Posts Tagged ‘Social security’
Everybody wants an “A” but nobody wants to study. Everybody wants to be rich but nobody wants to save. Everybody wants to lose weight but nobody wants to exercise. Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. No matter how you say it, the desire for something without the willingness to do the hard things required to achieve it, will always lead to disappointment. This is the cadence of the conundrum, the drumbeat of the do-nothing dreamer, the national anthem of the nihilist; the perennial I want but I will not work formula for failure.
The signature phrase for the conservatives of this generation of Americans should be, “We all want a sound economy but we aren’t willing to endure the life-style changes it would take to get there.”
Case in point: the coming Fiscal Cliff, the looming disaster of sequestration that every talking head on every network blathers about endlessly, “It will happen” “It won’t happen.” Pick a side and it will be argued back and forth hour after hour, “The President won’t let it happen, “The President wants it to happen.” Over and over we are barraged by the same few people who constitute the pundocracy of America debate what will happen. There is only one thing they are all agreed upon. If we go over this cliff, created by a vote of Congress and a signature by the President it will be terrible for our country. Why stop there? It will be terrible for the entire world.
Just think, if we Americans raise our taxes and reign in our drunken sailor spending binge it will be a disaster for us and for everyone who draws breath on this planet. Not to worry we, the poor unwashed in fly-over country, don’t have to scratch our pumpkin heads and wonder why it would be a disaster if our country took the steps necessary to save our economy the network appointed chatter chiefs are quick to tell us.
One side says raising taxes on anyone in a weak economy may push us over into a recession. This of course comes from the people who evidently don’t buy their own bread, pump their own gas, or know any of the millions who are now permanently out of work, in other words personally prosperous people who believe the Great Recession actually ended. The other side says raising taxes on anyone they don’t consider rich would be a disaster.
Both sides agree that at least half of the spending cuts would be a disaster. One side points at defense spending as a surrender of national security. While the other side points at cuts in entitlements as throwing grandma off the cliff.
The answers they propose are as predictable as a Hallmark Christmas movie. The Progressive Democrats say raise the taxes on the evil rich and cut spending to the defense department. The Progressive Republicans say raise revenues by closing loop holes and cut spending on entitlements. The problem with this is that just like Representative Paul Ryan’s draconian budget it still never gets us to a balanced budget let alone paying down the principle on the National Debt. Both sides favor plans that keep on borrowing even if it might be at lower levels than at present. Maybe we will only borrow thirty six cents of every dollar instead of forty six. Wow! That should really make our arrival at the ash heap of History a few moments later.
And that is the heart of the problem. Or as another old saying tells us nobody wants their own ox gored. It is the “Not in my backyard syndrome” applied by everyone to something. We all want cuts in spending but not in our spending. We all agree that wasteful programs should die but every program has its supporters. This is where reality takes a bite out of dreams. Unless we balance our budget and reverse the slide into bankruptcy our days as a great power, let alone our days as the world’s only super power, are numbered, and everyone knows China is counting off the numbers.
Looking around in the cloistered world of self-appointed opinion writers I hate to have to be the one to tell my fellow Americans this but we have to do the work to get the “A,” save the money to get rich, do the exercises to lose the weight, and we most assuredly will have to die to go to heaven.
We, through our elected representatives, have spent like there was no tomorrow until tomorrow is mortgaged to pay for today without asking the question, “How are we going to pay for tomorrow?” I guess we have always figured we could use the day after tomorrow for collateral. That may work for a while or at least until our children and grandchildren have been sold into slavery to the highest bidder.
Unfortunately my generation, the Boomers who proudly offered Bill Clinton and George Bush the Younger as our contribution to the pantheon of American Presidents, has kicked the can down the road while paraphrasing Louis XV on the eve of the French Revolution, “After me the flood.” Or as many fellow boomers have phrased it to me, “It won’t crash in my lifetime.”
Now the handwriting is on the wall, the torches and pitchforks are seen on the horizon, and it is becoming obvious though the end may not come on December 21, 2012 it isn’t too far off. Anyone who isn’t comatose in the cultural soma of social media and the game can see you can’t continue to spend more than you bring in forever. The interest on the National Debt is going to eat us alive. Our creditors won’t keep lending us more and more once they realize our only answer is to print our way out of debt. Ask any scam artist trying to live by charging their Visa to the MasterCard when the shop keepers start cutting up the cards the happy days aren’t here anymore.
