published Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Change Coming: Bob Corker leads way for reforms to Medicare, Social Security

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    Bob Corker
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A well-known legend asserts that ostriches bury their heads in sand when threatened. That same behavior is commonly practiced by Americans when confronted by the realities of a rapidly expanding national debt and the expanding costs of Social Security and Medicare.

Despite claims by liberals to the contrary, no plans to reform the entitlement programs will result in throwing granny over the cliff.

Younger Americans, however, should take notice: Change is necessary, and it is coming.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., hopes to lead that change by attempting to alter our ostrich-like behavior while ensuring granny’s safety.

A recent article published in the Nashville Tennessean points out that Corker will soon propose to increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67 by 2027 and increase the age for full Social Security benefits to 68 by 2050. (Reforms instituted in 1983 are already raising the eligibility age for full Social Security benefits from 65 to 67 by 2022, the report noted.)

According to a Jan. 8 news release, Corker will also seek to reform Social Security and Medicare by introducing legislation that will limit yearly cost-of-living increases in Social Security payments and cap Medicare benefits for those with higher incomes.

Corker’s news release offers few specifics. However, a 2011 Heritage Foundation reduction plan — which many expect Corker’s plan to echo — proposes reductions in Social Security benefits for retirees with annual incomes of $55,000 (excluding Social Security benefits). The plan also states that seniors with incomes above that level would also be gradually scaled back. Retirees with incomes above $110,000 could potentially lose all benefits.

According to the Heritage plan, a retiree in 2009 with an income of $55,000 collected $14,000 in Social Security benefits per year. Under the new changes, as a senior’s income rises from $55,000 to $110,000, benefits would be reduced from $14,000 to zero. In short, higher income seniors would collect less in Social Security in order to make the program solvent for low-income retirees.

The Heritage Foundation also makes the recommendation of adjusting Medicare benefits according to age, health costs and income for each senior. Again, under the Heritage model, benefits for seniors with incomes ranging from $55,000 to $110,000 would gradually decrease.

While the plan may seem unfair to hard working Americans who pay into the entitlement programs, the reforms may be unavoidable.

An American Enterprise Institute report states that some 56 million Americans receive either Social Security retirement or disability payments, which cost approximately $730 billion per year. In addition, the same report states that Medicare costs Americans roughly $550 billion per year.

With healthcare costs rising, Medicare is expected to soon become more expensive than Social Security. The two programs will continue to incur additional demands as more baby boomers enter retirement.

No matter how good Corker’s efforts are to reform both programs, they likely will not be enough by themselves to balance the books. The combination of more Americans entering retirement as birth rates decline — thus limiting revenues that fund both programs — mean future generations must accept that additional cuts are looming.

All Americans hope our nation will regain a healthy economic footing after decades of deficit spending and fallout from the 2008 financial crisis caused us to lose our balance and stumble.

That eventual recovery will leave Americans to face a new economic reality requiring us to massively overhaul our Social Security and Medicare programs or face economic ruin. As a result, it’s time for all of us to get out heads out of the sand and realize that entitlement reforms have just begun.

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nucanuck said...

Without health care cost/structural reform, Medicare will either have to have more revenue or break the system. Medicare will require more user fees or more taxes or both.

February 10, 2013 at 12:37 a.m.
Plato said...

The government has told us boomers since we took our first jobs flipping hamburgers in the 60s that the money they were taking out of our checks each week to put into social security was going into a trust fund. It's your money being put aside for your retirement they said.

Now Senator Corker is suggesting that if you make a certain amount of income the government will seize what is rightfully yours. It isn't the fault of seniors that the government has spent money recklessly and irresponsibly for decades and it certainly isn't fair to hand seniors the bill for those mistakes.

If the government actually proceeds with such a plan I think it warrants a class actor suit for all of those that have been betrayed.

I realize the social programs need to be reformed to stay solvent, however this sort of "means testing" a nice word for what is in essence thievery, isn't the answer.

February 11, 2013 at 9:57 a.m.
nowfedup said...

