Mary Ruwart: Can We Keep Promises to Our Seniors Without Bankrupting Our Children and Grandchildren?


Baby-boomers are starting to retire. They expect to receive Social Security since most of them have contributed to the program all of their lives. They expect to receive Medicare benefits, because private insurers have been virtually driven from the retiree market. These two programs alone constitute about a third of the current US budget.

However, Social Security is already running a deficit, creating more inflation as government spends money it does not have. The check seniors receive buys less and less each month, essentially gutting the promised benefit. This is not good news for baby boomers, as they need to make sure that they find a way of paying for long-term care somehow.

As our population grays, we have fewer workers than we did in the past supporting each retiree. In 1950, approximately 16 workers paid the Social Security checks of each retiree; today, fewer than 3 workers do so. Social Security taxes must be raised dramatically to make the system solvent, making it harder for the younger generation to get ahead.

What of Medicare? Obama has already slashed its budget and more cuts may be coming. Many doctors are deciding that the red tape, delayed payments, and slashed fees just aren’t worth it. My physician, along with many others, have already sent notices to those who are approaching senior status that they won’t be taking Medicare. The “free” health care program that seniors have paid for all their working life might be theirs in theory, but in practice they are likely to die waiting in the same long lines that Canadians and Brits have to deal with. Raising taxes enough on workers to alleviate this wait will burden the retirees’ children and grandchildren further. Deficit spending creates more inflation, shrinking retirees’ Social Security checks and essentially having them pay for the “free” health care program that they’ve been taxed for throughout their working career.

Are these our onlychoices? Should we deficit spend and create the subsequent inflation which shifts the burden to seniors who have paid into these programs all of their lives? Should we raise taxes and make the next generation pay about 5 times more for retiree Social Security than their parents and grandparents did? Instead of choosing between these two heart-rending choices, libertarians have a win-win solution to offer that has been validated in the most stringent testing ground of all—the real world.

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