What we need to do is go over the fiscal cliff, and instead of using the ensuing economic contraction as an opportunity to re-launch the United States in a fundamentally new direction tighten our belts. We have got to go through a period of austerity to return to reality.
Endlessly printing money always leads to money that isn’t worth anything. Even if our current leaders think they have figured out a soft landing for this lead balloon they haven’t, and when that bubble pops the economy stops.
Our fiscal conservatives who want to return to a gold standard should tell everyone that doing that will cause a contraction in the value of money that will resemble a train going 100 miles an hour hitting a brick wall. There just isn’t enough gold in the world to value every American dollar at one dollar. A return to gold would give us an economy based on real money, and that would be a good thing. However the proponents of this course need to be honest about the transition from funny money to real money: there will be a great deal of pain on the way back to reality.
There are plans to do something from the right. There is the plan to cut off Social Security at 55. Everyone younger having paid into the world’s greatest Ponzi scheme all their lives get another deal. Even if it is a better deal they will still feel like they are getting ripped off because they are. There is also the plan to cut all the wasteful spending out of Medicare but leave it all over at the Pentagon. These plans won’t fly because they only have one wing.
The left has a plan too. Raise taxes on the rich, and keep on spending. This may eventually pass due to the President’s perceived strength and the Republican leadership’s Progressive inclinations and acceptance of defeat but it will only continue our progress towards national suicide.
The fact is we can either choose to cut the spending, raise revenues, and save the future or we can continue to stagger like drunken sailors spending our children’s as yet unearned money until our creditors pull in the leash. I know calling for higher tax revenues is heresy to most conservatives, and I am not in favor of the government taking one more cent than necessary for Constitutional purposes. Saving the country from ruin is the ultimate Constitutional purpose.
Like any household that is buried in debt we need more money and less spending; the trick is getting both. The slight-of-hand artists in Washington are great at striking Grand Bargains for taxes now and spending cuts that never materialize. That never has worked and it certainly won’t work now. We could do it without tax increases. Without taxes the spending cuts would have to be much deeper and more painful, and we can’t get anyone to sign on for the pain of cuts with taxes.
Here’s the secret of raising revenues with taxes. We can’t raise rates which merely increases tax avoidance. A flat tax would bring in increased revenues by growing the economy and would indeed be fair. In contrast raising rates in a progressive tax system is merely punitive and is a populist trick to buy the votes of those who earn less.
If we don’t endure the pain now, if we don’t endure the necessary radical fiscal surgery despite years on life support, decades of refusing to take our medicine will finally cause our economy, and with it our dreams of a brighter future, to die. However, we won’t get to go to heaven. Instead we will go into debtor’s prison as our beloved nation sinks beneath mountains of debt into the second or third rank. We will watch as a tomorrow which could have been ours becomes someone else’s.
When our children and grandchildren ask us, “Where’s my inheritance?” we will have to say, “We spent it yesterday.” When they ask, “Where’s our future?” we will have to say, “We spent that too.”
Instead of being pushed over the cliff, let’s dive over and then resist any attempt to restore the spending. Let’s take the pain so our children can gain.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2012 Robert R. Owens email@example.com Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens
Some of the responses to my column last week, titled “Immoral Beyond Redemption,” prove that Americans have been hoodwinked by Congress. Some readers protested my counting Social Security among government handout programs that can be described as Congress’ taking what belongs to one American and giving to another, to whom it doesn’t belong — legalized theft. They argued that they worked for 45 years and paid into Social Security and that the money they now receive is theirs. These people have been duped and shouldn’t be held totally accountable for such a belief. Let’s look at it.
The Social Security pamphlet of 1936 read, “Beginning November 24, 1936, the United States Government will set up a Social Security account for you. … The checks will come to you as a right.” (http://www.ssa.gov/history/ssb36.html). Americans were led to believe that Social Security was like a retirement account and that money placed in it was, in fact, their property. Shortly after the Social Security Act’s passage, it was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, in Helvering v. Davis (1937). The court held that Social Security was not an insurance program, saying, “The proceeds of both employee and employer taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like any other internal revenue generally, and are not earmarked in any way.” In a 1960 case, Flemming v. Nestor, the Supreme Court said, “To engraft upon Social Security system a concept of ‘accrued property rights’ would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands.”
