Mothers, daughters and Social Security

OPINION

If anyone tries to tell you that young people don’t care about Social Security, don’t believe them. Being in my 30s, I no longer consider myself “young,” but I am still a long way off from retirement age.

My parents, however, are not. Both are in their 70s, and have been retired for a number of years now. A few years ago, it became necessary for my father to enter a nursing home to receive a level of care that my mother could no longer provide. To pay for the nursing home, Medicaid takes my father’s Social Security check (except for his $40 allowance) and 75 percent of his public employees’ retirement benefit, leaving my mother with 25 percent. Her own Social Security check, public employees’ retirement benefit and that 25 percent leave her with barely enough income to survive.

With 0 degree temperatures outside, she can no longer afford to raise the heat above 60 degrees inside. She can no longer afford to visit me in Arizona, and she’s considering divorcing my father because that will raise her portion of his retirement to 50 percent.

Should her state prescription plan decide to drop seniors due to Bush’s Medicare bill that passed recently, she will be in even direr straights.

Raising the current benefit levels for people in situations like my mother’s would simply require eliminating the cap on payroll taxes. (Currently, income above $87,900 is not subject to the Social Security tax.) This would provide a decent standard of living for all, not just the rich. But instead of strengthening the Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare programs, the current administration insists on attacking them.

My mother is an astute working class woman who was born during the Great Depression. She understands how much these progressive programs have meant to working people over the years. And she understands the lie of privatization, and how it will make her life and the lives of countless others even more intolerable.

I do not profess to know all the complexities of her situation — we do not discuss these things at length as they are very painful for my mother. But I can say that these issues are very personal to me, and I imagine that I am not the only young person who has parents and/or grandparents.



Deb Brim is a secretary in Arizona.