For the second time in several weeks, Gov. Perry called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Although, beyond his hyperbole rhetoric, Gov. Perry has not offered any plan of his own — either an alternative or improvement to the existing programs. Neither has he explained what will happen to millions of elderly Americans who depend on these two programs if both are dismantled, as he suggested.
Gov. Perry is not unknown for his fiery rhetoric. In 2009, he made a similar comment in a different context. He threatened that Texas could secede from the Union. In Austin, Texas, at a Tea Party rally, Gov. Perry made a statement that, “When we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a standalone nation and one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.”
Later, he dismissed this as a joke.
Are we to believe the man who threatens to secede from the Union and takes every opportunity to talk about dismantling the system that has provided millions of middle class and poor elderly Americans a safety net is the right person to lead this great nation at a time of such uncertainty?
Perry comes from a long line of southern leaders who seem to be fighting the Civil War 146 years after it ended. While the first Civil War was fought in a name of a state’s right to maintain and expand slavery, the new version of this war is being waged with the intent of dismantling government power by dismantling the programs that define the government.
The Social Security system was created in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the first Great Depression as a pension plan for millions of elderly Americans. Since its creation, hundreds of millions of people have come to rely on this program as their only income after retirement.
Medicare was created in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson as a national health insurance program for the elderly Americans.
The intent of creating both programs was the same: To provide a safety net to the elderly by helping maintain their fiscal and physical well-being. Both programs are as popular today as motherhood and apple pie.
It’s true that both Social Security and Medicare will be face a serious challenge in not-so-distant future, as the cost to render the services exceeds the revenue collected to support these programs.
Therefore, there is no question the programs need correction.
But as somber as the problem may be, it’s not beyond repair. And, certainly, abolishing the system as suggested by Gov. Perry is not the answer. The right course of action is for Congress to find a workable solution, as proposed by President Obama, so that the program stays healthy well into the future for generations to come.
No programs or system, either created by the government or business, can work forever without some changes. That’s why, in the business world, processes are evaluated and changed to maximize efficiency. This is called process improvement.
Government also must evaluate its processes frequently, especially high-value programs like Social Security and Medicare, and correct areas that need improvement. But that can only happen in a divided government if there is a sense of urgency on the both sides of the aisle and if both make an earnest effort to resolve the problem.
Republicans need to tone down their over-sensitized rhetoric and accept the fact that Social Security and Medicare are not going anywhere, and Democrats need to understand that both programs may not go on forever without changes.
At the end of the day, there are not two Americas and we are not in war with each other. Sink or swim, we are in it together.
• Roger Adhikari is a Tracy resident who works as a finance and management consultant, currently in Dublin.