Last week, Christian social justice activist Ron Sider declared that he is quitting AARP because it's opposing changes to Social Security and Medicare that he finds reasonable: proposals that would ask more from wealthier seniors.
There are alotofideas out there for shoring up Medicare and Social Security, ideas that should be given serious consideration. And I agree with Sider on several points.
Politicians in Washington invariably use the term “entitlements” to refer to programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. On the face of it, it’s a neutral term: citizens are entitled to certain benefits if they fit a certain category of need, hence the benefits might reasonably be called “entitlements.”
Yet the word carries ideological freight—an implication that people are lazy or self-indulgent to expect these things.
Amid a fragile economic recovery, it shouldn't be hard for Congress to pass things like extensions of the payroll-tax holiday and unemployment benefits. But it is, not because these measures are themselves controversial--they aren't, or at least not very--but because the Congress is mostly broken, rendered dysfunctional by the perverse incentives of electoral politics.
It seemed at times during last fall’s presidential election that the most crucial issue facing the nation was the price of prescription drugs for senior citizens. Besides indicating the importance of the over-65 voting bloc, the candidates’ focus on this issue revealed how limited political aspirations are these days, especially on health care.
The landmark Medicare drug bill passed by Congress last month has something in it for almost everyone to complain about. Senator Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.), who led the Democratic opposition to the bill, thinks it moves too much toward privatization.
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