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Chris Christie risks a generational debate on entitlements


Chris Christie risks a generational debate on entitlements: Robert Samuelson

on April 24, 2015 at 12:00 PM, updated April 24, 2015 at 12:01 PM

By Robert J. Samuelson

WASHINGTON — If New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has his way, the unfolding presidential campaign will focus on generational fairness. It will seek to curb spending on the elderly — mainly Social Security and Medicare — without putting the elderly at risk. This debate would be good for the country, but whether the country can conduct it without an orgy of bombast and distortion is an open question.

In case you missed it, Christie gave a speech in New Hampshire in mid-April proposing the following:

–Social Security benefits would be gradually reduced for those with non-Social Security incomes above $80,000 and ended at incomes exceeding $200,000, a plan Christie said would affect less than 2 percent of beneficiaries.

–Social Security’s eligibility age would slowly be raised (2 months a year, beginning in 2022) to 69 for full benefits and 64 for early retirement (from the present 62); Medicare’s eligibility age would be raised from today’s 65 to 67 in 2040 and 69 in 2064.

–Wealthier retirees with incomes above $85,000, who already pay higher Medicare premiums, would have their premiums raised on a sliding scale so that beneficiaries with incomes above $196,000 would pay 90 percent of the premiums for Medicare Part B (doctors’ bills) and Part D (drug coverage). Presumably, this also would be phased in, though Christie gave no details.

–Medicaid — the federal-state health insurance program for the poor — would be cut by putting a ceiling on federal payments to states.

Let’s concede that Christie’s gambit is self-serving. His presidential prospects are said to lag. He strives to differentiate himself from the herd of Republican contenders. What better way to demonstrate “leadership” qualities than to tackle an issue that, according to conventional wisdom, is political suicide. It’s a high-risk/high-reward strategy.

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Readers Worries about kids future

Hitler youth on parade
Readers Worries about kids future 

This country has undergone a seismic shift in its values in recent years. Our two main parties pretty much followed the same principals of self-reliance and hard work. One was just a little more to the left of the other, but nevertheless, the entrenched sense of American entrepreneurship shone through. Because of the fairly narrow gap in philosophies, common ground was fairly do-able in a divided Government. These last few years have seen a very dangerous move to increase support on the left by enhancing and pushing programs that encourage people to work less and even not at all, through hand-outs and a tax system where almost half the population pays no income tax. Now call me crazy, but even I would vote for the party that absolved me from paying income tax. Add to that, years of sending cryptic signals to people south of the border that we aren’t all that serious in preventing your border crossing, and it’s no wonder we are seeing droves flooding in. We no longer have a diligent media in this country. We have a media business model that caters to segments of society. The majortiy of these segments are to the left, and we therefore have a media that mostly acts as a cheerleader for this President.

I’m not sure if it’s even possible to get the psyche of this country back to where it used to be. I am truly worried about the future of my kids, and if this woman gets elected, I think 4-8 more years of this current way of thinking will be catastrophic.