Decades after Americans were duped into thinking that the money taken from them was theirs, the Social Security Administration belatedly and quietly tried to clean up its history of deception. Its website (http://www.ssa.gov/history/nestor.html) explains, “Entitlement to Social Security benefits is not (a) contractual right.” It adds: “There has been a temptation throughout the program’s history for some people to suppose that their FICA payroll taxes entitle them to a benefit in a legal, contractual sense.
… Congress clearly had no such limitation in mind when crafting the law.” The Social Security Administration’s explanation fails to mention that it was the SSA itself that created the lie that “the checks will come to you as a right.”
Here’s my question to those who protest that their Social Security checks are not handouts: Seeing as Congress has not “set up a Social Security account for you” containing your 45 years’ worth of Social Security contributions, where does the money you receive come from? I promise you it is not Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. The only way Congress can give one American a dollar is to first take it from some other American. Congress takes the earnings of a person who’s currently in the workforce to give to a Social Security recipient. The sad fact of business is that Social Security recipients want their monthly check and couldn’t care less about who has to pay. That’s a vision shared by thieves who want something; the heck with who has to pay for it.
Then there’s the fairness issue that we’re so enamored with today. It turns out that half the federal budget is spent on programs primarily serving senior citizens, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But let’s look at a few comparisons between younger Americans and older Americans. More than 80 percent of those older than 65 are homeowners, and 66 percent of them have no mortgage. Homeownership is at 40 percent for those younger than 35, and only 12 percent own their home free and clear of a mortgage. The average net worth of people older than 65 is about $230,000, whereas that of those younger than 35 is $10,000. There’s nothing complicated about this; older people have been around longer. But what standard of fairness justifies taxing the earnings of workers who are less wealthy in order to pass them on to retirees who are far wealthier? There’s no justification, but there’s an explanation. Those older than 65 vote in greater numbers and have the ear of congressmen.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM
“The Millionaire Subsidy Elimination Act” have convinced me that the relationship between benefits and contributions to Social Security is poorly understood. Your editorial tone is one of comfort with making the benefit formula more progressive. Messrs. Moore and Williams appear to favor “modest” means-testing of Social Security.
Social Security retirement benefits are already means-tested coming (via the benefits formula) and going (via the income tax). I’ve not done a benefits calculation for some years, but I think that the brackets crediting contributions are still 90%, 32% and 15%, with the lower bracket applying to larger contributions. That’s steeply graduated in favor of lower contributors by any standard. It’s unconscionable that one should argue for more severe means testing.
Incidentally, why has there been no comment about impact on future Social Security benefits in conjunction with the payroll tax holiday and the debate about extension thereof?
Robert G. Brown Kennett Square, Pa.
Newt Gingrich’s entitlement reform plan, which I drafted, would empower workers with the freedom to choose a personal account to finance their future Social Security benefits (“The Newtitlement State,” Review & Outlook, Dec. 8). The plan would expand the accounts over time ultimately to finance all of the benefits financed by the payroll tax today, through private savings, investment and insurance, eventually displacing the payroll tax entirely. Moreover, the personal-account savings and investment system would be fully funded, entirely eliminating all future deficits and unfunded liabilities of Social Security. The Social Security benefit cuts which your editorial promotes would result in insignificant spending reductions by comparison, rendered unnecessary by the accounts.
Yet at the same time, future seniors would enjoy higher benefits than even promised by Social Security today, let alone what it could pay, because of the long-term market investment returns earned by the accounts.
The Gingrich plan would extend the overwhelming proven success of the 1996 AFDC block-grant reforms to all remaining federal, means-tested programs, 185 such programs by my count, and sending welfare entirely back to the states. Those programs are estimated to cost $10 trillion over the next 10 years alone. But under the 1996 AFDC reforms, the cost to federal taxpayers was cut in half, while the poor benefited with higher incomes through work. The entitlement reforms altogether would more than finance the transition to Social Security personal accounts, through reduced government spending.
Mitt Romney’s Medicare reform plan, by contrast, would impose Mr. Romney’s changes to Medicare on future seniors rather than allowing them the freedom to choose a better system as under the Gingrich plan. Indeed, Mr. Romney has not even specified how his Medicare plan would work.
Peter Ferrara Easton, Pa.
We all know that trying the same thing over and over expecting different results is a popular definition of insanity. And we also know that putting the paste back in the tube is a popular illustration of an impossible task.
