Tag Archives: Medicare

The realism of Berniecare

Ever since Bernie Sanders released details of his single-payer health care proposal recently, critics right and center have been on the attack against his “revolutionary, unaffordable and unachievable” scheme. In fact, for those who truly want to achieve universal, affordable health care, Sanders’ path is the only realistic way forward.

“Be reasonable: demand the impossible.” So said revolutionary Ché Guevara. [NOTE: I’ve since been corrected; the origin of this slogan was not Ché, but a graffiti encountered during the 1968 Paris uprising. Check it out here.] It’s a lesson much of the Democratic Party establishment needs to relearn this election year.

For instance, Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution. One of the country’s top experts on social insurance and health care financing and a smart political observer to boot, Aaron ran a piece in Newsweek recently that took apart presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s health care reform plan as being “radical in a way that no legislation has ever been in the United States,” vague on details, and technically unfeasible. It’s “a health reform idea that was, is, and will remain a dream,” Aaron writes. “Single-payer health reform is a dream because, as the old joke goes, ‘you can’t get there from here.’”

Continue reading The realism of Berniecare

Social Security’s future is being written in the streets of Ferguson

Bernie Sanders’s confrontation with members of Black Lives Matter should teach a lesson to everyone engaged in the struggle to defend Social Security: Unless the campaign for economic equality recognizes the need to prioritize racial equality as well—that racial and economic issues are not separate—preserving and expanding Social Security will become increasingly difficult.

In politics, context is everything. The most passionate advocacy, even for an utterly righteous cause, can sound presumptuous when the advocate ignores another issue more important to the same audience. Witness Sen. John McCain’s recent humiliating treatment by the Navajo, who chased him off their reservation on August 16, when he came to discuss a feel-good memorial to the World War II Code Talkers—but refused to address complaints that he had failed to protect tribal water rights or to oppose a copper mine that’s about to be built on Oak Flat campgrounds, an area of spiritual significance to the Apache.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Sen. Bernie Sanders recently received a similar lesson. On July 18, Black Lives Matter protesters disrupted a Netroots Nation forum in Phoenix Continue reading Social Security’s future is being written in the streets of Ferguson

Social Security’s enemies, in search of the politically “doable”

In Washington, it’s fashionable to bill oneself as a pragmatist, attuned to political realities and more interested in finding politically doable solutions to practical problems than fighting unwinnable wars. But there’s a double standard in what The Village defines as “realistic.”

C. Eugene Steuerle is a bona fide member of the Washington policy elite. A former deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for tax analysis and a longtime fellow at the Urban Institute, he is considered one of the architects of the 1986 tax reform and, on the center-right, a Social Security guru. With two other think-tank researchers, Benjamin H. Harris at the Brookings Institution and Pamela J. Perun of the Aspen Institute, he recently co-authored a major paper for the Pension Research Council at The Wharton School on Social Security and retirement policy, titled “Entitlement Reform and the Future of Pensions.”

Continue reading Social Security’s enemies, in search of the politically “doable”

The Nobody-But-Ourselves-to-Blame Trip

If Americans can’t retire in comfort and relative security, who’s at fault? Increasingly, we’re being conditioned to point the finger at ourselves. It’s a brilliantly underhanded way to keep us from questioning the downsizing of successful, collective programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Every so often, the mainstream media anoints a new public intellectual—the big thinker who explains it all to us in newspaper or Internet columns, bestselling books, or on the Sunday morning chat shows. Sometimes they’re genuinely quite smart and insightful (Paul Krugman, Malcolm Gladwell), sometimes otherwise (David Brooks, anybody?).

The hottest new public intellectual may be Evgeny Morozov, a not-yet-30 scholar who has published two well-received debunking books, The Net Delusion, about the notion that the Internet promotes democracy; and To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, a broader-ranging attack on the belief that smart technologies and Big Data are the ultimate problem solvers.

Both books are needed antidotes to the grandiose claims being made for technology, and To Save Everything, in particular, is of vital importance to anyone concerned about the direction of public discourse on the looming retirement crisis in America. If you only have a few minutes, Continue reading The Nobody-But-Ourselves-to-Blame Trip

Why is “entitlement” such a nasty word?

