties and meetings and social events we attend. We should be proud of the families to which we belong.
We must see ourselves as advocates, as activists in all family situations. When we hear that "pensions" are too much of a drain on our society, when we hear that public employees and their unions are only out for themselves, and when we're told that "vouchers" are the answer to Public Education, we must answer.
But that answer should be in the context of the "family" in which we are residing in at the moment. It doesn't have to be confrontational, but the issue should be addressed. We must remember, that regardless of what "family" we're in, we're always sensitive to the need to be an advocate for what we strived for all during our careers. Not all of us will be active in "retiree organizations," but we should active as members of the "retiree family."