By: U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark
Since 1935, Americans have relied on Social Security upon retirement. Today, almost two-thirds of seniors count on Social Security for most of their income and another one-third for the entirety of it. Equally fundamental to the financial protection of seniors is Medicare, which provides access to health care for 49 million Americans annually.
While these programs support the security of our expanding senior population, Republicans are rapidly marching forward with their decades-long campaign to dismantle both. Even more incredibly, they’re using their deficit-exploding tax bill as their justification to do so. The party of so-called “fiscal responsibility” added $2 trillion to the national deficit to pay for the $1.3 trillion in tax cuts they gifted corporations and America’s wealthiest one percent. Now, they want to balance the budget with your hard-earned benefits.
They weren’t shy about this strategy either. Immediately after the tax bill passed, House Speaker Paul Ryan stated, “We’re going to have to get back to entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.”
In June, Republicans released a proposal that would raise the retirement age from 66 to 67 for retirees born after 1960 and prohibit recipients from receiving unemployment benefits and Social Security disability insurance concurrently. It would privatize Medicare replacing the current system with fixed payments that recipients would use to independently purchase health plans. It would also repeal benefit improvements passed as part of the Affordable Care Act, including closing the Part D coverage gap that has saved Medicare beneficiaries more than $20 billion on prescription drugs since 2010.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which is charged with measuring the economic impact of legislation, found that these “reforms” would only cut federal spending if they also increased costs to beneficiaries. The GOP plan would increase the average premium by 50 percent, causing some beneficiaries to purchase private coverage and driving up costs for the oldest, frailest, and most ill. That is, any savings these changes would result in would be at the expense of seniors that simply cannot afford it.
Americans have paid into Social Security and Medicare through a lifetime of work, with the promise that they would be available when they needed them. By labeling Social Security and Medicare as “entitlements” that need to be reformed Republicans are trying to convince us that these lifesavings programs are government hand-outs. In reality, Republicans want to break commitments made through Social Security and Medicare so they can fund the trillions of dollars of giveaways to the super-wealthy and big corporations.
It is true that Americans are living longer and that we need to adapt these programs to better align with our modern economy and demographics. While Social Security has been paying for itself since day one, runs with a $2.8 trillion surplus and is solvent for another 17 years, we do need a long-term plan that ensures generations in the future can rely on this fundamental support system. This process needs to be honest, transparent and reflect the true mission of these programs. Using the GOP tax scam to threaten the livelihood of older Americans is not the way forward.
Congresswoman Katherine Clark represents the Massachusetts 5th Congressional District
Original story here.