JUST PLAIN TALK: Revisiting Social Security and Medicare

Buz Livingston
Buz Livingston

Last month, Sen. Mitch McConnell bemoaned the current deficit blaming it on a bipartisan reluctance to address Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid spending. Let me paraphrase President Richard Milhous Nixon and “make one thing perfectly clear,” Social Security spending does not affect the current deficit. If Social Security stopped paying beneficiaries, the deficit would not change by a penny. On Oct. 7, 1984, in a presidential debate with Walter Mondale, Ronald Reagan said it best, “Social Security does not affect the deficit,” and that is still true.

Practically every client I have is in the top 20 percent of earners, some much higher. Like all Americans, they benefit from Social Security. When property values and rental income drops, the Social Security payment still shows up as scheduled. If stocks lose value, Social Security income doesn’t. One reason Florida recovered more quickly than other states is Social Security. Retirees flock to Florida. Social Security provides discretionary income for vacations and second home affordability. Be careful for what you wish.

Don’t demonize Congress for spending your Social Security contributions. By law, the Social Security trust fund could only invest in U.S government bonds. Highways, FEMA, DOD, et cetera get some of their funding from government bonds; bonds do government stuff. Puhleezee, illegal immigrants don’t get Social Security. If Social Security being an entitlement bothers you, check Social Security Section 202. Everyone who meets qualifications “shall be entitled to an old-age benefit.” When someone uses entitlement as a pejorative, it’s sticks and stones and a role they are playing. Don’t play.

If the colloquialism “in the short rows” confuses you, farmers often plow or plant long rows first and finish with the shorter ones. Two years and two months make me Medicare eligible; I’m in the short rows. Assuming I make 65, show up, there will be a party. As an anecdote, we recently got our health insurance premium notice from Florida Blue, another double-digit increase! Being in the short rows, I compared Medicare Part B and Part D premiums with Florida Blue’s; it floored me. So I crunched the numbers, it’s what I do. If we were on Medicare Part B and Part D, our taxes could go up by $10,000, and we would save money. A complaint tossed out often by many and regurgitated by Sen. McConnell is Medicare for all could be unaffordable; health care costs, for many, already are. Low-hanging fruit for Medicare solvency would require bulk purchases of commonly prescribed drugs used by Medicare recipients.

Healthcare costs for the general population, not just the elderly, are bankrupting our nation. We could redirect health care spending to cover a nationwide network of primary care facilities. Providing primary care facilities is more efficient than our current system and would boost American capitalism.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.