Only time will tell whether the “reforms” President Obama offered up again in last night’s State of the Union are the standard Washington formulation of reforms = benefit cuts for seniors or something more meaningful. And on the payroll tax, we’ve repeatedly said the White House stimulus strategy is just plain wrong. Here’s what he said about Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid in last night’s speech followed by our reaction:
Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile. People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year. There are plenty of ways to get this done. So let?s agree right here, right now: No side issues. No drama. Pass the payroll tax cut without delay.When it comes to the deficit, we?ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings. But we need to do more, and that means making choices. Right now, we?re poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else ? like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we?re serious about paying down our debt, we can?t do both.The American people know what the right choice is. So do I. As I told the Speaker this summer, I?m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you?re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn?t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn?t go up. You?re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You?re the ones who need relief.
Our President/CEO, Max Richtman responded:
?We share President Obama?s belief that we must rebuild our economy in a way that rewards Americans? hard work and re-instills fairness into an economic system that too often rewards the rich and punishes everyone else. Ironically, these core American values of hard work, fairness and compassion are also the tenets of the programs most often targeted by Washington for cuts?Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. If offering more reforms leads to benefit cuts for seniors in these vital programs then seniors program will once again become a bargaining chip traded in exchange for tax breaks millionaires don?t need in the first place.The President?s support for providing a middle class tax cut to help spur the economy is the right policy, but reducing Social Security payroll taxes is the wrong way to do it. Extending the payroll tax cut further endangers Social Security’s financial integrity and could undermine our efforts to defend the program from benefit cuts or privatization. If seniors are required to pay for the payroll tax holiday — which most would not benefit from ? through Medicare cuts as some lawmakers have suggested, that would also be contrary to the President?s stated goals of fairness. We urge President Obama to safeguard the middle-class by drawing a clear line in the sand,promising the American people that this so-called ?holiday? will end this year. Restoring Social Security?s successful self-funding model is the only way to preserve its independence for future generations.? Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
Meanwhile Republicans are poised and ready to make a “deal” that demands benefit cuts and privatization, coupon care and work til you die. Here’s the GOP response to the President’s State of the Union, replete with dire warnings and fear-mongering the facts, claiming there are only two options for Social Security and Medicare–do nothing (which NO ONE supports) or radical reforms that destroy the programs in their current forms. False options and the same song—102nd verse, taken from the Cato playbook written more than 25 years ago:
“We can preserve them unchanged and untouched for those now in or near retirement, but we must fashion a new, affordable safety net so future Americans are protected, too. […]
?The mortal enemies of Social Security and Medicare are those who, in contempt of the plain arithmetic, continue to mislead Americans that we should change nothingListening to them much longer will mean that these proud programs implode, and take the American economy with them. It will mean that coming generations are denied the jobs they need in their youth and the protection they deserve in their later years.”
Just a reminder: according to the Social Security Trustees the Social Security Trust fund currently has a surplus of $2.6 trillion. This surplus is projected to grow until 2022. At that time the balance in the trust funds are projected to be $3.7 trillion. The skyrocketing costs of healthcaresystem wide have posed a greater threat to Medicare; however, healthcare reform addedyears of solvency to the program. While there’s more work to be done conservatives are now working to undo the progress already made by repealing the Affordable Care Act and reversing the savings already seen in Medicare.