Since his reelection, President Obama has been talking about “reforming entitlements” every chance he gets –or at least when he’s talking to Republicans. But why – and when – did “entitlement” become such a nasty word?

Since his reelection, the president has been trying hard to have it both ways when it comes to Social Security and Medicare. According to the Huffington Post’s Sabrina Siddiqui, Obama on March 14 assured House Democrats that he won’t “slash” the two programs – moments after a meeting with Senate Republicans at which he reaffirmed his commitment to “reforming” entitlements, including adopting the chained CPI for calculating Social Security and Medicare.

Knowing it was poison to his constituency, Obama had more or less avoided the subject on the campaign trail last year. And as Continue reading Why is “entitlement” such a nasty word?

Teaching Social Security, With and Without Prejudice

A Young Person’s Guide to Social Security is an excellent tool for teaching students and younger workers how the system works and what’s at stake in the struggle over Social Security’s future. But big money is behind “Understanding Fiscal Responsibility,” a competing curriculum that can’t hide its deep ideological bias.

The Social Security wars are fought on many fronts. One of the newest is for the hearts and minds of younger Americans – high school and college students and even young workers. These people – “future decision-makers,” as they’re sometimes called – don’t always have well-developed assumptions about Social Security, Medicare, and related programs. That makes them either a non-factor in the national debate or else a potentially crucial bloc of votes. Some of them will no doubt go on to influential careers in public policy. And so the messages that are fed to them as students could have an enormous impact in future decades.

Two sets of institutions with very different values and priorities have entered the lists with curricula designed to shape young people’s thinking about Social Security, Continue reading Teaching Social Security, With and Without Prejudice

Why You Should Celebrate Social Security’s Birthday on Aug. 14

Social Security’s 77th birthday comes up on Tues., August 14. The Alliance for Retired American is planning events all over the country to celebrate (see details below!). As well it might – Social Security’s benefit checks keep 20 million people out of poverty every year and are helping to prop up consumer spending while the rest of us dig ourselves out of debt. Some people, however, would prefer you stayed home.

I recently spoke with a prominent, U.S.-based money manager for an unrelated project. First, he lambasted the Federal Reserve for keeping interest rates too low, “monetizing the debt,” and preventing a much needed dose of government austerity. Then he told me why Continue reading Why You Should Celebrate Social Security’s Birthday on Aug. 14

“Rebuilding the Foundation” of Social Security, Chapter 1

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, “saving” Social Security doesn’t have to just be about making more fiscally “solvent.” It can also link up with efforts to raise wages, make the program more equitable, and even to start rebuilding the U.S.’s crumbling infrastructure – without privatizing it. In fact, there are a multitude of ways to make Social Security more secure – none of which involve cutting benefits for hard-pressed working people and retirees.

I’m giving over this post to John Burbank, executive director of the Seattle-based Economic Opportunity Institute. He lays out a menu of changes that would improve Social Security benefits and pay for them in a way that would make the program – and its funding – more equitable. I met John at the National Academy of Social Insurance conference earlier this month, Continue reading “Rebuilding the Foundation” of Social Security, Chapter 1

What’s the Matter with Chisago County?

The solid middle class citizens of our economically beset nation are sorry that their growing dependence on government handouts is bankrupting the federal government. If they could possibly send the money back, they would. But they can’t, and so the poor get less. That seems to be the message of a major New York Times feature on the American social safety net. Reading between the lines, it tells us something quite different, and more interesting.

The New York Times ran an informative, engrossing, and very long front-page feature last Sunday on who gets the most from the social safety net. The basic, though muddled, message was that middle class households are sopping up more of what were intended to be anti-poverty programs. In so doing, they’ve become a danger to the nation’s future solvency. But they need the money and don’t know how to stop.

The article misrepresents these programs in a variety of ways – quite a few, in fact. For one thing, it lumps in Social Security and parts of Medicare, which are fully paid for by workers’ contributions, with programs like school lunches, food stamps, and Medicaid, Continue reading What’s the Matter with Chisago County?