The debt ceiling negotiations debacle should serve as a wake up call to seniors and seniors-to-be. It's clear that the Tea Party has positioned the Republican Party in favor of corporations and wealthy individuals and against the interests of seniors.
We need to establish a counterpart to the Tea Party. I don't care if you call it the Prune Juice Party, Geritol Party, Ensure Party, or Viagra Party.
I just turned 50 years old this year. While I hope to channel my inner Joe Paterno and remain healthy enough to work until I'm 80 or so, it's important to have the emotional security of knowing that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be around when I'm in my 60s.
We should pressure Congressmen of both political parties to sign a pledge that they will not make cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. In the alternative, we should have them pledge that if they do make cuts in entitlements, that they will raise the same amount of revenue through tax hikes on people and corporations making over $250,000 and closing tax loopholes. We need to go to congressmen's Town Halls with our pitchforks and yell at and badger congressmen to stand up and support entitlements. Wear prune colored clothes and tie prunes to your hats; mail Viagra pills along with letters to your congressmen's offices; wave cans of Ensure and bottles of Geritol at town meetings. Hold a series of marches in Washington, D.C.
Congress needs to know we're angry as hell, and won't take it anymore. These tactics worked for the Tea Party, and they can work for us.
The Tea Party started from CNBC Reporter Rick Santelli's angry rant in February 2009 from the floor of the Chicago trading floor railing against President Obama's housing bailout plan, which was intended to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, and calling for a new Tea Party.
Now, the Tea Party Republicans are holding America hostage based on their unyielding ideology.
Elderly people are fools for voting for Republicans. The Republican party has opposed entitlement programs since the 1930s. Republicans have earned their reputation as being cold hearted. Congressman Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare through vouchers to buy private insurance has been praised almost unanimously by Republicans. Any who dared to speak out against it, i.e., Newt Gingrich, was taken to the woodshed and humiliated.
The Tea Party showed that grassroots populism is still a powerful tool. The problem is that the Tea Party actually works against the interests of average people and for the interests of corporate America.
Older people need to engage in grassroots populism to ensure that their voices are heard in Congress. We can learn from Tea Party's passion and activism that raising your voice can make a difference.
In general, older Americans are civically engaged. They have a much higher voting percentage than younger Americans. They also tend to vote for Republicans. As noted by AARP, voters over age 50 accounted for around 60 percent of the votes in the 2010 Midterm elections, which gave the House of Representatives to the Republicans and narrowed the Democratic majority in the Senate. 25 percent of the Midterm 2010 vote came from those 65 and over, with around 60 percent voting Republican.
Unfortunately, many seniors are being brainwashed, misinformed, and influenced by FOX News and Conservative talk radio. The most watched cable news network is FOX News, which also has the oldest audience of all cable shows. According to Nielsen and the Hollywood Reporter, the average age of FOX News viewers in 2010 was 65. Public Policy Polling's News Trust Poll, released in January 2011, revealed that people age 65 and over distrust ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and PBS more than any other age group, and they trust FOX News more than any other age group. Among radio listeners age 65 and older, Rush Limbaugh remains the most popular program.
Congress needs to be accountable to Grandma and Grandpa, not to Grover Norquist. Let's have our voices heard now, loud and clear. If we remain passive, when we're saying in the future, "I've fallen, and I can't get up," no one will be there to answer.
Disclaimer: Larry Atkins is the owner of the domain: www.prunejuiceparty.org.