We need Medicare, Social Security

Friday, November 30, 2012


U.S. representative-elect

The election is over. Both the congressional losers and winners have to zero in on the so-called fiscal cliff.

They have to study ideas for a “grand bargain,” and consider the various ways to reduce the debt and deficit.

The sequester is looming. The 112th Congress failed to do anything about these issues, but they still have a little time before the 113th Congress is sworn in to vote on those issues. The 113th Congress, which I will be part, has to be prepared on day 1 to vote, in case the 112th fails again to do anything. So, two Congresses are studying the problems and possible solutions. And, in the meantime, businesses and individuals wait, worried, angry and impatient for a compromise. Will there be one?

I know it is the American tradition to compromise. I grew up in a Republican family, and we settled many of our political arguments with compromise. My father always said that you know we’ve hit a real compromise when nobody is happy. Democrats and Republicans need to find that spot.

However, I will not compromise on Medicare and Social Security benefits. The Congressional Budget Office says if we do nothing, spending on Medicare and Medicaid will rise to 10 percent of the economy by 2037.

We cannot ignore this. But I also know that the median income of a Medicare beneficiary is $22,000 a year. I want to see us control costs and hold down spending increases, but I will not support forcing seniors and people with disabilities to dig into their wallets to make up for bad policies, lobbyists’ influence on Congress and our tax code, for “subsidies for the rich and famous,” as conservative U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn titled his booklet; and for waste, fraud and mismanagement across the spectrum. I simply will not break a social, economic, and moral contract with working men and women in America, and here is why.

I grew up in a family that had three generations under one roof. My parents took care of their aging relatives, and it was not easy. But Social Security and Medicare were there to help, and I saw that. My grandmother waited anxiously for that check every month.

She had worked hard in hospitals, caring for the sick and receiving moderate wages. She could not even afford her own home after she retired and became ill, but her Social Security and Medicare were a source of pride and relief for her.

My great-uncle had greater financial success in his career, but a stroke took his livelihood and his savings. He, too, lived with us, but his Social Security and Medicare provided a level of dignity and care for him.

My parents spent their savings through my father’s difficult 15-year medical journey after his retirement. When he retired at 65, he never took anything but a vitamin. By the time he died, right after turning 80, he had experienced a heart attack and bypass, cancer of the esophagus, prostate cancer, bone cancer, and several years of blindness. Social Security and Medicare were there for him. And then my mother became will with lung problems, requiring expensive medications and repeat hospitalizations. My siblings and I had the privilege of caring for our parents, who had cared for us, but we could not have gotten by without Medicare and Social Security for our mom and dad.

Maybe some of these people who want to cut Medicare and Social Security don’t need it. Maybe their parents didn’t need it either. Maybe their children won’t need it. Maybe they don’t know the personal stories of those who rely on these programs. Maybe they don’t realize that these programs were born because there was a great need for them.

Maybe they think that young people today will stay healthy and employed and their investments will work out, and they will be able to get by with reduced benefits. But maybe they shouldn’t bet on it. I won’t.

I will not vote to reduce Medicare and Social Security. You can bet on that.

Congresswoman-elect Carol Shea-Porter represented New Hampshire’s 1st District from 2007-11, and was re-elected in November. She wrote the proposal for and established a nonprofit social service agency which continues to serve all ages. She taught politics and history and is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security.

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