By Jerry Waxman
If you’re watching certain TV programs that treat grandma and gramps as doddering old folks then you need to read this. If the TV commercials that tout the new painless lubricated catheters via Chuck Woolery, or Joe Theismann hawking his new prostate pills, or Wilford Brimley with his sundry products, Fred Thompson or Robert Wagner begging you to reverse your mortgage are too much for you to endure, then this is also for you, if only to make you aware that seniors today are not as gullible as marketers would portray them. These new pitchmen are the next generation of senior snake oil salesmen after Art Linkletter and Arthur Godfrey, Joe Weider and Jack LaLanne. Just think what it will be like when Justin Bieber and Angelina Jolie start doing it in 50 years. The pitch won’t change a lot, but the products and their paid shills will. Seniors have always been ripe prey for swindlers and charlatans. Fortunately, there is a cure for this. It’s called factual information.
The Florida Alliance for Retired Americans is located in Wellington, Florida. Its president, Tony Fransetta has built the organization’s membership to 200,000 over the years, and no grass grows under his feet. Fransetta, at age 78, keeps up a pace that people half his age would be envious of. The same goes for his board members, who attended the 2013 Annual Convention and Board meeting on June 3rd and 4th in Orlando. The Alliance is made up of mostly retired union members, so they have a united purpose.
Just like any annual board meeting, the agenda called for reports from the president on down through officers, committees and clubs. Old business was discussed and future meetings planned. Since this was a convention of seniors and former union members and activists there were several guest speakers dealing with diverse issues that affect seniors. One of the event sponsors was Humana and their reps Barbara Wagner and Sherri Johnson spoke on health care. Many Central Florida state legislators spoke including State Representatives Linda Stewart Dist. 47, Randolph Bracy, Dist. 45, Victor Torres Dist 48 and Karen Castor Dentel Dist. 30. State Senators included, Darren Soto Dist. 14 and Geraldine Thompson Dist.12. Also speaking was Susannah Randolph, District Director from Congressman Alan Grayson’s office. Notably absent were any officials from either the City of Orlando or Orange County Government. Strange too, because the city operates several senior centers that would greatly benefit from an alliance with FLARA. Well, unrealistic soccer stadiums and creative villages are much more important than playing around with old people. It’s also strange that Property Appraiser Rick Singh didn’t attend either since he publicly announced a month ago at May’s County Watch meeting that he was aggressively reaching out to seniors to notify them of the tax breaks they qualify for and that there were employment positions open for just that purpose.
Featured speakers covered a range of fields including health care management, Social Security and oddly enough, buying American products from American companies plus environmental concerns.
Buy! Oh noble buyer, buy your merchandise from me!
(Bazaar of the Caravans, from Kismet by Wright & Forrest)
Oh, if only it were that simple. Today there are hundreds of retail outlets and thousands of manufacturer brands available. Isn’t the free market wonderful? Sure, if you don’t care where your money goes. American retailers for the most part are not buying from American suppliers, so a large part of their buying power is going to businesses outside the USA. What’s worse is that many American made products are not owned by Americans, which means that the profits don’t stay in the USA; they go into the pockets of foreign owners, which means that those profits are not taxed here. It’s going to get even worse if The United States foolishly signs on to the Trans Pacific Partnership, but that’s another story.
Roger Simmermaker has written two books, My Company ‘Tis of Thee and How Americans Can Buy American, on how to buy things that are made in this country. He regularly sends out e-mail alerts on products. His company is called Consumer Patriot Corporation. Here’s his website, www.howtobuyamerican.com, and you can sign up for his newsletter and buy his books through it. Roger actually is employed by a government contractor and this is not how he makes his living, however, he is passionate about buying American and this is his passion. In his books he cites over 2400 products that are made here and the list is growing. Even this informed audience was shocked to learn that soaps like Lever 2000 are owned by a British and Dutch consortium. Heinz has recently been bought in part by investor Warren Buffet, but 50% of Heinz is foreign owned. Who knows what will happen there. Do you like Budweiser, Coors or Miller beers? That’s nice. Busch Brewing, Miller and Coors are now owned by a Belgian Multinational and a couple of Brazilian billionaires. As Simmermaker explains, if all the foreign owned American companies were actually paying taxes on their profits we would not have the revenue and debt problems we now have.
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, one hasn’t got time for the waiting game.
(September Song, from Knickerbocker Holiday by Kurt Weil and Maxwell Anderson)
The most compelling speaker at the event was Laura J. Feldman, Grassroots Manager of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare. She has a great sense of humor and knows her subject intimately. It’s almost impossible to blurb or sound byte what she said, so here’s the video of her presentation. Unfortunately, people kept bumping into the tripod so the video is a little shaky. What Ms. Feldman pointed out is that what you don’t know can definitely hurt you.
The shadows sway and seem to say tonight we pray for water, Cool water. And way up there He’ll hear our prayer and show us where there’s water, Cool Water.
(Cool Water by Bob Nolan with the Sons of the Pioneers)
Adrienne Katz from the Orange County League of Women Voters gave a presentation on the water crisis that’s facing Florida. The League is right now working on a petition drive to preserve Florida’s water and land conservation heritage. Katz gave a brand new audio-visual presentation on how fragile our eco-system and especially water really is. Seniors need to know these things because the quality of our drinking water affects their health.
What came out during these presentations is that too many seniors pay too little attention to issues that affect them. They accept what the corporate media tells them and once these myths are in their minds it’s awfully hard to get them to see the truth. A group such as the Alliance, which has millions of members nationwide is constantly striving, through lobbying and information sharing, but they need to get more members who will be involved. After all, who is going to protect us from Pat Boone?