Urging the election of certain politicians is not the job of this column. Reporting on significant things that affect seniors is. Which is why I'm going a little out of bounds to comment on some things GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said. No big news there as his remarks to big-time donors recorded in secret made the news rounds. And certainly he is free to say whatever he wants to reap campaign contributions. But he was attacking seniors when he said "47 percent who will vote for the president no matter what," lumping them all as the 47 percent who pay no income tax. "These people believe that they are victims ... believe the government has a responsibility to care for them ... believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.
"So my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives," Romney decreed.
Well, obviously a lot of seniors fall into the category of not paying income tax, as many live on Social Security and escape income tax. But those same seniors worked for 50 years or so, contributing to their retirement. They were not lazy, not unemployed, not grasping for handouts. They worked for their Social Security checks and should not be written off as relying on government.
According to The Associated Press, 50 million Americans collect Social Security checks, and 46 million receive Medicare health care. These are not the underclass, but retired workers. Those not paying income tax include 5 percent making $50,000 to $100,000 a year and 430,000 making $100,000 a year. Plus uncounted millionaires paying nothing because of tax loopholes.
So enough about Romney's 47 percent. President Obama hasn't written off 47 percent of us (including seniors), but he hasn't put forth any great plans to protect Social Security and Medicare.
I leave it to the Sunday morning talking heads to debate all this.
Some foreign and domestic health care incidents
In my years of working overseas for a variety of news organization, I had some experience with health care issues. One of the first was in Japan where the government paid for my cyst operation with no paperwork and with a 10,000-yen co-pay. No idea how they found me.
In Italy I broke a leg at a ski week race and got excellent treatment at the site. Again, no up-front charge and only a token co-pay.
Also in Italy, my son Marc was born in Naples. Again, a mysterious hand reached down and paid almost all of the fees.
Then in Bavaria, I suffered a ruptured appendix and my wife took me to the Munich suburban kreiskrankenhaus, where a very Kojak-looking surgeon removed my appendix after saying in German, "I operated on a lot of Russkies on the Eastern Front, but this is my first Ami." Again the long arm of the Bundes-something-thing reached in and paid my bill. (The hospital also allowed my wife to bring in wine for dinner.)
Then there is my hiking friend Bob, who was struck by a truck while biking the U.S.-Canadian border. Badly injured, he was hospitalized for a month in Winnipeg and later flown along with his wife to Seattle. The province of Manitoba picked up the entire bill - the province being the only one in Canada with such a health plan.
And a couple of weeks ago I went to our hospital's ER, where for six hours they did their best to discover why I was having a vertigo attack. Never found anything but the bill was $1,923. No complaint, they did a fine job of testing and Medicare will pay part of bill. But imagine how patients arrive with no insurance or funds and the hospital has to absorb the loss.
As the Affordable Health Care Act kicks in across the U.S., we may hope that it succeeds as well. It would ease the hospitals' problems, although there still would be losses.
Clint Eastwood is an aging baseball scout for the Braves and Amy Adams is his daughter in "Trouble with the Curve," currently at the Fandango Galaxy cinema in Carson City. He's losing his sight and daughter Amy, a big-time lawyer comes to rescue him. Yes, it's sort of predictable but great fun, especially when Clint's veteran's vision does better than a young executive who thinks computers are the modern answer to baseball scouting (shades of "Moneyball").
Clint is showing his age but that doesn't stop him from matching Adams in scenes. He's irascible and mean but he does more with the twitch of a lip and Adams with a crooked smile than most actors could hope for.
Yes, it's predictable and, yes, Justin Timberlake is along as the romantic interest. He's outclassed but does OK.
• Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.