No, I really can’t answer that question, but I can frame the parameters. Sorry for getting your hopes up—my hopes, too.
The fate of Medicare and all the other entitlements, along with the issue of jobs for Americans, is the major substantive issue of this election. Though emotions, as well as facts, will play a role, in election choices. But whatever the results, how Medicare is handled will have a huge impact on the economy, especially as the Baby Boomers are becoming eligible.
The problem is, of course, that elections are not about truth but about getting elected, and “facts” are made to serve their purveyors’ interests. That is why we hear “the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it.” And that is why the Republicans continue to accuse the Obama administration of robbing the now fabled $716 billion from Medicare. Instead of better understanding the issues, the result is growing fear and confusion.
Let’s leave politics for a moment and consider demographics. We’re two years into the Baby Boomer eligibility for Medicare benefits. In addition, our nation is experiencing something described as an “obesity epidemic,” with the additional concern that obesity is recognized to contribute to certain serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. And then there is the increasing incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia afflicting our older citizens. If we give any thought to how just these factors will influence medical costs, we will have to admit that major changes will have to be made.
I’m not equipped to set forth the pros and cons of the two competing visions for the American future. But Jonathan Cohn does a pretty good job of it in his August 22, 2012 article in The New Republic website. I recommend it to you. It lives up to its title, “The Definitive Guide to the Medicare Debate.”
Cohn writes, “Medicare occupies a special place in the American welfare state. In the U.S., the purpose of most government programs is merely to offer assistance. You can’t afford food or housing? OK, here’s some money to help you pay for your grocery bills or cover the rent. Medicare is much more than that: It’s a promise that, upon reaching 65, you will be able to get medical care without risking financial ruin. That makes it more like Social Security, which guarantees a pension to everybody in retirement, or public schools, which guarantee an education for all children.
“At the same time, Medicare really does place a big strain on the federal budget. And it’s going to place an even bigger strain in the future. If current trends continue, the government will eventually confront a set of unpleasant options if it wants to keep the program’s promise to seniors: It will have to raise taxes, cut spending elsewhere, or cope with even higher deficits. Very few Americans would want that.”
Just from that, anyone can see that there is no way—and no earthly purpose for doing so—to sugarcoat any of the facts. It is a deadly serious issue and must be taken out of the realm of politics. How is that going to happen?
It’s unlikely, I know. Our politicians have shown they’re willing to let our economy go to the brink and beyond, causing our national debt rating to be downgraded, before they could come together to deal with economic issues. On partisan grounds they have demonstrated that they would rather fight with each other than fix the Affordable Care Act so it can truly be called “affordable.” Along with most of my fellow Americans, I have zero faith in our elected representatives to act in an informed, responsible manner to accomplish what we have hired them to do.
The only thing left for us, then, is to “throw the bums out,” thereby sending the only message they can understand—that the way they can keep their jobs is to work to achieve the interests of their constituents rather than serving the economic interests of the insurance companies, the big banks, and the wealthy corporations.
Yes, we need to reform the way campaigns are conducted and financed. Yes, we need to rein in lobbyists (who outnumber our legislators 22 to 1). But above all, we must pay attention to what is going on in our government and take the time to sort out fact from fiction. The information is available, so there’s no excuse. More than Medicare is at stake.
What can you do—you are only one person? True, but you are only “six degrees of separation,” on average, from any other person on Earth. You become powerful when you share information with your friends and ask them to share it with their friends—it becomes a global revolution. As Stephen King suggests in The Long Walk, when these “society-supported sociopaths” come, step aside, and find the strength to run…