Democratic United States Senate candidate Bob Kerrey says America will not get a handle on the federal deficit unless Congress reforms Social Security and Medicare.
Kerrey tells Nebraska Radio Network tackling the country’s fiscal problems is the main focus of his campaign.
“Well, I mean, first of all the primary reason I’m running is to help solve this budget impasse that we’ve got one more time,” Kerrey says. “It was fixed in the 90’s. In the 90’s, the number one problem was entitlements and it’s only gotten worse.”
Kerrey says it will take shared sacrifice and a bipartisan approach to put Social Security and Medicare on sound financial footing. Kerrey refers to a number of bipartisan approaches, showing a preference for a proposal pushed by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an Independent closely aligned with the Democratic Party.
Kerrey says the first step toward reform is finding proposals that have attracted endorsements by both Democrats and Republicans.
“Maybe even more importantly, the public needs to press candidates hard to be specific on what they are going to do,” Kerrey says. “I mean, for gosh sakes, people will tell you, Social Security is the easiest thing of all to fix. I hear it all the time. Well then why are there 535 co-sponsors of doing nothing?”
On Social Security, Kerrey proposes combining the Old-Age and Survivor Insurance Trust Fund with the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, setting a floor for benefits for lower income workers, indexing the date to begin retirement benefits, restoring contributions to the system which were reduced by Congress, and slowing the growth of benefits.
On Medicare, Kerrey would increase the premium for doctor visits, require drug companies to provide rebates to those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and enact a “means test” for prescription benefits.
Kerrey says Congress has allowed the country to accumulate a $60 trillion unfunded liability by failing to address the problems in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Time is running out for the country to address the problem. How much time will be determined by the market, according to Kerrey.
“Once the market says America is not going to be able to pay its bills, we’ve got a problem. We’ve got a really serious problem,” Kerrey says. “So, we have to demonstrate that we’re willing, not just to pay the bill, but we’re willing to cut the size of that bill down so we can meet a reasonable expectation of what we can afford.”
AUDIO: Democrat Bob Kerrey discusses entitlement reform with Brent Martin. [12:30]