Amusing how one of richest in DC has these great ideas, but congress can retire with cushy benefits as young as 62 with 6 years of "Service". Now let's ask reality. 55 or older, if laid off, (as often at top or job pay)chances of finding real job diminish rapidly,above 60 near zero. Same for medical, as most cannot afford "company medical" now, much less pay for it at 55 or older til medicare kicks in. Note NOTE ask how come and were is 2 digit increases in rates going in medical, seems someone making big bucks to shut up (bribe) congress on that one. When is last time congress asked "what are medical profits, to whom?" Reality is while LLC/Corp profits going way up, real wages going down or stagnant. So might we ask, how do workers save for retirement, "company medical"/deductible" increasing at 10% a year with less coverage. Why is SS capped, Note this SS is broke thing has been elected fodder since 60's if one reads history. I well remember my mothers panicked call in 70's, she was on SS and heard some idiot elected shouting "SS is broke, we will not be able to pay it next year" or some such lies. Note SS IS NOT part of Nation debt, in fact government borrowed from SS, none discuss this fact. In summation, 95% of this is lies, twisted data and just more "keep mi in office" spin from a bought elected, at most levels. Reality is rich getting richer, to include elected/appointed and regular folks getting poorer, less money for college for kids, less money for retirement/medical means more borrowed from out so honest bankers/WS. So folks go ahead and buy into this spin, but NEVER ask, what happens to the people impacted, as with other major issues, none of elected will honestly discuss it.

February 11, 2013 at 10:43 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Hey people, this is what happens when you turn over your retirement and health care to the government. Oh the Humanity! I would not care about all of this but the government has confiscated my wealth from me for my entire working life by force to support these ponzi schemes.

Any free man should be able to opt out of government social contracts at will. Now that the government has demonstrated its inability to manage these kinds of programs this is even more important. I, if I truly was a free man, should be able to stop contributing to Social Security and Medicare and start pursuing alternatives to secure my retirement while I still can. I should also be entitled to reduced benefits from Social Security and Medicare when I do retire in recognition of the incredible amount of money that has already been taken from me.

February 11, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.
nucanuck said...

BRP,

Do you really believe that what you espouse for yourself would be the best course for the entire nation? The countries with no public sector SS, no medical system, no educational system are mostly in the poorest places on earth. In those poor places there are always a few who do very well, but life for the rest is miserable.

The countries that provide the best foundational oportunities for all, and tax for them, seem to be the most successful. Would you choose to live in Norway over Nigeria? Of course you would, but you would pay a mighty tax burden to pay for all the social benefits that make Norway a great place.

I don't understand your vision for America...or is this your vision for just you?

February 11, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Nucanuck, BRP's vision for America IS a vision for just him. That pretty much sums up the mindset of most libertarians, which he claims to be. They, as well as so many of today's tea-bagging conservatives, do not see the "US" in the United States, but they readily see the "ME" in aMErica.

February 11, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.
Leaf said...

Here's what troubles me. Organizations like "Heritage Foundation" and "American Enterprise Institute" - despite their patriotic sounding names - don't really seem to have the best interests of Americans at heart. They are just the political and advertising front for a few dozen super-wealthy and powerful individuals.

They put out the talking points, fake studies, and bills, and their operatives like Corker and this editor just copy and paste. Do you seriously think they have your best interests at heart? No, we are all just pawns in their narcissistic power plays.

February 11, 2013 at 2:59 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

nucanuck said... "Do you really believe that what you espouse for yourself would be the best course for the entire nation? The countries with no public sector SS, no medical system, no educational system are mostly in the poorest places on earth."

Please point out where I advocated for no SS, medical system or educational system! I have no problem with the existence of government retirement, healthcare and educational systems, as long as they are not mandatory.

If you believe in something called freedom, you cannot be satisfied with having so much of your life dictated on a mandatory basis by those who are supposed to serve you. They are my "Public Servants", right? ...not my ruler, not my dictator. If you have a problem with that idea, then let's at least admit that we are not free men and that we have given control of a vast part of our lives to our masters, the government. The freedom that remains is an illusion that we are allowed so that we can feel all warm and fuzzy and talk about liberty and freedom and all of those great things.

It seems to me that the United States rose to greatness without any of these social contracts. The decline of the United States is now happening under the weight of these social contracts. Don't tell me it is a choice between Norway and Nigeria. You know better than that.

