November 7 2011
Entitlement Reform Is Not About Grandma
Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" budget has garnered another round of attention from the media this week as GOP presidential hopefuls weigh in on the entitlements crisis. Earlier this year, public opinion on Ryan's plan was generally split.
This week, the focus is on a 53-year-old man with end-stage renal cancer who said that implementing Ryan's plan would be like "holding a gun" to the man's head. Of course, no one wants to see seniors face financial or medical hardship. But opponents of Ryan's plan are fighting hard to use strong, emotional language (like "holding a gun," "savage," or "draconian") and images (like Grandma being shoved over a cliff) to distract Americans from the reality of the entitlement debate.
The thing is, entitlement reform isn't about Grandma at all. It doesn't even really concern my parents, who are close enough to retirement age now, that in many proposals (like the Path to Prosperity) they'd be grandfathered out with the old system. Entitlement reform is about my generation (Millennials). We're new to the work force, but we've already "invested" in Medicare and Social Security with each paycheck. It's not a ton of money, but it's money I'd like to see again, if possible.
Wouldn't it be nice if that "investment" could be waiting on Millennials in 30 years, when we are ready to retire? Truth is - and I hope everyone already knows this, but - the money I pay into Medicare or Social Security doesn't go into an account with my name on it. It actually goes through the pipe works of government, and then gets packaged up in a check to pay for the health or living expenses of today's seniors. (See Ponzi Scheme).
While most Americans would agree that it would be wrong or unfair to take away the benefits of today's seniors - who rely on Medicare and Social Security and planned their savings and spending throughout their lives accordingly - I also think that most Americans would agree with me that, for the younger generation, it is wrong and unfair to continue to force us to pay into a system that won't serve us like it has previous generations.
I know I'd rather recoup some of my money, in the form of a voucher or a defined contribution for Medicare, than lose it all entirely if the system crashes. And without action, the system is likely to crash. Even ObamaCare advocates recognized this - that's why they included the Independent Payment Advisory Board in the health law. ObamaCare tasks IPAB with cutting billions of dollars from Medicare spending, but even with IPAB, Medicare's costs are set to double by 2050. Tell me, how will we afford that with $14 - no $15 trillion - in national debt? And in about 25 years, Social Security will only be able to pay about 75 percent of the benefits it pays now.
Millennials should be first in line to demand entitlement reform now. Right behind them should be their parents and grandparents, who can keep their own benefits but should be concerned with the solvency of these programs for the sake of future generations.
While there are many downsides for Millennials during these tough economic times, there is a silver lining. Our generation, like other generations who've experienced economic hardship, is learning a personal conservatism and an appreciation for living within our means. We know we can do a better job of saving and caring for ourselves than the government can. We're at the starting point, and we'll do much better if today's government realizes the importance of real entitlement reform.