Letter to Rep. Rooney on Social Security, Medicare Reform Comment

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Written by Dean Baker   
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 11:30

The Honorable Thomas J. Rooney
1529 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative Rooney:

Last week, the Washington Post reported that you stated, “If there are truly real entitlement reforms that are going to preserve Social Security and Medicare for generations to come, it’s going to be very difficult for me to oppose” higher tax rates for the rich.

With all due respect, the Congressional Budget Office projects that even if Congress makes no changes to the program at all, Social Security can pay full scheduled benefits through the year 2034 and close to 80 percent of scheduled benefits for the rest of the century. 

In the case of Medicare, the program is projected to be able to pay full benefits through the year 2024. The cost controls put in place by the Affordable Care Act pushed this date eight years further into the future, from 2016, and reduced the long-term projected shortfall by more than two-thirds. 

In contrast, most recently proposed "entitlement reform" plans would cut Social Security and Medicare benefits by comparable, or even larger, amounts.  Considering these facts, I find it difficult to ascertain what the word "preserve" means in this context. 

As you continue to deliberate over Social Security and Medicare, I hope you and your staff will have the opportunity to further review the design and finances of the programs. If you would like any additional background, I would be happy to assist you.

Sincerely,

Dean Baker
Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research