Seeing that Grandma and Grandpa live their senior years with some sense of financial security has been one of the landmark decisions that grew out of the Great Depression and that set America aside from other nations. In fact, this idea has been copied around the world. It is not a detriment to our “exceptionalism”; it is a key element in our “exceptionalism”. Social Security and Medicare are different from other government safety net programs because they were set up to be paid for by those who participated in them, and everyone who worked had to participate. These programs were never intended to be private sector (or for-profit) programs. We would supposedly fund our own future financial security.
Now we are told, and we can see for ourselves, that our financial security is in jeopardy. We do understand what our Congress people are telling us. In this economy these programs are not paying their own way; they are a drain on our federal budget and, in their current form, are unsustainable. After we get over our anger at the poor planning and lack of foresight shown by our representatives in Washington we will obviously have to tackle the issue of where to go from here.
Do we give up on financial security for our seniors? Do we go back to extended families that care for their own senior members? Will this renew the popularity of the family and stop the trend to put off or avoid marriage? Do we give the private sector control over senior security and turn it into a matter of profits, bottom lines, and cost effectiveness where prices will rise and rise, or where the standard of living for seniors will rely on the whims of the stock market? Will we find some kind of workable public/private compromise? Not one of us is sure about what we should do in this situation, but any senior will tell you that, although they would be open to a financially viable revision, they would not be open to the abandonment of these programs, even if it would only affect their offspring.