Archived Story

Citizens fight to save programs

Published 9:59am Thursday, December 13, 2012

All over America, including Ohio, citizens are rallying to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from unnecessary cuts that will hurt millions of ordinary people.

The fear is that these vital programs will be scapegoated in Washington as the politicians grapple with a national debt caused by past tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Social Security has been with us for 76 years, created by President Roosevelt and the Congress in 1935. It saves millions of people from starvation and homelessness — people used to literally go to the poorhouse when they got too old to work.

We pay into the system when we work, and when we reach retirement age we can draw a pension — which we’re “entitled” to because we invested in it. It’s not charity or welfare. It’s an earned pension, which averages about $1,200 a month.

Social Security does not add anything to the deficit. Experts agree it will be able to pay out all required benefits for at least several decades. It has already been “fixed” in 1983, when the retirement age was upped from 65 to 67 and public workers had their earned Social Security benefits cut in half because they also earned benefits from public retirement.

Those who want to raise the retirement age to 70 are probably thinking of the easier “work” of politicians or pundits, not truck drivers, nurses or airline pilots.

So what’s the problem? Why would politicians want to cut benefits, raise the retirement age, or kill it altogether, to be replaced by a system of gambling our pension money in the stock market?

Whenever you face a political puzzle like this, it’s always good to follow the money. In this case, it leads back to the bankers and investors, and those politicians who represent them in Congress.

They want to cut back or end the program so that we’d all have to buy more of their risky stock deals. In fairness, some of them probably believe their own rhetoric, but that doesn’t make their cuts and privatization ideas more fair or helpful to working people.

Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965 by President Johnson and the Congress as a way to provide health care and nursing home funding for retired people. In addition, Medicaid provides modest benefits to some low income families. Employees pay into the Medicare fund, and then receive health care benefits after age 65.

The problem? Even though Medicare and Medicaid are efficient, their costs are going up because health care costs generally are going up, for a variety of reasons. Part of the problem is the Medicare drug plan, part D, set up in 2003 by President Bush and the Congress, which prohibits Medicare from negotiating discounts from the drug companies.

Also, we’re an aging population finding more ways to treat or cure illnesses we previously couldn’t. But that’s expensive. Twice as expensive in the U.S. as in Europe and Canada. Our private insurance system, with all the advertising, huge executive salaries, profit, and mountains of paperwork is very wasteful.

The Affordable Care Act —Obamacare — can lower costs by getting more people paying into the system, getting folks to doctors instead of emergency rooms, and by providing preventive benefits such as annual check ups. It also cuts costs by reducing waste and fraud in the system.

But the act doesn’t fully kick in until 2014, and Congress has to make a decision about taxes and budgeting by the end of this year, or across-the-board increases in taxes and mandatory cuts will occur in a misguided effort to reduce our national debt.

The debt can be reduced by growing the economy and raising taxes on the wealthy, back to where they were in the Clinton years, producing considerable revenue. And, we can cut costs in the military, now that the Iraq war is over and Afghanistan is winding down.

This is what we voted for in November, and hopefully the Congress will enact the will of the people. Cutting old age pensions and reducing health care coverage are not humane answers to our fiscal problems. Citizens are demanding to be heard.

 

Jack Burgess is a retired teacher and native of southern Ohio. He served on the Ohio Governor’s Commission on Healthcare Cost Containment.

 

 

 

 

The Tribune believes it is possible for people with a variety of points of view to discuss issues in a civil manner and will remove comments that, in our opinion, foster incivility. We want to encourage an open exchange of information and ideas. Responsibility for what is posted or contributed to this site is the sole responsibility of each user. By contributing to this website, you agree not to post any defamatory, abusive, harassing, obscene, sexual, threatening or illegal material, or any other material that infringes on the ability of others to enjoy this site, or that infringes on the rights of others. Any user who feels that a contribution to this website is a violation of these terms of use is encouraged to email report-comments@irontontribune.com, or click the "report comment" link that is on all comments. We reserve the right to remove messages that violate these terms of use and we will make every effort to do so — within a reasonable time frame — if we determine that removal is necessary.

  • mikehaney

    BILLCO-Until people get their heads out of their backside and make these people subject to social security and medicare like the rest of us they will keep robbing us blind just like they have been doing for years.
    —————-
    You got that right!!

    (Report comment)

  • mickakers

    Jack Burgess; Thank you for a caring and enlightening article. As an interesting side-note, after turning 65 and receiving the benefits of Medicare, you still pay into it. I pay $99.90 a month at the present time. I receive my pension from Federal Railroad Retirement after working and paying into it for 42 years.

    (Report comment)

  • BILLCO

    Why would the politicans care what happens to us, we vote these crooks into office, and they lie and steal all they can, and when they come out of office they have a retirement the same as their pay while in office. they are not subject too medicare or social security, they have full coverage under a plan thought up and voted in by themselves. Until people get their heads out of their backside and make these people subject to social security and medicare like the rest of us they will keep robbing us blind just like they have been doing for years.

    (Report comment)

  • Bluemule

    I find it ironic that the same generation of folks who were making all the big trade deals possible back in the early 90′s (sending all the good jobs with good benefits elsewhere…just as their retirement age was in view) are now ready to raise the retirement age and cut benefits for those of us who will retire in the future. They have never been able to look ahead beyond the end of their noses….all those good jobs they used to have could have stayed here and allowed current workers to have had the income levels to support social security and medicare.

    (Report comment)

Editor's Picks