Urge Cuts In S.S. Benefits Of Future Retirees To Save Program
There wasn’t anything new in last week’s warning by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan that Social Security benefits for future retirees must be reduced to help meet the nation’s longterm budget imbalance.
What struck us was that the nation’s budget deficit, which is now estimated at $521 billion, was created by the tax cuts enacted by the George W. Bush presidential administration. So one of the ways of reducing that deficit and future deficits, is to cut Social Security benefits.
As Congressmember Charles Rangel (D–Manhattan) put it, "Mr. Greenspan has it backwards. He portrays Social Security as the problem. But in reality, the high deficits brought on by Bush Administration fiscal policies are the problem."
The president’s tax cuts have been designed to give most relief to high income taxpayers. The Social Security cuts will hurt everyone, including the rich; but they will be able to deal with benefit reductions far more easily than middle- and low-income retirees.
Reacting to Greenspan’s warning, Bush said that Social Security benefits should not be changed for present retirees or for people near retirement, but he repeated his call to privatize a part of the program to allow some workers to invest some of their Social Security tax, payments. If this is enacted, it could reduce benefits for other members of the plan.
Greenspan issued his warning to call attention to the huge cost of maintaining the program when the baby boomer generation starts retiring. He said the 30 million people now collecting Social Security benefits will increase to more than 40 million in the next decade.
STUDY IMPORTING CANADA DRUGS: For several years now, seniors battered by high prescription drug costs have been traveling to Canada to purchase drugs because the medications are less costly. For just as long, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has thrown road blocks in the way, citing safety concerns.
Last week, the Bush Administration relented a bit as it announced a one-year study of how drugs might be imported safely from our neighbor to the north. But the move immediately became suspect when FDA head Dr. Mark B. McClellan, who’s on record as opposed to imports from Canada, was named to head the study.
As expected, Democrats criticized McClellan’s selection. Senator Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota said naming McClellan was "like putting the fox in charge of the chicken house." He said McClellan had clearly shown his opposition to allow drug imports and had done all he could to block them.
Senator John McCain, a Republican representing Arizona, who has long favored the drug imports, said it could have been a more objective choice.
The study is required under the new Medicare Law that was passed last December and provides prescription drug benefits. Some critics of the new law have argued that it will drive up profits of pharmaceutical firms so drug prices should come down. One way to lower drug costs is to permit drug imports from Canada and other overseas markets. Another way would be to have federal officials negotiate a discount based on the huge amount of drugs that will be sold under the new law. However, the new statute prohibits the discounts. Democrats said they will try to amend the law to eliminate the prohibition against discounts.
MORE FLACK ON NEW LAW: Another provision of the new Medicare law came under attack last week by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D–New York). A section of the law calls for seniors in several upstate cities to take part in a so-called experiment aimed at testing the concept known as premium support and whether it can be used to privatize health care to a greater degree.
Arguing against the proposal, Clinton declared, "New York seniors should not be used as guinea pigs in this experiment."
Under the law, Clinton explained, seniors who participate in the test program would be forced to pay a 5 percent surcharge if they opted instead to stay in the Medicare program. The Bush Administration has been accused of wanting to phase out traditional Medicare coverage in order to have private HMOs administer the nations healthcare program.
Clinton said she has introduced legislation to prohibit New York communities from being used as sites for this experiment.
Maloney Hosts Town Halls: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney will host two Town Hall meetings on Medicare, prescription drug costs, Social Security and issues of concern to seniors. The first will be held Monday, March 8 at the Steinway Senior Center, 20-43 Steinway St. between 19th Avenue and 20th Road, Astoria; the second will take place Monday, March 15 at the HANAC Ravenswood Senior Center, 34-35A 12th St. in the Ravenswood Community Center off 21st Street. Both Town Hall meetings will start at 1 p.m.