Social Security, Medicare heading into heavy weather
By Will Parry
Social Security and Medicare are heading into heavy weather.
Dean Baker, the progressive economist, warns that a powerhouse group of CEOs of major corporations are scheming to craft a bipartisan budget package, with cuts to Social Security and Medicare at its core, for enactment by the next Congress.
Baker cited a report in the Washington Post by Steven Pearlstein, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist, spelling out the details.
“Many of the same folks who brought the economy to ruin just a few years ago are now going to come up with a plan that is supposed to set the budget and the economy on a forward path,” Baker said. “At the center of their proposal are big cuts in Social Security and Medicare.”
Pearlstein reports that the CEOs are proposing to change the Social Security cost-of-living (COLA) formula, making the monthly checks increasingly less responsive to inflation year after year. They also want to raise the normal retirement age (already going up to 67) to 69.
As for Medicare, they would raise the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, sentencing millions of oncoming seniors to an additional two years at the mercy of the profit-oriented health insurance market.
The CEOs’ plotting comes as progressive Democrats are increasingly critical of President Obama’s limp defense of the these basic social insurance programs.
“If I were the president, I would come down hard and fast,” Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) said. “Social Security is inviolable.”
Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders also criticized Obama.
“The president of the United States is out there campaigning every day,.” Sanders said… “Have you heard him say very clearly to the American people that Social Security has not caused one penny of the deficit, that Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus, and I, Barack Obama,am going to do everything I canto make sure that we do not cut Social Security, but we figure out a way to extend it for 75 years? Have you heard him? I haven’t heard him. It causes me concern, and I’m chairman of the caucus to defend Social Security.”
During talks last year with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the president reportedly floated a proposal to undercut the Social Security COLA and to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare.
Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, expressed concern that Obama and the Democrats would soften their stance on protecting Social Security and Medicare in anticipation of cutting a deficit deal with Republicans. And Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Democrats need “to be more definitive and stronger” in their defense of the basic programs.