Sunday, February 24, 2013


Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
I think that the issue at hand in Washington is that there is a consensus there that the little people need to get screwed a little, but there is disagreement about how to screw the general populace and still retain the perquisites of power.

But what I am thinking is that there may very well be a need for the little people to get screwed.  The amount of money flying out Woodlawn is astonishing.  In 2003, before the baby boomers started coming home to roost, the amount amount paid out by the Social Security Administration was 37% of all government expenditures and 7% of GDP.

I kind of doubt that that percentage of expenditure has gone down in the last ten years.  That and a couple more wars that we lost followed by some real crap economic times and I would not at all be surprised to see the outlay at more like 45% or so.

So, we have this huge outlay for old folks and folks who can't quite deal.  I know you think that this is being harsh, and in a way you are right, but that is the demographic served by the SSA.  Now, I think taking care of old folks and the folks who wouldn't make it otherwise is a fine thing to do.  But the current system reflects what I feel is a mistaken belief that the program is an "insurance" that you buy during your working days to help in your dotage.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah....I can already hear the flames a comin'.  "I paid for it", "Of course it is insurance, it says so right there on the label".  Yada yada yada.

Look folks, when the government takes your money by edict, it is a tax.  If you like what the government does with the money, it is a fair tax, taken for the public good, for a just and reasonable purpose.   If you don't like it, it is an unconstitutional affront to our civil liberties, taken against our will by jackbooted thugs, placed there to oppress us.   It really is your call, as these appear to be the only two applicable and acceptable modes of thought in our current political discourse.

So, we have all been paying this tax, I have had the money coming out of my meager paychecks for over forty years now.  Its a tax, the money is gone.  I have received a whole bunch of benefit for the privilege.  My Mom (84 years old with stage 6-7 Alzheimer's) is being taken care of in an excellent home with caring and professional staff.  That expense took all my SSA deductions, as well as Mom's and my two sisters and then spent some more.   Even if you factored in the "interest" on the government bonds, the money is gone, gone, gone.  We are more than even, the program has been a benefit.

Now, there are those of you who would sneer at my taking the easy way out, but, there wasn't much else to be done.  My savings wouldn't have kept here there for a single year, she in on year three.  I would have had to quit my job or had one of my boys stay home from school to take care of her.  There was only the social security option open.

Now you are probably thinking that I am being disingenuous in saying that something has to be done with the benefits.  After all, didn't I just describe how the programs saved my sanity and possibly my mothers life?

There isn't any conflict in my mind.  The program has been very good to my mother.  But the truth is the amount of money spent is merely being transferred to my sons by the magic of compound interest.

We will all die.  It would be interesting to know how much money is being spent prolonging lives like my mother's?  How much is being spent to keep fellow-citizens from starving when the economy has no further use for them?  How much is being given to comfortable bourgeois to pad their already healthy recreation accounts?  How much of their share is not being paid by the wealthy?

But I think that the first thing that has to be done is a simple statement that the programs supported by the SSA are not an insurance program.  They are a struggling and divided government's attempt to deal with complex and conflicting goals and a fractured body politic.  They are paid for by taxes and the money taken in over the last 83 years has all been spent and we are paying for the services extended by the money taken in from our paychecks every week.

I don't know is Social Security can be saved.  I think that if it cannot be saved, it may well serve as the catalyst for the process that will result, years down the line, of the Balkanization of the US.  It came into being as a means of holding together an angry nation and a broken economy.  It may well go out as failing in its goal.

1 comment:

russell1200 said...

It is a badly thought out insurance system paid through taxes.

Insurance has many people paying into a system in which a lesser amount of people will paid in the event of an occurance.

In this case, the occurance is thay you live beyond your working years. If you don't live past your working years, you (really your heirs) don't get the money. Thus it's insurance. The system will work if the inputs equal the ouputs. With the retirement of the baby boomers, longer life spans in general, and the current stagnation occuring with new college graduates, the problems with the input to output ration are rather obvious.