Advocacy Group Blasts Drug Prices, Energy Companies
Spectrum staff writer
Despite struggling with his voice, Ed Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, was able make his points clear to the delegates to the Congress of California Seniors convention April 22 near the end of a speech-filled day at the Hilton Arden West Hotel.
Knowing his audience, Coyle said, The pharmaceutical industry had more profit last year than the next nine members of the Fortune 500 club combined. Thirty percent of it went to advertising.
He urged the group of retired labor union workers to make its presence felt in the 2004 election, noting that the 2004 senior vote can be the equivalent of the 1996 soccer mom vote.
Seniors come out to vote and they vote issues that are of concern to seniors, especially in a presidential election year, said Coyle, who is based in Washington, D.C. I think the Bush administration is going to make every attempt they can to get the senior vote. Whoever the Democratic nominee ends up being, he or she will come through a long primary process with lots of debates and time to think about senior issues, because its going to be a topic as they debate each other.
Bush isnt going to have to do that, Coyle continued. He wont have a debate. Hes going to be above the crowd during that time. Whoever the Democrat is who comes out of that convention in Boston will be very aggressive in trying to pursue the senior vote, and issues of concern like Medicare and Social Security, prescription drugs, etc.
From the feedback he receives at speaking engagements, Coyle said affordable prescription drugs tops nearly every list of issues that concern seniors.
Its a huge concern and its never-ending, Coyle said. The cost goes up every year [and] they dont see any help coming from the government. Campaigns have repeatedly said, Were going to get your prescription drugs, and nothing has happened.
[Seniors] are very frustrated, he added. They are, I think, very skeptical and I think theyre even angry. I think that anger will translate into people coming out to vote.
Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana, who joked about his ability to be heard with or without a microphone, addressed an inquiry he often receives: When will the [state] budget be finalized?
I dont see it settled and signed into law until early September, he told the group.
Thats when the Legislature traditionally winds up its session. I wish I could tell you earlier, I hope its earlier, but thats my best guess, unless a healthy dose of maturity and a little more gray hair and pragmatism settles in. Dunn spoke about the rivalry between the Democratic and Republican parties as one factor hindering the budget process, and cited term limits as another factor, noting that the Assemblys average age hovers in the mid-30s and the Senates is about to dip below 50.
There are some very talented young folks working in the political process, but in a state as sophisticated, complex and diverse as California, its a rare 32-year-old whos had the life experiences to make the necessary balancing acts that are required to make this state operate in a unified and cohesive fashion, Dunn said.
Dunn also spoke at length about Federal Energy Regulatory Order No. 888, which he credits as a precursor to California Senate Bill 888, which is intended to reverse the states limited deregulation of the energy industry.
We have a long list of opponents to the bill: The generators, the traders everybody who stole your money over the past two years is opposed to the bill, because it deprives them of the opportunity to steal more of your money, Dunn said.
Can electricity work in a deregulated market? he asked, rhetorically. The answer is a resounding, No. Polls taken in California over the last year said that 90 percent of you support ending energy deregulation. If that doesnt tell us lowlifes in the California State Legislature what we ought to be doing, I dont know what does.
Congress of California Seniors President Hank Lacayo concurred with the points made by Coyle and Dunn, and added, We want to impress on the Legislature that there are some issues that affect the senior population of the state, and make sure they realize that were not necessarily asleep. We want to speak out and let them know about how we feel on some particular issues.
While Lacayo thinks its especially important for California seniors to go to the polls, he would like to see all age groups get more involved at election time. I think everybody ought to get out and vote, not just seniors, Lacayo said. The dismal poll numbers are mind-boggling 50 percent of the people dont get out and vote. Were blaming everybody else except ourselves.
Along with attending informational workshops, members of the group visited the Capitol on April 23 to meet personally with legislators.
Coyle said the Congress of California Seniors has the ability to make its presence felt in the decision-making process.
The Congress obviously has a different mission than the National Alliance does, but its very important because they can focus attention, he said. They have an excellent attendance of elected officials here, and its very important to provide the forum that will display these concerns so they can be very effective in educating voters in what these issues mean.
Last Updated 4/29/03