Fraud, Politics and Old Folks – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

DEBORAH LEVINE
Editor-in-Chief Deborah J. Levine

I paid close attention when an old friend jokingly asked on Twitter: “Can anyone tell me why I’m so Angry all the time?” But it’s not so funny that rage is the new normal. We’ve gotten louder and more contentious, as we’ve suddenly been catapulted into a new Middle Ages with a politics and economics that mirror medieval lords and serfs with castles, indebted servants, and a dying middle class. Each age group is struggling in its own way and there are super-angry people in every generation. Tweets that aren’t crude and rude are often cries for help, for someone to listen, respond, and care. Both sides of the COVID coin are expressed online: anger and despair.

Many of the despairing are young and I’ve written previous columns about their skyrocketing suicide rates. But many of them are elderly and their desperation makes them more vulnerable than ever.

COVID has fueled a raging Black Market: scammers, fraudsters and con artists. Charlatans surface in tough economic times with a vengeance. Be afraid, especially if you’re older. It’s true that scams like “Free Solar Panels” target homeowners of all ages, but many fraudsters are focusing their stimulus check scams and community donation scams on senior citizens. Playing on understandable fears, fraudsters offer opportunities to skip the line and get quicker access for outlandish fees.

We’ve just completed National Consumer Protection Week and Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon said: “Fraudsters are making a fortune by targeting Americans, particularly older Americans… The scammers tell elaborate lies, often become demanding and threatening, and take advantage of the physical isolation that many seniors have experienced during the pandemic.”

Who would disagree that this is a shameful development towards the most vulnerable in our society? But what are we doing about it? Too often we consider the elderly faceless and expendable, like serfs who owe us or can easily be replaced. So we’ve seen a nonchalance towards the elderly who  were going to die soon anyway. Arguments against wearing masks to protect the elderly by wearing masks have been responsible for surges in infections and death. But the biggest COVID fraud towards the elderly has taken place from governors’ offices.

New York Governor Cuomo used emergency pandemic powers to tell nursing homes that they couldn’t deny admission to patients discharged from hospitals solely based on a confirmed or suspected COVID diagnosis. Supposedly freeing up hospital space, Cuomo should have anticipated that nursing homes would become the state’s lethal epicenter.

Instead, Cuomo made even more of a mess by covering up and delaying death toll reports. With multiple excuses, mostly nonsense, the governor finally acknowledged that he’d made a mistake. His apology, almost a year later, brings the term “obfuscate” to mind. With recent news of official reports being doctored to show only about 50% of the total nursing home deaths, the term “criminal” comes to mind.

Another ‘obfuscation” veering towards “criminal” comes from Governor DeSantis of Florida where vaccine sites targeted wealthy communities of political donors. DeSantis’ denial seemed sincere, “I’m not worried about your income bracket, I’m worried about your age bracket.”  Yet he blocked death toll reports on eldercare facilities and his new data analyst is an anti-masker sports blogger with no credentials.

Nix the medieval mix of lies and cons by lords of the manor. Let’s be honest and truly honor lives lost and elderly still at risk. And don’t bow down to the lords’ anti-masking propaganda. The lives that masks protect may be some old folks you love.

Editor-in-Chief

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