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Let's Rethink Aging

What a wonderful challenge and theme for this year's Joint Conference of the American Society on Aging and the National Council on Aging!

Nearly 4 thousand professionals in the field of aging are in Chicago today for the two day event. This is a huge gathering of some of the America's best thinkers on aging policy. They're challenging themselves to think broadly and creatively about our aging nation. James P. Firman, President and CEO of NCOA says:

"This conference presents an opportunity to rethink the possibilities of an aging society, to reassess and reaffirm our commitment to improving the lives of older adults and strengthening communities. As the American population ages rapidly in the coming years, it will be especially important for professionals in aging to develop new strategies for helping those with the greatest needs."

Our own President/CEO, Barbara Kennelly, was honored this morning with the American Society on Aging's 2007 ASA Award. Barbara also presented a special lecture with NCPSSM board member Dr. Carroll Estes , PhD entitled: “The Politics of Social Security and Medicare Privatization. Details are in this News Release.

"60 Minutes" Hops on the Bandwagon

It's hard to describe our current budget picture in 10 minutes or less...we understand that challenge. But it would've been nice if Sunday's 60 Minutes piece hadn't jumped so fully in lock-step behind the administration's "we can't afford our seniors" line. While Comptroller General David Walker acknowledged the critical role that skyrocketing healthcare costs play in all of this, the discussion of tax cuts and deficit spending were, once again, glossed over.

Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research wrote a terrific post about it last night.

It's a matter of priorities...

by Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO (bio)

President Bush’s ongoing campaign to convince Americans we “can’t afford” our aging population continues with new claims of economic gloom and doom…unless we cut Social Security.

We should not confuse the fact that there will be more retirees in the future with the notion that benefits are too high and should be cut. The average Social Security retiree check – right now – is just over $1,000 a month. Could you live on $12,000 a year? Yet, 20 percent of Social Security beneficiaries do just that. For 2 out of 3 retirees, Social Security is most of their income.

The fastest growing part of the federal budget isn’t Social Security and Medicare…it’s the interest on the debt which has grown by nearly $3 trillion in just the last 5 years. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and the Iraq War have dramatically increased the federal debt and seniors are being asked to pay the price.

We need to get our immediate fiscal problems under control so that we will be in a position to strengthen the Social Security and Medicare programs, not privatize or destroy them in the name of “entitlement reform”.

A Contrarian View

New York actuary, David Langer, adds his voice to the chorus of others like economist Dean Baker who've tried and tried to provide some desperately needed perspective in the "entitlement reform" campaign. The Christian Science Monitor wrote today about Langer's view that now is the time to improve benefits...not cut them.

"The New York actuary's opinion runs contrary to the standard view in Washington. Both conservatives and liberals tend to talk about how to "reform" the system by trimming its long-term costs. Otherwise, it's argued, the cost of benefit payments from Social Security and Medicare will become overwhelming as baby boomers retire. By contrast, Mr. Langer urges making Social Security benefits much more generous to provide safe and adequate pensions, even if payroll taxes must rise."

In other words, we can afford an aging population if we'll only confront our long-term funding issues honestly without a crisis mentality.

"Kogan wants to make clear that there is no general "entitlement crisis." Medicare and Medicaid costs are growing rapidly as healthcare costs escalate."

We can't continue to ignore the tougher issue of healthcare reform (which might hurt insurers' bottom line) in favor of benefits cuts (which certainly hurts seniors and their families)under the guise of "entitlement reform". The goal should be strengthening Social Security and Medicare, not cutting these programs just as we need them most.

Fiscal Wake-up Tour

Here's a letter to the editor Barbara wrote after reading the Boston Globe editorial on the "Fiscal Wake-up Tour".

Fiscal priorities
February 25, 2007

If we're really going to have an "honest discussion" about our nation's current budget mess, as suggested in Scot Lehigh's Feb. 16 op-ed, "Fiscal wake-up tour's inconvenient truth," those leading the discussion should be honest about their ultimate goals.

Contrary to claims by Comptroller General David Walker and conservative think-tankers, Social Security and Medicare are not responsible for our budget deficit. President Bush inherited a surplus and a Social Security trust fund built up in preparation for baby boomers' retirement. Six years later, after billions in tax cuts, an unfunded war, and a Republican-led Congress that followed the president's "borrow and spend" lead, we now face record deficits. Washington will have to make difficult choices to repair the fiscal damage. But serious healthcare reform and strengthening Social Security should be the priorities, not destroying these successful programs that are critical to any strong industrialized nation.

The writer is CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.



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