Before some dork tries to characterise this as a "selfish" position once again... I am OK with a social safety net and a discussion about what the appropriate level of government involvement is, and whether it should be under the care of the local, State or the federal government. I think the trend of concentrating all of this responsibility with a bunch of people who cannot even show the basic ability to generate a budget is absolute lunacy.

Think of it this way. Norway is more comparable to Tennessee than it is to the United States. How about we stop pretending that the clowns in Washington have any hope of emulating Norway, or better yet, Switzerland, and concentrate those efforts within a manageable scope, like Tennessee, Wisconsin and Texas. If the responsibility is concentrated at that more accountable level we will have a chance of a good outcome. The actors occupying the stage that is the federal government are so clueless they think that laws of economics and human nature do not apply to them.

February 11, 2013 at 4:34 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

"It seems to me that the United States rose to greatness without any of these social contracts. The decline of the United States is now happening under the weight of these social contracts." - BRP

The United States rose to PROMINENCE without any of those social contracts. It rose to GREATNESS when those contracts were established and we attained a workable balance between capitalism and government. In our Gilded Age and the days of the robber barons, with the building of our railroads and the development of the steel and oil industries, an unbelievable amount of wealth was created for the titans of those industries. But that growth was unsustainable because of the very nature of its model. Its end was inevitable because people like Morgan, Rockefeller, and Carnegie were making up the rules as they went along and had virtually no impediments to their unchecked greed. While they were indisputably men of vision and geniuses in their own right, their first and foremost purpose was to create more and more personal wealth. Nothing intrinsically wrong with that necessarily, but one of the ways they were doing it was from dirt-cheap labor, with inhumane working conditions, and creating monopolies, ruthlessly rigging the system in their favor. The trouble with today's conservatives and libertarians is that they still look to that model as some sort of ideal for individual freedom in the business world. Ayn Rand foolishly and simplistically idealized that model, too, in her writing.

But our real greatness as a nation came after WW2 and lasted through the 50s, 60s, and into the 70s, when the American Dream was attained by the most number of people. We have never been stronger or more productive as a nation than during that period. It was a time when those social contracts from the New Deal were very much in place and doing what they were intended to do. It wasn't the social contracts that were our undoing. Rather it was the beginning of the Reagan era, with its introduction of phony supply-side economics, tax cutting, and across-the-board deregulation, and a dogged determination by conservatives to keep shoving that ideology down our throats for the next 30 years, even with undeniable evidence that it does not work.

We have suffered too long under the right wing delusion that trickle-down is a viable economic system when in fact it is not. We have abundant proof (30 years worth) that government and capitalism can co-exist and in fact perform better in tandem. As long as we still have a government with freely elected representatives, government can and should not be looked upon as some evil entity but a force that acts for the best interests of the people who have freely elected that very government.

February 11, 2013 at 5:49 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

It looks like the indoctrination is strong with Rickaroo.

February 11, 2013 at 7:32 p.m.
nucanuck said...

BRP,

I would say that Rickaroo paints a pretty acurate picture of the evolution/devolution of the country. I would probably call 1945-1963 the golden age because I see LBJ as an evil corrupt man. The Viet Nam war damaged the American brand and the US military has been out of control ever since.

Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1970 and that opened the doors for irresponsible spending by both parties. Carter told us what we didn't want to hear when we should have listened. Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton pushed through the deregulation that allowed the big banks and global corporations to take over our Congress through the sheer power of money.

Bush II cut taxes and increased spending which set up the final phase of the debt/leverage collapse which we are witnessing day by day. Obama really has no wiggle room. Whatever he does will end badly. He is in a box. The US is toast for several decades.

Your dream of a country where participation in SS, health care, and education are voluntary is a pipe dream that will leave the majority in the ditch. There are no, none, zero examples where anything resembling what you seem to prefer exists.

When you allude to smaller units of governance, I can agree wholeheartedly. The best run countries in the world seem to be the smaller entities. On top of that, smaller entities are less likely to want to create an empire. I would think that many countries, including the US, would be better governed if they were broken into smaller units. Certainly the Baltics and the Balkans seem far better off now than when they were part of the USSR.

