Category Archives: seniors

Avoiding the Demise of Senior Programs

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.

I am not a fan of AARP. They are basically an insurance company and they have made a lot of money selling insurance products to seniors and accepting donations to the AARP Foundation. However, since we are already “paying them” to find solutions to the difficulties senior safety net programs are facing, perhaps we should genuinely consider some of the solutions they have been suggesting. They have held many meetings with seniors and many of these seniors have a background in finance. Despite their profit motive, they represent a sort of senior brain trust. Perhaps we could take an informal internet vote on the options AARP has come up with and see which option is most popular. Possibly we could get one of those Congressional Budget analyses of each of the options that they have described.
As for Medicare, Paul Krugman agrues in this morning’s NYT for keeping the Medicare intact and avoiding “Vouchercare” and he does a much better job of it that I have probably been able to do. I feel that the Affordable Care Act should be given a chance to function and that it may be just to ticket to save Medicare in its current form.