Real Role Models Fly Under the Radar Screen

Published Augusts 24, 2012, Pawtucket Times

            As we go through our life stages, we are attracted to ‘role models’ or people we look up to – “mentors” as they are commonly referred to.    Those individuals who possess the right attributes and specific traits we hope to emulate – a persona we admire and respect. 

             For children growing up or those having reached their middle years, they may look up to and view their parents as that “perfect” role model.  Others may see redeeming qualities they try to imitate turning to entertainment celebrities, pro-athletes, successful business entrepreneurs, or religious and ethical figures. I found myself stumped when I was recently asked who my role model was as I responded to a “PowerPlayer” questi+onnaire by Golocalprov.com.  I never looked up to any one individual in the celebrity culture, sports personality, or even a politician.  

 Influential People in My Life

           As I pondered this question, there were a few people that came to mind.

          Of course I thought of my father, Frank Weiss, who had a great impact on my life.  He taught me the importance of using a business network in my profession.  While the Dallas businessman raised money to fund cancer research projects and other worthy causes, as Economic and Cultural Affairs Officer, I try to do the same, such as working to support the City’s Annual Pawtucket Arts Festival. 

          Then there was Fred Levy, a former Army intelligence officer during World War II, who was also a fabric salesman and writer.  When I was a young man, Mr. Levy was my neighbor and a man for whom I had great respect.  He might be a likely candidate for being my role model.  Mr. Levy gave me advice on how to become a better writer during my early professional years.  He juggled his job, writing, and also being a full-time caregiver to his adult daughter, Faye, who was bedridden with multiple sclerosis.  He was an inspiration to me, who read my published articles and encouraged me to continue to writing.  

         More recently in my present work, I thought of my former boss, Planning Director Michael Cassidy.  He was a role model to me – teaching me the value of tenaciousness. He looked at all bureaucratic and political angles to accomplish his planning goals. While it took him 10 years to get the City’s skate board park up and running, it took me seven years to see my project, the SlaterParkDogPark come to fruition.  But it happened. 

            While my father, my neighbor and former boss taught me valuable lessons in life, I realized that the most influential person in my life, was an 82 year old, semi-retired man right here in my Pawtucket community.                

Being an Advocate for the Voiceless

          Like the “energizer bunny” sporting gray whiskers and a plump belly, Pawtucket businessman, Paul Audette has always been an advocate for the “voiceless” in the City of Pawtucket and the surrounding communities. 

         Watching out for the elderly, he became a volunteer ‘ombudsman’ for the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care.  Paul even served as Chairman of the Pawtucket’s  Affirmative Action Committee to ensure that everyone had equal opportunities in municipal government.   He has worked for decades assisting those down-and-out, even providing them financial assistance out of his pocket, to help them navigate the State’s regulatory process.

         Paul has long-ties to many of the City’s nonprofit groups, from the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, the Pawtucket Armory Association, the Foundry Artists, the Pawtucket Fireworks Committee, Pawtucket Preservation Society, and the Pawtucket Arts Festival, just to name a few groups.  He even has been active bringing his expertise as a property manager and developer to assist the Pawtucket Planning Department streamline the City’s Building permit process.

        Paul co-founded a non-profit group called Helping Hands, and has provided financial assistance to local organizations that help youths at risk, the helpless and homeless.  Since 2006, Helping Hands has given donations to 37 organizations, including, Cross Roads, Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Pawtucket Salvation Army, American Cancer Society.

        Paul did not learn the ropes about business by attending any of the ivy-league schools, but instead learned the tricks of the trade by working.  For over 50 years, his hard work landed him senior-level positions for major corporations including Dunkin Donuts, in addition to serving as ‘Special Assistant’ to the Presidents of Providence Metalizing, working in the Personnel Department, and by managing its properties and taking on special projects as assigned. 

        This local businessman even ran one of the largest catering companies in Rhode Island, catering over 300 weddings and 10,000 functions over the years.  His corporate and nonprofit clients include widely recognized organizations in the OceanState, including Hasbro, Hospital Trust, La SalleAcademy, BayViewAcademy, and Swank. 

           Exemplifying the Rotary International’s motto “Service Above Self,” Paul has been a member of the Pawtucket Rotary Club since 1999, and was recognized and awarded the prestigious Paul Harris Award, the highest civic recognition that the national civic group bestows upon an individual.

