The Senior Issue, by Rich Paschall
Recently a friend of mine commented that if Congress cut Social Security and Medicare, they will see a lot of angry seniors vote them out of office. Many Republicans promised to do just that before the last election. If they have control of both houses, they almost certainly will do it now. The problem here is why would seniors wait to see if something bad is going to happen before taking action?
While seniors historically vote in larger percentage than other age groups, there are still many who stay home as if the election does not matter. Yes, some are physically unable to vote and do not get any help to get to the polls or vote by mail. Others are victims of political actions attempting to deny them the vote. But for many, the excuse is the same as other age groups, “My vote doesn’t really matter.”
Of course it matters. In the coming elections it matters a lot for seniors and those about to reach retirement age. The Republican party has targeted what they term “entitlements” as a reason for the deficit and hope to cut back on them. You may recall, however, this same group of legislatures engineered a massive tax cut that primarily benefited corporations and the one percent, and resulted in a deficit of almost a trillion dollars at this writing.
It is often repeated, but seems to fall on deaf Republican ears, that Social Security and Medicare are not “entitlements.” These programs are not some sort of hand-out to seniors and the disabled. We paid into these programs for all our working lives. We didn’t have a choice, either. We have the right to expect to receive back the pensions (Social Security) and medical coverage (Medicare) we were promised.
Then along came Republican legislators who have their pensions and medical care secured for their retirement, and now plan to cut yours. Their campaign promises should not be dismissed lightly. They are coming after your retirement savings, which they control.
In the federal budget, Social Security, Unemployment and Labor are the largest piece of “mandatory spending.” Military is the largest piece of “discretionary spending.” The military spending for 2016 was 36 percent of the global total, or more than the next 8 nations combined. If you suggest we could cut military spending, Republicans will paint you as un-American.
There is something important to be noted about the Social Security payments. They are covered by the SS Trust Fund. The money we have been paying for years goes into a trust to pay out when you retire.
According to Marketwatch, “For the first time since 1982, Social Security has to dip into the trust fund to pay for the program this year.” If revenue has more than covered payouts for many years, what is the problem, exactly?
No, the feds are not “raiding” or “stealing” from the fund as some suggest. They did that under Reagan. If there were more money, they’d still be “borrowing” it. Note: Do they not understand the concept that “borrowing” implies returning the money at some point?
It also indicates a lack of budgetary knowledge. There are ways to make the fund viable well beyond the projected 2034 date currently being given as when Social Security won’t be able to cover 100 percent of payments. But that’s another issue.
The point of concern for seniors now is that the Republican Congress wants to cut payouts now as if Social Security is adding to the deficit, rather than the loss of revenue due to tax breaks for the very rich.
Republican Ronald Reagan told us that Social Security had nothing to do with the deficit, something current Republicans likely do not want to hear.
In 2017, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, one of the poorest states in the nation, told us that the tax cuts for the wealthy would pay for themselves. Now he says of the increasing deficit “It’s a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.” And according to McConnell those “real drivers” are “Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.”
Really. And all that money we paid in? Where did that go?
In fact, a whole host of leading Republicans have promised to cut these programs as early as next year. There is no reason to believe that they don’t intend to do it. If they have control of both houses, they can fast-track these ideas and cut the social program virtually every administration since Franklin Roosevelt has vowed to protect … except for this one.
If your thoughts are that they would not dare do such a thing to a large voting block, you had better think again. They have shown a willingness to serve the one percent at the expense of everyone else, so why would they not cut these programs if they have the votes to do so? If you are here in the US and are a registered voter, you have a voice in this.
I suggest you use your vote. You may regret sitting out this one.
In order to try to keep the votes of the many seniors who voted “red” last time out, the Republicans are engaging in scare tactics. “The Democrats’ plan means that after a life of hard work and sacrifice, seniors would no longer be able to depend on the benefits they were promised,” President Trump recently wrote for USA Today.
The column, however, was filled with “false and unsubstantiated claims” according to NPR. Of course, that will not matter in Trump country if his followers believe the lies and vote for those who will ultimately cut their benefits.
While I have used this space for social commentary a number of times, I don’t like to give up my Sunday space for a political piece (satire and fiction aside). I thought this was too important to not speak up.
I also didn’t want to make this look like a research paper but I thought it was important to show this was not merely a political rant, but a serious issue for most Americans.
Remember: You may be young now, but you won’t be forever.
Here’s a list of references you can check:
“Dozens of black senior citizens ordered off bus taking them to vote,” October 16, 2018, thehill.com
“Voter-Suppression Tactics in the Age of Trump,” October 29,2018 issue, newyorker.com
“U.S. Budget Deficit Swells to $898 Billion, Topping Forecast,” September 13, 2018, bloomberg.com
“The Top 15 Countries For Military Expenditure In 2016,” Niall McCarthy, forbes.com
“Social Security to tap into trust fund for first time in 36 years,” June 6, 2018, marketwatch.com
“Policy Basics: Understanding the Social Security Trust Funds,” June 29, 2018, Center On Budget and Policy Priorities, cbpp.org
“McConnell eyes cuts to Medicare, Social Security to address deficit,” October 16, 2018, msnbc.com
“GOP Revives Medicare Scare Tactics As Election Nears,” shots, Health News from NPR, npr.org, October 30, 2018.
“Trump’s False Claims On ‘Medicare For All’,” Fact Check, npr.org, October 10, 2018.