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Congress shies away from Social Security changes

By DOUG THOMPSON
May 13, 2011

Congress, already nervous about voter backlash from Senior Citizens, is backing away from changes to Social Security but the serious long-term financial problems that threatens the system remains.

An annual report from Social Security trustees will highlight those problems when it is released Friday.

The report will show Medicare in worse shape than Social Security because of rising health care costs. But both programs face insolvency unless Congress acts, the report will say.

The trustees reported last year Medicare trust funds will run out by 2029 and Social Security will be flat broke by 2037. Projections won’t improve after another year of high unemployment and lagging tax receipts.

“This is important news for programs that serve as critical lifelines for millions of older Americans and demonstrate the need for our elected leaders to strengthen — not undermine — these pillars of financial and health security,” John Rother, AARP’s executive vice president, tells The Associated Press.

Democrats and Republicans agree Medicare must be addressed soon, but the consensus ends there.

Reports the AP:

Most Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have said they won’t vote to increase the government’s ability to borrow without significant spending cuts. The government is expected to reach its borrowing limit of $14.3 trillion in the next few days. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says steps are being taken to delay until August what would be an unprecedented default on the debt.

Changes to Medicare, the government health insurance program for older Americans, could be part of an agreement to increase the debt ceiling, but Social Security appears to be off the table.

Many Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have been adamant that they will not support cuts in Social Security benefits, even if they target future retirees. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged that changes to Social Security won’t be part of any agreement.

“I would love for Social Security to be a part of it,” McConnell told reporters Thursday. “The president can speak for himself, but I think he’s not interested in doing Social Security without raising taxes. We don’t think that’s necessary.”

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Social Security is not in crisis.

“It is a long-term issue,” Baucus said. “It is an issue that should be addressed sooner, rather than later, to give workers time to plan for any changes. But the current situation does not necessitate rushed or severe action.”

Democrats and Republicans are also sparring over how to fix Medicare. House Republicans have passed a plan that would replace Medicare with a voucher-like payment system for future retirees, but GOP leaders in Congress have acknowledged that the plan is unlikely to pass.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says some Republicans are now “trying to run away from the vote” but that Democrats stand ready to remind voters.

Nearly 55 million retirees, disabled people and children who have lost parents receive Social Security benefits, which average $1,077.22. More than 46 million people are covered by Medicare.

 

5 Responses to Congress shies away from Social Security changes

  1. Carl Nemo

    May 13, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    They’re probably hoping for December 21, 2012 to save their ever-procrastinating bacon when it comes to addressing the many long term debt issues facing the nation; ie., ‘game over’… / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. bogofree

    May 13, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Yeah…they are leaning heavily on the Mayan block to solve this. If on 12/22 we all wake up right where we went to sleep then they’ll get back to blaming each other.

    They have to address future benefits and that will happen about the time the next ice age rolls around.

  3. Fivebyfives

    May 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    There are two consequences of an economic downturn: revenues go down and expenditures go up. Taxes and fees cannot generate income as when times were good, and many former tax payers are at the mercy of forces beyond their control.

    So much for basics. Our government, in its wisdom, continues to purposely reduce revenue, and the only “serious” answer is to eliminate those programs that favor or benefit the untouchables of our neo-Galtian empire.

    When a job paying $20 per hour in the U.S. is transferred to China at $1 per hour, the last thing looked at is the loss of revenue via payrol taxes. Keep this up for 25 years while extolling the virtues of the FIRE economy (h/t to Mr. Nemo) and voila!, the nation is going broke. This is the current conventional wisdom, and very very few reap the benefits of this arrangement.

    As regards the preposterous expense of Medicare, I witnessed first-hand the abuses of the system last year with the death of my father. Long story short: my father had congestive heart failure; he was 86. A cardiologist told both my father and me that he was in the “end stages of congestive heart failure.” Hospice anyone? NO. More tests, more visits, 3 weeks in a nursing home. I yanked Dad out of the nursing home primarily because they screwed up his medicine 3 times and aside from putting him through misery, what little life he had left was diminshed.

    Only after a shouting match with his “doctor” (who also was the medical director of said nursing home) my father was finally referred to Hospice, where he was treated with the utmost dignity until his death three weeks later.

    I think about the tens of thousands of dollars deliberately milked from Medicare by these thieves i see red. The mindless greed is unfathomable, with no thought of what is just and decent for a dying human being. If I should find myself in the same situation, I hope indeed there is some kind of “death panel” to stop such abuse and turn me over to Hospice, where whatever dignity I have might be retained up until my death.

    My father served his nation as a juvenile delinquent in uniform ( a fighter pilot) and now raises hell in the Army Air Force Heaven. At the very least he is no longer at the receiving end of the so-called “professionals” who rob the treasury while robbing patients of their dignity.

    • Almandine

      May 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm

      Why does anyone think the lost jobs are “OUR” jobs? Why does anyone think “OUR” govt has the power to make them so? Why is it appropriate to think “THEY” should take care of us? Why should something called a “DEATH PANEL” be in control of you?

      “Ever since the days of Henry Ford, the Economic Elite have needed a thriving US middle class to increase growth and profits, but now, in the global economy, they view the US middle class as obsolete. They increasingly look globally for profits and they would rather pay cheap labor in countries like China and India.”

      …David DeGraw

    • Skip

      May 15, 2011 at 12:26 am

      Sorry for your loss. It’s absolutely criminal what is spent at the end of life in this country. Although you are right that the medical profession is plays a big part, the rest of us must take some responsibililty. We must stop asking that ever possible thing is done to prolong someones life.