Monday, November 23, 2009

Three Things Robert Samuelson Missed in today’s column

Three Things Robert Samuelson Missed in today’s column

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Robert Samuelson would try and foment intergenerational conflict – I have blogged about his misguided views before. Samuelson continually tries to swim upstream by inventing imaginary cleavages between the generations. Samuelson recycles some of those arguments in today’s Washington Post and I could quarrel with most of what he writes, but I thought I would highlight three specific points that Samuelson misses:

1. Young people currently benefit from Social Security and Medicaid and will continue to enjoy its benefits when they get older. Samuelson mistakenly labels entitlement spending as a payout to today’s seniors. Social Security pays benefits to more children than any other federal program. Six and half million children receive assistance through Social Security from its survivors benefits program. Crucially, 98% of the children in the US are covered through the program if they were to lose a parent. The program provides vital financial security for our nation’s children. Additionally, the vast number of Medicaid recipients are children. Yes, the majority of Medicaid money goes toward paying the long-term care costs of our seniors, but it is still a critical program for our nation’s poorest children. Of course, it goes without saying (unless you are Robert Samuelson) that today’s children will eventually grow old and will continue to benefit from these programs.

2. The current insurance market is not working. Samuelson takes issue with the House and Senate bills because they limit the ability of insurance companies to charge different rates based on your age. Samuelson wants to defend the status quo on the health insurance market when it clearly isn’t working. Debt from medical care is the single biggest reason for bankruptcy in the US. The current market makes it very difficult and prohibitively expensive for older adults to purchase insurance in the individual market. Yes, younger Americans will be subsidizing older Americans to a degree, but that’s the only way to make sure everyone is covered. Not having health insurance is different from car insurance and homeowners insurance. The stakes are higher when it comes to your health. The country cannot continue to tolerate millions of uninsured citizens (young or old).

3. Young people are the most enthusiastic supporters of health insurance reform. Samuelson frequently cries out for young people to get mad at their grandparents’ generation for perceived political injustices. Once again, young people are ignoring his battle call; because they realize the need for reform – many of them witnessed their parents go without insurance. Millennials, like the grandparent's generation are drawn to the call to service and realize that our nation’s problems require shared sacrifices from everyone.

-Terence Kane

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