VARILEK: GOP calls for seniors to sacrifice while giving breaks to millionairesAt a time when Washington seems rigged to serve the very wealthiest Americans, I believe middle-class and working South Dakota families deserve a leader who will put their interests first.
By: MATT VARILEK , Guest columnist
Not long ago, our family celebrated the birthday of my eldest daughter. Three generations of family gathered that day, from kids still in diapers, to parents, and grandparents, too. As I took in the happy chaos of that gathering, I couldn’t help but reflect on what kind of country I want my daughter and her generation to inherit.
I’m proud to live in a country where senior citizens know that after a lifetime of hard work, Medicare will ensure decent health care in retirement. But because demands on the program have grown over time, some say we can no longer afford to live in that kind of a country. They say we must dismantle Medicare, and shift more out-of-pocket costs onto future seniors.
One of the main reasons I’m running for Congress is that I believe South Dakotans deserve to know that traditional Medicare will be there for them when they retire. As a member of Congress, I would seek ways to continue strengthening and improving Medicare so our seniors can continue looking forward to a basic level of health security in retirement.
Kristi Noem and her Tea Party group in the U.S. House have a different view. For the second year in a row, she voted “yes” on a budget plan that would end Medicare as we know it. Her plan would force future seniors into the private health insurance market, and give them a voucher to cover part of their premiums. She and her Tea Party colleagues hope people won’t realize just how what a radical plan this is, as long as they keep on calling in “Medicare.” But under her radical plan, out-of-pocket costs for a typical senior would go up by about $6,000 per year, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
At the same time that Noem calls for such significant sacrifice from South Dakota seniors who often cannot afford it, her budget would give new tax breaks worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the average millionaire! (And few of those millionaires are South Dakota residents, by the way.) I can’t think of a better example of why we need a new representative in the U.S. House — a leader who will put the interests of South Dakota Medicare participants before those of wealthy folks who don’t need additional tax breaks.
Like so many people here in our great state, I’m one of a long line of family members who have worked their whole lives. At a time when Washington seems rigged to serve the very wealthiest Americans, I believe middle-class and working South Dakota families deserve a leader who will put their interests first.
Defenders of the plan to dismantle Medicare will argue that bold action is necessary to control our deficit and debt. On that much we agree. Getting our fiscal house in order is essential for our long-term economic stability. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to balance the budget.
The wrong way — Kristi Noem’s Tea Party way — tells South Dakota seniors to sacrifice, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. My conversations with people across the state tell me that most of us believe the right way involves shared sacrifice, with a focus on strengthening and growing the middle class.
We can ensure Medicare will be available for my daughters and their generation, but only if we have the courage to stand up and fight for it. I’m running for Congress to join that fight, and I hope you’ll join it too.
Matt Varilek is a Democrat challenging Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., for South Dakota's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.