           Throughout one’s lifetime you might have many role models who inspire, teach and give you a road map to overcoming obstacles in your personal and professional career.  But sometimes the most important ones are those individuals who are not so visible or obvious, like those reported in surveys reported by the nation’s medai – the celebrities, professional athletes, or beloved religious figures, but rather that person in your community, whose mere existence quietly impacts you – as well as a community.

          The most important role model in your life may well be that person flying under the radar screen, seeking to help others – one person at a time – giving of themselves without seeking public notice.   For me, that person, my mentor is  Paul Audette.

           Herb Weiss is a freelance Pawtucket-based writer who covers, aging, health care and medical issues.

GOP Vice Presidential Candidate Shifts Debate on Medicare, Medicaid

August 17, 2012 

            With election day just a little over three month away the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, got temporarily knocked off message with his selection of Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisconsin) as his vice presidential running mate.   Before his pick, Romney went after the sitting Democratic President with charges that he failed to bring the nation out of the greatest economic crisis since the great Depression.  President had not brought employment to the millions of America’s unemployed.

            With Ryan on board the debate now has shifted to how his Budget plan (passed twice in the Republican controlled House) would reconfigure the 77 year old Social Security program along with Medicare and Medicaid.  Democrats expressed glee with Obama’s economic performance now being taken off the front page of nation’s

             Newspapers to focus on Medicare and Medicaid.  GOP strategists are working hard to figure out ways to bring a calm to swing states, like Florida, with a large number of voter baby boomers and senior, who vote.

            Democratic critics are zeroing in on Ryan’s Medicare plan, one that would eliminate the current system where every beneficiary would get the same set of benefits, paid by collected taxes, to one that would give each person a fixed amount of money.

             Ryan’s plan would allow those age 54 or younger who retire to be given the government payment to be used to either purchase insurance from the private sector from an approved list or from a government-run program similar to Medicare. People would pay more out-of-pocket if they wanted to purchase a more comprehensive health plan.  The federal government would regulate the participating private insurance industry, also providing more financial assistance to poor and sick.  The program’s eligibility age would increase from 65 to 67 by 2034.

             Finally, Ryan would put the nation’s Medicaid program, that provides health care to the poor and disabled, on the chopping block.  Under Ryan’s plan, funding would be cut by a third and the remaining federal funds would be funneled to the states as a block grant to be used at the state’s discretion.

 Attack Internet Video Highlights GOP Proposed Medicare Cuts

             The Obama campaign moved swiftly to capitalize on the uproar over Ryan’s controversial budget plan of fixing Medicare and Medicaid.  At the beginning of this week the campaign released a new Internet video accusing GOP’s Romney and Ryan of seeking to destroy the nation’s Medicare and Medicaid programs.

             This recently released campaign video, entitled “What do Floridians think about the Romney-Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it,” ties Romney firmly to his vice president’s prescription of reforming two of the nation’s domestic policy programs, a plan that has recently become a lightening rod, attracting political controversy.  

            To date over 76,479 viewers have watched the Obama campaign video on YouTube, attack the GOP Presidential contender and his running mate. Throughout the one :minute and 42 second video, five older Floridian residents expressed their concerns about the Romny/Ryan’s politically-charged proposal to make draconian cuts to Medicare.

           “It doesn’t make sense to cut Medicare,” says one older woman, who then says, “If we cut it now, what’s going to happen to our middle class?”  Another woman chimes in, “Medicare is a boom for senior citizens who without that would choose between food and going to a doctor.” 

             Not a bad internet video to put a negative spin on Romney and Ryan in Florida, a key swing state where the Republican candidate will shortly visit and the site for the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, on August 27, 2012.   

             Republicans are attempting to soften negative attacks being lobbed at the Romney camp by attacking President Obama on his huge cuts to Medicare, amounting to $716 billion, that included in his enacted 2010 Affordable Care Act.  They allege that the President used the cut funds from Medicare to finance his health care reform package.  Democrats have pointed out the hypocrisy of this political charge by noting that Ryan had included $700 billion in Medicare cuts in his own budget plan, many of which can be found in Obamacare, the President’s landmark legislation reforming the nation’s health care system.  

