When I was a child, how often did my parents say, “Are you listening to me?”? The clergy and other public speakers often wonder who is listening to them. After each election, the politicians tell us that they clearly heard what we said in the election. If they heard what we said in the election, why do their efforts cause congressional approval level to continue to set new record lows? Some may argue that they do not care what we say, but a recent event in Georgia seems to indicate this is not the case. In the recent primary, the Republicans asked their voters if they favored restrictions on gifts by lobbyists, and 83 percent indicated they would. This caused the speaker of the House to change his position of being opposed to restrictions to proposing a total ban on lobbyists’ gifts.
When the people speak clearly the politicians do listen. On most issues there is no way to provide politicians with a clear picture of what the public truly wants. Many of us are frustrated and manipulated when a survey is designed to make the results fit the sponsor’s specific purposes. We need forums to allow Americans to speak clearly to our elected officials.
There is a unique and refreshing program called YEAS (You Earned A Say) sponsored by AARP. The idea behind YEAS is that people have paid and continue to pay into Social Security and Medicare for years and therefore the people (not just AARP members and not just seniors) deserve a say in how these programs are changed. These programs will need some changes because the projections are that the benefits will exceed the revenues. For example, if nothing is changed by the year 2036, the Social Security trust fund will be depleted and the program will be able to pay only around three-fourths of current benefits, affecting the ability of my children and grandchildren to retire.
All over the county AARP has held YEAS events to listen to people. During these events, the various proposals for changes to these programs are presented, with pros and cons developed by both conservative and progressive analysts. AARP has not developed a specific recommendation, and trained facilitators do not share their opinions, but rather listen to the people’s comments. A questionnaire is used to collect the opinions of the attendees. AARP will collate the responses, sort them by congressional districts and after the election will notify each member of the new Congress as well as the new or re-elected president what their constituents want for the future of Social Security and Medicare.
You Earned a Say, you have a voice, AARP wants to make your voice heard. If invited to a YEAS event, please attend and participate. If you are not invited, feel free to contact the AARP office in Atlanta by phone at 404-870-3795 or by email at email@example.com and request one for your organization or even at a party where you invite people to your home. AARP will send you a trained facilitator for the event. You also may visit www.earnedasay.org.
Williams is a resident of Griffin and is an AARP advocacy volunteer and trained YEAS facilitator.