This highly partisan letter was misleading in several respects, including accusations that I and other elected officials voted to “steal 2.9 Trillion dollars from Social Security to balance the budget.”

Editor’s note: This letter is in respose to a Readers’ Mailbag item from Martha Driskel, “There are plans to limit your benefits,” published in the Oct. 17, 2018 Lake Sun.

I wanted to take a moment and respond to a recent letter to the editor (There are Plans to Limit Your Benefits, October 17) suggesting that there are current plans to limit seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits. This highly partisan letter was misleading in several respects, including accusations that I and other elected officials voted to “steal 2.9 Trillion dollars from Social Security to balance the budget.” 

This letter suggests that support for H.J.Res. 2, the Balanced Budget Amendment which I voted for earlier this year, would destroy Social Security. This is a misrepresentation of what the Balanced Budget Amendment would do.  There was no provision in the bill to take $2.9 trillion from the Social Security program. The amendment simply stipulated that the federal government could not spend more than what it collected in revenues, which is the point of a balanced budget. This does not mean that the Social Security trust funds would have been raided.   To say so is disingenuous and a sad scare tactic often used prior to elections.

Further, the Social Security trust fund doesn’t just sit in the Treasury like a bank account waiting to be withdrawn. Contrary to what is being spread on the internet or by word-of-mouth, the government does not take from this program to pay for other things. Instead, whatever money is in the Social Security trust fund that is not needed to pay current year benefits is invested in special Treasury bonds, which are the safest forms of investment.  This allows the Social Security trust fund to collect interest on otherwise unused funds. These investments have added money to the Social Security account while also infusing money into our Treasury as they issued the bonds.  

The challenge with the Social Security fund is that since 2010 more money has gone out from the account every month to pay for benefits than is coming in from current workers’ contributions.  With 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching the current retirement age of 65 every day, this reduction of funds will continue indefinitely and will cause the program to reduce benefits in 2035 unless Congress takes action.

The future solvency of Medicare is also in question. Thousands of Missouri seniors rely on Medicare to cover their basic healthcare needs. Since our seniors have planned and budgeted for continued Medicare coverage, I take indications of fiscal insolvency very seriously. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office indicates that Medicare Part A will be bankrupt in less than ten years if no reforms occur. It is clear that we must strengthen Social Security and Medicare to preserve and protect these very important programs while at the same time ensuring that beneficiaries avoid any negative impact.  These programs deserve a serious bipartisan discussion about how they can be shored up rather than being misused to make political points.