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Larry and I would be interested in hearing your response to his article.

Senior Bulletin

- AAP Section on Senior Members

- Winter 2015

Please Tell Me It Isn’t So!

Lawrence D. Frenkel, MD

Growing up in a small, economically stable (at that time), town in Western New York State during the 40’s and 50’s, I came to believe that values such as honesty, integrity, fair play, and common sense, were universally found throughout the US. These values supported the widely held feelings of trust in institutions and optimism regarding the future of the country and for people living in the United States.

Now, as a 70+ year-old academic physician, I am deeply troubled about the state of these values in our country. The fact that in the national election this November only 36% of qualified voters (the lowest percentage since 1942) bothered to cast a ballot reflects a mood of pessimism and a lack of trust that their votes can improve either their own lot or the direction of the country. One survey after another, during the past decade has demonstrated discontent in the direction that the US is going and a general lack of confidence about the future.

Some of the general deterioration in our lack of trust in institutions, including the federal government, dates from the 60’s and the unpopular Vietnam War. The racial and economic inequities of those actually fighting the war and losing their lives in a country where many, if not the majority of it, people either did not welcome the presence of US troops and/or US influence or saw the war as an opportunity for personal profit.

Perhaps it is a bit naïve, but an assessment of life in the US today clearly suggests that unmitigated greed now motivates the majority of all too many business and even interpersonal interactions. President Obama is vilified because he wants to decrease class and racial disparities. Yet these disparities have increased during the past two decades and continue to feed hate, envy, and violence. The disparities have been fostered by both personal and corporate greed and a government apparatus dominated by the forces of big money.

Personal greed is starkly illustrated by the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” (based on a real person).The large oil companies that make obscene profits, often destroy the environment, yet continue to take taxpayer dollars, illustrate corporate greed. Greedy corporations complain that the US corporate tax rate is higher than that in many other nations and move their manufacturing off shore to avoid US taxes, but continue to make the majority of their profits in the US. They threaten to move their headquarters to other countries but successfully lobby congress for greedy tax loopholes. Today, we are all assaulted by a never- ending volley of scams via out smart phones, computers, televisions,radios, magazines, etc.

It boggles the mind that US citizens do not understand that it is not valid or logical to blame the president for not personally solving all of our national economic problems (disregarding the enormous economic improvements in our national economy during his first 6 years in office). Congress refuses to act on (and even blocks a vote on) a multitude of legislative proposals that might allow the more robust resolution of our economic ills, especially for those in the middle class. The country badly needs a depression era type of infrastructure program to create the millions of jobs that would provide real middle class salaries and support a multitude of opportunities to train young adults for well paying, middle class jobs.

Part of the blame for this lack of common sense appreciation of current political realities, lies in the fact that every issue and minor news event is sensationalized by our 24-hour media barrage, often without concern for the truth or accuracy of the reporting. The handling of the news is rarely unbiased or thought provoking. The excuse is: “That is what the public wants.” However, in reality, much of the behavior of mass media is really motivated by blatant greed for money from advertisers that fosters entertaining aimed at the lowest intellectual level.

To be sure government cannot solve all our problems but it can and does solve some of them by such proven, popular and generally well-run programs like social security, Medicare, food stamps, and long-term unemployment compensation. Instead of reforming our tax code to make it simpler and more fair, or avoiding massively expensive, ego driven, unwinnable wars in foreign lands (where the majority of people do not want us to be in the first place), or pass legislation to rebuild our national infrastructure, there is a push to benefit the greedy corporations and wealthy individuals. This is done at the expense of reduced funding to the above noted important and successful government programs that benefit the majority of US citizens, especially the middle class.

When I shared these thoughts with some of my intelligent and sophisticated relatives and friends, they suggested that the passage of time had clouded my memory and idealized my perceptions of my childhood. They further insisted that the world was, is, and shall continue to be, not as I remember it or wish it would be. Please tell me it isn’t so!







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