Thursday, February 19, 2009

In Defense of Social Security

I think it is time we start working to defend Social Security. This so called "fiscal responsibility summit" is going to be used by some to once again try to destroy social security. Obama has said he wants to "fix" social security, but has not clarified what he means by "fix". If he wants to cut our benefits we need to fight him along with anybody else, democrat or not, who means cutting benefits when they say "reform". Below is a letter I sent to Obama which I think frames the debate as it should be framed.

I intend to modify it slightly so I can send it to my Senator & Representative. We need to start asking our Reps where the stand and finding who supports cutting benefits and who wants to work to maintain or increase them. Don't let them just say they want to reform Social Security. Press them to find out what kind of reforms are necessary.

If you don't think this can happen while the Democrats control the House, Senate & Presidency you need to remember it was Clinton who ended Welfare and passed NAFTA, it was Bush I who raised taxes on the middle class. The elite have a way of getting the Party whose base would most oppose something to pass legislation that directly contradicts the demands of their base. While the base trusts their Party leaders and ignores what they are saying and doing those same leaders write and pass such legislation.

The "fiscal responsibility summit" will take place next week. It is the responsibility of anybody who supports social security to speak up now.

Dear President Obama,

I have read that you are planing to have a "fiscal responsibility summit" early next week. Social Security is sure to be a part of that discussion. I want you to know that I do not believe that there is a Social Security crisis and that cuts in benefits to Social Security recipients and the raising of the age at which future retirees will become eligible for benefits should not even be on the table.

The income to the federal government from the Social Security tax exceeds the benefits paid for Social Security and this will continue to be the case for several years. The fact that current projections claim that benefits will exceed revenues in the not to distant future does not mean that the program is insolvent.

The rest of the Federal government is insolvent. Surpluses generated by the Social Security taxes have been used for decades to cover shortfalls in the rest of the budget. When Social Security attempts to draw on it's reserves it will cause a double budget shortfall. There is no reserve, so the shortfall in SS will have to be covered by the General Fund, and an excess of SS revenues will no longer be available to cover other General Fund expenses.

This is called a Social Security Crisis. But, the crisis is not is the Social Security program and it is not the beneficiaries of Social Security who should bear the brunt of a general budget crisis. For years I have paid into the SS system and I do not feel that the money I will eventually draw in benefits is a gift from the Federal Government. It is a return on my investment in the system. It is not a hand out, it is truly something that I and millions of others are entitled to.

Medicare is a whole different picture. It also is funded by payroll taxes so the two programs often get lumped together. I think for the purpose of your summit next week it is critical the two programs are dealt with separately.

Medicare is truly facing frightening shortfalls caused mostly by run away medical cost and an aging population. Medicare budget concerns can not be solved without addressing the medical delivery system in this country as a whole. I do not know the answer the medical crisis but I do believe that the sooner and more completely we remove private insurance carries from the medical system the better of we will be. I support a single payer health care system and if Congress people want to talk about "fiscal responsibility" that should certainly be part of the discussion.

However, I am not writing to advocate for health care reform, that I believe will be addressed later in your administration. I am writing to advocate against benefit cuts in Social Security. If some Congress people insist on "fixing" Social Security , raise revenues if you must, but do not under any circumstances cut benefits. Eliminating, or raising, the maximum income which are subject to payroll taxes should be the first option considered.

In closing, I want to reiterate the problem is not Social Security. Revenues raised by payroll taxes are not the only revenue to the Federal Government. Since the shortfall is in the general fund, other taxes can be raised to increase cash flow into the general fund.

Leave our Social Security benefits alone.

Thank you for your time and keep up the good work.

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