I’m sure you remember back in the Fall of 2010 all those angry constituents at town hall meetings disrupting the events in order to register their unhappiness with Healthcare reform being considered by Congress. In almost every case the targeted politicians were Democrats who supported the reform.
Now it seems that Republican politicians in Arizona are facing a similar backlash but this time citizens are riled up about the recently proposed elimination of Medicare called the Ryan Plan. I don’t want to spend time on the details of the plan. I think it’s much more important to realize that the politics of fear is fueling constituent outrage.
Medicare is obviously a program that affects seniors the most and Arizona has a larger than average share of seniors in its population. In fact some studies project that Arizona will have the 13th highest proportion of elderly residents in the U.S. by 2025. Population studies have found that people retire in and to Arizona earlier than other seniors in other states, typically at age 55 instead of 65. Seniors migrate here for a variety of reasons: climate, lifestyle (whatever the hell that means), or dependency issues. This last one is important. Dependency issues means that a senior is motivated to move closer to family because they need assistance. Medicare would affect those with dependency issues to an even greater degree than seniors motivated by a desire to begin a new life in a new climate.
According to the last comprehensive study done back in 2002*, retired seniors accounted for about 23% of all spending in the state of Arizona. With the oncoming wave of Baby Boomer retirees, migration to Arizona is expected to increase, which overall is considered a positive thing for the state of Arizona. According to the 2002 study, the net gain of income for seniors migrating into the state was over one and a half billion and the market most affected by it has been the housing market (of course).
Right now houses are dirt cheap in Arizona and it appears that housing prices will continue to go down if my predictions of a double dip prove correct, which even CNN is now saying will occur.** Unfortunately while housing prices might be historically low for migrating seniors, their individual worth is also historically low. Many will have houses to sell in their current states before they can move. Many of them will have been affected by the recent recession and will have lost considerable sums in any stock based retirement accounts. So it’s unclear how this will all affect the senior migration rate to the state of Arizona and thus the state’s economy.
One thing is for sure, those seniors who are already here have historically had and will continue to have considerable political clout. This politically active social strata has been a prime target of ads seeking to scare Seniors about their future. What’s so strange about the current kerfuffle is that many of the Baby Boomers seen at town halls railing against the Ryan Plan won’t actually be affected by it. The plan actually wouldn’t kick in until 2022 and as a result will affect someone who is currently in their 40′s but not those who are already retired or close to retirement now.
It would be nice to think that the Baby Boomers are out there protesting on behalf of my generation but I have no illusions on that score. This is the same generation that is so darn scared of the “Muslim Kenyan usurper in the White House” and doesn’t want to pay for the healthcare or welfare of the supposed slackers in this country. So I know they’re out there bitching because they’re afraid that their benefits will be taken away and they don’t, generally speaking, give a hoot about my benefits 20 years down the road.
All that being said, I am still enjoying seeing the two freshmen Republican Reps. Paul Gosar and David Schweikert face the music on the Medicare issue. Ultimately, the message remains valid, regardless of the motives of the messenger. Keep on keeping on Arizona GOP….you’re doing great!