TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
September 1, 1999
It's time to start thinking about putting the beach towels and the umbrellas away and going back to school. For those of us adults who are lucky enough to have had a vacation, it's time to finish our summer reading and get back to work. Even members of Congress are preparing to return to Washington to take up the debate over the budget.
We're living in a time of great prosperity -- of almost unparalleled opportunity. I'm proud of what we've accomplished over the course of the last six and a half years, but it's time to look forward, not back. The question now before us is how do we take advantage of this historic opportunity? How do we strengthen, rather than weaken, our fundamental commitments, not only to our parents and our grandparents, but to future generations as well?
The President's budget would do both: It would meet the challenge of our aging population by saving and reforming Social Security and Medicare, and it would strengthen and improve our schools, preparing our children for life in the next century.
For 34 years, Medicare has protected the health of our seniors, but unless we act now, the Medicare trust fund will be insolvent by the year 2015. While this should be a major concern for every American, it is a particular problem for women.
Very simply, women live longer than men. The typical 65-year-old woman retiring this year can expect to live to be 84. Four out of five of America's elderly women are widowed, and almost half live out their days alone. And not surprisingly, elderly women are more likely than their male counterparts to be poor.
I've talked with women all over the country about their concerns for the future. Those living alone worry about who will care for them when they can no longer live independently. Those with limited incomes worry about how to pay for their prescription drugs, regular checkups and screening tests for osteoporosis and breast cancer, and whether they can afford Medigap premiums, which increase with age. Many of those in their 60s and 70s also worry about how to care for their aging and disabled parents.
Now is the time to save and modernize Medicare -- especially by offering coverage for prescription drugs and preventive screenings. We owe it to our parents and grandparents, as well as to those of us in my generation who are caretakers and are beginning to age. Finally, we owe it to our children not to make them pay off the debt we've accumulated, or burden them with fixing Medicare or Social Security, just because we didn't have the discipline to do it ourselves.
We also owe our children and grandchildren the best education we can afford to give them.
Since the day he was elected, my husband has made improving our country's schools a top priority. He has worked to improve standards, accountability and choice, and to make a college education available to every American.
He knows, however, that much remains to be done. Before leaving town for the summer recess, though, Republican members of Congress passed a tax bill that could force devastating cuts in key programs to reduce class size, modernize old and crumbling school buildings, support after-school and summer-jobs programs, help children learn to read, keep schools safe and drug-free, connect every classroom to the Internet, and expand access to college. Moreover, the Republican bill devotes no money to saving Medicare.
As our lawmakers return to Washington, and we renew the debate on these critical issues, let's put partisan politics aside. Let's not squander the hard-earned surplus we worked so hard to gain. Let's not risk our historic economic expansion with fiscally irresponsible plans that would raise interest rates and hurt confidence in our economy. Let's save Social Security and Medicare. Let's invest in our children and in our future. Let's pay down the debt. Then, let's decide what we can afford in the way of a tax cut.
And over the course of the next few weeks, let's not forget the real people whose lives will be touched by what we decide. Let's not forget that the elderly neighbor down the street or in the apartment next door -- for whom Medicare is nothing short of a life support -- could be your mother or grandmother. Let's not forget that the eager kindergartner off to school for the first time -- who deserves smaller classes and a clean and safe school -- could be your son or grandson. They're the ones we're seeking to protect and support. Let's not turn our backs on them now.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 1999 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED