If I were George Bush, I’d be plenty worried. Not about the slowing or stalled economy, the lack of meaningful job creation, or the continued war in Iraq. But about seniors. That’s right, older Americans. Those of us 65 and older make up only 12 percent of the overall U.S. population, but this influential group of voters is mad as hell and primed to flex its political muscles. And when seniors vote, they do so in record numbers.

The president duped seniors. He knows it and seniors know it. George Bush and his supporters hail the new Medicare drug benefit a “victory for seniors,” when he knows full well what he rammed through Congress is nothing but a slam-dunk victory for HMOs and drug companies. The Medicare law the president signed into law is a pure sham. And the more seniors learn about this, the angrier they get.

Older Americans thought the much-debated and long-overdue drug benefit they’d been promised would help them with skyrocketing drug costs, reduce their out-of-pocket expenses, or provide affordable access to the drugs they need to stay alive and healthy. Wrong. George Bush’s phony Medicare drug benefit does not deliver the relief middle-class older Americans had hoped for and expected. Instead, the Medicare law Congress passed in the middle of the night forbids the government from negotiating lower prices on drugs for its 41 million beneficiaries; provides no monetary relief until a senior has spent more than $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses; and doesn’t provide safeguards against private employers discontinuing their more generous retiree benefit programs.

America’s already-struggling senior population will see little relief from the president’s drug benefit. At a time when seniors should be living the secure retirement they earned after a lifetime of hard work, they are instead riding buses to Canada to buy affordable drugs and having to choose between paying for food and housing or the drugs their doctors prescribe. Older Americans shouldn’t have to work part time because their Social Security income or retirement savings isn’t enough to cover the cost of their drugs. But they do, and that’s why George Bush should be worried.

Seniors are fighting mad this election season. This highly educated, politically active voting bloc is organized around voter registration and get-out-the-vote strategies and tactics, and has integrated field mobilization forces in key battleground states. They are canvassing senior housing complexes and meeting with neighborhood associations. And each and every time they greet a new audience of older Americans the message remains the same: vote like your life depends on it. Because it does!

The Alliance for Retired Americans, which represents more than 3 million retired workers nationwide, is helping seniors spread that message. We’re working with energized senior activists across the country explaining how George Bush’s phony drug benefit is just that — phony. We’re telling them that they have the power to make a difference by voting for candidates pledged to senior-friendly policies.

Most important, we tell seniors across this country that they should never underestimate the power of their vote. Older Americans are registered to vote in greater numbers than any other demographic group, and they have the highest percentage of voters in the voting-age population. All seniors should take pride in the fact that in the 2000 presidential election, an older American cast one out of every four votes cast for president. That’s amazing election clout.

Seniors know there is a lot at stake in the November election. It’s about preserving and protecting programs vital to their retirement security and it’s about securing a future that bodes well for their children and their grandchildren. If George Bush continues with his present policies, he will privatize Social Security just like Medicare.

Seniors must remember come Election Day.

George J. Kourpias, 74, is president of the Alliance for Retired Americans. This article originally appeared on the ARA website, www.retiredamericans.org.

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