Here’s the deal, contrary to all the rhetoric left, right or (sorry, apparently there is no center), both Social Security and Medicare are in trouble. As currently structured they cannot be sustained. The Social Security and Medicare Trusts are being depleted and Medicare Parts B and D are open-ended growing expenses. The Congressional Budget Office projects the Social Security combined Trusts will be depleted by 2029.
Here is another fact, Americans need both programs; we are dependent and addicted to them and that is not going to change.
Democrats on the left are in denial calling proposals to fix the programs killing them or gutting them thereby making serious discussion impossible. For their part Republicans are totally focused on changing future benefits and shifting costs to beneficiaries.
Part of the problem is who should carry the burden of the necessary changes; current beneficiaries, current workers or future generations? A reasonable approach might say some combination of all three. However, the left is focused on taxing only the “wealthy” and the right opposes any tax increases. These are not reasonable times. The majority of Americans not only want the programs saved, they want Social Security improved … but they only want somebody else to pay for it; specifically anyone who earns more than the taxable wage base of $127,200 which by political standards makes you “wealthy.”
These programs, especially Social Security were intended to be self-sustaining; paid for by the recipients, not welfare. Medicare Part A was to be funded by payroll taxes and Part B costs shared between government and beneficiaries with the typical beneficiary paying 25% of the cost, Part D (which was not funded by government) is similar to Part B.
Over the years Congress has tinkered with the programs, improved benefits but has failed to generate adequate funding for fear of riling voters especially seniors.Congress after congress controlled by both parties has ignored the warnings and urging of the Trustees to fix the problems sooner rather than later. This is one area where both parties have equal responsibility for incompetence. Most recently the Obama administration during its first two years missed an opportunity to fix things choosing instead to focus on health care and basically ignoring the problems thereafter. Senator Sanders muddies the waters and misleads Americans by claiming there is no problem with Social Security while calling for added benefits paid for by only 1.5% of taxpayers.
Politicians playing politics are the worst threat to these vital programs. They mislead and lie to Americans, and they repeatedly kick the problem down the road. Sadly, many Americans add to the problem by believing misinformation like Congress stole the Trust money, workers actually paid for their benefits, everything is fine or that foreign aid prevents their COLA from being paid. 😟
The bottom line is that if Americans want these programs, they must pay for them. Payroll taxes are inadequate so we must increase them for all workers and we must also look at the promises we created and decide if they are affordable and sustainable. In other words, we do need a combination of changes affecting every American and we need to take action based on making the programs sustainable not just solvent for the next generation.
It’s not all that hard if we just focus on the truth and the future. and commit to sharing the burden and not turning Social Security into welfare.