Who depends the most on the big three: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security? The old, the ill, and the poor.
Are these the people whose benefits we want reduced so that the rich and super rich don’t have to contribute more to social welfare?
According to economist Edward N. Wolff of New York University, as of 2010 the top 1 percent owned 35.4 percent of all privately-owned wealth in America. The next 19 percent had 53.5 percent. So, the top 20 percent had 89 percent of all privately-held wealth, and the bottom 80 percent (wage and salary workers) owned only 11 percent. In terms of financial wealth (total wealth minus home and car), the top 1 percent had 42.1 percent, the next 19 percent had 53.5 percent, which means the top 20 percent had 95.6 percent of the financial wealth and the bottom 80 percent had just 4.75 percent.
And the gap between the rich and the poor keeps growing.
The rich seem to be entitled to tax loopholes, tax sheltered off-shore bank accounts, government subsidies of various sorts, and special access to lawmakers through lobbyists. Their corporations may be too big to fail, making their CEOs too big to jail.
Social Security’s future can be assured by simply raising the tax cap on earned income. Medicare and Medicaid can be strengthened by changing the way care is rewarded: by results, and not by how many tests and procedures are performed. Both can be improved by rigorously prosecuting those who try to game the system.
Before thinking of reducing benefits, the Republicans need to remember who lost the last election and the Democrats need to remember who won.