Bulletin: Standard & Poor's lowered the country's credit rating from AAA to AA. Thanks, Congress.
This blog post also appeared in the Tuscarawas County edition of the Bargain Hunter.
Most people really celebrate birthdays that have a zero at the end of them. But the mileposts in our American lives have a lot more crooked numbers.
Sixteen is a big birthday – time to get that driver’s license. Eighteen used to be a bigger one than it is today because 3.2 percent beer is now extinct. Twenty-one remains at the top of the birthday envy heap because alcoholic beverages can be legally, if not intelligently, consumed.
For us baby boomers, 62 is the new 21 because that’s when we can tap into the retirement fund to which we and our employers have been contributing since before the age of 21.
And age 65 is pretty special, too. That’s Medicare time.
So, here’s a message to the wonderful folks who make up the 112th Congress, including those who consider themselves Tea Party members: Don’t be messing with my Social Security or Medicare unless you’re going to make it better.
(A lot of Tea Party members say they don’t care about getting re-elected. Is that a good thing? I’m not sure. Scary.)
I’m tired of hearing every time I turn on the news that Social Security is going to bankrupt the country. I don’t want to hear it. And Medicare? I’m going to need it, hopefully, if I can stay on the vertical side of things for another five or so years.
Here’s what I don’t get.
Congress approves all federal spending, and by law it has to expand its own line of credit – increase the debt ceiling – which it has done routinely for eons. All of sudden, this routine little exercise has turned into panic-inducing disaster because certain members of Congress, along with the president of the United States, want to make the debt ceiling about everything else.
Even the Columbus Dispatch jumped on the debt ceiling debate, calling for massive changes in Social Security and Medicare in an editorial (probably written by a young whippersnapper) published just a few days before the debt ceiling crisis deadline.
Fortunately, Joanne Limbach of New Philadelphia, who is president of the Ohio chapter of AARP, responded quickly with a letter to the editor.
“AARP wants Congress to strengthen Social Security for today’s seniors and future generations, not slash it as part of a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling,” she wrote.
“Social Security deserves a separate debate on the many options open to ensure its solvency for those who count on it today and will need it tomorrow.
“Medicare, too, deserves a bigger debate, one that opens discussion about bringing down the cost of health care for all, not just those who rely on Medicare or Medicaid for their health care. The current debate over raising the debt ceiling is no place to make decisions about the future of Social Security and Medicare.”
One of the talking heads on CNN said she knew how to settle the debt ceiling debate and then recited a half-dozen bullet points that she thought all the sides could agree on, although none of the points actually had anything to do with the debt ceiling.
“Amazing,” I thought. “How did she remember all that? How does she know what she’s talking about?”
As of this writing, we’re still waiting on a vote. Word on the street is that there were enough votes to get it done, avoiding an economic Armageddon. (Cue the music from “Jaws.”)
The deal crafted by your 112th Congress calls for raising the debt ceiling in two installments “sufficient tos erve the nation’s needs into 2013,” said Bloomberg News.
“The framework, as detailed by officials in both parties, would cut $917 billion in spending over a decade, raise the debt limit initially by $900 billion and assign a special congressional committee to find another $1.5 trillion in deficit savings by late November, to be enacted by Christmas.”
OK, here’s a warning to Congress: If you substantially mess with my Social Security and Medicare, I’m coming after you. And by the way, I believe in a strong national defense. So, don’t cut there either.
I don’t care about getting re-elected either.
Dick Farrell is a contributor to the Bargain Hunter. You can access this column at www.gpubs.com. You can read his blog at http://dickfarrell.blogspot.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter (dfarrell_dover).