America: What I Believe In 2011

Image via Wikimedia Commons

(Please click on “comments” at the left side of the title for an interesting back-and-forth between polar opposite points of view.)

The deadlock over raising the debt limit seems almost like a clash of religious beliefs. The two sides hold different beliefs. The deadlock has helped clarify my thinking about what I believe. Maybe this debt crisis of 2011 will help us all clarify who we are, and what we believe.

Image via Wikimedia CommonsI believe that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the best part of America. I believe that without Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, a large part of the American population — more than half the people over 65 — would fall into hopeless poverty.

Some people believe it would be impossible to balance the American budget without deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I believe that America is still, right now, the most prosperous society the world has ever known. I believe that America can afford Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

I believe it would be fair for the most prosperous among us — those with incomes of $250,000 or more a year — to pay a little more in taxes for the good of America. These people have prospered in America. They live the good life. Aren’t they patriotic enough to want to keep America strong? I believe they ARE patriotic and willing to help. It is inconceivable that they could be otherwise.

Some politicians say they oppose any tax increase because a tax increase would “destroy jobs.”

I don’t believe it. How would a modest tax increase destroy jobs? The president is not talking about making rich people poor. He’s talking about a modest tax increase on incomes over $250,000. How exactly will that destroy jobs? Will people earning $250,000 or more even notice a small tax increase? Will a small tax increase change their way of life? I don’t think so. Some may believe otherwise.

I believe there are other ways to balance the American budget. I believe we are spending far too much on a worldwide military presence. I believe we do not have to be fighting foreign wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. I believe we could drastically reduce foreign military spending, pull American soldiers out of harm’s way and closer to the North American continent. We could reduce defense spending by perhaps a third, and still have a military that is by far strong enough to defend the North American continent.

I simply cannot understand why anyone would want to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. I believe the vast majority of Americans support these programs. I believe that common-sense cuts in general government spending and defense spending, combined with a small increase in taxes on the most fortunate among us, would bring the American budget into balance.

What do you believe?

THIS CHART PUTS THE FINANCIAL CONDITION OF MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY IN PERSPECTIVE. BEGGING THE QUESTION: IF MODEST CUTS WERE MADE IN U.S. SPENDING ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT AND DEFENSE, AND SOME EFFICIENCIES ARE FOUND IN MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY, THEN HOW MUCH WOULD STILL NEED TO BE RAISED IN TAXES? Chart via Wikipedia

Keep the faith.

— John Hayden

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19 Comments

Filed under Debt crisis, Democracy, Economy, Social Security

19 responses to “America: What I Believe In 2011

  1. I can’t argue with anything you suggest. You are preaching to the choir here…

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  2. What can I say? A brilliant post.

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  3. I don’t understand how the people in power are justifying making the poor people more poor and taking health care from the sick and elderly. I believe it’s wrong not to care one iota about American citizens who live day to day, relying on Social Security to have housing and enough food to eat and Medicare or Medicaid to stay alive. I believe the people in power must not know one person, personally, who depends on these programs.

    I also believe you have spoken for many, many Americans.

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    • Thanks, Dogkisses! Yep, I think it’s a power struggle between the few at the top, and the many in the middle and at the bottom.

      The people at the top don’t use the roads, schools, and health services that the rest of us rely on. They fly over America in their airplanes, pay top dollar direct to the their own elite doctors, endow private schools, and spend much of their time and most of their money offshore.

      Their agenda is to plunder America, and invest in parts of the world that have an abundance of resources and cheap labor.

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  4. Unfortunately, there is a great distance between what you believe and what is true. This baseless, roving post provides very little in actual support of an argument that is, on its own, insolvent. To begin, social security and medicare are failed and failing programs. These programs, designed to transfer money from the pockets of one American to another, have been, from the start, poorly managed by the bloated, irresponsible bureaucracy that is Washington. These programs involve governmental coercion of the most insidious kind, as the government justifies its increased involvement in the lives of its citizens through the supposed good intentions of helping America”s less fortunate and elderly. Now, in theory, social security, medicare, welfare etc mean well. In practice however, they fail miserably due to problems of organization, size, and range of government. Before these programs, the majority of the elderly were not as you put it, in “hopeless poverty”. In fact, they were most likely taken care of within their own families, or through alternate, non-governmental means. To be fair, you are not alone in buying into the fallacious belief that we should rely on the “government” to rid us of our social problems, to balance out the spread of wealth, or to even operate efficiently. Just remember, to the first: there is no government, there are people who rule by the consent of the governed. To the second: we live in a nation founded on capitalism. Redistribution is the tool of the communists and fascists. And to the third, most importantly, there is not a single program, in the history of the federal government, that has been run effectively over any considerable time period. Not one.

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    • Like I said, we believe in different religions. Actually, the Tea Party is not so much a religion as a cult. The members of the cult are hypnotized by endless repetition of lies. For instance, the lie that Social Security is in financial trouble, or that it’s a transfer of money from one American to another. Social Security is sounder than most of the banks on Wall Street.

      Far from being transfer programs, exactly the opposite is true! Look at your pay stub. Social Security and Medicare are the only two programs in America that are specifically paid for by a line item tax deducted from your paycheck. Each American worker buys their share of Social Security, week by week, throughout their working life. Social Security is bought and paid for, and so is Medicare. We own Social Security, it is ours because we’ve already paid for it.

