The Future of a Nation’s Promise to the Elderly, Disabled, and Poor

By: JJ Jacobs


Social Security and Medicare have lifted millions of elderly and disabled people out of poverty, or so it was designed to do so. It came about in 1935 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it in to law. At first, it mostly covered retirement benefits, but by 1940 it covered survivor benefits to spouses and minor children. The Social Security program continued to grow adding the disability program in 1954 and adding Medicare in 1965. Since the inception of Social Security and later, Medicare, it has become a promise to those paying taxes into it that it will be there for them when they retire or if they should become disabled.

We have heard talk of privatizing Social Security and Medicare for many years. First, it started with talks of raising the age that people can begin to draw out benefits because it has been stated that Social Security will not last past 2030. There are many “solutions” to this problem, the most obvious being to lift the payroll ceiling. Currently, the cap on incomes is around $110,000. If the ceiling was raised to $250,000 more money would be paid into the system. 9 out of 10 Americans are already paying the same payroll tax into Social Security, so why not have the wealthiest pay their fair share by paying the same payroll tax? The sad truth is that a lot of possible Social Security income has been lost due to the growing income inequality. If we lifted the payroll ceiling, it would make Social Security solvent way beyond 2030. It isn’t going to happen though, now that both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans who have been salivating over cuts to Social Security and Medicare for years.

Donald Trump campaigned on keeping Social Security and Medicare strong, but the people he has surrounded himself with on his transition team are very much in favor of privatization. His new Health and Human Services pick favors privatizing Medicare in favor of a voucher-like system. Medicare covers about 48 million elderly people and another 9 million disabled people. We are talking about cutting healthcare benefits to 57 million people along with cuts to their monthly incomes via privatization of Social Security.

I’m one of the 9 million people with a disability that rely on Medicare. Without Medicare, I would not be able to afford treatments for my disability. Out of pocket costs for just my medicine alone is $3500, and I make a fraction of that with my monthly Social Security income. I also rely on Medicaid to pay for the things Medicare will not cover, and with the recent privatization of Iowa’s Medicaid system, I’ve experienced many negative effects of that privatization. Privatizing Social Security means I would have no income. Privatizing Medicare means I wouldn’t be able to afford medical treatment. Privatization of Social Security and Medicare have real consequences. While Donald Trump vowed not to make any cuts to these vital programs, his actions and appointments say otherwise. Social Security and Medicare have always been a promise this country kept to those who paid into the system, and now it appears to be a promise that is about to be broken.


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