Our most visible opponent in the budget showdown is the deficit hawk group “Fix the Debt” founded by Alan Simpson (former Republican Senator from Wyoming) & Erskine Bowles (North Carolina Democrat who was a major figure in the Clinton administration). These two were co-chairs of Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.
This so called “bipartisan” group and plan elevates debt reduction as the single most important problem facing the US. In fact it is in large part a cover story for an attack on the programs that benefit ordinary people: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Here is their list of “bad things about the fiscal cliff package”
- Does not put in place the measures necessary to stabilize the debt as a share of the economy, let alone reduce it
- Does not include any serious entitlement reforms or set up a clear process for considering such reforms even though rising health costs remain our largest single fiscal challenge and Social Security is on a road toward insolvency
- Does not include a process to enact pro-growth and revenue generating tax reforms
- Does not specifically offset the costs of the tax extenders or UI benefits, setting a bad precedent for future extensions
We have to do our best to explain that Social Security does not contribute to the national debt, that it is not about to be insolvent, and that changes in demographics can be taken into account without raising the eligibility age above the already high 67 years for younger people or fiddling with the cost of living adjustment. Debate about Social Security is not part of the debate about the deficit.
Health care costs are a problem. Medicare and Medicaid need to be part of a larger reform of health care in the United States. Fix the Debt proposals would impose cuts on these programs and almost all of us will suffer. Obamacare needs to be turned into “Medicare for All.” We cannot have real reduction in health care costs by simply cutting benefits and forcing people to pay more or suffer untreated. The health care system needs reform and that reform is not simply deficit reduction.
We’ve paid Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes from our pay checks for years. We have a right to the benefits. The wealthy want to reduce the benefits because they don’t want to pay back what they owe. The Social Security surplus is invested in US government bonds. The money was used fighting two wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, maintaining the largest military in the world, corporate welfare, and providing a stimulus in 2009 that kept the “Great Recession” from turning into the 2nd Great Depression. If the money flows back to Social Security, it has to come from somewhere, i.e., taxes. The elite don’t want to pay for the stuff government has been buying, they want us to pay for it so their taxes can be low. Social Security should be paid for by Social Security taxes, as it is. Wars should be paid for by war taxes, as they are not.
We can choose, do we want to spend our wealth on taking care of people or waging war and privatizing all social welfare?