Social security Medicare is a right, an entitlement, and an American treasure

by admin on September 22, 2010

The Social Security Act was originally passed in 1935 and signed by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt in fulfillment of his “New Deal” theme which essentially asserted the responsibility of the people for their own. The responsibility was not one-sided, not laying the burden of social insurance on the people: it aimed to  force the individual to save, not voluntarily, but through taxation. It also partitioned responsibility between the individual and business, holding business partially responsible for such situations as unemployment and stresses on health and longevity. The original act provided for funding of retirement, survivorship, disabilities, and unemployment. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed an amendment to the act, providing health care insurance, also known as social security Medicare. This act expressed the notion of a society caring for its members, the notion central to the Johnson administration theme of the “Great Society”.

The social security Medicare amendment made medical insurance available for the aged and the disabled. Former president Harry Truman and his wife were the first citizens to receive it. Medicare and its complement, Medicaid, accounts for 20.1 percent of the yearly federal budget. It is primarily funded by taxation on payroll checks. A varying percentage of payroll is taxed and collected under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) of 1939, an act that moved collections from Title VII of the Social Security Act to the Internal Revenue Code. The individual worker actually pays only 50 percent of the social security Medicare tax, with the employer paying the other 50 percent. This sharing of the tax burden was not wholeheartedly received by business and continues to be controversial, but after 75 years of acceptance, the practice is likely to continue.

Present day ultra-conservatives like to call social security Medicare a form of welfare, thereby associating the negative connotations of the word, “welfare”, with what all working people who pay taxes have actually paid to receive in their old age. Although social security Medicare became law 30 years after the original Social Security act, the social philosophy underlying the original act hasn’t changed. In this view, the people that constitute a society are considered to have  natural compassion for other people in pain and suffering. Whatever the causes of that pain and suffering, human compassion cannot turn a heart of stone towards  people who are in such a state. The heart of flesh requires action. Social security is an attempt to reduce the volume of people the society would have to care for out of their own pockets; people are forced to insure themselves. The more people that are insured, the fewer society will have to care for in the long run. Social Security Medicare is not only a way by which individuals insure themselves – it is a way that society protects itself.

Neither is Medicare a free ride once you turn 65 and are eligible for it. Medicare hospitalization requires that you have paid into FICA for at least 10 years, but for Medicare medical treatment, you must also pay a premium. You’ll also have deductibles and co-payments. Some studies have shown that private sector insurance is even more generous than Medicare.

Don’t let these hearts of stone make you ashamed to avail yourself of what you’ve paid for all your working life! Social Security Medicare is a right and an entitlement. It’s not the number of millionaires a society has that makes it great. It’s how a society cares for its people that distinguishes it.

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