Florida's older residents are unhappy with the economy and seriously worried about their financial future.
Given the political rhetoric heard daily nowadays, the results of a survey by AARP, the nation's leading advocate for those age 50 and older, is hardly surprising. The concerns by Floridians generally mirror those of older citizens nationally and reflect the impact of the poor economy and a frustration with lack of action by elected leaders.
Greg Strimple, a pollster with GS Strategy Group, which conducted the state and national survey in conjunction with AARP and Hart Research Associates, said, "In a divided nation, there's a consensus that Democrats and Republicans want answers to Medicare and Social Security. Politicians who don't address those issues ignore them at their peril."
According to the survey, about 90 percent of those questioned nationally, who traditionally vote at a higher rate than any other group, said the next president and Congress must work together to assure that both programs are available in the future. And, they said, the issue must be addressed by both political parties and the parties need to cooperate with one another.
The "anxiety index," as the survey is being called, found that nearly three-quarters of older Americans questioned were worried they would not have enough money during retirement and, because of the long-running economic downtown, believe they will have to rely more on Medicare and Social Security than they had anticipated or desired.
In the case of Floridians age 50 and over specifically:
62 percent believe they will have to delay retirement.
49 percent believe they may never get to retire
76 percent rated the national economy bad or very bad.
70 percent worry that prices are rising faster than their incomes.
54 percent worry about health expenses they may not be able to afford.
Since the survey was released earlier this month, the future of Social Security and Medicare — especially Medicare — has taken center stage in the presidential campaign, particularly with Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan, the architect of a budget proposal that includes significant changes to Medicare, as his running mate. Dueling campaign ads with charges and countercharges about Medicare and its impact on those in the program now and in the near and distant future have filled the airwaves in Florida, a key battleground state in the tight race for the White House.
"We know the issue of jobs is very important to voters age 50-plus, but any meaningful discussion of the economy has to include the future of Social Security and Medicare," said Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president. "For these voters, 'retirement security' and 'economic security' are largely the same thing."
Tactics used by the political parties have been dubbed by some as "Mediscare." So, it is incumbent on all voters to inform themselves about the reality of the proposals being offered by both parties. They must separate fact from fiction and assess each party's plan to determine which one will lead to the better future for not only their own retirement, but for the nation and future generations.
When half of those age 50 and over both in Florida and nationally fear they may never be able financially to retire, that they may have to continue working until the day they die, that's a clear indictment that as a society we are not at the place where we should be.
But we can help shape where we go from here.