I tested the first truism mentioned above as a young man whose motto should have been, “I’ll never do that again – I just did it again.” For some reason just as not going to school didn’t lead to improved job prospects attempting to spend every day at a party didn’t lead to happiness. Over and over I valiantly kept trying to rock-n-roll all night and party every day. I developed a patented hang-over cure. Stay drunk. I figured it wasn’t the drinking that caused the hangover it was the getting sober, and I tried my best to avoid hangovers from the time I was fifteen until I was thirty. Then at thirty I had my Come-to-Jesus moment, meaning I literally came to Jesus. With His guidance I found another path which included school and working which yielded a different result including a soul mate for a wife, a son to be proud of, and a wonderful life.
Turning to the second truism mentioned above, as a person who actually tried putting toothpaste back in the tube I can attest that it deserves its symbolism as impossible. At best you can manage to get a little back in the tube. But the process is messy, frustrating and in the end so fruitless it’s laughable. All of which brings me to my question for the week. Can those of us who believe in limited government, personal liberty, and economic freedom walk America back from the cliff to which the embrace of Progressive leadership and its collectivist mindset, one hundred years of reinforcement by indoctrination, and an addiction to entitlements have led us?
How best to describe the problem we face? Often a good example will expose a basic problem better than any technical explanation. Look at the debate about the payroll tax extension. Both wings of the Party of Power continue the baseline inspired fiction that you have to pay for tax cuts when all they ever do is allow those who earn money to keep it. The Democratic wing, always seeking to divide America into interest groups, contends the only way to pay for tax cuts on one segment of the population is to tax someone else. Therefore they propose to pay for the extension by taxing millionaires and billionaires. The Republican Progressives propose cutting federal salaries to pay for it. An approach which sounds as it if should appeal to those seeking to re-limit the central government.
Looking at the first solution, taxing the rich to give to the un-rich is merely more of the same spreading-the-wealth-around income distribution socialism that is the hallmark of the Democratic wing of the Party of Power.
Turning to the second solution it sounds good while in reality it is more baseline thinking where cutting a proposed increase is a cut even though the budget still increases. Instead of cutting salaries why not cut some of the tens of thousands of new bureaucrats which have been added in just the last two years? Merely cutting the salaries of the hordes of federal drones is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It may look better but ultimately it really won’t help keep the ship of state afloat. This is typical of the governance proposed by the big government Republican wing of the Party of Power. It may look good, it may even sound good, but when you peel back the onion the deficits continue and the debt goes up.
Peering through the fog generated by the media amplified rhetoric the entire debate is bogus because the original payroll tax cut was a trap to begin with. It put money in the pocket of every person who receives a pay check by letting each of us keep a little more of the money we earned. But the payroll tax is what supports the current recipients of Social Security. There is no Trust Fund. That is a fiction, since the money goes directly to the general funds to be replaced by IOUs that aren’t worth the paper they would be printed on if they weren’t electronic. If this money is taken away Social Security loses even the illusion of a pay-as-you-go system and is starkly revealed for what it is: welfare for seniors.
It is time for my generation to admit we have been ripped off for every cent ever extorted from us for Social Security, and the only way we can receive benefits is to have the government extort it from our children and give it to us. By decreasing the plunder taken from the kids and instead taking it from the perennial enemies of the Democratic Progressives, the most productive, Social Security is revealed for what it is: just another welfare entitlement. And merely lowering the salary of a bloated bureaucracy perpetuates the growth and legitimizes the recent exponential expansion of a centrally-planned government that has run amuck. It also makes social security visible as the Ponzi scheme it has always been.
Europe is exploding because the bill is coming due for countries that have played this social welfare shell game for generations. Austerity is the word that is igniting riots and strikes from Athens to London. Faced with the possibility that they won’t be able to retire at fifty with full pensions, generous benefits, and guaranteed vacations people are throwing fire bombs and toppling governments.
Western Civilization was born in the Mideast, was launched as a world embracing power from Europe, and culminated in the great experiment of America. Today Western Civilization teeters on the edge of destruction. Our Federal Reserve is pumping out funny money faster than anyone can count trying to prop up the European launching pad as we abandon our occupation of the Middle Eastern cradle and fear for the continued vitality of its American summit. Western Civilization burns while our Party of Power plays the fiat financial fiddle. Will we continue the shadow dance pretending we have a limited government or will we muster up the courage to tell our media enhance perpetually re-elected puppet master that he who pays the piper calls the tune?
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College. He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2011 Robert R. Owens firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens