Mitch McConnell; Paul Ryan (AP/Salon)

Three easy fixes to Social Security and Medicare that Republicans don’t want you to know about

It doesn't have to be this way


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Robert Reich
October 21, 2018 8:00AM (UTC)
This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

Republicans would love to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. But they can’t, because Social Security and Medicare are among the most popular of all federal programs. Besides, most Americans have been paying into them their whole working lives, and depend on them.

So how will Republicans attempt to end these programs? By doing nothing to save Medicare and Social Security.

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The trustees for Medicare and Social Security — of which I used to be one — say Medicare will run out of money by 2026, three years sooner than last projected, and Social Security will run out in 2034.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Here are three easy fixes to Social Security and Medicare that Republicans don’t want you to know about.

First: Raise the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes.

This year, that cap is $128,400, meaning that every dollar earned above $128,400 isn’t subject to Social Security taxes.

So the typical CEO of a big company, who makes over $15 million, pays Social Security taxes on just $128,400 of his or her income, a tiny fraction. While the typical nurse practitioner, who takes home around $100,000, pays Social Security taxes on every dollar of his or her income.

In this era of raging inequality, that’s not fair. And it’s not even logical. Raise the cap.

Second: To help rein in Medicare costs, allow the government to use its huge bargaining power to negotiate lower drug prices.

Big Pharma has gotten legislation barring the government from negotiating lower drug prices. That legislation should be repealed.

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Big Pharma says this would mean less research on new drugs, but that’s baloney. Pharma already spends more on advertising, marketing, and lobbying than it does on research.

Third: To deal with a basic reason why Social Security and Medicare are running out of money, allow more young immigrants into the U.S.

The basic reason why Social Security and Medicare are running out of money is the American population continues to age and live longer – leaving a relatively smaller working population to pay into Social Security and Medicare.

What to do? Allow in more young immigrants. Immigrants and their children are the fastest growing segment of the working population, already contributing billions in payroll taxes every year. Instead of shutting immigrants out, allowing more immigrants into the country will help secure the future of Social Security and Medicare.

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This isn’t rocket science, folks. Raise the cap, negotiate drug prices, and allow in more immigrants. Do these three things and you won’t have to worry about Social Security and Medicare not being there when you need it.


Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 15 books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's also co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism."

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