Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Leave Social Security & Medicare ALONE!

Well, eventually it had to come and it has. Even as the (much needed) $787 billion stimulus package passed last year, I worried the "chickens would come home to roost" and that it - along with other accumulated deficits (mainly from Bush Jr's 2001 tax cuts for the wealthiest, and 2 wars of choice) would leave a "deficit dragon" that hawks would feel the need to pare down. Now, it seems the target sights are set on Social Security and Medicare, the two biggest jewels in the "entitlement" crown.

Not long ago, Obama issued an executive order to form an 18-member commisson tasked with slashing the current deficit down to 3% of GDP over the next five years. That's a lot of slashing, though it may not seem so. Given that the Greek situation (over $140 billion bailout by eurozone members - with punishing cuts to come) is still in bond traders' eyes (as well as national leaders' heads) it makes sense that the two remaining leading candidate debt nations (the U.S. and U.K.) would be looking at programs of austerity.

My question is: Why does it seem the austerity always has to fall on the most vulnerable and weakest members of society? Why not the rich grubbers who've been awarded the equivalent of a new Lexus each year, thanks to Bush's tax cuts?

But no, it seems the main hotshots on Obama's commission are sharpening their knives to go after the programs most people need. (Especially after the 2008 credit-financial meltdown wrought havoc with their savings). Just days after his commission appointment, brash loudmouth and Co-Chair, Alan Simpson told CNBC:

"We're gonna stick with the big three. We're gonna stick with entitlements, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This is the big three. This is what the President has suggested."

First, I seriously doubt that Obama "suggested" any such thing. If in fact he has, he's got political rocks in his head. A Democratic president enabling the slicing of the foremost programs (initiated by a Dem icon, FDR) would be tantamount to ultimate betrayal. The Dem faithful would never tolerate it, and Obama would pay dearly at the polls in 2012 (mainly by virtue of the faithful not being energized enough to turn out). So one hopes this is just Simpson shooting his fat yap off again.

Second, the entire supposition is preposterous, since neither Medicare nor Social Security caused today's historic deficits. One can rank the culprits in order from the time Bush Junior got shoehorned into office by the Treasonous Five on the (then) Supreme Court in 2000:

1) Bush's 2001 tax cuts ($1.7 trillion) and 2002 tax cuts (over $0.7 billion). The idiotic claims at the time surfaced the tax cuts would actually generate revenue via supply side hokum, but that never happened.

2) The launching of the pre-emptive "wars" (actually occupations) in Afghanistan and Iraq now add up to over $2 trillion with another $175 billion or so to be approved for operations in the next few months. Instead of raising taxes to pay for these expensive adventures, Bush just told people to "shop" and all will be well.

3) The 2003 Medicare law which was actually a thinly masked, backdoor privatization plan, with most of the money-benefits going to Big Pharma and insurance companies. Estimated add on to the deficit: $1 trillion. This "entitlement" was actually more for private companies than seniors- who are still being trapped in the odious "donut hole" because congress lacked the cojones to demand the government be allowed to bargain for lowest drug prices (like the VA) or that re-importation of much cheaper Canadian drugs be allowed. A total sellout to Big Pharma!

4) The 2008-2009 bank bailouts -stimulus package, together adding nearly $1.5 trillion to the deficit.

In NONE of these were Social Security or Medicare contributory factors. In (3) the private (Medicare Advantage) plans were the beneficiaries, since standard Medicare (sponsored by the government) was forced to cough up an additional $12 billion per year to fund the private plan. (The GAO estimated that Medicare itself would become "insolvent" much earlier because of this private parasite, blelding off excess funds)

Indeed, Social Security monies were raided each year from 2002 on to help pay for the military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, in order to disguise the magnitude of the deficit. Of course, this trick had been used since Ronald Reagan did it in 1983- 86.

And then blowhards like Alan Simpson have the absolute chutzpah to make ignorant remarks like:

"Where does this howling come from? These people (seniors) don't care a whit about their grandchildren, not a whit!"

Howling? HOWLING? Of course, if the former Senator from Wyoming could have briefly extracted his cranium from where the Sun doesn't shine, he'd have realized how asinine that statement is. It's precisely because the elderly have seen how critical those programs are to them, that they realize how critical they'll be to their grandchildren - who in an ongoing debt-leverage environment, with lower GDP and fewer jobs, will have even less.

It's convenient for fiscal demagogues and deficit hawks, however, to portray seniors as blood sucking parasites, feasting on the bones of their kids and grand kids. It plays to the ignorant masses, like tea-baggers, for whom the siren song is "Less Government! Less Government!" Righto, except for them!

Right now, those of us who belong to activist organizations (like the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare) , are ready to fight tooth and nail against any proposed cuts to those sacrosanct programs. In the meantime, I recommend to all fellow progressives that they mark who - which culprits- appear to be going along with this charade to cut SS and Medicare, and ensure they're voted out of office in the next election cycle.

Cut the deficits, sure, but not over the backs and vulnerable bones of seniors! You can start by not re- funding that stupid and ill-conceived occupation in Afghanistan. One epitomized by the punting and walking out of the Korengal Valley, leaving it to the Taliban.

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