TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
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
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
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
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
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