Today’s retirees are relying more and more on Social Security and Medicare as our 401(k) balances have diminished, housing values have plummeted, and food, health care, and energy costs have soared.
We are in a debt crisis created not by Social Security and Medicare, but by spending on “other” priorities: tax cuts for mostly wealthy Americans…seemingly endless federal bailouts—an economy in recession-- And now, with mounting public concern over the projected $1.8 TRILLION current year deficit, federal spending on Social Security and Medicare is being questioned like never before.
Some days it seems like a growing number are joining fiscal conservatives in labeling Social Security and Medicare as economic threats that should be slashed to reduce the federal deficit. Barely a day goes by when someone in the media buys into this false claim to some degree. And at a time when proposals are on the table for dangerous entitlement spending cuts and “reforms”—who will congress be listening to?
Social Security and Medicare—our largest and most successful entitlement programs—did not cause the economic problems we face; however, Social Security and Medicare do need Congress’ priority attention, but not as part of a deficit reduction plan. As critical lifelines for tens of millions of America’s retirees, these programs must not be “lumped” together and subjected to spending cuts to achieve arbitrary budget goals. Social Security’s long-term health relies on a plan that will close-up its long-term gap, not weaken its finances!
And Medicare, with skyrocketing costs driven by privatization and health care inflation, must be strengthened as part of national health care reform – not crippled by spending cuts that hurt beneficiaries! Even still, these facts are falling by the wayside as powerful forces in Washington continue to advance an agenda to unravel our entitlement programs. Fiscal conservatives in Washington are making it increasingly clear: They want to put a large bull’s eye on Social Security and Medicare.
Indeed, this politically influential group of economists, conservative think tanks, and deficit hawks applaud any proposal that includes entitlement cuts. This group said the debt crisis is “an opportunity” to make the case for entitlement cuts. And these proponents of entitlement spending cuts have put big money behind their high-profile campaigns. We cannot begin to match their financial strength, but neither can we afford to retreat from a battle so critical to the well-being of those approaching and those of retired Americans.
Let’s be reminded about Peter G. Peterson, who has poured $1 BILLION into a foundation to “educate” Americans that the government can no longer afford Social Security and Medicare. This is an absolute myth. Other organizations have also followed suit, including the Concord Coalition (founded by none other than Peter G. Peterson) and the Urban Institute—both using the debt crisis as justification to cut entitlements. These dangerous ideas are being fought and staving off harmful proposals—since they began gaining momentum under the Bush Administration. And now, against the backdrop of a $1.8 TRILLION current year deficit that is strangling federal spending, we have to fight harder than ever. This is the one proven way to ensure Social Security and Medicare are protected from proposals that would undermine future benefits.
Opponents of this fight, continue their efforts through the media to convince the public—and, of course, the White House and Capitol Hill –that Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable. Social Security and Medicare did not cause the deficit crisis and must not be sacrificed to solve it; rather, these programs need to be addressed individually and strengthened to meet the future needs of those nearing retirement and of retirees today, and in generations to come!