FLORIDA, September 7, 2012 — The Republican and Democratic national conventions make it blindingly clear that this is shaping up to be the most vapid campaign season in recent memory.
While the Democrats were far more immersed in rhetoric than their Republican counterparts, both sides did little more than espouse platitudes about the tough issues. With the Great Recession still rolling along and our country’s social fabric being stretched to the limit, the American public deserves better than this.
Consider two subjects which are both timely and of the utmost substance: Social Security and Medicare.
Since Paul Ryan proposed his federal budget last year, it has become a policy lightning rod. According to Henry Blodget in Business Insider, under the Ryan plan Medicare would be reformed so that the elderly will receive a voucher for a healthcare policy of their choice from a private insurance company. No one currently over 55 would be required to switch from the current Medicare arrangement to the voucher system.
Under other circumstances this might not be a bad idea. The problem arises a bit further down the line when Ryan’s budget calls for the disassociation of the vouchers’ values from the inevitably rising cost of insurance policies. This will save the Feds a great deal of money in the long run, but leave seniors responsible for making up the balance.
This could lead to financial disaster for the elderly, which would eventually trickle over to the rest of us. Seniors would not contribute to our nation’s economy like they do now, forcing small businesses to either face hardships or fail outright. That would leave millions unemployed.
It is difficult to even comprehend the ludicrous nature of Ryan’s raising the eligibility age for Social Security benefits. As United States citizens are left with no other option than to support the program, why should those under the age of fifty-five have to wait several additional years before retrieving their hard-earned money?
Are we in some sort of underclass compared to our older, and undoubtedly wiser, counterparts? Of course not. This is the land of equal opportunity. If the age brackets in place are good enough for today’s seniors, then they are most certainly good enough for us, too.
That does raise the question, though, of how to secure funding for Medicare and Social Security during the years ahead. Something must be done — but what, exactly? The answer is surprisingly simple. Since these programs’ inceptions during the New Deal era, the funds which their proceeds created have been pillaged by politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and continuing to Barack Obama, presidents and congresses have had absolutely no qualms about stealing the money of their constituents. The loot has gone to fund everything from miniscule pet projects to ill fated schemes such as Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. Legislation must be passed which would make it illegal to use tax dollars collected for either Medicare or Social Security on anything other than those specific programs.
If this were done, the federal government’s fiscal house could be put in order and then — only then — should a national discussion on budgetary matters take place. We must reach Point A to arrive at Point B and, quite frankly, both Congress and the President are not even one tenth of the way to A.
How sad that is for their constituents, that is, us.
Right-wing schemes to recklessly privatize Medicare are a path to anything but prosperity. Likewise, left-wing notions of millionaire-style Social Security benefits and a universal health care program to top this off are comically unrealistic.
In order to keep Social Security and Medicare alive, politicians from both parties will have to put problem solving ahead of pandering. They will have to consider reason instead of emotionalism. Most all, however, they will have to place the interests of their constituents above those of their careers.
None of this is very likely. Oh, well. Now we can get back to shilling for the DREAM Act and protesting Roe v. Wade, even though that last one was settled almost forty years ago.
An absurd number of voters, even as their prospects for a reasonable retirement dim, would like to do nothing more. The politicians who have manipulated them for generations on end could not be any happier.
Much of this article was first published as Telling It Like It Is: Medicare, Social Security, and the Problems With Both on Blogcritics.org
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