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Guest column/Central government is attacking senior citizens

December 28, 2013
Weirton Daily Times

As 5 million Americans reach age 65 each year and join millions of others in the final season of their lives, most expect to enjoy their long-promised and eagerly anticipated golden years. They look forward to a secure retirement, pursuing their favorite activities and enjoying their children and grandchildren. Most have worked hard since their teen years, marrying and raising families. They paid their dues, including ever-rising taxes and Social Security and Medicare assessments. They contributed to some sort of retirement program, managed to pay off mortgages and put a little something aside for retirement. They spent their lives doing the right thing and trusting their elected government in Washington to do the same, but it hasn't worked out that way. The central government has failed to hold up its end of the bargain, engaging in multiple Ponzi schemes, running up gargantuan debt and outright lying to those who pay all the bills. Now, they are attacking vulnerable senior citizens and doing it on multiple fronts. If you are one of these baby boomers, brace yourself.

The recent financial crisis induced by a blundering central government has probably wiped out all or most of your nest egg, if you were able to accumulate one at all. Many pension plans have either disappeared or fallen short of promised benefits. Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security are underfunded and facing even larger unfunded liabilities while politicians continue to inflate the rolls. Absent fiscal responsibility, we have only ephemeral Washington promises upon which to base the hopes for the future. And the central government is firing even more salvos at its most loyal baby boomer population.

In an attempt to buy even more votes, the central government reduced Social Security payroll taxes with the effect of further decreasing the system's solvency. Meager cost-of-living increases are more than offset by inflation, Medicare payment increases and increasing co-pays. Even your Social Security is taxed and many seniors are assessed for things such as Part D drug coverage, even though they have private insurance and do not even use the government benefit.

Those fortunate enough to have put aside a little money for retirement earn virtually no return on their savings, thanks to the central government's policy of using your tax money to force interest rates to artificially low levels in order to create the appearance of at least an anemic economic recovery. Despite record tax revenues, the same government that spends over a trillion dollars more than it takes in each year wants to double the tax rates on dividends and capital gains, which are two main sources of senior citizen income, and will drive down dividends.

Thanks to the panoply of new taxes accompanying Obamacare, additional taxes on interest income, dividends and proceeds from home sales will hit seniors at the very time they attempt to downsize and retire.

At the same time, though, Obamacare cut the already strapped Medicare funding by half a trillion dollars and will force health care rationing and payment reductions for medical care essential to keeping the oldest among us alive.

We are frequently reminded that the oldest humans on the planet live on the island of Okinawa. Given central government health care policy, this won't change any time soon. After all, it doesn't make sense to spend a lot on medical resources on the needs of really old people does it? Not to our central government politicians and bureaucrats, it doesn't. The cost benefit analysis built into our emerging nationalized central government health care system allows panels of unelected government bureaucrats to decide if your medical costs are too high. If so, they will simply refuse to pay the cost of treatment and let us die sooner. Since most of our health care costs occur late in life, you can see which way this is going ... so much for breaking Okinawa's longevity record. Rationed health care will mean that our declining years will be abbreviated, even more unpleasant and we won't have to worry about our retirement income for as long. Should we say thank you?

Making our decisions for us, the central government has thought of everything to weaken us and consolidate its power and control over senior citizens ... lowering interest rates, collecting more taxes, depressing dividend payments and capital gains and building even more taxes into Obamacare. More than $100 billion a year is sucked out of the economy every year just to comply with central government regulations ... money that could be better used for health care, tax relief or debt reduction. If that's not enough, they keep wasting our money on high risk "green energy" boondoggles, while blocking oil and gas exploration on federal land, decimating coal and coal families and stopping drilling and development of delivery projects like the Keystone pipeline.

So what if America sends billions to the Middle East for oil? So what if the cost of electricity continues to skyrocket? Seniors on shrinking fixed incomes and with untreated medical conditions won't be keeping the lights and television on much longer anyway.

(Wallace teaches on the graduate faculty at Muskingum University, is a senior fellow at the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia and has served as a chief state Medicaid officer and health care executive).

 
 

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