Monday, July 11, 2011
The Attacks on Social Security and Medicare (and Medicaid, which is something else) are Relentless
As I've been pointing out in other fora, Social Security has already been effectively cut for most seniors through the administrative refusal to allow any COLA this year or last year, and by proposing a tiny COLA for next year that would be immediately gobbled up by higher Medicare premiums.
Social Security administrators insist that no COLA is due to recipients because "there has been no inflation," which is absurd. In fact, costs for basics and necessities -- like food, shelter, heat, transportation, non-prescription drugs and other off-Medicare health care, and so forth have been going up exponentially during this period of Endless Recession. The purchasing power of Social Security benefits have declined substantially in the last two years, as they will continue to do so long as COLAs are denied.
A trial balloon was floated by Our Rulers to see how changing the COLA inflation formula would fly. The idea was to reduce COLAs even further by assuming that as costs for one basic or necessary good or service go up, seniors will substitute cheaper goods or services (even though many are already at the rock bottom price point) and therefore they won't "need" such a generous COLA. Fucking genius! Why wasn't this plan instituted long ago?
The idea was to save a few hundred billion dollars in Social Security payouts -- so as to have the wherewithal to conduct more and ever more imperial wars of aggression while continuing to provide handsome emoluments and tax breaks to the High and the Mighty.
Supposedly, this idea has been shot down -- for now -- but we can bet (and win) that it will come back with a vengeance.
Today there comes news that His Serenity is proposing to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67. Not immediately. He'd wait till after the election next year, but still. And to think, it wasn't that long ago many of us thought, gee, eligibility for Medicare might just be lowered to 55.
I'm so old, I remember when it was taken for granted that "by the year 2000" (what a milestone that was intended to be!) the usual retirement age would be 55, if not actually 50. Now it is 66 for people of my cohort, and it is going up to 67 for those coming after -- this "reform" agreed-to in the 1983 overhaul of Social Security, along with doubling the OASDI tax rate. Obviously, that's not old enough though because people who will never have to worry about their own retirement security are now proposing to raise the retirement age to 70 for those now in the 40's. This is insane.
Meanwhile the assault on public employee pensions continues unabated as well; private sector defined benefit pensions were largely done away with long ago -- except, of course, for the top executives, many of whom leave with super-generous pensions of almost unbelievable amounts. Because ordinary workers in the private sector may not have any pension provisions at all, and they may not have enough income to set aside money for retirement, the thinking among the Ruling Class is that public sector workers -- who have bargained for and have contracts ensuring certain defined benefit pension provisions -- should be forced to sacrifice their pensions "because workers in the private sector don't get pensions..."
Well, some private sector workers do. If they're on the top of the heap, that is.
Meanwhile, savage cuts to Medicaid have been underway since the Endless Recession began, yet even now, this simply fact is widely unrecognized. Of course, most people don't use Medicaid (and most will never be eligible for it) so they don't know -- and for the most part, they don't care -- what's been happening to those on Medicaid. They don't know that eligibility is more and more restricted, that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have been pushed off the Medicaid rolls, even as poverty has skyrocketed in this country. They don't know that fee reimbursements have been repeatedly cut for providers. They don't know that the people who are still able to access Medicaid services have to pay more and more out of pocket for the services they receive. They don't know that the services provided by Medicaid have been reduced, that mental health and dental services are as rare and unavailable to Medicaid recipients as hidden diamonds. On and on and on.
These are things that most Americans have no conception of.
Meanwhile, unemployment benefits are being time restricted in state after state -- even though there are no jobs -- and unemployment benefit amounts are being reduced (even as costs for basics and necessities continue to climb.) This as more and more people wind up not only out of a job, but ineligible for any unemployment compensation at all.
This is what is going on, what has been going on for years, and this is part of what is ensuring that more and more millions of Americans are forced into poverty every year.
It's almost as if it is planned to be that way. Gee. Ya think?