Marco Rubio Remembers the Good Old Days

It’s rare that a politician can give a speech that I find so profoundly offensive that I just can’t shake it off.

Congratulations are, therefore, in order to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), whose words delivered in his address at the Reagan Library Tuesday night continue to ring in my ears and cause my blood pressure to rise to dangerous levels.

Thank goodness I’m not – as Rubio would suggest – a drag on society as I’ve not yet reached the age where I can sip on a refreshing lemonade by the pool as I cash in on my Medicare benefits. Should Rubio’s words cause me to pop an artery, I’m on my own – just as the Senator believes it should be.

Making his case that Social Security and Medicare have ‘weakened us as a people’, Rubio said-

These programs actually weakened us as a people. You see, almost forever, it was institutions in society that assumed the role of taking care of one another. If someone was sick in your family, you took care of them. If a neighbor met misfortune, you took care of them. You saved for your retirement and your future because you had to. We took these things upon ourselves in our communities, our families, and our homes, and our churches and our synagogues. But all that changed when the government began to assume those responsibilities. All of a sudden, for an increasing number of people in our nation, it was no longer necessary to worry about saving for security because that was the government’s job.

He’s clearly got a point.

I know that my synagogue offers terrific heart bypass surgery (thank goodness I’m Jewish and there’s no shortage of doctors at my place of worship.) I think they keep their high tech operating room somewhere beneath where they store the Torah.

No doubt your church, mosque or synagogue offers similar benefits to members.

And I’m more than thankful to my neighbors who were quick to pony up the $250,000 necessary to pay for my chemotherapy treatments when I was battling cancer. Yes, it was a bit tricky collecting in between those pesky side effects of chemo – but the good news is that those days will soon be over. As I move closer to the age of Social Security and Medicare – and that long, restful Caribbean cruise on the luxury sailboat I’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford until I hit the social security jackpot – life is about to become that proverbial bowl of cherries.

And it’s all thanks to Uncle Sam.

As that great and wise sage, Bugs Bunny, might say of Senator Rubio –

What a maroon!

Of course the family took care of their own when they fell ill in the days before Medicare. They took care of their elders until they simply died, at a dramatically younger age, because they lacked access to the professional medical care they needed to extend and/or improve their life.

Still, Senator Rubio longs for the days when Americans were tough even if they were only tough for about 63 ½ years, the average life expectancy for American men and women in those golden days of old.

Today, we may be a bunch of wusses in the eyes of Marco Rubio- but our soft lives last an average 75.6 years for men and 80.8 years for women.

Does anyone believe we would have accomplished these greatly increased and still growing life expectancy numbers had it not been for Medicare?

If you do, the senior citizens of Florida have a slightly used, history challenged United States senator they would like to sell you or, if necessary, simply give to you for free.

While Florida’s elderly could no doubt use the cash to augment their social security incomes that their senator believes they do not deserve, they would likely trade the cash to get rid of an elected official who, ironically, represents the state we affectionately refer to as “God’s waiting room” because of the large number of elderly who inhabit the Sunshine State.

Talk about a mismatch.

While the 40-year-old Rubio may not yet appreciate that life is still well worth living as one gets older, we can take some solace from the fact that one day he will understand his own stupidity and insensitivity.

And should Rubio, or, God forbid, someone in his family, fall ill to a serious disease at a younger age, he may come to understand that, had it not been for Medicare, the medicine, treatment or surgical procedure that might save a life he loves would likely not exist had it not been for Medicare making it financially worthwhile for pharmaceutical companies and medical technologists to create these life saving opportunities.

The senator is further untroubled by the fact that, prior to Medicare, 25 percent of elderly Americans went without any healthcare whatsoever because they didn’t have the money to pay for it, while 50 percent existed without the benefit of any sort of hospital Insurance.

Those sure were the good old days, right Senator?

Prior to 1965, the year we were blessed with Medicare, one in three American senior citizens lived in poverty. Today, we’ve lowered that number to about 14 percent of our elders living below the poverty line.

It should be zero percent.

But at least we’ve made progress – no doubt due to that cushy life made available through social security.

But one can’t help but wonder if Senator Rubio has any sense at all of what life is like for the over 2 million seniors he represents.

The average annual social security payment for a retired individual is $14,124.00 while the average for a retired coupled living solely on social security is $22,884.00

The poverty line for an individual is $10,890.00 and $14,720.00 for a married couple.

So, yes, social security is helping our seniors keep their heads above the national poverty line, something the Florida senator appears to resent.

But soft?

The only thing Senator Rubio’s speech revealed as soft is his head. But he can take a large measure of solace in the fact that when it comes to his heart, there is absolutely nothing soft going on there.

Rick Ungar

Rick Ungar is an attorney in Southern California and a frequent writer, speaker and consultant on health care policy and politics. He is a contributing writer at Forbes. Readers can reach him at rickungar [at] gmail [dot] com.