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Your Opinion: Perfect storm of weak leadership

Your Opinion: Perfect storm of weak leadership

July 9th, 2011 by Tony Smith, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

Recently a friend caught up with me and questioned my comments in a July 1 letter published here. He wondered how I could be right when he does not hear this information from other sources. That would be sources he reads or watches or listens to. That is a terrific question.

We were talking Social Security and Medicare issues. Someone standing nearby joined in to repeat the fallacy that Social Security is going broke. How so? Quoting from data found in the Social Security Trustee's report, I indicated that there is a $2.4 trillion dollar SSA surplus in the trust fund. Beginning in 2017 or so, payroll taxes will no longer cover all benefits and money from the trust fund will be used. Some now say this is a disaster. However, this is exactly how Reagan and Greenspan devised the system to handle the baby boomer generation (see Greenspan Commission - 1983.)

In 2037 (depending on the economy) the SSA Trust Fund could be exhausted and benefits would only be able to be paid at 80 percent. That is if nothing were done to shore up the system. However, it is hardly broke. To me broke means zero benefits.

Today the payroll cap on SSA contributions is at $106,800. The Social Security administration has said that increasing the payroll tax base by 1.9 percent would insure full solvency for the next 75 years.

Back to my friends comment. Why are these facts not being discussed as part of a public policy debate? Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes amount to 40 percent of the taxes collected by our government. Half of all SSA recipients rely on Social Security as their primary source of retirement funds. So, these programs are definitely large enough to get our attention. Why are the facts not being discussed?

Why indeed? It's a given that conservatives want to alter these programs. They did not vote for them and have spent decades trying to limit or reduce the programs. The Medicare Part D program by the Bush administration is the only exception. That was a classic case of Clinton triangulation.

The national infotainment media is clueless on this and most issues. Democratic Congress persons like McCaskill seem to barely understand the basics. Conservatives are enemies of these programs. It is a perfect storm of the weakest political leadership in a century and a national press dazzled by glitter.

Pity us.