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Adventures in Government - Don't F#$% With Old People

Sorry for the censored swear and the use of the term "old people" in the title of this post, but whether these things offend you or not, you have to admit that the statement is true: when it comes to politics, senior citizens are a force to be reckoned with.

Tucson and the surrounding area are particularly popular with older adults. In Green Valley, for instance, over 70% of the town's population is over the age of 65. And, while Tucson itself doesn't have quite so large a percentage of older adults, they're still a significant portion of the population.

Most importantly, senior citizens vote.

And, if you want to know the power of senior citizens, just look at the reaction to President Trump's budget proposal: Ask any Congressperson (Democrat or Republican) if they're prepared to actually cut the budgets for programs that impact senior citizens; programs like Meals on Wheels and Medicare. Ask them, and watch as their eyes go wide with fear at the thought of facing the white-haired masses.

Taking care of the aging population is simply the right thing to do, but since seniors are a political powerhouse they're difficult to ignore regardless of your feelings toward social programs. Addressing the concerns of senior citizens is important for any Congressperson, which is why I scheduled a meeting this week with Mark Clark, president and CEO of Pima Council on Aging.

Pima Council on Aging is an important organization that provides countless services to older adults. They coordinate things like Meals on Wheels, housing assistance, making sure people have access to affordable health care and pharmaceuticals, opportunities for people to be active and social, and really just literally anything a senior citizen might need help with.

Seriously. If you're an older adult and you want to get in touch with a good, trustworthy plumber, you can call PCOA and they'll provide you a recommendation. To say Pima Council on Aging is an invaluable resource for older adults is to put it mildly. I can only really scratch the surface of what they do here.

That said, probably the most valuable thing they do is help older adults continue to live at home, rather than ending up in nursing homes. Being able to live at home is one of the most important concerns for older adults, and PCOA provides services such as in-home care, Meals on Wheels, and so on that allows people to do just that.

Pima Council on Aging also advocates on behalf of the aging population, which is why I knew a meeting with them would be valuable. They're intimately familiar with policy issues facing senior citizens, so when it comes to getting advice on those issues there's nobody better to talk to.

In my meeting with Mark Clark I asked about PCOA's relationship with Congresswoman Martha McSally, and Mark told me bluntly that McSally is, in fact, very responsive to their advice and concerns.

That news doesn't really help my campaign, but it's hard to feel bad about it. The fact is, when it comes to things like this, there's always a silver lining I can appreciate. I can use issues where Martha McSally falls short against her (women's rights, constituent outreach, transparency, health care, and so on), but it's hard to be happy about her poor performance since it affects so many people. Likewise, if there's something she's doing well (such as advocating for Davis-Monthan and responding to PCOA), then while that's not something I can use against her, I can still appreciate a job well done.

Frankly, I'd be happiest if McSally was just doing her job well all-around. Then, I wouldn't feel the need to run against her.

However, that's not the case. And while Mark Clark didn't have anything bad to say about her (Pima Council on Aging is a non-partisan organization), I could already see many ways in which Martha McSally is working against the interests of older adults.

The fact is, Pima Council on Aging, like many similar non-profits, is dependent on government funding. According to their most recent annual report, over 66% of their funding comes from federal and state governments, thanks to legislation such as the Older Americans Act.

Unfortunately, this means that whenever we have an administration bent on saving money by reducing social services (or, worse, an administration bent on increasing military spending at the expense of social services), the reduction in funding directly impacts organizations such as Pima Council on Aging. 

As it is, PCOA is doing amazing things with the funding it has, but it's getting tough to keep up with demand. With baby boomers reaching retirement age, the senior citizen population of America is rising rapidly, and funding isn't keeping up.

Similarly, attempts to cut Medicaid will likewise disproportionately affect senior citizens, particularly the ones relying on in-home care (which, remember, staying at home is most older adults' #1 priority).

Martha McSally seems generally unwilling to break from the party line, which is bad news for seniors, plain and simple. So, while she may be communicative with them, the overall Republican goal of reducing government spending will disproportionately affect the lives of senior citizens, particularly the most vulnerable among them.

I can't stand to watch that happen, which is why I'm running against her.

-Charlie