AARP National Board Member Fernando Torres-Gil reminded people to use their voices in the debate over the future of Social Security and Medicare especially in the most powerful arena – the voting booth. Torres-Gil’s comments came during a keynote address at the 34th Annual Conference on Aging Aug. 21 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
He reminded people that both programs had been around so long that we have forgotten what it was like before these programs existed.
“My generation has not done a good job of educating our children on that history,” Torres-Gil said. “There was a time when there was no safety net, no Social Security, no Medicare, no disability services. Before these programs, 70 percent or more of seniors without a family were automatically poor. Today seniors have a 12 percent poverty rate.”
He said the upcoming election will be historical because these programs will have to be addressed by whoever wins the White House and takes control of Congress.
“This one is a crucial one because it may determine how I grow old, how you grow old and how our grandchildren will grow old. We need to decide if we can continue to pay for the security that Social Security and Medicare provide or not,” Torres-Gil said.
For the past few months, AARP has been conducting a nationwide initiative called You’ve Earned a Say, gathering people’s opinions and concerns about the future of Social Security and Medicare and what steps should be taken to make these programs stronger.
New Mexicans across the state have joined in the debate making sure they are heard as well.
“People have earned a right to have their opinions and voices heard because they have paid into these programs most of their working life,” said Stan Cooper, AARP New Mexico State Director. “Younger generations will be affected by any changes to future benefits.”
As part of this effort, AARP New Mexico has been conducting a series of community conversations discussing some of the options that lawmakers and other thought leaders have been discussing. Over 5,000 New Mexicans have participated in 47 conversations around the state.
As part of the discussion, participants are asked to fill out a questionnaire on Social Security and Medicare. Of the 1,700 questionnaires that New Mexicans have filled out, 28 percent say that both programs only need minor changes. Another 23 percent say that Social Security needs major changes and another 30 percent say Medicare needs major changes.
New Mexicans seem to be somewhat optimistic about the future. When asked what they expect to happen to the programs, 34 percent said more funding will be needed to maintain current benefits while only 12 percent expect benefits to be reduced. Still 40 percent believe it will be a combination of the two.
Make your voice heard and find more information on You've Earned a Say.