The people who packed our Social Security and Medicare roundtables in Chisholm, Bovey and Cloquet spoke up loudly and clearly last week. They want no part of risky Republican “privatization” plans to cut benefits, turn Social Security over to billionaire Wall Street bankers and replace Medicare with a “voucher” system run by the costly insurance industry. Instead, they want us to simply fix whatever needs fixing. They support our common sense plan to “scrap the cap” and raise the earnings ceiling on Social Security payments from $118,500 to $250,000. That step alone would keep the fund solvent for the next 75 years. And they want fair cost of living adjustments based on the senior Consumer Price Index that tracks how seniors really spend their money.

The folks at our meetings also made it clear they’re sick and tired of hearing Social Security and Medicare referred to as “entitlements.” As I have repeatedly pointed out, Social Security and Medicare are earned benefits people begin paying for from the very first hour of their first day on the job. Privatizing Social Security would funnel billions of dollars-worth of those earned benefits to Wall Street bankers as management fees. And privatizing Medicare would drain billions more of those benefits into multi-million dollar executive salaries and bigger profits for insurance companies peddling high cost/low benefit plans paid for with vouchers. Meanwhile, studies show that Medicare premiums would go up 50 percent.

The good news is there is plenty of time to fix whatever needs fixing without cutting benefits or resorting to ill-considered privatization schemes that benefit big corporations. Social Security and Medicare are financially sound for the foreseeable future. In fact, Social Security has a $2.8 trillion surplus. That’s enough to pay benefits for the next 20 years even if we do nothing. And thanks to the lowest rate of health care cost increases in 50 years, the life of the Medicare Trust Fund now extends to 2030.

We’ll be holding more Social Security and Medicare roundtables throughout Minnesota’s 8th District as time goes on.