Only 11 percent of workers and 8 percent of retirees feel any “confidence” in the federal government, a new national poll discovered. It also found a huge majority of working Americans don’t believe Social Security and Medicare will be there for them when they retire. These findings can be seen as a dramatic and seminal judgment of the policies and operations of the Obama administration and the Congress.
In addition, these attitudes, expressed in a poll of a representative sample of Americans, are a significant socioeconomic development in the life of the tried and supposedly true programs of Social Security and Medicare. Since its birth in 1935, the Social Security System has been fondly called America’s most popular program. For nearly one-third of recipients, it has provided their entire income. And Medicare, the health-care program for the aging since 1965, not only has won the confidence of the elderly it has helped to keep many chronically ill seniors alive. But now most retirees, as well, are doubtful about the future benefits promised by Social Security and Medicare, the new poll revealed.
These upsetting attitudes toward the federal government and its major long-standing programs were discovered in the 2010 Retirement Confidence Survey, a representative national sample of 1,153 adults conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Mathew Greenwald & Associates, a public opinion company. This was the 20th annual survey of EBRI, a non-partisan Washington-based organization. It is engaged in original public policy research and education on economic security and employee benefits and attitudes. It is supported by 30 large, well-known American companies and private individuals.
When those working Americans were asked by EBRI “if the Social Security System will continue to provide benefits of at least equal value to the benefits received by retirees today” only 6 percent of the men and 7 percent of the women were confident that this would be the case. When the sample of the nation’s working adults were asked “if the Medicare system will continue to provide benefits received by retirees today,” even lower percentages showed any confidence. Only 5 percent of men and 4 percent of women responded they were sure this medical-care benefit would be available for them.
Even among current retirees, only 11 percent expressed confidence that Social Security benefits will continue to pay current benefits to them. Seventeen percent said they were “not at all” sure. When asked about Medicare, only 7 percent are confident it will serve them in the future. But 17 percent of the retirees answered that they were “not at all” confident about Medicare’s future. This, despite a strong pitch from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about Medicare sent by first class postage in a slick brochure to all 44 million households with Medicare recipients.
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