As Congress begins its lame duck session, the deficit-crisis drumbeat is thumping at a rapid pace. Both the Washington Post and USA Today pounded their drums for cuts in both Social Security & Medicare in editorials today. Nothing really new there, as the mainstream media continues to be little more than a communication channel for Washington’s billion dollar anti-“entitlement” industry. Media complicity is critical if these deficit scolds have any hope of persuading the average American that he needs to give up the Social Security and Medicare benefits (they’ve paid for) so that the wealthy can keep their tax cuts or pay even less taxes.
NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, wrote a rebuttal to the USA Today editorial. In it he said:
The billion dollar national campaign to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to reduce the deficit is an example of the old political saying: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” America doesn’t face an entitlement crisis. However, cutting benefits for middle-class and poor Americans remains the go-to solution for fiscal conservatives who see the congressionally created “fiscal cliff” as their golden opportunity to target these vital programs.
The true challenges facing our nation include growing our economy, creating jobs and reducing health care costs systemwide (not just in Medicare and Medicaid). This is where the American people want Washington to focus its attention. They made that clear on Election Day.However, many politicians continue to push for cutting Social Security’s earned benefits by raising the retirement age, reducing the cost of living allowance, or changing the benefit formula. That doesn’t create jobs. It doesn’t grow our economy (just the opposite), and it makes it harder for seniors to afford their Medicare coverage. Social Security is prohibited by law from contributing to the deficit and simply does not belong in this debate. Voters of all ages and political stripes understand this and oppose cutting benefits.
The challenges facing Medicare and Medicaid are different. The health care reform law has proved that Medicare can be reformed without hurting beneficiaries. Thanks to health care reform, seniors have saved billions in prescription drug costs and received extra benefits, and Medicare gained eight years of solvency. Ironically, many of Washington’s most vocal fiscal hawks have voted to repeal these reforms, which would have severely worsened our deficit and Medicare’s fiscal health. To control the cost of federal health programs, we must control spending in the entire health care sector.
Congress and the president should listen to the vast majority of Americans who support reforms such as allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs, which would save billions, and lifting the Social Security payroll tax cap, which would solve most of Social Security’s long-term problem. Not surprisingly these proposals, which impact large corporations and wealthier Americans rather than the middle class, are seldom mentioned by the deficit-crisis crowd.
So much for “shared sacrifice.”
Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
Today we also released results from new national polling commissioned by NCPSSM with Lake Research Partners which shows the disconnect between middle-class Americans and Washington on how best to put our fiscal house in order has never been larger.
While many in Congress want to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to reduce the deficit, strong majorities of voters across party lines disagree with that approach.
- 85% of those polled say Social Security and Medicare were important factors in casting their 2012 vote
- By a 3-1 margin, voters overwhelmingly support preserving the traditional Medicare program rather than giving retirees a voucher, even a plurality of Republican voters preferred this approach
- Voters strongly oppose cutting Social Security benefits with 71% opposed to means-testing and 67% opposed to raising the retirement age
- 64% strongly oppose cutting Medicare benefits for future retirees and 59% oppose cutting payments to Medicare providers
While cutting the deficit ranks far below the economy and jobs as a priority for Americans polled, they do support two reforms impacting Social Security and Medicare:
- 64% support raising the Social Security payroll tax cap so that higher income earners contribute on all of their earnings, just as lower wage workers do. That includes 75% of Democrats, 63% of Independents and 54% of Republicans
- 86% of those polled want Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, saving the program billions of dollars each year.
The National Committee also delivered letters from more than 100,000 members and supporters nationwide urging their representatives to reject middle-class benefit cuts in the name of deficit reduction are also being delivered to Congress this week.
It’s not too late for you to join our letter campaign. Just go online here and we’ll connect you with your members directly via email. You can also send our petition from the same link.