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Older Voters Blame Washington Gridlock for Economic Woes


Boomers are so disgusted with our stubborn political leaders that they blame them more often than they blame the economy  for their own precarious personal finances.

I was amazed to learn from a new AARP survey that 78 percent of people aged 50-plus feel that Washington gridlock has harmed their money situation compared with 77 percent who cited the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

The prolonged political stalemate, and growing concerns over retirement security, drove up an "Anxiety Index" that measures older adults' top economic worries, according to the survey.

Living here in the Washington area, I'm getting an up close and personal look at how Democrats and Republicans remain worlds apart on how to extend the Bush-era tax breaks beyond January, when spending cuts are scheduled to kick in. Unless they agree on a grand plan to cut the deficit, the combination of tax increases and spending cuts may push us over the so-called fiscal cliff and threaten the recovery.

Unemployed older workers don't need any such threat from partisan politics. On average, they've been out of work for a year or more. It's hard enough for them to find jobs without companies pulling back on hiring because they fear the consequences of lawmakers' inaction.

An old friend of mine is a prime example. It took him four years to find work in New Jersey after he'd been laid off. He worked as many as three part-time jobs simultaneously, and at half the salary he'd made before he was let go. Two months ago, he finally landed a full-time job and posts gratefully on Facebook that now he "gets to go to work."

This political paralysis is not likely to bode well for incumbents. As the November election approaches, almost 50 percent of the 1,852 voters surveyed say they disapprove of President Obama's job performance-and more than 80 percent disapprove of Congress. Survey respondents were evenly split between those planning to vote for Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney.

Many of those polled also say they wanted to hear more about both candidate's plans to strengthen Medicare and Social Security. AARP recently launched a campaign, You've Earned a Say, that's designed to ignite a national conversation about boosting Americans' health and retirement security.

The maddening political situation is only one issue keeping boomers awake at night.  The survey of people age 50 to 64 found -- and this will surprise no one -- that the closer we get to retirement age, the more stressed we get about whether we've saved enough to live comfortably when that paycheck stops for good.

Among the findings for this group:

- 72 percent believe they'll have to delay retirement

- 65 percent worry they won't have enough to retire

- 50 percent don't think they'll ever be able to retire

Personally, I figure I'll be able to retire about two years after I'm dead.

Photo credit: geetarchurchy via

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