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POV: Programs more than numbers

Since early 2012, AARP has been encouraging a conversation about the long-term financial challenges facing Social Security and Medicare, and how to keep these programs effective for the long haul. This effort, which we call You’ve Earned Say, has engaged millions of Americans — and they’ve made their feelings clear.

In a recent AARP poll, 91 percent of Americans age 50 and over said Social Security was “critical” to the economic security of seniors, and an even higher 95 percent described Medicare as critical to health security for seniors.

To be sure, older Americans want very much to reduce the budget deficit and put our nation on a more secure fiscal path. But they seek measures that are responsible and fair, not ill-considered “solutions” that would cause more problems than they solve.

The fact is we are living in a time when retirement security has unraveled for many, due to a combination of trends. Private pensions are shrinking. Savings rates remain low. Home values have fallen. The cost of living continues to rise.

These realities make it unwise and even reckless to cut back Social Security and Medicare, just to meet numerical targets in a budget deal. Rather, the economic pressures facing older Americans warrant an open, thoughtful discussion on ways to enhance retirement security and how to strengthen the bedrock programs that provide it.

This focus is critical not only for today’s retirees and working Americans, but for future generations. AARP will continue to remind our elected leaders of the importance of Social Security and Medicare in New York and communities all over the country.

Of course, budgets matter. But we should never forget their impact on the real people behind the numbers.

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