A cadre of high-profile CEOs came out to lobby Capitol Hill last week in an effort to get Social Security and Medicare on the table when the deficit reduction is negotiated. Most of the companies they represent don’t even offer pension plans, and several more haven’t contributed enough funds to cover expected payouts.
Bailed out Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein says “Social Security wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career.” Lloyd, with numbers like that, no wonder Goldman Sachs needed a bailout. The fact is most people have a working career of 35 to 45 years and the average time for recipients on Social Security is only 16.1 years! Then they die.
These CEOs are guys who have millions in the bank and millions in their own retirement funds, and yet they want the 99 percent of Americans to take less to live on when they retire. Talk about arrogance and gall.
Don’t be fooled. Social Security is not part of the national debt, and it’s solvent until 2033. Medicare and Medicaid are part of the debt. Here’s a fix that nobody is talking about. Why don’t we increase the contribution levels from 6.2 to 7.2 percent, and in additional increments going forward if needed?
Critics will scream about a tax increase, but I say “So what?” We’re just putting money aside for when we need it later in life. Or, how about a national sales tax of 1 or 2 percent, or a national lottery to fund these services? Let’s raise the cap from $110,000 to $150,000, and see how that helps. Bargaining for drugs from the drug companies, just like the Veterans Administration does, would cuts costs significantly.
The last thing we want to do is cut benefits or raise prices on those who receive Medicare and Medicaid. Raising the age limit would only punish those who have physically demanding jobs. It’s not fair to do that.
In a recent survey of the 10 most prosperous countries in the world, Norway, Denmark and Sweden topped the list, while the United States didn’t even make the list. The Scandinavian countries all have much higher taxes than we do here. People in those countries are happy to pay higher taxes because they expect and they get high-quality services and benefits.
Why can’t we take some lessons from them and do the same here? We could, if our focus was on improving the lives of all of us instead of maximizing profits for somebody at the expense of others.