I have been incredibly fortunate in my life to have lived in and visited wonderful places throughout this great nation, but there is no place that I love more than my home state, the great state of Rhode Island. As the smallest state it has struggled so much over the last several years with a terrible economy and a political culture stuck in old ways that are not moving the state forward.
Rhode Island has been home to my family since my ancestors came from England and Ireland, it is a place of great beauty and strong, hardworking people. From Community School in Cumberland to Bryant University in Smithfield, summer Sunday trips to Sand Hill Cove in Narragansett or the old Rocky Point Park in Warwick to my regular visits to Coventry, Pascoag, Hope Valley, Cranston, Smithfield, Warwick and Woonsocket to visit my family, everything good about me is because of Rhode Island. No matter where I am when it snows my first thought is always “No School Foster Glocester”!
This state should not be trailing behind its New England neighbors whose economies are moving again, it should not be losing its young people to other places because of a lack of opportunity. Over the past several months I have had conversations with many of my friends and family, many support Gina Raimondo, others who are upset because the pension reform she committed to and successfully fought for has personally impacted them, either through a loss of a cost of living adjustment on their pension or a reduction in their future pension payment. While I understand the frustration and would not minimize it in any way, most agree that the system could not continue on the same trajectory. Reform is hard, hard to accomplish, and hard on those who have had to make sacrifices, but up until Treasurer Raimondo got this done, reform in RI was nearly impossible.
Reforming the pension system was the first step on reinvigorating the economy and moving the Ocean State forward. I am hopeful that a Governor Raimondo will be leading the state in taking the next steps to bringing the shine back to this incredible jewel.
My maternal grandmother worked until she was 77 years old, mainly because she felt good, she liked to keep busy and frankly she never put enough money away. When you are born in 1904 (or 1902 as we could never figure out which),you grow up during two world wars, the great depression and you are a woman who wants to have a career that the times won’t allow you to have yet, you are thinking more about survival than saving. When she finally decided that she was too old to be working the 11pm-7am shift at the answering service, requiring her to drive through the streets of Providence late at night and early the next morning, she retired. From that day until her health required her to have skilled nursing care,at the age of 85, she lived on $636 a month social security, that’s right, social security. You see a women working in those days, rarely had an opportunity for a pension, even if, like my grandmother, she worked most of her life. My grandfather, who died ten years earlier, had a pension. He was a fireman (women could not be firemen during those years) but they were divorced, so it did not help her. Now she would never go without, because she had two children and 8 grandchildren and my dad who set the example of what a good son-in-law should be, but she wanted to take care of herself, so as she got older we had to pay closer attention to how she was living. Why am I thinking about my grandmother today? Because of the MSNBC story about the “Unexpected rise in poverty among elderly women” (http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/09/26/report-unexpected-rise-in-number-of-extremely-poor-elderly-women/) and while $7,632 yearly income was not considered poverty in 1981, it’s not much. Her safety net was Social Security and a family who were able to help her when she needed it. So each time I read about the number of elderly American’s living in poverty I think of my grandmother, not because she lived in poverty, but because of why she did not….SOCIAL SECURITY and a FAMILY who were ABLE to help her when she needed help. We still have Social Security in this country, but there are a lot of people who want to change that. Many older American’s have family that can and do help them. Many have family who are unable to help them, particularly after the last several years of economic distress. Now times have changed some, women can be firemen, and doctors and truck drivers, they can go to college and have a career that they don’t have to quit forever once they have a child, but there is still much to do. So while we work to create more opportunity, rebuild our economy, figure out how to help those who want a hand up and not a hand out, lets make sure we continue to protect that one, sometimes lonely leg on the stool….Social Security… because for some it is the only thing they have and that elderly woman or man, well they are someones grandparents.