Posts Tagged ‘social security’

The American family has been under attack by the federal government for nearly a century.  As has been well understood throughout history, strong families provide an essential role in caring for the old, the young, the injured, and the infirm.  Families are one of the first targets of governments which seek to amass greater power or breed a culture of dependency within a population.  In America, commentators have frequently derided Welfare as being an assault on the American family which encourages having children out of wedlock, discourages marriage and fatherhood, and locks people into a system of dependence on government for their survival.  However, the assault on the American family actually goes back much farther.  It begins at least by 1935, with the passage of the Social Security Act.

In order to understand how Social Security injures families, it’s important to first understand what Social Security does.  Enacted as part of FDR’s New Deal, the SSA was passed with the intent to provide support to the elderly who may have run into difficulty during the harsh economic climate of the Great Depression.  Like private pension programs, Social Security pays older people to not work, which has the effect of ejecting many of them from the workforce regardless of their physical or mental capabilities to continue working.  Social Security is financed by a tax on working individuals who are thus compelled to subsidize the retirement of the elderly.

Traditionally, care for the elderly after the end of their productive lives had been regarded as the responsibility of their children.  For the first time in history, the SSA injected the federal government directly into the business of elder care on a massive, nationwide scale.  By providing money directly to elderly individuals, the children became less important in their care.  What’s more, by distancing the elderly from their working children, the needs of the elderly have become less well understood among younger generations, forcing the elderly to advocate for themselves without the full and understanding support of their families.  The elderly are thus encouraged to look outside of their families for support and, in particular, to look for the government for assistance as they seek to live “independent” lives.

Social Security has also changed the role of the elderly in society in ways that impact the family unit.  The elderly are now encouraged to retire at or before the start of their Social Security eligibility, which is increasingly coming at a time before the end of their productive lives.  The result is an increasing number of “fixed income” earners who may need to look to their families for support if, for whatever reason, their income level isn’t sufficient to meet their financial needs.  This presents a different sort of strain on the family than traditional elder care because of tension in the belief that the elderly individuals could earn money from working if they wanted to; and the strain would be particularly acute if the financial distress came from unnecessary expenses such as trips or costly purchases.  What’s more, because Social Security has weakened the expectation that children are expected to care for their parents in old age, the children are more likely to balk at discovering that they need to be supportive.  Extended retirement can be a wedge between an elderly parent and an adult child which serves neither party very well.

Finally, concerns over the continued viability of Social Security have become an additional wedge between the elderly and the working age population.  For those at or near the retirement age, there is a strong incentive to ensure that no changes are made to their expected benefits.  For those at or near the start of their career, the payroll taxes used to fund Social Security are expected to be dead loss, as the program will likely be bankrupt by the time they reach retirement age unless major structural changes are made to the program.  The result is a tension between the young and the old in which, because the older generations are more established in political and social life, the elderly have the upper hand.

While it is true that there has always been a tension between the needs of the elderly compared to the willingness or ability of their children to provide for them, the fight in the Social Security context is one over rigid legal obligations versus fluid negotiations between individuals with a personal relationship.  As in everything, rules which must apply to an entire society cannot possibly take account of every personal situation.  Worse still, parents need not work as hard to cultivate positive relationships with their children for the sake of future care when they know that their children will be forced to support them in any case.  While it is a sad thing indeed to think that a family might be held together by a parent’s expected need for elder care from their children, it is still one thread in the great tapestry of family relations which, if severed, may sometimes cause things to unravel.

Like with Welfare, Social Security restructures society to increase reliance on the government at the expense of the family.  Although the harms to the family which result from Social Security are weak, and although the programs stops well short of encouraging the destruction of families, it nevertheless increases the distance between parents and their children.  Perhaps most importantly, Social Security was the first major government program to intrude so directly on the traditional role of the family; it has served and continues to serve as the basis for many more government programs which have significantly eroded the freedom and independence of Americans.

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Stimulating Seniors

   Posted by: Robert    in Politics

Once again it appears that Obama is preparing to redistribute taxpayer’s money to a favored constituency, budget deficit or not.  The next stop on the Obama Money Train, it appears, are senior centers and nursing homes around America where he will come riding in with a pile of $250 checks, totaling to $13 or $14 billion worth of increased debt depending on who happens to be counting.  The move is already being applauded (of course) by seniors groups and the AARP, and has the support of top Democrats in Congress.  If the Associated Press is to be believed, it looks like there’s even Republican support, though they’re at least (pretending to be) looking at the increase in deficit spending with concern.

The money handout comes, supposedly, as a result of the formula used for calculating annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) for Social Security dictating that there would be no increase in payouts this coming year. COLA is based explicitly on inflation and is intended to make sure that the purchasing power of payments to beneficiaries will not diminish over time.  Falling gas prices and a stale economy have actually caused a slight bit of deflation over the course of the past year.  To offset the lack of an official increase from COLA, Obama apparently wants to give away $250 to “senior citizens, veterans, retired railroad workers and people with disabilities.”

Looking over the list of recipients reveals an interesting collection of intended payees.  Senior citizens are obvious recipients as they are the primary beneficiaries of Social Security.  People with disabilities also make sense, because many of them are eligible for Social Security as well.  The payment to veterans is a little surprising; I wouldn’t have thought that they are on Social Security any differently than the rest of us, though many do get government pensions.  And then there are the retired railroad workers; where did that come from?  Plus, looking over another article, it looks like maybe all retired government folk (and railroad workers) might actually receive the benefit, whether they qualify for Social Security or not.

I wonder how many other favored constituencies might be added to the list before it’s all over.

Of course, the correct number to add is something on the order of negative four.  COLA is meant to maintain a level of purchasing power for Social Security beneficiaries, not to be a perpetually increasing rate of wealth redistribution from the young to the old.  We should be thankful, in fact, for the stagnation, as it increases seniors’ purchasing power without driving the program closer to its already impending bankruptcy.

As for the notion mentioned in the article that seniors deserve more because the cost of drugs has gone up, why is the payout not $250 to everyone who buys prescription drugs?  If that was really the concern, tying the money to drug purchases is the only logical way to address it directly.  Of course, the cost of drugs is being handled a different way: Medicare D is seeing an increase, which will serve to offset the (supposedly) skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.

It is probably to anyone’s political turmoil to vote against this latest round of absurdity.  Nevertheless, seniors are going to get exactly what they deserve under the law.  There is nothing unfair about honoring a standing agreement.  It is, however, quite unfair to the younger generations to siphon their money and change the rules at a time when wallets are already tight and nearly one in ten members of the working population is not actually working at all.

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