While it is true that expanding Medicare costs are a serious threat to our long-term fiscal situation, this is primarily because of expanding medical costs overall, and forcing more individuals into the private sector will not help -- private insurance is a significant source of the problem, through their practice of cherry-picking healthy consumers and forcing sick ones onto the taxpayer's tab. Even those who are insured may have trouble getting what should be inexpensive preventive care. Insurers do not expect a long-term relationship with an employee who may switch jobs. As a result, people end up with more-expensive emergency care. The real solution to medical costs is to create a universal care system with strong incentives for preventive care. Medicare and the VA system (which was transformed from dysfunctional to first-rate, over the course of the '90s), not to mention the highly-successful French public health system, are all fine examples of what could be done. John Edwards has put forth a feasible plan for implementing universal care.
As for Social Security, the problems there are vastly overblown. If you line up the series of Reports from the Trustees over the past decade, you see the date of "insolvency" moving out into the future, rather than getting closer. The assumptions offered in these reports about future productivity growth and other economic factors are absurdly pessimistic. Even in the worst case, what happens is that some time in the middle of the century, benefits have to be cut by about 20%. This is a crisis? Our budget crisis is rooted in the irresponsible Bush tax cuts, not our social insurance system.
We must remember that because private pensions have been phased out in favor of 401(k) and IRA plans, Social Security is the ONLY defined-benefit retirement income stream for most Americans. If their companies or bankers turn out to be crooked, they will have nothing else to fall back on. Having some portion of your retirement income in this form is absolutely critical -- it is INSURANCE against outliving your defined-contribution savings, or having those savings stolen from you, or lost through simple bad luck.
Please, PLEASE withdraw your support from this idiotic bill, and recommit yourself to protecting our medical and retirement insurance system.
RM "Auros" Harman
Elected Delegate, AD21, California Democratic Party State Central Committee
Can we please replace Feinstein with Eshoo? Please?!