Economic upheaval often brings changes that are otherwise difficult to accomplish. Maybe there can be some good come from the suffering that we have in front of us. Let's hope for the best.

February 11, 2013 at 11:26 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

nucanuck said... "When you allude to smaller units of governance, I can agree wholeheartedly. The best run countries in the world seem to be the smaller entities. On top of that, smaller entities are less likely to want to create an empire. I would think that many countries, including the US, would be better governed if they were broken into smaller units. Certainly the Baltics and the Balkans seem far better off now than when they were part of the USSR."

Those smaller units of government are the States. The original role of the Constitution was to severely limit the role of the federal government and leave the day-to-day governance of the citizens to the States. This is a much better model for success than what progressives have distorted the Constitution into today. I think the only hope for a good outcome for the US is if the States can reclaim their power from the federal government.

February 12, 2013 at 11:34 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Do you really believe that the states could EVER gain much governing control with the power now vested in the big banks, multi-national corporations, and the military industrial complex? Those bad boys are going to ride their sweet deal until the bitter end (which may not be that far off).

IMO, states rights are a pipe dream. Regional rights might have a chance and regional sovereignty might have a better chance...depending on the social conditions at the bottom of the economic cycle. Like it or not, we shall see.

February 12, 2013 at 12:32 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

OK, I am thinking outside of the box here nucanuck.

If you look at the macro forces involved, if you believe that a government as massive as the US federal government is doomed to self destruct, if you want to do something to head off the collapse, you have to look at any tools that might be within reach within the system. The States can petition to amend the Constitution. If enough of the State governments see where the federal government is going it might be possible to get the (34?) States needed to petition the federal government to amend the Constitution to return responsibility for all social contracts, education, etceteras to the States. I know it sounds wacky. Most will say that is "not politically feasible". Others will be mortified of the possibility of what might come out of a constitutional convention, if the Congress did not move on the amendment after the States forced their hands. I have heard frustration from my own State Senator about how the federal government hobbles them and forces their hands. Is there enough frustration at the State level to say, "Enough is Enough"?

February 12, 2013 at 2:23 p.m.
nucanuck said...

Things that we can't imagine happening in today's environment may become possible when the econommy fails. The underpinnings for the US dollar are in shambles now with no real buyers of size (except the Fed) for US debt. It wouldn't take much for the dollar to lose 40-50% of its value. From there, with confidence shattered, anything could happen. Social disruption seems quite probable as people demand what can't be given.

Under those kinds of conditions, we will figure out what will work. I assume that regional differences will become accentuated and become more powerful motivators than an allegiance to one's own state. The Northeast and the West Coast don't need the burden of subsidizing other states. The Vermont movement for independence could easily spread to include her neighbors. Cascadia (Washington, Oregon, and part of California) has long been mentioned as a a viable breakaway country.

The middle of the country wouldn't like those possibilities, but they might not be the ones deciding. All the world's boundries change over time. Canada could well become subject to the same pressures.

Economic instability and failing confidence create fertile ground for radical change.

February 12, 2013 at 3:02 p.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

I am afraid history shows that under those conditions despots rise. That is why I am searching for a way to head off a collapse.

February 12, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.
nucanuck said...

It certainly appears that we are beyond the tipping point. The central Bankers of the developed world are all doing everything that they can to fight back the deflationary debt wave that looms. They are trying for inflation, but without hyper-inflation. So far it is not working. With massive stimulus we only have a modicum of growth and if they withdraw the stimulus...we crash.

I hope that I am wrong and that there is a way to avoid a collapse.

I think that I prefer the crash to the hyper-inlation. A crash will wipe out the debt holders along with the rest of us and with the hyper-inflation, the fat cats will stay FAT while many millions starve.

February 12, 2013 at 7:46 p.m.
charivara said...

Oh yes, do quote the Heritage Foundation. They know what they're talking about. Some other predictions from that oracle: Iraq harbors weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq War will pay for itself with its oil riches. Get rid of Sadam Hussein and his sons and all will be well. Once a government is formed peace will reign in Iraq. Yeah, Drew, keep on pointing out their wisdom and foresight. Shows exactly how much your opinion is worth.

February 14, 2013 at 7:45 p.m.
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