Frankenstorm & Election Day

Frankenstorm & Election Day - Today I launch my new blog providing you with information – news, facts and opinion, hopefully well-informed opinion, about aging in America. Mostly I will comment about national policy affecting the nation’s elderly, their caregivers and their families. But I will also write about matters that both interest me and that I think will – or ought to – interest you. I will do my best to be objective but after nearly 4 decades working on aging issues, including more than a quarter-century in the nation’s capitol, I have deeply held views that I will express. My hope is that if you disagree with me you will at least give what I say some thought. I welcome your comments – both kudos and criticisms – at any time.

After more than a year of accelerating information coming at us from all directions about the 2012 presidential election, like a Tsunami about to crash over the shoreline, suddenly, just days before Election Day, the lead story isn’t about the election or politics. Instead, at least here on the eastern seaboard, our attention is riveted on “Frankenstorm,” the humorous name given to the potentially very serious storm spawned by Hurricane Sandy (such a friendly name) rapidly bearing down on us. Not only does it threaten to cause massive flooding, severe wind damage, huge power outages, likely loss of life, misery for millions, and leave thousands of homes with bowls of undistributed Halloween candy, it may also have a profound effect on the election.

The lead stories on this weekend’s news broadcasts and in newspapers are about Frankenstorm. And when they turn to the election, it is about the possible effects of the storm on voting. Which events are the candidates cancelling, especially in battle ground states like Virginia? Will it suppress voter turnout because of storm-related impediments and discomfort in getting to their polling places? Will power outages force use of less reliable voting equipment or reduce the number of usable electronic voting machines? In Maryland and the District of Columbia as early voting began huge lines of voters were forming to get ahead of the storm with waits of as long as 6 hours. How many would-be voters turned away because of the lines? These and many other election-related questions are being aired as the eye of the storm closes in.

What has this got to do with aging? More people in the 46-64 and the 65+ age groups vote than any other age group. 75 % of the 65+ population voted in 2008 and 70% of the 45-64 age group voted in 2008. The percentage of people ages 18-20 who voted in 2008 was 49%. It is likely the older adults will be the most affected in terms of sheer numbers in their ability or willingness to get out to vote. More significantly, if reduced voter turnout affects election outcomes then the impact on aging programs and policies may last far, far longer than any clean-up efforts associated with the storm.

Quite literally, Social Security, Medicare and a huge host of other programs and policies will be deeply affected by whoever ends up in the White House or which party controls the Senate or the House after November 6.

Regardless of your perspective, if you care about the future of Social Security, Medicare, pensions, health care, home and community-based care, caregivers, end-of-life care decisions and other topics, then this election really matters to you. Beyond protecting lives and property, make every effort you can to vote before or on November 6. This election really matters. While millions will be adversely affected by Frankenstorm, far more millions of Americans will be affected by the results of this election.

This looks to be a monster storm with a potentially monstrous affect on what the future looks like for older Americans, both present and future. When the storm passes and the clean-up is finished, the long-term effects of the election will depend upon those elected on November 6.

That’s how I see it.