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Brighton-Pittsford Post
  • Guest essay: Mend our frayed social safety net

  • Fixing Social Security would require an increase in the payroll tax of 2.15 percentage points, or an immediate and permanent 14 percent cut in benefits.

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  • The politicians have not given retirees or people on Social Security any kind of break in recent years — not even a cost-of-living increase last year. I understand there will be a small increase in 2012, but that will be a washout because of the increase in Medicare.
    I have read many times that people, among them senior citizens, have lost their jobs, retirement savings and medical benefits, and are now trying to survive on just Social Security. This system of calculating an increase in Social Security is unacceptable and will eventually lead to many people requiring public assistance (i.e., welfare). When that happens, more of the financial burden will be placed upon our counties and state.
    How does the U.S. government expect us to survive when we have to purchase the same food supplies that have increased in price or have been reduced in size? The rising taxes, and the increasing costs of medication, natural gas, electricity, gasoline and diesel fuel are devastating our economy. I remember as a young lad, many years ago during a smaller recession, some older people had to eat canned cat and dog food in order to survive. Is this what is to be expected of us in the near future? I have to ask myself if these politicians have recently purchased food, gasoline, diesel fuel or any other life-sustaining commodities.
    Many people have paid into Social Security and Medicare for years — some for as many as 30-plus years — and are not at retirement age. What will happen to their investments in Social Security System and Medicare? What earned benefits will they receive when they retire?
    In an article published this spring by the Associated Press, “Safety net for seniors fraying faster,” it was stated that, “To illustrate the challenges facing the programs, the trustees calculated the increases or benefit cuts that would be necessary to make both programs solvent for the next 75 years.” I believe the politicians who campaigned for major cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and no increase in taxes would not want you to see this. The following information came in part also from that article. Fixing Social Security would require an increase in the payroll tax of 2.15 percentage points, or an immediate and permanent 14 percent cut in benefits. Fixing the Medicare hospital fund would require an increase in payroll tax of nearly 1 percentage point, or a 17 percent cut in benefits.
    I have never heard any politician state that both of these earned benefits should and could be saved for the next 75 years. If the payroll tax were approved, it would resolve the problem for the millions of people who are presently paying into the Social Security and Medicare System.
    Page 2 of 2 - I feel confident that our government could remove any abusers to our Social Security and Medicare systems. This removal should help salvage the system.
    When I was younger, I remember that the cap was lifted periodically on the income limit that was taxed for Social Security and Medicare. I am sure if the cap was lifted as stated above, Social Security and Medicare could be saved for at least the next 75 years. It is now up to the politicians to work on solving these issues.
    Raymond Barend of Canandaigua is a former Bristol town supervisor and chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors.
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