|ONLINE VERSION||SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2001|
|A New Alliance of the Generations|
|by George Kourpias, President,
Alliance for Retired Americans
The Alliance for Retired Americans is founded on the principle that the interests of older Americans incorporate the interests of other generations. Children, working age adults and older Americans are allies, not competitors.
All share basic interests in good health, security, prosperity and the pursuit of happiness. A healthy, well-educated child stands a better chance of becoming a productive worker; a productive, fairly-paid worker stands a better chance of providing for his or her future retirement; and an adequately supported older person stands a better chance of a dignified, independent retirement.
All generations benefit when they provide mutual support to one another in the process of living.
The American people clearly understand the common interests of the generations. In particular, the public understands that programs such as social security and Medicare benefit not only currently retired people, or persons with disabilities, but workers and children, as well. By spreading the costs of retirement across the entire working population, social security and Medicare provide a reliable financial foundation for current and future retirees.
Together, they reduce the risk that individual families will bear a disproportionate burden in caring for older family members with inadequate incomes or expensive illnesses. This is especially important to middle-income working families who earn too much to qualify for many public programs but not enough to support their older relatives in addition to themselves and their children.
Unfortunately, the recent decade of unprecedented prosperity has led some to consider dismantling the social safety net in favor of letting individuals gamble with more of their earnings in hopes of winning greater personal wealth.
At best, many people would wind up only slightly worse off than they would under public programs because of poor investment choices, bad luck and the inherent instability of marketplace risk.
At worst, with the inevitable swings in the economy, millions of workers would face an impoverished retirement.
Advocates of privatizing the social safety net argue that the "losers" under their scheme can be taken care of by means-tested assistance programs.
Yet, programs such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid, which serve millions of children as well as adults, have been allowed to fall further behind in the adequacy of their payments. SSI pays less than the poverty level and Medicaid provides highly restrictive, bargain-basement health care.
Americans, who through no fault of their own need help, should get help equal to their needs. The major unmet need among older Americans is prescription drug coverage. Everyone now agrees on the need for comprehensive prescription drug coverage but there is a sharp division about the best way to provide it. The only way to ensure that all eligible older persons and Americans with disabilities get the same guaranteed drug coverage is through the Medicare program as a universal, defined benefit.
The fake proposal by President George W. Bush to provide grants to states to expand drug coverage only to the poorest senior citizens is one more slap at middle-income Americans who have trouble paying for drugs but don’t qualify for welfare benefits.
The Bush plan is totally unacceptable and a sham proposal designed to shift support from a comprehensive and universal benefit in behalf of the "worthy poor." Under the full Bush plan, roughly 24 million seniors would be forced to purchase private market plans in order to get prescription drugs, and even then they wouldn’t begin to get them until sometime after 2004.
Once the program is finally in place, the HMOs and private insurers will still get to make decisions as to which medications are covered and how much they will pay on behalf of seniors.
The Alliance for Retired Americans is committed to the enactment of a universal and comprehensive prescription drug benefit for all Medicare beneficiaries. The alliance urges all older Americans and their families to call, fax, e-mail or write the President and tell him and their Congressional representatives that they oppose any attempt to spend the budget surplus on tax cuts for the wealthy before serious discussions are held on a real prescription drug benefit for all older and disabled Americans and other vital public needs.
The Alliance is equally concerned with the well being of our children and their working parents. We support improved education and health care for America’s children; and improved minimum wages for workers.
The Alliance believes that when generations unite, we can defeat our common enemies. In short, solidarity will carry the day for a stronger social insurance system for all Americans.