A safety net for every generation

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Christopher Peters, guest columnist

Our elected leaders aren’t telling the full truth about Social Security and Medicare reform.

Politicians have turned those programs into an emotional wedge issue, scaring vulnerable seniors into thinking reformers will take away their benefits.

But here’s the truth — not only can we protect today’s seniors and also make smart decisions for future generations, but we must do so in order to keep our federal government operating. If we don’t act soon, these programs will consume an ever-increasing portion of our tax dollars, leaving the federal government unable to fully fund national security, infrastructure, or any other priorities.

The next Congress must pass Social Security and Medicare reform. But that won’t happen without pressure from everyday Iowans.

As part of my campaign for U.S. Congress this year, I’m inviting folks across Iowa to go online and read my plan for entitlement reform — it’s on my website at DrPetersForIowa.com/Every-Generation. You’ll find information and resources that will help you dig deeper and better understand this important issue.

If you’re as concerned as I am, I hope you’ll sign my campaign’s “Every Generation” pledge on the website. We’re asking Iowans to make a commitment to keep every generation in mind when they vote this November. We can’t brush these problems off to our children, but we also can’t solve them on the backs of vulnerable seniors.

Social Security and health care spending — including Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act subsidies and more — already account for 50 percent of federal spending, compared to about 18 percent for national defense and around 1 percent for K-12 education.

That portion of revenues we commit to entitlements will only grow in the coming years, as the Baby Boom generation ages into retirement. The younger generation is smaller and life expectancy is increasing, meaning as time goes on, there will be fewer and fewer taxpayers for each retiree.

In 1960, there were five workers paying into the system for every Social Security beneficiary, according to federal government data. Today, that’s about 3 workers per beneficiary, and by 2035, it’s expected to be 2 workers per beneficiary.

What’s turned into a politicized, emotional issue should be seen instead as a mathematical issue: If there are fewer workers-per-retiree, we either have to tax workers more, pay retirees less, or do some of both.

I’m open to all of the above. I don’t think we should take any option off the table when it comes to fixing our budget crisis. But none of that will happen if politicians aren’t willing to speak truthfully about the challenges we face.

Older Iowans paid into Social Security and Medicare and they shouldn’t shoulder all of the burden for politicians’ mismanagement. But, at the same time, future generations of Iowans shouldn’t be shackled with enormous debt for programs they didn’t choose to participate in.

I think we can find solutions that will benefit Iowans of every generation. As concerned Americans, we should press our politicians to solve problems, instead of exploiting issues for political gain.

I hope you’ll visit my website — DrPetersForIowa.com/Every-Generation — to learn more about entitlement reform and my campaign’s common-sense solutions to secure every Iowans’ future.

• Dr. Christopher Peters, of Coralville, is a surgeon and Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in Iowa’s 2nd District. Comments: DrChristopherPeters@gmail.com; DrPetersForIowa.com

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