Killing Us Softly With His Song

One of the really funny tricks on Social Security privatization is how sweetly it destroys Medicare. Medicare, of course, is on red-alert territory financially. Come 2006, premiums will have jumped 34% in two years, a hell of an increase. And the future doesn't look a whole lot better. I'm sorry, I should rephrase: the future is apocalyptic, Medicare is in terrible shape and, with premiums supposed to cover 25% of the program's costs, any jump in spending will drag your grandmother's monthly payments up with it. The only alternative is cutting what the government spends on Medicare services, which means cutting what doctors make and encouraging them to turn away the elderly.

Okay, so what does this have to do with privatization? Well, for 2/3rds of the elderly, Social Security is their main source of income. For about 20%, it's their only source of income. So how, exactly, do you think most seniors are paying their Medicare premiums? Currently, there's a pretty direct transfer from Social Security to Medicare, most expect it to stay that way. But what happens if you privatize?

Well, as we know, benefits are cut and Social Security earnings drop for future generations of Americans. Right now, 1/3rd of Americans have no savings whatsoever and another third have less than $2,500. Considering our rate of savings, Social Security looks like it'll be more, not less, critical for future generations. But what Bush wants to do is knock Social Security payments down while Medicare premiums shoot up, virtually assuring that seniors can't cover their bills in the future. This, by the way, would be in large part his doing -- not only was privatization his idea, but so was the Medicare expansion, which is going to make the current increases look minimal once it matures. Now, if Social Security isn't covering the Medicare bills of future seniors, thereby leaving Medicare even more unfunded and oftentimes out of reach, how safe do you think that program will be in the future? Not very. One thing liberals forget is that it's not just small government you can drown in a bathtub. Sometimes morbidly obese government, by virtue of its inability to fight back and the disgust it engenders in everyone else, can be smothered with nary a peep.

Update: The more I think about this, the worse it gets. It's like those old high school math problems. Imagine train 1, Social Security benefits, and train 2, Medicare premiums, both leave the station. At a certain point, they're going to intersect. If Social Security benefits (train 1) goes (rises) fast enough, it'll pass through the meeting point long before train 2 gets there. If Medicare premiums, train 2, go slow enough, it'll miss train 1 with no problem. But if train 1 goes too slow or train 2 goes too fast, they'll collide. Bush has already, through his Medicare expansion, propped a jetpack on train 2 and, now, is trying to get folks on train 1 to pull up the brakes by privatizing Social Security. He's moving both in the direction most likely to create a disaster, promoting policy that reduces the Social Security benefits that pay for the rising Medicare premiums. You want to think that it's all unintentional, that he's forging legislation with no conception of how it'll affect other policies, but it's just not that way, The only conclusion left, really, is that he's trying to destroy both programs.

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