Anti-entitlement members of Congress want President-elect Obama to make a deal
to gain their support for a desperately needed stimulus package. It's a political quid-pro-quo that would trade away long-term benefits for generations of seniors, survivors, the disabled and their families for a short-term economic recovery package desperately needed to reverse the damage of eight years of flawed economic policies.
The trade-off goes something like this...Congress' so-called "fiscal-hawks" will consider supporting the economic stimulus package if
the Obama administration agrees to "entitlement reform"
(translation: cuts to Social Security and Medicare). Of course, Social Security and Medicare didn't create this economic crisis but some view this as a unique political opportunity to sell their entitlement hysteria to the public. The problem is we can't balance the budget on the backs of Social Security and Medicare
According to analysis by the Congressional Budget Office
(CBO), if every so-called "entitlement" in the federal budget were repealed outright - eliminating Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other critical programs - but nothing were done to slow the growth in health care costs overall, we would still find ourselves spending almost 70 percent of the nation's wealth on health care by 2082. It is clear America does not face an entitlement crisis; it faces a health care financing problem.
Contrary to the "fiscal hawks'" claims that Social Security is bankrupt or unsustainable, Social Security
is running a surplus today and will be entirely self-funded until the youngest of the baby boomers are nearly 80 years old. The long-term challenges facing Social Security decades from now can be addressed with modest and manageable changes. The solutions
are apparent. They won't be easy politically but they are not
Healthcare reform, however, is much more complicated and urgent. Under projections by Medicare's actuaries, by 2025 over one-half of the average senior's Social Security benefit check would be consumed on Medicare out-of-pocket costs. However, we cannot address Medicare's fiscal challenges without system wide healthcare reform. Thankfully, Obama's Budget Director Peter Orszag
understands this, even if the anti-entitlement crowd does not. He told Congress:
"The rate at which health care costs grow relative to income is the most important determinant of the long-term fiscal balance; it exerts a significantly larger influence on the budget over the long term than other commonly cited factors, such as the aging of the population."
For many, Social Security and Medicare have provided their only economic stability during this very scary time. Millions of Americans have seen their savings depleted, home equity disappear, and healthcare costs skyrocket beyond their means. We should be looking at strengthening these programs for the long-term not cutting them in Washington's version of "Let's Make a Deal".
President-elect Obama suggests we should not ask, "What's good for me?" but "What's good for the country my children will inherit?" Surely, this economic crisis is proof positive that we desperately need Social Security and Medicare now and
for our children and grandchildren.