En español | Medicare will turn 56 on July 30, and Social Security has its 86th anniversary on Aug. 14. And a recent AARP survey shows you want them to be around for many, many more celebrations. In fact, 85 percent of Americans 50 and older oppose cutting these vital programs to reduce the budget deficit.
There is no political divide on this question. Republicans and Democrats feel almost exactly the same.
Americans overwhelmingly believe they have earned their Social Security and Medicare benefits after years of working and paying taxes for them.
The programs are a critical lifeline for myriad Americans. Social Security is the main source of income for more than 34 million older households. For many, it is nearly all their income. And of the 62 million people covered by Medicare, half have incomes of less than $27,000.
Because the benefits people receive from these programs are vital, older Americans expect Congress to protect and strengthen them for today and tomorrow.
Yet a bipartisan bill was recently introduced in Congress that could put these benefits at risk. The Time to Rescue United States Trusts (TRUST) Act would set up groups of a dozen lawmakers with the power to recommend cuts to the programs.
That means if only seven members of these so-called “rescue committees” approved of changes, they would be fast-tracked in the House of Representatives and Senate, with no adequate debate among lawmakers within traditional committees and no amendments permitted on the floor of the House or Senate.
This is a bad idea. Moving these debates from the committees that normally oversee them to narrow, less transparent panels on a rushed schedule is unfair to all Americans who pay into the programs and count on the benefits they have earned.
We’ve been down this road before. The history of these types of committees to effect change outside the usual legislative give-and-take shows they create mistrust among the American people.
We need a robust debate, not a hasty process designed to minimize public input on programs affecting nearly all Americans.
Instead of creating new committees, existing ones in Congress — with input from outside experts and the public — should focus on solutions to meet the health and retirement income needs of all Americans.
AARP’s members care deeply about Social Security and Medicare. We will continue to stand up against efforts that threaten them. And we will hold all members of Congress accountable for their decisions on these crucial lifelines.
We are committed to working with Congress to strengthen the financial viability of Social Security and Medicare for today’s and future generations. But the deceptively named TRUST Act is the wrong approach.