Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What PEW's Paul Taylor Doesn't Get: NO Social Security or Medicare Cuts Are Needed!

  Paul Taylor is a scribe and authority attached to the Pew Research Center. Taylor is conferred a rousing set of kudos in a recent AARP Bulletin piece (April, p. 12, 'Battle of the Ages')  noting Taylor's role in babysitting for his grand kids, and his wife providing elderly care for her parents - not to mention having one adult child live at home until 30 - and the thrust is that Taylor is "living the next American life".

That is, one in which the generations are actively involved in caring for each other rather than warring with each other for scarce societal resources. Taylor himself is quoted as saying:

"A lot of this is the fruit of good news. More Americans are living longer, healthier lives. Who can be against that?"

Hmmmmm......well, perhaps Taylor himself!

Because when we then turn to the PARADE magazine of this past Sunday we behold the article 'Bridging the Generation Gap' in which Taylor has no problem -  not one - proposing benefits cuts that could hurt ALL generations whose cooperation he so lovingly extols in the AARP piece.

While praising the inter-generational connections (emphasized in the AARP piece) he then goes on to write:

"All those intergenerational good vibrations might help with the hard political bargaining ahead. Social Security and Medicare are the purest expressions in public policy of the idea that, as Americans, we are all in this together. But the programs need to be brought into synch with the new demographics of the 21st century-  and that means some combination of benefits cuts and taxes. Every generation will have to share in the pain."

But this is a false conclusion, since NO generation needs to "share in the pain".  In addition, if Taylor's proposal to cut Social security and Medicare benefits was to get legs, all generations would be in a world of pain! Consider: as the AARP piece notes (ibid.) those benefits monies support nearly a quarter of preschoolers cared for by a grandparent and 1 in 10 who live in a household headed by a grand parent.  Those benefits also help to support 4 in 10 Millennials who - for whatever reason - have to live at home because their job (if they have one) doesn't allow independence.

What the hell does Taylor think will happen if benefits cuts go through? What does he think will happen additionally to the 33 million receiving S.S. benefits who also are caregivers for sick or disabled children, or elderly parents? 

In fact, Taylor has his "bringing in synch to the 21st century"  prescription exactly opposite to what it ought to be: expanding both Social Security and Medicare benefits!

"But wait! Where's the money gonna come from?"

It's going to come from where neither Taylor or the other nattering Neolib nabobs like Robert Samuelson (pilloried in the AARP piece)  have looked: The Military- Security state. While the nabobs bitch that Social security and Medicare are "gobbling" 38% of the annual budget, they are oblivious to the military-defense - security state gobbling up 58%.  A graphic excerpted from an AARP April 2012 issue encapsulates what I am about:

Now, focus on that figure! With seven fewer F-35s that is what could be delivered:  a tablet for every 1st grader. Now consider that the militarists want to build 2,335 of those F-35s at an individual cost now estimated at $150m each and rising - because of cost overruns.

Imagine - if you will - just the money we'd have available if assorted administrations, both Dem and Reep, hadn't plundered the Social Security Trust Fund the past ten years to conceal the size of deficits, so they could squander it on military bullshit (or the security state).  In a previous blog post I did a year by year accounting from 2001 on the monies raided each year-  up to 2008, e.g.

2001    -  $163 billion

            2002   - $159 billion

2003   -$155.6 billion

2004   - $151.1 billion

2005   -$173.5 billion

2006   -$185.5 billion

2007   - $186 billion

2008   $180.2 billion


TOTAL:  $1.353 trillion
It is estimated that over a trillion bucks of that went just for the neocon-inspired wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,  with the Bushie architects trying to conceal the size of the actual deficits by raiding Social Security. NO, he (Bush) didn't think of this tactic on his own, he took a page out of Ronnie Reagan's play book.   The total cost for both occupations, meanwhile, will likely come to $4 trillion. Think of what that money could have done! 
It would not only have ensured the longevity of Social Security and Medicare through the end of the century, but enabled us to expand benefits to more effectively help all the generations that depend on it.  Think also of the money (perhaps $800m) that will  get wasted if the U.S. remains in Afghanistan for another ten years - and then contemplate the savings if the national security state was paired down.
All of this constitutes the sharpest rebuttal to Taylor's claim that the generations need to "sacrifice" via benefits cuts.   It also exposes his next comment for the codswallop it is:
"The longer political leaders shrink from this challenge the more the burden of any solution will fall on the young, who are already fated to get the worst deal of any generation from Social Security and Medicare. In tomorrow's America yesterday's math won't work."
Really, Paul?  If that is so why are you not processing the cancerous malignancy of military spending run amuck, even as it uses Social Security monies to hide the size of deficits?  Not to do so, is to portray a dishonest solution - that the only alternative is benefits cuts to seniors who are already struggling with multiple demands, including caring for preschoolers as well as college students who must live at home.
Taylor is correct that in tomorrow's America yesterday's math won't work, and by that I mean the math for military spending - as the inset box above shows.
Basically then, Americans have one of two choices: continue supporting a massive military interventionist and security state, or preserve future social insurance benefits. The math simply doesn't cover both unless Americans are also prepared to bring back tax rates of 50 percent or more.
As for the math as it pertains to Millennials and Social Security - Medicare, the solution to change the negative outcome is simple: stop raiding Trust Fund monies to spend in general revenues - and what you have taken,  pay back!
And don't use it for the next ten years to support a stupid extension of U.S. presence in Afghanistan!  

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