In reply to the Oct. 2 letter writer, who believes the primary reason our federal government has a huge deficit is because they spend too much money on social benefit programs:
That deficit was caused mainly by President George W. Bush’s fiscal policies, which turned surpluses developed under President Clinton into deficits. First, he gave huge tax reductions to the wealthiest Americans and powerful corporations.
Second, he started two wars that weren’t paid for.
Third, he introduced a Medicare drug plan that also wasn’t paid for.
The Medicare and Social Security programs the writer attacks are not hand-out programs. They are insurance programs funded by payroll taxes paid during the working years of their beneficiaries; premiums paid by seniors for post-retirement Medicare coverage; and personal income taxes paid on the Social Security benefits they receive.
Medicare has been in effect for nearly 50 years; Social Security, more than 75. All eligible participants have an earned right to receive benefits provided under these nonprofit insurance programs, at a cost considerably less than private plans.
It’s true both face solvency problems. As in insurance actuary, I am fully aware of that fact. However, the solution is not to dismantle them, as certain politicians, like Paul Ryan and Chris Gibson, promote. Like all insurance programs, they need financial shoring up from time to time. That means any combination of future contribution increases and future benefit reductions, as well as investment strategy improvements. It’s the work of actuaries in government and elsewhere to evaluate all financial alternatives, and to present their evaluations to the respective trustees.
Medicare and Social Security have been an integral and essential means of providing security and dignity for seniors. We would be well advised not to dismantle them, but, rather to strengthen them and preserve them well into the future.
Martin J. Weissman