President Obama is including cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his new budget , due to be sent to Congress this week. These cuts, argues Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor under President Clinton, will hurt seniors already burdened by our tough economic times.
What President Obama is proposing is a “bad Samaritan” budget; instead of helping those seniors who have been beaten up by our tough economic times and left by the side of the fiscal road, this budget, should it be adopted, would kick them when they’re down.
“Who is my neighbor?” a lawyer asked Jesus of Nazareth. As he frequently did, Jesus replied, ‘let me tell you this parable,’ and Jesus told the lawyer the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is beaten by robbers and left suffering on the side of the road. High officials walk by on the other side, and ignore this beaten down man. What makes the Samaritan “good” is that he stops and helps the man out of his own pocket. (Luke 10:25-37)
Since the adoption of Social Security and then Medicare, we have all contributed out of our own pockets to help seniors and, in a particularly American twist on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, to ultimately help ourselves when we become seniors. These are the most successful programs ever adopted in this country to keep the elderly from being kicked to the side of the road and left to suffer in poverty.
In fact, these days, instead of the administration and Congress obsessing about cutting Social Security and Medicare, they should be looking for ways to increase these programs. We need more Social Security and Medicare, not less, given the realities of seniors’ individual pensions (declining or non-existent) and individual savings (not possible with flat salaries), as Ezra Klein shows. What used to be a three-legged stool of individual retirement programs, savings and Social Security is now, for many retirees, a one-legged stool, and this comes at a time when health care costs are rising and seniors are paying more out of pocket for their health care. Yet, this Obama budget proposal would start sawing inches off that remaining leg.
This budget proposal is unconscionable, kicking seniors when they are already struggling because of three decades of conservative “trickle down” economics. “Trickle down” economics is really “flow upward” economics; it has been a massive income re-distribution in our economy from the poor and middle class to the most wealthy as this viral video “Wealth Inequality in America shows. And it is continuing, perhaps even accelerating.
Even worse, Social Security and Medicare have nothing to do with the budget, and our long-term debt problems. Two unfunded wars and tax cuts for the rich caused our current debt problems. Many people know that, and I am sure those in the Obama administration who crafted this budget proposal know that.
I, along with many people of faith and political progressives, are calling on the president to drop this “bad Samaritan” budget proposal of cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Instead, I call on the president to invest in the long-term health of whole American society. The president should submit a budget proposal that includes reforming tax loopholes the rich currently use to get out of paying their fair share of taxes, and the budget should apply that revenue to increased payments from Social Security and Medicare to those seniors, and future seniors, who are being left on the side of the road, beaten up by the decades of “flow upward” economics.
That would be a “good Samaritan” budget.
Former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), Thistlethwaite is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.