Hands Off Social Security and Medicare!
No Commissions or Task Forces to Cut Medicare and Social Security!
Four years after Bush tried to privatize Social Security and cut its benefits, there is new clamor in Congress to restructure Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, and to cut their future costs. This time it is led by Democrats, and California Senator Dianne Feinstein is in the thick of it. They are calling for “Commissions” or “Task Forces” for “fiscal responsibility,” “economic sustainability,” or, especially “Entitlement reform.” What are these “Commissions” or “Task Forces” about?
Business and government snidely refer to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid as “Entitlements,” implying that elders, disabled, kids, and poor people don’t deserve healthcare or income, but “Entitlements” actually has a legal meaning. An Entitlement program is one whose budget automatically increases as the number of recipients increases.
For us, this automatic budget increase of Entitlement programs is a good thing. We know that 15-20 million baby boomers will retire in the next decade, and the automatic budget increase is what will protect our benefits. Business and government see the automatic budget increase of Entitlement programs is a bad thing. Business and government have wrecked the economy, and now they want our Entitlement money for more oil wars and bailouts of financial institutions and the insurance, drug, and hospital industries.
But to take our money, business and government has to overcome this legal obstacle of the automatic budget increase. So they need to create special government bodies that are (1) independent, so they are not accountable to anyone, (2) bi-partisan, so neither party has to take blame, and (3) powerful, so its recommendations can be rammed through government.
Three Examples of Commissions or Task Forces
(1) Probably tomorrow, January 20, 2010, the Senate will vote on the Conrad-Gregg Amendment to create a Task Force to “improve the long-term fiscal balance of the Federal Government, including the fiscal balance of Social Security and Medicare.” It would have 18 members, 16 from the House and Senate committees on taxation and spending evenly divided between both parties, and two from the administration, including the Treasury secretary. The commission's report would be due after the 2010 elections. Congress would then have to vote yes or no by the end of the year, without debate or amendments.
(2) The Senate health bill, the basis for any new health legislation, would establish a new bipartisan Independent Payment Advisory Board to make recommendations to reduce the per-person growth in Medicare costs. Its recommendations would be fast-tracked through Congress with limited debate or amendments. It would be triggered into action whenever per-person Medicare exceeded a certain rate. In 2014, it would be the Consumer Price Index plus 1%, which is about half the growth rate of medical costs. In 2018, it would be triggered whenever growth in per-person Medicare spending exceeded growth in the per-person Gross Domestic Product! So if the economy is at a standstill, per-person spending on Medicare can’t increase, no matter how much health costs increase.
(3) Feinstein and Texas Republican Cornyn are promoting a bill, S.276, calling for a “National Commission on Entitlement Solvency.” Almost half of Feinstein’s Commission would be Presidential appointees, and the rest are leaders of House and Senate committees on revenue and spending. Each grouping has equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, so neither party has to accept the blame for the cuts. For a year, the Commission would hold town hall meetings on fiscal responsibility across the nation, and would then propose sweeping laws cutting Medicare and Social Security, which would be fast-tracked through Congress. The Commission would be permanent, and would submit new fast-tracked legislative packages to Congress every five years.