Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reforming Social Security and Medicare

E. J. Dionne states the Social Security issue forthrightly and correctly:
Any proposal to raise the Social Security retirement age is a nonstarter because there is no reason to waste political capital on Social Security cuts that would do nothing to close the nation's deficit within any reasonable time period.

On this issue, the Washington establishment is entirely out of touch with the heartland. It's easy for columnists, CEOs, investment bankers and senators to work beyond 68 or 70. It's not so easy for construction workers, nurse's aides, firefighters or retail salespeople on their feet all day.
Thank you, E. J. I'm not one of those workers, but out where I worked (in the pastorate), they were all around me.

It is a mistake not to separate the dual issues of Social Security and Medicare. Social Security is fairly straightforward and stable, providing a basic retirement income for individuals (probably a majority of people, past, present and future) that keeps them in food, a roof over their heads and other necessities of life. With most pensions (except for government employees) disappearing, and most average people unable to save enough to provide for themselves after their worklife is over, Social Security is necessary to prevent poverty from overwhelming many future senior citizens. 

Medicare is a totally different problem, with medical demand (and hugely expensive medical therapies and drugs) outpacing the tax money available, with few disincentives to curb expenditures. Medicare (and its associated federal programs), such as it is, is a recipe for national bankruptcy. Drastic surgery must be performed on Medicare, because it is totally out of control. Obviously, there must be some basic medical care provided for seniors, but it must be kept circumscribed.  And that of course is going to make many people unhappy. Which is why it probably won't happen, until we're in complete crisis.

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