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Yes, you’ve got a friend. A friend this side of the grave, and beyond.

I’m not talking about Jesus, although I believe He’s the best friend any of us will ever have. I’m not talking about your doctor, your insurance man, your mortician or your hairdresser.

I’m referring to a valiant organization called 60 Plus.

It’s based in Arlington, Va., just a senator’s throw from Washington, D.C. It was started some years ago by retired Rep. Roger Zion of Indiana and has been chaired for most of the subsequent years by an energetic white-haired, lean and fit former Marine, Jim Martin.

It’s an organization of, by and for – seniors.

As you may know, citizens 55 and older have quietly become not only the largest demographic group of Americans today, but the fastest growing! Not teens, not young adults, not even children. Seniors.

I’ve been a card-carrying member of AARP since I turned 55, and that was in the previous century. It’s by far the largest and most influential senior advocate and support entity in history, and they offer all sorts of benefits and breaks in the cost of things seniors want, like insurance and fees and travel arrangements. I like all that, like anybody does, and a membership card can ease the gloomy portent of admitting you’re 55.

But as I’ve read the monthly magazine and picked up on the editorial policy, and learned gradually of the political positions the group takes, I’ve become increasingly uneasy about my membership. Perhaps because the AARP now wields lots of clout with many elected representatives and wants to take credit for, if not actually provide, lots more perks, privileges and advantages for its members, it wields that clout to get all those things at taxpayer expense.

And the irony is that so many of the seniors it purports to help are still taxpayers! So it seems to me they put money in one pocket by taking it out of the other. And their stated positions on many of the most serious political issues of our day are decidedly, unabashedly liberal. In an effort to attract the largest possible membership, recent articles in their magazine have spotlighted and commended people and activities that are definitely not popular in “the red states,” the places where most of the traditional-thinking Americans live.

And so I’m happy to inform you – if you’re one of the traditional, even conservative Americans who still feel we need less government, lower taxes and more voluntary, local answers to our common needs – you’ve got a friend in 60 Plus.

This group, though smaller, is growing rapidly and has a fine monthly magazine with all kinds of helpful and pertinent information; it’s a vibrant and forceful voice for seniors where it counts so much, in Washington; and it’s motivated by the notion that seniors are the government, a vital and active driving force in government, and not totally dependent on government for their survival and well-being.

Jim Martin is a longtime friend of the president, having helped materially in his various political campaigns along the way, and is extremely well-connected in the halls of Congress and executive boardrooms across the country. Under his expert leadership, and with the persistent counsel of Roger Zion and others with a wealth of mature experience and wisdom, 60 Plus is waging a determined and effective battle to strengthen and protect Social Security. They discovered that currently the laws governing this hallowed institution are hardly laws at all; they’re more like good intentions or vague promises. Even legislative committees have ruled recently those seniors (you and I, perhaps?) are NOT LEGALLY GUARANTEED the payouts in our old age that we’ve been contributing to all our adult and working lives!

Oh, the legislators want us to know they’ll try very hard to see that we all get what we’ve paid for, but after all, economic situations and national debt and other priorities may intervene, so we’ll all just have to wait and see.

Not on your life, says 60 plus! What we’ve paid for all our lives, and what our government promised us, we’re going to get!

Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, currently facing a serious battle for re-election against a liberal, very well-funded Bob Casey, son of a popular former governor, is leading the battle for seniors in the Senate. He is determined that our government be finally and forever legally bound to honor its long commitment to hard-working, patriotic and productive seniors – and not just make a “best efforts” attempt when our times come!

And something I feel equally passionate about: 60 Plus is absolutely determined to abolish, to kill and bury the “estate tax”!

You realize what that is, don’t you?

That’s the “right” the legislators took unto themselves to read the obituaries, visit the bereaved families, and after expressing condolences – take half of everything the deceased owned! Oh, he already paid his taxes on his earnings, but he made the mistake of saving and building some sort of estate, maybe even building a business or working a family farm, and in general being a good, old-fashioned productive citizen. And then, poor sap, he had the poor judgment to die!

My friends at 60 Plus calls this travesty the “death tax,” and that’s what it is. And they declare, “Dying should not be a taxable event!” And further, “taxing cadavers is gross public policy!”

I call it robbery, legalized theft.

We’re rightly concerned now about private property and the recent court decisions granting municipalities the “right” to seize someone’s home or farm and turn it over to developers, supposedly in the “public interest.” That has to be stopped, and forcefully. Permanently.

But we, corporately, have allowed this death tax to fester and become entrenched for many years, dating back to World War I. Our economy then was in desperate straits having to fund the huge, vital war effort, and so the tax was instituted “temporarily.” Yeah, sure.

As Will Rogers pointed out then, the trick for the government was to figure out how to get all the rich people to die right away so their money could be diverted to the military. “After all,” he said, “those old birds are tough, and they just might not feel patriotic enough to curl up their toes and give up their estates anytime soon!” And he also doubted that the Congress would be willing to give up the tax anytime soon! How right he was, as usual.

By the way, lest you think that this tax is vital to our national interest these days, let me inform you that it contributes about 1 percent annually to our tax take, and that could easily be made up for by vetoing a few huge pork barrel thefts like that $230 million “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska that was tacked onto the Federal Transportation Bill last November. The truth is, we don’t need the death tax; IT’S WRONG, IT’S CONFISCATORY, AND IT MUST BE ABOLISHED!

In the 60 Plus Association we have a friend, a friend dedicated to getting that job done for all of us. And when I say “all,” I’m including the smallest business owner, the “mom and pop” entrepreneur, the family farmer, the newsstand operator – many of whom have lived with the reality that when they die, their “heirs” will have to sell the business or shut it down, sell the family home, give up most of the assets they’d assembled in a lifetime and already paid tax on, and actually be less well off than before!

Several years back, Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, said, “Getting rid of the death tax… would be a great start to breaking the economic chains that bind us.” As he spoke those words, more than a dozen African American newspapers were folding due to a lack of liquid assets to pay Uncle Sam.

You might like to know our friend, the 60 Plus Association, better. Drop in and visit anytime at www.60plus.org. I’m working with Jim and Roger and the group as much as I can, and I know they’d love to hear you’re rooting for them. We need friends like them.

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