The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 23, 2013

Your View: Social Security, Medicare are not to blame

Glen Peterson, Mankato

— The Free Press editorial “Dems must negotiate on entitlements,” published March 17, states that adjusting the already minimal annual Social Security cost of living increase downward, and means-testing Medicare subsidies to recipients, is “a reasonable approach” to negotiating with Republicans in Congress on deficit reduction. This misguided conclusion falsely blames Social Security and traditional Medicare (Parts A and B) for the federal budget deficit.

If deficit reduction is the goal, fix the problems that contribute to the deficit. Restore federal income tax rates to the levels of the Clinton administration, when budgets were balanced and most Americans were in better financial shape than they are now, and before the unnecessary and reckless Bush-era tax cuts that primarily benefited people who didn’t need help. Stop engaging in unnecessary, endless, hugely expensive but unfunded wars and military intervention.

If stabilizing Social Security and Medicare is the goal, then again, address the core issues directly. Increase the earnings cap from which Social Security contributions are deducted. Expand the cost effective traditional Medicare programs to the entire population, or at least to individuals between 55 and 64 as has been discussed in Congress, and endorsed recently by tea party Republican Reid Ribble.

Eliminate legislatively established overpayments to the private insurance industry through Medicare Part C (ironically called Medicare Advantage — with the taxpayer funded advantage going to corporate profits rather than to taxpayers or beneficiaries) and through the Part D prescription drug benefit.

Also, require (rather than prohibit) negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry for preferred pricing of prescription drugs.