What’s your problem?

By Denis Storey


“The Republicans have a problem.”

It’s all we’ve heard since the election. After the polls defied the polls, and the country re-elected the president, the hand-wringing began about the end of the modern-day Republican Party.

It was the Latino vote, and the GOP’s immigration policy, we were told. Then it was gay marriage or marijuana, a pair of issues that found a lot of love at the state level and are still gaining momentum.

(Explain to me again how the party of smaller government advocates involvement in issues as personal as these?)

Now we have Sandy Hook and suddenly gun control is back in the news after a decade—and a pair of presidential elections—of silence. This is a battle the GOP (and the NRA) won years ago. Now it looks like the tide could be turning here, as well.

(Especially if this catches fire as a public health issue: A new Centers for Disease Control study reports “nonfatal gun injuries and gun-related deaths cost the United States $5.6 billion in medical spending every year, and an additional $64.6 billion when accounting for the lost productivity that stems from gun-related violence.” Compare this to the estimated $190 billion in obesity-related health care costs and $96 billion in costs blamed on tobacco and it doesn’t look like much, but you can see where this might go.)

But I’d argue the Democrats have a problem. As we watch this tennis match of a fiscal cliff battle play out in front of us over tax increases and spending cuts, the real fiscal cliff’s still in front of us and no one on Capitol Hill is taking a serious look at it. But the Democrats remain almost willfully obtuse.

While some Dems are already up in arms over the president’s switch on the cost of living increases, the Republicans are (rightly) arguing it’s still not enough. Medicare and Social Security are both train wrecks waiting to happen and proposing reimbursement cuts that will never come to pass and holding the lid on cost increases for a couple of years isn’t going to fix a thing. We need to take a more realistic look at how these programs are funded and run, and (as I’ve argued before) actually increasing the eligibility ages for both of them—by at least five years.

I know—it's political suicide, but it’s also common sense: simple science and math. We’re living healthier and longer than ever before. Our public policy should reflect that. These programs were mean to be used as safety nets, not retirement plans.

But the Democrats won’t even talk about it. “It’s off the table,” they say. Yet they’re happy to hammer Republicans for the same stance when it comes to assault rifles or clip sizes. And we wonder why nothing gets done.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com