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Social Security and Medicare are horribly underfunded, but have no fear. Amazon is hiring!

People would prefer to talk about UFOs with people who wear aluminum foil on their heads.

The sun sets on the U.S. Capitol.
AP Photos

It was during the Trump administration that I began running up to Republican friends and grabbing them by the lapels.

“We love America more than you do,” they would shout before I could say a word. “We are going to drain the swamp.”

I had no intention of talking about the usual Trump stuff.

“What’s going on with Social Security and Medicare?” I demanded. “We’re deficit-spending. The national debt is soaring, and we still don’t have a plan to make Social Security and Medicare financially stable. You’re a Republican. Don’t you care?”

They looked at me in amazement.

“Trump is cutting taxes on corporations,” they said. “He’s going to bring manufacturing back to America and stop immigration. This is wonderful.”

Republicans used to worry. They cared about the national debt. They weren’t as concerned as liberal were about Medicare and Social Security because national health care and financial security for the elderly were considered socialist programs launched by FDR.

Nevertheless, elderly people vote in large numbers, so Republicans would say they had a secret plan to do something about those programs.

But the national debt rose by almost $7.8 trillion under Trump. That’s $23,500 in new federal debt for every person in the country. And Trump’s 2017 corporate tax cut meant that there was less revenue coming into the federal treasury to support existing programs.

Yet my Republican friends said not to worry about Medicare and Social Security. Everything was going as planned.

Then COVID-19 hit, Trump declared we were at war with the virus, ramped up spending and didn’t raise taxes to pay for anything. This couldn’t be good for those federal programs that already were in financial trouble. Yet no one seemed to care.

Joe Biden was elected president. He promised to spend even more federal money and he has. Nearly $1.9 trillion was included in his COVID-19 stimulus bill of 2021. Lives were at stake. The economy was crashing as people were losing their jobs. More money was needed to manufacture and distribute vaccines.

Great! But I confronted my Democratic friends and said, “What about Social Security and Medicare?”

“What about them?” they replied.

Both programs, I explained, were running out of money even before Trump took office and he increased the national debt by trillions of dollars — to levels not since W.W. II. And now Biden is going to spend trillions more, and still no one is talking about Medicare and Social Security.

My Democratic friends frowned. Now was not the time to think of such things.

“We need to spend more on lots of other things,” they said. “We need a trillion-dollar infrastructure programs, maybe $2 trillion. Then we may need to pay off the student debt of all the college graduates.”

Those people are young, I replied. They should have jobs by now if they went to college. I understand Amazon is hiring. But us old folks need Social Security and Medicare. We depend on it.

People turned away from me. They preferred to discuss UFOs with people who wear aluminum foil on their heads. It would be years before Medicare and Social Security dry up. Aliens might be here now.

Could it be that so many old folks died during the pandemic that Medicare and Social Security were no longer a problem? No. And the drop in immigration and lower birth rates, along with higher unemployment during COVID, all mean that payroll taxes are down, which will cause worse problems for Medicare and Social Security.

My generation ought to care about this. Baby Boomers are the offspring of the Greatest Generation, but we have spent more and saved less money than any generation in U.S. history. We gave up our pensions willingly in exchange for 401(k) funds so as to help the stock market. We believed employers when they told us they had to spend less on employee health insurance to survive.

Our generation trickled down on everyone.

“Don’t worry,” replied my fellow seniors when confronted. “The government can always print money.”

Sure. And Amazon is hiring.

philkadner@gmail.com

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