Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Social Security is NOT “Entitlement”

Nothing gets me more agitated than when someone in the media or in Congress refers to Social Security as an entitlement program, as if retiring Americans expect a pay out for doing nothing. As we near the “fiscal cliff” and our government representatives work to keep us from going over the edge, the focus is turning to raising taxes and cutting “entitlements” and Social Security always comes up on that list.

What the media and Congress fails to remember is that Social Security is a program to which Americans pay in while they work. I’ve paid in to social security for over 30 years – many of those years I paid up to the maximum – and I wasn’t given a choice whether I wanted the government to take my hard earned money. Make no mistake, I never expected that Social Security would be my only retirement investment; I’ve built up a 401k account for most of my years worked. But, I never looked at Social Security as something I was entitled to for doing nothing; I looked at it as a promise that the government made to me as it took thousands upon thousands of dollars out of my paycheck each and every year for decades. I don’t look at social security as a charity program: I looked at it as an investment into my future and to the stability of all Americans who worked hard all their lives and don’t want to be destitute in their retirement years.

Is it the fault of Americans who paid in to the program in good faith that the government either mismanaged the money or didn’t make the proper adjustments over the years to keep the program fully funded? No. I wonder to where all this money has gone to over the years and would love to see an full accounting of how all the money is spent or invested.

And why is it that when our government representatives talk about cutting Social Security benefits or changing the program, there is no discussion or focus on GOVERNMENT pensions for government employees? I guarantee that if government pensions were referred to as entitlements, the outrage would be even greater. I am of the opinion that any changes to Social Security must include similar changes to the government paid pensions of ALL current and former US government employees.

It’s also annoying when members of Congress use the excuse that we can’t allow the burden of funding Social Security to be passed along to our children and grandchildren. Considering that my decades of paying in to the program supported my parents and grandparents, I don’t see a problem in younger workers paying in – as I did – to support retirees. There were no government representatives who were worried about the burden that paying in to the program made on baby boomers when they entered the workforce many years ago.

I am not saying there should never be changes to the program. Clearly, workers – both for private sector and government jobs – need to take responsibility for saving for future retirement. I can also understand that the baby boomers moving into retirement age represents a strain on the program. But I find it insulting that our government representatives to refer to Social Security as “entitlement” as if retirees are getting something for doing nothing. This is far from the case. The government “borrowed” that money from workers and as far as I am concerned, they have an obligation to make good on repaying that debt. As the fiscal cliff looms, the worst economic thing that can happen is for the government to throw off the retirees who paid into the program for decades. There are real entitlement programs out there (such as lengthy unemployment benefits) that need to go first.

All Original Text Content © unless otherwise noted

Check out my blog home page for the latest information,
The Frequent Critic, here.

No comments: