Social Security and Medicare Is on the Ballot, Don’t Be Fooled by Mixed Messaging

No other issue but Americans’ unwavering support for Social Security and Medicare has managed to bring our nation together, even now in our hyper-toxic, hyper-divisive political landscape.

It’s clear why AARP is known in D.C. as the most powerful lobbying group in the United States. Social Security and Medicare are considered the most important government programs and receive near-universal support in the high 90s-percentile, according to polls.

The electorate who supports Social Security and Medicare transcends all political divisions, representing Democrats, Republicans and independents. This electorate transcends identity politics of race, gender, sexual orientation, ideology and economic class. This electorate is the true reflection of “united” in the United States of America.

No other issue but Americans’ unwavering support for Social Security and Medicare has managed to bring our nation together, even now in our hyper-toxic, hyper-divisive political landscape.

And this massive support for Social Security and Medicare has managed to minimize the influence — to a degree but with few exceptions — of lobbyists and corporate special interests on government in ways unseen. It has been done so successfully since the two entitlement programs were created decades ago.

This is extraordinary in the history of politics in this country. It is the rarified double rainbow hoovering over Congress’ dark clouds.

But make no mistake. There have been powerful efforts to privatize parts of Social Security. And corporate interests have had penetrating effectiveness in the Medicare program as Medicare Advantage (a private, pseudo-government enterprise) gains strength, undermining the true intent of Medicare’s founding principles.

Why the success of Social Security and Medicare?
Biology, vulnerability, morality and fairness – all play important roles in protecting and defending Social Security and Medicare.

In our inescapable aging process that we are universally beholden to biology, at some point our physical bodies are no longer able to keep up with productivity, which gives way to a vulnerability we all must face.

Productivity is the driving force of our economic system and it’s unforgiving except in the case of aging and its universality. The second point of universality is a significant one because rest assured if there were ways for more of us (no longer near-universal) to circumvent this vulnerability – it’s highly likely Social Security and Medicare would not receive the near 100% support they are getting.

It can be argued there are a few in society who are wealthy enough and therefore not exposed to “financial” vulnerability in old age (which explains the 1 or 2 percent who say that Social Security and Medicare entitlements are too much). But this is where the moral aspect, namely compassion and empathy, manifests in policy. There is still a remnant of healthy tribalism and survival as a species phenomenon that will find it moral to ensure our vulnerable in society (seniors) will be taken care of.  Children are also vulnerable but are far more likely to be cared for by their parents than seniors being taken care of by their adult children.

The last point: Social Security and Medicare programs themselves as a system is a fair one. It’s smartly designed that in our younger more productive years we deposit our money into a system from which we can enjoy the dividends later in our older and less productive years. It’s a fair system worth keeping and defending.

Disturbing proposals
In spite of Social Security and Medicare’s near universal support, there are attempts to change parts of these programs in harmful ways.

The raising of the eligibility age for Social Security (proposed by Republicans in Congress) from currently 62-67 years old (partial benefits), 70 years old (full benefits) to age 70 and higher under the justification that our population is living longer is simply a ruse and should rouse adamant rejection.

Average life expectancy does not equal healthy life expectancy. Unless scientists have come up with some elixir to make the two indistinguishable that argument falls flat and should be discarded without consideration.

A second proposal – also floated by Republicans – is to change limiting and phasing out “auxiliary benefits” for those beneficiaries’ spouses and dependents. This is an assault on the traditional family who enjoys the lifestyle of an at-home mother raising her children full-time while her husband works. This proposal would upend the auxiliary benefit of Social Security being passed on to this mother who has dedicated her lifetime to receive her husband’s partial Social Security that he earned. We all know the value of a mother’s care in both a working-mother and traditional family set up. We also know the value of husband-and-wife teamwork in raising a family. That stay-at-home mother fairly earned part of her husband’s Social Security, whether he is alive or has passed on.

The last proposal by Republicans of restructuring Medicare premium support subsidies for either traditional Medicare or private Medicare Advantage plans is so vague that it could mean anything. In other words, Medicare as is, could be open to minor or dramatic changes if Republicans have their way.

Voting is usually not based on a single issue. Social Security and Medicare tend to be the top or near-top deciding factor among seniors and near-seniors. We recommend that you do your homework, be informed and vote. If protecting Social Security and Medicare is your top priority, give your federal representatives a call and let them know what matters to you. Social Security and Medicare must be protected.

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