 Romney Distances Himself from Partner’s Medicare Budget Fixes

             Two days ago, Mitt Romney, appearing on “CBS This Morning, Romney moved to separate himself from Ryan’s controversially-charged reforms to completely overhaul  Medicare and Medicaid by saying that “Congressman Ryan has joined my campaign, and his campaign is my campaign now, ” noting that “We’re exactly on the same page.”

             At the Wednesday CBS News interview, when Romney was asked about Ryan’s proposed Medicare cuts, he suggested that the Wisconsin Republican Congressman would support his plan which would not include huge Medicare cuts.  “The president’s cuts of $716 billion to Medicare, those cuts are going to be restored if I become president and Paul Ryan becomes vice president,” pledged the GOP Presidential Candidate, in his first solo interview on “CBS This Morning,” since he selected Ryan as his vice presidential running mate.

             “My commitment is, if I become president, I’m going to restore that $716 billion to the Medicare trust fund so that current seniors can know that trust fund is not being raided and we’re going to make sure – and get Medicare on track to be solvent long-term on a permanent basis,” added Romney.

 Domestic Programs Touching Everyone’s Life

                  “With fewer jobs offering pensions and people struggling to save for retirement, Social Security will be even more important for younger generations,” notes AARP President Rob Romasco, noting that more than one in three working households age 21 to 64 has no individual savings set aside for retirement.  His comment was released last with the polling findings from a 2012 Voter Survey.

             Among the findings, 59 percent of Americans polled fear that the negative effects of the economic downturn on their retirement savings will force them to rely more heavily on Social Security and Medicare — programs they are concerned that elected officials aren’t doing enough to protect. 

           The AARP survey of voters age 50 plus also found that six in ten plan to rely on Social Security and Medicare even more due to the recent economic downturn. The same survey found that the respondents’ top financial worry is prices rising faster than their income, and the overwhelming majority (91 percent) agree that the next President and Congress need to strengthen Social Security so that it is able to provide retirement security for future generations

         “Last year, while politicians in Washington discussed changes like reducing the COLA as part of a backroom budget deal, AARP fought to protect Social Security. One thing we’ve heard consistently from our members and all older Americans is that keeping up with inflation is one of Social Security’s most important features,” he continued.

            “It’s these voices – the voices of Americans who have paid into the program – that politicians should be listening to when they consider its future,” says AARP CEO A. Barry Rand, noting that his aging group has launched “You’ve Earned a Say,” an initiative (www.earnedasay.org) to ensure that voters have factual information about the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid policy debates inside the Washington Beltway, and platform to speak out about how any proposed changes would effect them personally.

            Romney’s selection of Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate has now put Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the voter’s radar screen.  

             Now is the time for aging baby boomer and senior voters to send a blunt message to the sitting President, his opponents Romney and Ryan, especially those Congressional candidates that you will meet at public events in the OceanState, or even at your door step when they come to personally ask for your vote. That is, political gridlock is no longer acceptable to you and that the nation’s domestic policy issues must be solved through bipartisan efforts.”

             Meaningful legislative fixes, often derailed by “no-compromise” lawmakers should not longer be sent to Capitol Hill.      

             A Final Note…End the nastiness of this political campaign by educating yourself about the issues.  AARP’s “You’ve Earned a Say” will be in evidence McCoy Stadium Sunday (Aug. 19th) when the PawSox play Buffalo in a 1:05 p.m. game. Following the game, the aging group will have a booth as part of the PawSox Fan Appreciation Day. People attending the event can fill out a “You’ve Earned a Say” questionnaire that measures their opinions and concerns on the future of Medicare and Social Security.

             Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

Financially Surviving Your Retirement Years

            Published August 10, 2012, Pawtucket Times

             Moving into their mid-fifties and sixty’s a growing number of Baby boomers wonder if Social Security benefits in their retirement year’s will even pay the bills.  Will they be able to survive in their “golden years”? 

             Federal officials say that there may be cause for alarm. 

             At the end of April, the released 242 page Social Security Trustee’s report, picked up by the nation’s media, gave bleak but “advanced” warning to future retirees that the Social Security program can pay full benefits until 2033, however, warning that probably only three-quarters of promised benefits could be paid out beyond that time.

