President Obama sat before the cameras, scanned the room and made one of the most glib and insincere comments of his presidency, which is saying a lot. "And I think people should be careful about being too loose in terms of talking about a government shutdown, because this has — this is not an abstraction. People don't get their Social Security checks."
Mr. Obama made these comments in February 2011, during the last major budget impasse that now bears on the current one. What the president said was untrue, and he knew it. While the media largely ignored Mr. Obama's shot across the bow, The Washington Post rated the statement as "mostly false" because even The Post recognizes that Social Security is not funded by regular government operations, but by its own established trust fund.
Mr. Obama's scare tactics with seniors track well with Democrats, who approach policy debates and budget showdowns with all the subtlety of a child throwing a tantrum. The key difference is that while a child may hold his own breath, the Democrats will hold yours, willing to inflict any damage necessary to get their way.
But a quick review of recent trends points to clear evidence that the threats, tantrums and demagoguery on seniors' issues are failing to move voters as it has in the past. As reality catches up to the rhetoric, seniors are overwhelmingly turning to GOP candidates, regardless of how much the Democrats continue to assault their ears.
If votes cast by the elderly in the last three election cycles is any indication, then Mr. Obama wins — by a landslide — designation as the most anti-senior president in our nation's history.
Let's review the numbers: In 2008, despite winning the White House 53 percent to 46 percent, Mr. Obama lost the senior vote to Sen. John McCain by three points, 51 percent to 48 percent. In 2010, his House Democratic colleagues who voted for Obamacare lost more than 60 seats and their majority. Seniors made up approximately 13 percent of the voting-age population that year, but as 23 percent of the electorate, they were the lead torpedo in sinking the HMS Pelosi.
In 2012, Mr. Obama won re-election by 3.3 percentage points fewer than four years earlier owing in large part to our generation's vote for Mitt Romney by an astounding margin of nearly 20 points. Had other age groups voted the way we oldies did, we would be referring to President Romney and first lady Ann Romney, and former President Obama would now be either back teaching at Harvard or back in Chicago resuming his earlier career at community organizing.
If someone were to ask why seniors voted so overwhelmingly against a president and a political party touted so lovingly as looking out for their best interests, our answer would be: How much time have you got?
Sure, there was a backlash against Obamacare and its $716 billion cut to Medicare, millions being kicked off their Medicare Advantage plans and $30 billion in new taxes on seniors' prescription drugs and critical items for the sick, such as bedpans and wheelchairs. (Call it the Tiny Tim tax.) But there's so much more.
The party known to set its watch at election time by scaring senior citizens with the specter of the GOP taking away their programs wasn't content to just gut Medicare, but Social Security as well. Mr. Obama has pushed for the so-called "chained" CPI, which lowers cost-of-living increases to seniors, and his April 2013 budget snuck in direct cuts to benefits.
Candidate Obama promised an energy policy that would make electricity costs "necessarily skyrocket," and through his war on coal and limits on fossil fuels, he's making good on that promise. Seniors, so very many of them saddled with fixed incomes, see Mr. Obama's face and reflexively wonder how much money his regulatory policies will siphon from their pockets.
The easier question to ask is what policies has Mr. Obama targeted to actually benefit the elderly, as nobody can seem to find any. After nearly five years in office, this administration's anti-senior agenda is downright staggering, and one of the most underreported developments of this presidency.
This isn't to say that seniors should always get their way, but if any age group has demonstrated a willingness to make personal sacrifices and put the good of the nation first, it is those 65 and above. But even sweet, old grandparents have their limits.
Looking at the senior citizen vote going forward, the numbers foretell a bumpy ride ahead for Democrats, with a sidecar of poetic justice. If you lie to old people about not getting their checks, or about Republicans taking away Medicare and Social Security, don't act surprised when you get caught doing the pilfering. And prepare to pay for it at the ballot box.
As we grow older, we grow wiser, and one party that has taken the senior vote for granted is discovering that someone is paying attention. Governing with appeals to fear, anger and deceit has cost the Democrats the senior vote, and we can remain hopeful that other betrayed constituencies will soon follow. For the most anti-senior president in history, the glib is off the rose.
Jim Martin is chairman and founder of the 60 Plus Association. Entertainer Pat Boone is its national spokesman.