Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why even hard-working, frugal, clean-living Tea Partiers may someday need Social Security and Medicare

I have to ask myself: am I part of the American majority who wants to scale back government expenses – as long as none of my personal benefits are touched?

I confess: I will turn 63 next week, and I don’t want Social Security or Medicare reduced or – heaven help us – privatized.

I have personal reasons.

My husband and I have been saving heavily for 20 years, have paid off the mortgage on our modest house, have nursing-home insurance policies, and have no debts whatsoever. Nevertheless, our retirement accounts have been significantly diminished by the recession of 2008–11, and the future of stocks and bonds does not look good. Without Social Security to supplement our savings, we’d have a rough retirement.

Both of us take good care of our health. We’ve never smoked, and we exercise daily. We eat no red meat, few desserts, and lots of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. My weight has always been right where it’s supposed to be, and his isn’t far off. Nevertheless, I’m scheduled to have open heart surgery later this month, and I will need to have costly check-ups and possibly medications for the rest of my life. Without Medicare, I’d probably have a very short retirement.

So yes, I’d much prefer that we strengthen Social Security, Medicare, and our entire health-care system and stop paying for 46.5 percent of global military spending, for example.

But my reasons are not entirely personal. Although my husband and I are the kind of people Republicans love (and Jesus worried about), we will be in trouble if the senior safety nets come down, right along with people who have had to face unemployment, divorce, foreclosure, addictions, natural disasters, accidents, disabilities, and catastrophic illness; right along with people who don’t know how to manage money, who abuse their health, and who long ago stopped thinking about tomorrow (see my previous post, "The United States of Florida").

Really, folks, this isn’t a question of deserving. As Jesus pointed out, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). God may or may not be the sender, but I’ve noticed that crap falls on both the good and the bad as well. We all benefit from God’s grace, and we’re all just one step away from catastrophe.

Government programs can’t give us comfortable lifestyles if we have no job and no savings. They may not be able to give us good health if our bodies are faulty or abused. They can’t keep us from getting old and dying. What they can do is help us – all of us who need help – have food, shelter, and necessary medical care.

If this means additional funding – a payroll tax on all earned income, for example, and not just the first $106,800 – so be it. If it means ending President Obama’s extremely unwise payroll tax holiday , so be it. If it means I have to pay more taxes, so be it.

Our government is not only of the people and by the people, it is also for the people. May Lincoln’s vision of a nation dedicated to the common good not perish from the earth.


P.S. I’m not saying that Social Security and Medicare are our most important social programs, by the way. Nothing is more important than educating our young, and comparative test scores show that the U.S. is in trouble here (22nd place in math!). Still, many of our suburban schools are excellent. We say we believe in equality of opportunity: what are we doing to assure that all of our children, no matter where they live or how much their parents pay in property tax, have access to good schools?


Carla said...

Amen! And many of our city schools are excellent, too :)

I can't understand this whole idea of cutting-off-our-collective-nose-despite-our-face view of fiscal policy. My cynical hunch is that those making these decisions count on the American voters being dumb enough not to do the math, as it were. If we don't give people access to affordable healthcare, then we have more people dependent on Medicaid. If we don't fund education, then we have more people who are unqualified for the kind of jobs that allow them to be self-sufficient. There are vicious circles at play here and we are letting ourselves be fooled into believing our elected officials are acting on principle.

Ben DeVries said...

Well said, Lavonne - Ben

Timothy Dalrymple said...

Lavonne, even when my inclinations differ, I appreciate reading your thoughts and always learn from the encounter. Blessings.

Jane Hinrichs said...

I don't disagree really, but I wonder with Medicare if it would be better if it was a needs-based program. I think it is silly that everyone who has "paid into the system" receives it no matter where they are financially. If someone could take care of themselves without it then maybe they shouldn't receive it. Now, don't shoot me by saying that. But there is something to be said for paying our taxes just because we want to live in this country. We are a country of privilege. And it isn't fun to use the resources God brings into our homes for "unfun" stuff like medical expenses but maybe that is why we have it. God is our great Provider and He can and does use our government, but when we look at the government as the provider we get messed up spiritually.