The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 23, 2013

Your View: Social Security, Medicare relevant to debt

Bob Jentges, North Mankato

— Contrary to the opinion of a Jan. 26 writer, the Republican Party has not opposed Social Security from its “inception.” The original Social Security Bill (H.R. 7260, 1935) passed the U.S. House of Representatives 372-33, and passed the U.S. Senate 77-6. The nay votes in both bodies were split about equally between Republicans and Democrats.

Although there were questions whether the act violated the 10th Amendment — powers not specifically granted to the federal government are reserved for the states and the people — the issue was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 1937.

Moreover, the writer’s opinion that “... Social Security and Medicare have not contributed a dime to the deficit” is open to debate. According to the Social Security website, benefits paid exceeded contributions two or three years ago. Through no fault of those contributing through FICA, the Social Security Trust Fund has been spent by Treasury to fund other government programs.

In testimony before the Senate Budget Committee on Feb. 12, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf was asked — by a Democrat — if Social Security contributed to the national debt. His answer: “The program is actually a drain on the budget today.” Evidence that deficit spending provides at least some of the Social Security benefits presently being paid? 

Space does not permit an in-depth discussion about Medicare. There were Republicans who had serious concerns with the scope and future funding of Medicare at its inception. Medicare and its companion program, Medicaid, have grown into incredibly complex and fiscally challenging programs.  

Both Social Security and Medicare are in trouble. Responsible structural reforms are necessary if they are to be saved for future generations.