Social programs must be continued

Aaron Loudenslager

The 2010 election can be described in stereotypical political terms, at least in a few political races around the country. It is simply progressive Democrats verses reactionary Republicans.

Progressive means to advance, or move forward, including advancing new ideas and policies, whereas reactionary means to go back to the ways of the past. Some Republican candidates have chosen this reactionary path, deciding to attack the historic programs of Social Security and Medicare passed by FDR and Lyndon B. Johnson. We must stand up for these social programs that are under attack.

Paul Ryan, from my home state Wisconsin and is the brainchild of the so-called “road map.” His map is an alleged proposal to eliminate the federal deficit and balance the congressional budget. I’m not quite sure where this map eventually leads to, except possibly to a risky endeavor. His road map includes “eventually adding private accounts to Social Security” and “giving seniors subsidies to buy private [health] insurance.”

This sounds like beautifully crafted semantics that are intended to make the privatization of Social Security and Medicare not sound so bad, when in reality, this is an atrocious policy suggestion that would undo all the things our grandparents fought so hard for.

Social Security was created to make sure that those who were disabled, living in poverty, unemployed, or elderly would be protected from the vulnerability of their position. In the case of Social Security for the elderly, it keeps people from having to work until their death simply because they needed money to feed themselves. This legislation allows people to retire at a reasonable age, so they aren’t required to work themselves to death when they were no longer physically able.

We collectively decided as a society that we had a responsibility to our citizens in these various situations. With this same type of idea, Medicare was passed under President Johnson to provide the medical needs of our seniors. Medicare and Social Security may be the best two programs the United States has.

Now the reactionaries are ready to privatize Medicare and Social Security, and it’s not just Paul Ryan. Dan Benishek is currently running for Bart Stupak’s old 1st District seat in Michigan for the U.S. House of Representatives and he embodies these same reactionary positions. In an Escanaba candidate forum he stated that “I agree that privatizing Social Security and Medicare is the only way to do it,” and in a Sons of Liberty radio talk show interview he also stated, “The whole Social Security thing is just a disaster. That’s an unfunded mandate.”

They may think that privatization will fix a “supposed” Social Security crisis. First off, there is no crisis. According to the CBO, payouts to recipients will equal that of revenues from payroll taxes in 2052. Also, with no change in current benefits, the federal government would only need to spend an extra 0.54 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to keep Social Security solvent.

Privatizing Social Security means that instead of investing in U.S. Treasury bonds, your money will be invested in the stock market. This means that if the complex financial derivative market ever collapses like it did in 2008 again, your investments will be entirely destroyed, making your retirement prospects dim at best. This policy would help Wall Street, but hurt Main Street. So much for “Enough is Enough.”

Our health care system ultimately has only one long-term solution. Medicare is a single-payer health care system, but only citizens age 65 and older are eligible. We need to extend Medicare to each and every one of our citizens. This system may also be called the less flashy names of single-payer health insurance or universal health care. As Dr. Michael Chen of Taiwan’s National Health Insurance said in 2009, “Actually, [our] program is modeled after Medicare. And there are so many similarities – other than that our program covers all of the population, and Medicare covers only the elderly. It seems the way to go to have social insurance.”

Countries around the world have single-payer health care systems including Taiwan and Canada. This election we must progress toward a single-payer health care system and protect the current Medicare and Social Security programs from reactionaries who wish to dismantle them.