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Time to Organize a Mass Movement in Defense of Social Security and Medicare for All

Call to (locked) arms

Attention to young people: This is not just a concern for the elderly. If you young people don't join the battle to protect Social Security and Medicare from attack, not only will you not have these programs when you need them, but you'll be spending your working lives helping to pay for the support and care of your own parents and grandparents. As Trump would put it: Sad!

The first step is to begin a campaign to explain to the American people that Social Security and Medicare will not go bust as long as they fight to protect them. Despite the best efforts of conservative and neo-liberal ideologues to pretend both programs are doomed by demographics and actuarial tables as if they were private annuities, Social Security and Medicare are in fact purely political constructs and benefits are set and funded by the decisions of elected politicians.

The second step is to explain clearly to all Americans that Social Security and Medicare do not simply benefit the old and the sick. They are there for every worker who becomes disabled or too ill to work anymore. Social Security benefits are also paid to support children when a wage-earning parent dies, or to a widow who may have earned no or only a minimal Social Security benefit while raising a family. Even more importantly, Social Security and Medicare also mean that children and grandchildren do not have to bankrupt themselves or short-change their own children’s future by having to impoverish themselve to support their aging parents and/or grandparents. If you think about it, what working-age person complains the benefit payments to their retired parents or grandparents being too high? And yet that is one of the more obscene tactics opponents of these programs have turned to: trying to stir up an inter-generational war over “entitlements.”

Marches on Washington and state capitals in this movement should not include just older people — they should be packed with young people demanding that grandma and grandpa and mom and dad get the benefits they’ve earned, and that these programs be there for them too, when it’s their turn to need them.

I would say that this movement I’m calling for should also be in defense of Medicaid — the federal/state program that funds medical care for the poor (and also for a huge proportion of the middle class when they need to move into long-term nursing home care), and of welfare for families of the unemployed and those who, despite working at prevailing minimum wages, cannot survive without financial assistance. But the truth is that these programs, as well as Medicare itself, should be replaced with some type of national health program for all, such as they have in the UK and Canada (and virtually all of Europe and much of Asia), and by a federal minimum wage that actually is set high enough to support a family on it (current minimum wages are so low that workers qualify for welfare programs like WIC and Food Stamps, meaning these programs are actually just taxpayer-funded payroll subsidies for greedy employers unwilling to pay their workers a living wage).

story | by Dr. Radut