Education, health care, Social Security and Medicare |

Education, health care, Social Security and Medicare

All of these issues are of major concern to a huge majority of the American public, and rightfully so. The cost of higher education and health care are rising out of the reach of increasing numbers of American families, and there is growing concern over the future viability of our Social Security and Medicare programs.

A recent survey has shown that students in the United States now rank 21st in science and 25th in mathematics among the nations of the world. And because American families are struggling with the rising costs of food and energy, more and more of them are unable to meet the rapidly increasing cost of college education for their children. If we as a country don’t do something about this, we will fall even further behind the rest of the world, with devastating consequences for our economy.

We need to adopt a policy of guaranteed funding for the college education of every qualified student right on through advanced degrees. This could be accomplished by an education grant on a sliding scale from 100 percent to zero, depending on family income and the number of qualifying children.

The college education of four million returning veterans from World War II, funded by the GI Bill, set the stage for the tremendous economic boom of the second half of the 20th Century. The new system could become self-supporting by requiring repayment out of a portion of the increased earnings which a college education provides, exempting those who are working in public service positions, such as teaching.

It is a disgrace that in this great nation, 46 million Americans (including millions of children), are without health care, primarily because they cannot afford it. In order to provide health care for all Americans, we need to totally reform our health care system. What is needed is a plan which operates like Social Security, into which workers pay an affordable amount, which guarantees them “basic” health care.

This would not include “heroic” surgeries such as organ transplants, or costly surgical procedures above a certain age, which questionable outcome and limited life expectancy do not justify. “Catastrophic” insurance covering these high-cost procedures could be purchased separately on an individual basis. This, and better regulation for the operation of the pharmaceutical industry, would make the cost of “basic” health care affordable.

We have all read reports that Social Security, and especially Medicare, are headed for insolvency. According to these reports, Social Security will go broke in 2042, and Medicare as soon as 2017, primarily due to the post-world War II baby boomers, who are now approaching the eligibility age. The number of Americans age 65 or older is projected to increase from the present 39 million to over 70 million by 2030.

Obviously significant reforms in both systems will have to be made, and the baby boomers themselves may well be part of the solution. The baby boom generation, on average, has been the beneficiary of the most robust economic growth in our history, and is therefore in a position to help save both Social Security and Medicare. The measures necessary for the solvency of these programs include gradually increasing the eligibility age to reflect increased longevity; significantly raising or totally removing the cap on income subject to the Social Security and Medicare tax; and applying a means test on benefits, reducing payment on a sliding scale for those with annual incomes exceeding $200,000, especially for prescription drug coverage, which is overwhelming Medicare. A combination of these reforms could actually allow a reduction in the Social Security and Medicare tax rates, which would benefit lower income and middle class families.

Not all of these measure will be popular with everyone, but in the tradition of this great country, we need to come together for the greatest good for the greatest number.

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