01 February 2010

The Deficit and Seniors

We are entering a period in which budget cutting and reducing the federal deficit will become the knee-jerk watch words of politicians of all stripes. Seniors, whose life experiences have taught them the dangers of careless budgeting, are very uncomfortable with our country's large deficits and do not want to leave behind such debt to burden our children and grandchildren.

At the same time, we know that the programs which provide safety-nets and safe and secure retirements for Older Americans did not create those deficits. Reckless, neo-liberal economics with their unconscionable tax breaks to the very wealthy and large, stateless corporations combined with two unfunded and unnecessary wars did that.

You can expect politicians mouthing the budget and deficit buzz words to utter in their next breath "entitlements" which freely translates to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Already the way is being paved with virtually daily dire warnings about Social Security and Medicare bankruptcy and collapse. Do not expect them to go after giant corporations with no national boundaries or loyalties beyond unrestrained and unregulated growth and profit. They will target the quick and simple and will promise that their cuts will not affect today's seniors, only coming generations whose very participation threaten to bring down these vital programs from their sheer number.

Seniors need to be aware of this and be prepared to once again fight for the welfare and protection of our children and grandchildren with exactly the same zeal with which we staved off Bush's coterie of liars, thieves, cut-purses and mendicants when they attempted to purloin Social Security and sneak off with it to give to Wall-Street speculators under the mantle of "privatization".

Right now, even with these programs, too many seniors struggle to get by and we do not want to see future generations of Americans loose these essential support systems.

Take, for example, the Social Security Trust Fund. Despite what you may have heard or read from conservatives, it is actually running a surplus, and would have an even greater surplus had not our government raided it for other purposes.

Medicare costs have risen and continue to rise because health care costs continue to spiral upward, virtually out of control, making even richer the massive insurance and drug companies which profit from our illnesses, conditions and accidents. The simple truth is that unscrupulous "for-profit" health care providers have exploited and cashed in on a program originally designed to keep America's seniors and retirees from economic catastrophe in their later years.

Today 50-million Americans receive monthly Social Security benefits and 90% of those are 65 and older. Tragically one-in-five of recipients have only that monthly benefit to look forward to in order to buy food, shelter, and medication.

These programs are the bedrock of income security for nearly all Americans, providing guaranteed benefits to retirees, those with disabilities, and the survivors (widows and children) of retired and deceased workers. They are essential to the well-being of our nation and must be honored for present and future generations of Americans.

Seniors should urge congress to strengthen--not weaken--retirement savings including private pensions and 401Ks while, at same time, protecting them from the predatory recklessness of Wall Street financiers. We, must also demand that congress pass a strong health reform bill ASAP to break the hold on health care by the insurance Tsars and drug oligarchs. We're living the results of their unchecked decade of greed!

We must also insist that serious action be taken to properly fund these life-support programs by properly taxing the wealthiest Americans who benefit the most from capitalism and we should demand an exploration of the ways to raise the wage cap on social security taxes. Right now, a millionaire pays no more in Social Security taxes than does a working family earning $106,000.

The message is really quite simple: Do not balance the budget on the backs of America's seniors!


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