Frank talk on Social Security

Friday, September 7, 2012

As you know, there is much discussion these days about the future of Social Security and Medicare. Because this is an election year, some misinformation is floating around, along with some genuine misunderstanding, too.

So let’s set the record straight with some frank talk about these two programs.

First, I want you to know I’m committed to making sure there will be no changes for anyone who is currently receiving Social Security and/or Medicare benefits, or for those who are nearing retirement age. I’m dedicated to making sure seniors will continue receiving the benefits they were promised.

Social Security and Medicare are important to many Granite Staters. Yet, both face a common threat – they’re in danger of going broke. Every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65, placing new demands on these already-strained programs.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says Social Security will post a nearly $600 billion deficit, for the first time since the program was last overhauled in the 1980s. Even more troubling, projections show nothing but red ink until 2037, when the Social Security trust funds are exhausted. 

Medicare is also spending more money than it is taking in, with its spending projected to hit $871 billion by 2018, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As expenditures continue to rise in the nation’s largest health insurance program, efforts to preserve the integrity of that program are receiving increased attention from policy makers. 

I appreciate that there is reluctance to consider changes to programs that have served so many Granite Staters well for so long. But we also have a responsibility to keep them on solid footing for future generations.

The good news is, public debate now embraces discussion of ways to safeguard and protect Social Security and Medicare. For decades, it was considered taboo to even mention the subject. This is a change for the better.

The House of Representatives is already acting to secure Medicare. Earlier this year, it passed a bipartisan plan which would make no changes to benefits for people over age 55. For people who are younger than 55, like myself, it would allow you to choose a plan that best fits your needs, similar to those available to members of Congress.

One thing we do know with certainty: if we do nothing at all, and make no changes of any kind, these important programs will simply run out of money. This has nothing to do with politics; it is simple mathematics. You cannot spend more in benefits than you take in. When expenditures are running higher than income, it is just a matter of time until bankruptcy is reached.

The failure is to do nothing. Many people depend on the Social Security and Medicare benefits to pay for food, housing, heating and medical treatment.

It would be wrong to see those people driven into financial hardship because we refused to meet this challenge while there was still time to protect these programs.

I am the father of two young children who are in grade school. I don’t want to face them 25 years from now and have to tell them why Social Security and Medicare won’t be available for them.

Rather, I hope I will be able to tell them in 25 years, “Because Americans acted responsibly back in 2012, you will be able to count on Social Security and Medicare being there for you when you reach retirement age.”

The choice is up to us. I hope we will seize this opportunity to safeguard and protect the two programs that mean so much to so many people,

I will keep you informed of developments in the months ahead. In the meantime, please know I will never vote to cut or decrease benefits for anyone enrolled in Social Security and Medicare. You have my word on it.

I look forward to reporting back to you in two weeks on the latest developments in Washington, D.C. In the meantime, if I can be of service to you, or if you want to share your thoughts, suggestions or concerns with me, please contact me. Until next time, please know that I am always on your side and am actively fighting for New Hampshire’s interests in Washington.

U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta represents New Hampshire District 1 in Washington, D.C. His column, “Frankly Speaking” can be read in the Merrimack Journal and Bedford Journal twice a month. He can be contacted in Washington at 1223 Longworth HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515 or by phone at 1-202-225-5456. His New Hampshire office is at 33 Lowell St., Manchester, NH 03101 or 641-9536. Guinta can also be reached via e-mail by visiting https://guinta.house.gov/contact-me. You can also follow what he’s doing 24/7 on Facebook at www.facebook.com/repfrankguinta and on Twitter at @RepFrankGuinta.

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