By Mary Johnson, editor
A group of lawmakers in the U.S. House recently announced they are working on plans to reform Social Security and Medicare, according to a recent story appearing in The Wall Street Journal. The House Freedom Caucus, made up of 40 conservative House Republicans, intends to draft a plan overhauling both Social Security and Medicare within the first 30 days of returning to Capitol Hill. If successful at hitting the 30 day target, that would likely set a record — considering such efforts have repeatedly stymied hundreds of lawmakers of both parties, numerous commissions, and policy groups over the past two decades.
In his statement to The Wall Street Journal, House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (NC) said swift action was necessary because, “there was no guarantee Republicans would maintain their control of both the House and Senate beyond the next two years, pressuring them to move quickly, particularly on fiscal issues.” He also noted, “The trust level among the American people is minimal and it’s up to us to try to accomplish many things.”
Indeed, Rep. Mark Meadows is 100% correct. The trust level for lawmakers in Congress is minimal among the U.S. public. This is particularly so when Members rush to push through controversial massive changes in record time and make surprise cuts in secret budget deals. No less than 60 million people depend on Social Security for retirement and disability income as well as Medicare for their healthcare. Any proposals to change either program need to be bipartisan, considered with fair and open debate, and reflect the wishes of a majority of constituents and voters — not used as a means to cram though one side’s fiscal dogma.
The average Social Security benefit of people age 65 and older is just $1,225 a month— just 25% above the federal poverty level. There’s no denying that both Social Security and Medicare need changes to provide greater program solvency in the future. Yet the legislation that House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson put forward last year relied solely on a massive $13.9 trillion in benefit cuts to achieve program solvency without providing any new revenue sources. In fact, that bill would end an important source of revenue currently received by the Social Security without replacing it — making deeper benefit cuts necessary to replace it.
In like manner, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan for Medicare would also end a recent source of Medicare revenue, which would make the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund go insolvent sooner. Both these plans would hang older Americans out to dry with lower benefits, and saddle all beneficiaries with significantly higher Medicare costs. That would force a lower standard of living on today’s and tomorrow’s beneficiaries.
What can you do to get involved?
Then let us know what you think by taking TSCL’s 2017 Annual Senior survey seniorsleague.org/2017survey.
Sources: “GOP’s Freedom Caucus Wants Quick Action on Social Security and Medicare,” Kristina Peterson and Nick Timirasos, The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2016.