After the Election: What Is Next for Retirees?

The Maine photos of last week offered a respite from election turmoil. Life is heading toward normal now. The political advertisements relented suddenly, and election forecasting and handicapping stopped. Yet important policy issues, some involving seniors, remain unresolved, therefore a peculiar, almost restful anxiety appears to be growing in the country.

Mr. Obama won without well-defined legislative priorities. His first term serves as a guide, and that may produce part of the anxiety. To settle my unease, I spent a day scanning analyses written by news commentators, both left and right, trying to acquire the country’s sense of direction. Unfortunately I was left with mostly questions.

The Numbers

Mr. Obama won 61.9 million votes, which is 50.53% of the total, and he will probably win 332 electoral votes. Mr. Romney won 58.7 million votes, or 47.85%, and he will probably win 206 electoral votes.

In 2008, about 8.9 million more votes were cast, and Mr. Obama’s victory was more decisive. He won 69.5 million votes or 52.87%, while Mr. McCain won 60.0 million or 45.60%.  In 2012, Mr. Obama won about 7.6 million fewer votes than in 2008, and Mr. Romney won about 1.3 million fewer votes than Mr. McCain.

The state-by-state geography is similar to 2008 with the South and much of the Intermountain West voting Republican, and the Northeast, Lake Sates, and Pacific Coast voting Democratic. Within the states, the biggest margins for Mr. Obama occurred in the large urban areas, and Mr. Romney dominated the rural areas and many smaller cities.

Exit polling reported in the New York Times indicated Mr. Romney won the senior vote, 56% to 44%, and the vote of those 45 to 64, gaining 51%. Mr. Obama won the youth vote, gaining 60% of the 18 to 29 year olds, and 52% of the 30 to 44 year olds.

Some Questions

In my reading of news analyses, I tried to learn the likely impacts on seniors of Mr. Obama’s victory. Nothing stood out. The AARP summarizes Mr. Obama’s campaign discussions of Medicare and Social security, saying he wants to keep Medicare as it is—a guarantee for seniors who get sick. But there were few specifics.

As I read more, I began to write questions prompted by the articles. The questions follow. As you read them, consider offering a comment about those you think interesting or important.

  • Is income inequality in the United States (US) a major problem—the share of national income going to the top 1% has doubled since 1980, from 10% to 20%? Will Mr. Obama influence it one way or the other? What is at stake for the elderly, many of whom are growing gradually richer?
  • Is poverty in the US a major problem? Will Mr. Obama influence it one way or the other?
  • Is economic growth in the US a major problem? Will Mr. Obama influence it one way or the other?
  • How do we get the economy growing faster—or should we spend our energy promoting fairness? Should we increase government spending as Paul Krugman argues, and if so, should we focus on growth or fairness?
  • Where is the future for the Republican Party? What changes would seniors most like to see, or, if the Party remains mostly unchanged, will they continue to gradually migrate toward the Republicans? (Mr. McCain won 53% of the seniors, and Mr. Romney won 56%, according to exit polls.)
  • Are Mr. Obama’s successes repeatable—a winning coalition of young adults, minorities, women (especially unmarried), and low-income voters, all of whom turned out in numbers defying expectations? Is this a Democratic achievement, or is it more personal to him?
  • The exit polls show that Mr. Romney won among men and Whites. Mr. Obama won among women and more decisively among Asians, Blacks and Hispanics. Are angry white men so entrenched in Republicanism that the party will be unable to shift toward women as well as Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics? What would be a sensible approach? Would such a shift endanger elder support for Republicans?
  • Is immigration reform a better bet now—will Republicans and democrats find new compromises? What immigration reforms do you think seniors will favor?
  • Are transactional politics an important aspect of this election—people voting for the person who has given or will give them benefits? If so, what implications might follow?
  • Is the “welfare state” in the US sustainable? Economists generally see federal and state social programs (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Obamacare, welfare and others) growing faster than the economy. Will Mr. Obama propose meaningful reform? Or should he support them as now configured?
  • Will the wealthy pay higher tax rates now as part of a new mandate for fairness?
  • What might be some natural implications from the geography of the election (results by state, by county, size of lead by county, shifts from 2008)?
  • Is the Tea Party movement dying?
  • What is the better prevailing sentiment for the future: “We are all in this together;” or “You’re on your own.” How might we describe a balance?

If you’re inclined, please comment on any of the issues touched upon here. I’ve found that scanning several articles, summarizing election results and asking the above questions has helped me gain a sense of how our citizens voted and what they think. Perhaps reflecting for a few minutes and posing some comments will do the same for you.


Publications I looked at: Harper’s, Mother Jones, The Nation, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Economist, The American Conservative, The Weekly Standard, The National Review, The American Spectator, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times.