             So it is not so surprising that the Associated Press (AP), a media cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio, and televisions in the United States, announced last week that the news agency will publish a four part series, to be released over four Sundays in August, examining the long-term financial viability of the nation’s Social Security program.  The series plans to also take a look at policy proposals that will be debated during the upcoming election by Presidential and Congressional candidates, that might strengthen, the nation’s primary retirement program.

             AP recognized that Social Security, a very politically-charged issue, is a topic that must be discussed meaningfully in the upcoming November election.  Because of this AP has chosen to bring substantive coverage of this important policy issue to the upcoming political debates that will take place in the upcoming months.

             “Few things affect more Americans than the future of Social Security, and yet it’s an issue most invisible during the current campaign, said AP Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee, who is directing the series.  “This series of stories tires to lay out complex issues in the most accessible way possible.  This is part of the ongoing efforts by The Associated Press this fall to make sure issues [like Social Security] aren’t absent from the campaign, but front and center…”states Buzbee.

             The headline of AP’s first report, published story on the upper fold of the August 6 issue of the Pawtucket Times, warn’s that “Social Security not deal it once was.”  The AP wire story notes that today’s retirees will be the first to have paid more in Social Security taxes during their lifetime careers than they will ultimately receive in retirement benefits once they retire.  Previous retirees paid less payroll taxes but got more benefits.

   Planning Key to Adequate Retirement Funds

             If Social Security bennies are chopped taking personal responsibility in planning your retirement may well become your financial safety net in your later years.

             Economic woes fueled by the worst economic downturn since America’s Great Depression, have left many Baby boomers financially struggling to make ends meet and to save adequately for their retirement years, according to survey findings released in July 23, 2012 by the Consumer Federation of America (CFP) and the Financial Planner Board of Standards.

              According to a 60-page report, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI), nearly two-fifths (38%) of the 1,508 household financial decision-makers surveyed said they live paycheck to paycheck, while less than one-third (30%) indicated they felt comfortable financially and only about one-third (34%) think they can afford to retire by age 65.

             Survey findings indicated that only 31 percent of respondents said they had a comprehensive financial plan, while about two-thirds (65%) indicated they follow a plan for at least one of their savings goals.  Those who have prepared a personal savings plan feel more confident and report more success managing money, savings and investments than those who don’t.

             By a margin of 50 percent to 32 percent, and for all but the lowest income bracket (under $25,000) where few have a comprehensive plan, those planning for retirement are more likely to feel they are on pace to meet all of their financial goals, such as saving for retirement or for emergencies, stated the survey findings.

             Additionally, an even larger margin of 52 percent to 30 percent, and across all income brackets, those planning for their retirement years are more likely to feel “very confident” about managing money, savings and investments;

             Kevin R. Keller, CEO of CFP Board: “Consumers understandably are more nervous about investing their money given recent revelations about financial fraud, manipulation and abuse of clients. This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t create a financial plan and be prepared.

   Taking Personal Action NOW

             Unless strong political pressure is placed on Congress to act swiftly to enact needed policy changes to fix the nation’s ailing Social Security program, expect political gridlock to continue to block any efforts in both Chambers to come up with bipartisan solutions.   

             Don’t get caught up in the political spins and negative rhetoric as Presidential and Congressional candidates begin their debates on Social Security before the upcoming September primaries and November election.  Become an educated voter and tell the Congressional candidates who seek your vote to seek bipartisan solutions to making the  Social Security Trust fund solvent once and for all. 

             Watch out for AP’s upcoming reports on Social Security to learn more about this important policy issue.  That’s a good first step.  Second, learn more about AARP’s  “You’ve Earned a Say’ initiative (www.earnedasay.org), a web site that can provide aging baby boomers with both factual and straightforward information about retirement policies being debated inside the Beltway by Congress, ones that hopefully will financially strengthen the nation’s Social Security program. 

             But on a personal level, until federal lawmakers get serious about financially shoring up the nation’s retirement program, developing a personal financial plan may well become an effective short-term solution to managing your money, savings and investments that could well supplement a shrinking Social Security check.  One useful tool is the website LetsMakeaPlan.org, allows a person to learn more about preparing a financial plan, including working with a financial planning professionals.

             Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com