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Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid must be at the center of any serious proposal to return spending to sustainable levels. These programs represent over 40 percent of all government spending. Social Security works by taxing today’s workers to pay for today’s retirees. The money current retirees “paid in” during their working years went to pay their parent’s benefits, not to pay their own. In the 1960s, there were sixteen workers paying into Social Security for every person receiving benefits. Today, that number has dropped to just above three workers for each beneficiary. This decline in population growth is what will deplete the “trust fund” and cause Social Security to become insolvent by 2042.

Medicare faces much the same population driven problems as Social Security. Their long-term solvency, however, is further weakened by the new healthcare law’s $500 billion cuts to Medicare. These programs continue to promise more in benefits to more Americans than they are capable of sustaining with current payroll taxes.

Without reform, both Social Security and Medicare will be unable to fully meet their promises to the next generation of retirees and will enslave future generations with debt. I do not support seriously proposing radical changes to current or soon-to-be retirees’ benefits. But if we are to continue providing these safety-nets for Americans in need we must renegotiate expectations with younger Americans. This could include increasing the retirement age for those just starting their careers, raising or eliminating the cap on payroll taxes for higher wage earners and creating incentives for personal retirement and health care savings.

We must ensure that Social Security and Medicare are sustainable and seniors who depend on them are protected. I promise to work with my colleagues in Congress to get these programs back on track so they are available in the future for all Americans.

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