US Seniors Retiring To Iraq Say That's Where The Medicare Money Is
US senior citizens, noting President Bush's new budget, which calls for billions to be spent in Iraq while billions are cut from Medicare, are foregoing traditional retirement destinations like Florida and Arizona and opting for Iraq.
The numbers reflect a convincing coincidence. Bush's budget calls for $ 100 billion more for Iraq and $ 100 billion in cuts for Medicare.
Following up on the new retirement trend, we went to Kennedy Airport and kept up with some seniors who were booked for Baghdad.
"Excuse me," I asked a group of seniors who just stepped off the bus in front of Saudi Arabian Airlines. "I understand you're all heading for Iraq?"
"That's right," a man in Bermuda shorts replied, and reached into his golf bag. He took out a chapeau in the usual mullah fashion. "Got my black turban right here. You know what they say? When in Baghdad, do as the Iraqis do."
"And I have my black burkah," his wife added, lifting it from her purse. She slipped it over her head and modeled it. "What do you think?"
"Very cute," I replied. "You'll fit right in. Can you please clarify why you've chosen to retire in Iraq instead of, say, Miami?"
"Simple, son," a man with a fishing rod, who happened to be wearing a baseball cap on top of his turban, said, "That's where the Medicare money is."
"Not to mention social security," his wife commented.
"The plain fact is, we'd rather eat in Iraq than starve in America," another man added.
"But are not you concerned about safety issues?" I asked.
"Of course, we are," the man in the Bermudas replied. "But we're in this for the long term and, the way things are going, we can barely count on Medicare and social security in America."
"We've got to follow the food," another elderly gentleman stated.
"But you could get blown up?" I suggested.
"Oh, we thought about that," the man with the baseball hat on top of his turban replied. "We'll just have to take our chances."
"Never understimate the power of a senior citizen," a frail man said, raising his fist. "Did not you read about the 70-year-old fella who broke the neck of the kid who tried to rob a busload of seniors?"
"Yes, I did notice that event," I told him.
"He was a war vet," one of the women informed me, with evident pride.
"Yep, of one American war or another," a senior volunteered with a sigh. "Quite a few to choose from."
"How about suicide bombers?" I dared to ask.
"Bring 'em on, son," the frail senior said, assuming the position of a boxer with his dukes up.
"But are not you forgetting that most of the money earmarked for Iraq is for military activity?" I asked.
"We're going for the rebuilding money," the man in the Bermudas said. "They're wasting bills. And we figure we can get in the way of some of it."
"And what do you think is going to happen when Americans see millions of seniors, retired in Iraq?
"Congress will have to divvy up something for us, and that's more than they're likely to do if we stay in America."
"And something is better than nothing," a woman affirmed.
"But what about the culture gap?" I asked. "Are not you a little set in your ways?"
"Yes, we are," one of the men admitted.
"I notice the turbans.
"Whatever it takes to get in the way of some money," the man insured.
"We've thought about it," his wife interjected. "And becoming Islamic is better than not being able to afford medical care."
"Or starving on what's left of social security," another woman added.
"Do you think you'll be able to enjoy the usual retirement activities there, like golf and fishing?" I asked.
"No problem," the man with the golf bag said. "Iraq may not have the best golf courses, but I see there's plenty of desert for sand traps."
"I've noticed a river runs through Baghdad," the man with the fishing rod said. "Got to be something in it near body parts."
"How about you?" I asked a woman with a tennis racquet.
"I have not seen any tennis courts there," she admitted, "but some of the sand should be hard enough for the ball to bounce."
"What about a net?" I asked.
"I guess there'll be some sacrifices," she replied, and looked around at the crowd. "But I know one thing. I will not have far to look for someone to play with."
"I bought my racket," another woman called.
"And, if worse comes to worse," her husband advised her, "you can teach an Iraqi how to play."
"Excuse us, son," one of the men said. "We have to move along now. Can not miss our flight."
"We're bound for Baghdad!" his wife almost sang.
"OK," I replied. "Thanks for the interview. And enjoy your retirement."