The Legacy of the New Deal

Question: Are we headed for Social Security and Medicare crises?

Bill Novelli: Social Security and Medicare are problems. They’re problems waiting to happen. If you look at Social Security first of all, we’re gonna have a problem in about 10 years. Right now we’re sort of in surplus, but the Congress is spending the surplus money. And what we need to do is we need to look at both sides of the Social Security equation. We need to figure out a way to get more revenues into the system, and a way to adjust the benefits. We’ve got to take into account longevity. Social Security was set up when, you know, people lived to be 65. Now they live to be 85. And so we need to do something about that. But this is . . . this is not rocket science. This is something that we could do if we sat down and the two parties reasoned together. And so that’s what . . . that’s what makes it so frustrating. From a Medicare standpoint, Medicare is not sustainable in its current form; but that’s because healthcare is not sustainable in its current form. Medicare is kind of a subset of healthcare. And it’s the healthcare system that we have to fix.

Question: How can we fix Social Security and Medicare?

Bill Novelli: Social Security is . . . as big as it is, it’s the easy one. What we could do is get the two parties together. And what I’ve been saying in Congress is, “Look. It’s going to take two miracles to fix Social Security. One miracle is that you Republicans and Democrats are gonna have to sit down at the same table, and reason together, and come up with a fair, equitable plan for long term solvency. And the second miracle is that the public is gonna have to buy it.” And I think that AARP can help deliver on that second miracle. When we go out and talk to our members and other, you know, elements of the public, we lay out social security. We tell them what the problems are, and they are willing to engage. It’s not the third rail that politicians like to talk about. So we can get that one done. Political will is what we need. The other one, Medicare, as I say . . . the conversation we had on . . . on healthcare is where we have to go. We’ve gotta squeeze down costs, which we can do. We’ve gotta cover the uninsured, which we can do. And we’ve gotta improve quality of care through things like health information technology and electronic prescribing so that we cut down the errors in healthcare and improve the quality of care. We can do all these things, but it’s very hard because of the complexity of the system, and because of the political stalemate in which we find ourselves.

Question: Should we raise the retirement age?

Bill Novelli: It’s a tough question. People do not like that idea. Now you know if you’re 41 or under right now, you’re gonna have to work ‘til you’re 67. But at the same time, many people want to work into their older years. There’s another way to think about it which has been called “longevity indexing”. And some countries do this. And what they basically say is, “Okay. Let’s actuarially figure out how long you’re expected to live. And we’ll give you your Social Security money stretched over that period of time.” So you will get less money per year over a longer period of years. That’s one way to think about it. There are a lot of ways to consider fixing the system.

Recorded on: 9/27/07


New Deal reforms have become obsolete, our surplus is running out and our Medicare system is no longer sustainable, Bill Novelli reports.

Why the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner won’t feature a comedian in 2019

It's the first time the association hasn't hired a comedian in 16 years.

(Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Vulture Festival)
Culture & Religion
  • The 2018 WHCA ended in controversy after comedian Michelle Wolf made jokes some considered to be offensive.
  • The WHCA apologized for Wolf's jokes, though some journalists and many comedians backed the comedian and decried arguments in favor of limiting the types of speech permitted at the event.
  • Ron Chernow, who penned a bestselling biography of Alexander Hamilton, will speak at next year's dinner.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

A new study says alcohol changes how the brain creates memories

A study on flies may hold the key to future addiction treatments.

Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Mind & Brain
  • A new study suggests that drinking alcohol can affect how memories are stored away as good or bad.
  • This may have drastic implications for how addiction is caused and how people recall intoxication.
  • The findings may one day lead to a new form of treatment for those suffering from addiction.
Keep reading Show less