      Again, look at your pay stub. Is there any tax dedicated to paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? No, those wars were and remain completely unfunded. Social Security and Medicare have already been paid for. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be paid for by your grandchildren.

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  5. I apologize for the forceful tone, debate is my first language

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  6. Ryan Webler

    To start, I ascribe membership to no current party. To assert that believing federal government programs to generally be a tremendous failure makes me logical, not a tea-partier. In addition to logic, I have history on my side. In my previous post, I assigned you a seemingly simple task. I asked you to name one single federal government program that has succeeded over a long period of time. Knowing this to be impossible, I expected a response that would ignore this question and at the very most, would generally comment on the benefit of social programs. Instead, you completely misrepresented social security and medicare and assumed far too much about my political beliefs. To the first, if social security was as simple as a personal buy in, then what is its use? That is to say, if people are merely paying for their own retirement with their own money, that will accrue over time, equal to what they put in, why is this program even in existence? Because if this were the case, then the government is assuming a parental role, instituting a program that asserts that individuals are fiscally irresponsible and that they in fact cannot save unless forced to do so. In and of itself, this idea is frightening. However, social security is not some isolated, simple program. In fact, social security is responsible for pension, disability, unemployment etc. Covering this vast array, and accounting for the baby boomer generation, as well as the general population increase, will make this program insolvent in the next thirty years. This number is no magical number, it is one agreed upon by a large number of economists. So where is my buy in going? If I have no hope of receiving a pension through social security, or of benefiting from its “gains”, why should I contribute? Well, I contribute, because I have no choice but to fund the lives of others. I contribute, because the government MAKES me do so, because it is forcing me to do so, even though it is failing at its primary objective with my money. To the second point, that you assume too much about my political beliefs: you probably thought that I would disagree with you about Iraq and Afghanistan. Probably to your surprise, I could not agree more. We should not have intervened the way that we did and we should leave as soon as possible. More importantly, in the future, we should abide by the lessons we learned in Vietnam and now Iraq. We should care more about our own borders and we should cut military spending responsibly. Right after we reform social security, medicare etc.

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    • If you want the name of one program that has been successful over a long period of time, the name is Social Security. Started in the Depression, it is indeed a self-help program administered by the government that has benefited literally millions, and continues to do so. I’m afraid that every one of your assertions about social security is wrong, wrong, wrong. You seem to be stubbornly against every single safety-net program, on the grounds that every individual should fend for him/herself.

      Another program that’s been successful since the start of the nation is the Post Office. The existence of the U.S. as a nation and the growth of commerce would not have been possible without the Post Office. Only in the past 40 years or so have modern advances in communication reduced the role efficiency of the Post Office.

      Another program that have been effective, necessary, and nearly always successful since the beginning of the Republic is the U.S. Army (and shortly thereafter, the Navy.) Some battles are lost, of course, but the Army won the wars, from the Revolutionary War to World War II, and the Navy played a key role in most of the wars. Modern weaponry has changed the nature of warfare, and requires major adjustments by the Army. The Navy has already adjusted, scrapping battleships and shifting to aircraft carriers, missile launchers, and nuclear submarines.

      Programs to provide for the general good and strengthen the fabric of the community make living in a civilized society better than the law of the jungle. You may prefer every man for himself, survival of the fittest, and quick death to all others, but most Americans have a larger view.

      Sorry, there is no “compromise” between our two viewpoints. The only way to peacefully resolve disagreements as profound as this one is by pure democracy. Take a vote and 51 percent wins it. The 49 percent have to loyally accept the majority will. The only alternative is civil war.

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  7. Unfortunately, the wide ranging, disorganized nature of your post makes it difficult to address in any organized fashion. Nevertheless, this set of fallacies is worth addressing. I’ll begin at the top with your claim that social security has been a successfully run government program. This has been and is now, simply not the case. As I stated earlier, it is common knowledge that social security is expected to fail in less than thirty years. With the economy in a shambles, this time frame has shortened, as analysts went from projecting a 2041 failure, rather than the original 2037 projection. You can claim that my assertions are “wrong, wrong, wrong” but these are the facts.

    More importantly than this misunderstanding however, you seem to misinterpret my tone and reasoning. I am not “stubbornly against every single safety net program” for the sake of ascribing to a ‘might makes right’ every man for himself point of view. It is important to note that this is not, and has never been an “every man for himself” nation. The distinction is, you are looking to the wrong place for your sense of security and comfort. While you see the federal government as the protector, the institution that should provide for and ensure the welfare and happiness of the nation, beyond the individual; I see the community, charity and the family unit as the aspects that provide for and ensure an individual’s welfare. In your analysis, you fail to account for the fact that there is no government money, there is no separate entity. There are people and there is people’s money.

    Certainly, the last two responsibilities of the federal government that you listed, delivering mail and supporting and organizing an army, are necessary. However, you do little more than reinforce my argument by listing them off. To the first, delivering mail, a recent article of the New York Times opened with this description of Congress’s relationship with our mail delivery system, “Until the deficit negotiations took center stage this summer, several members of Congress had another issue they wanted to focus on: an overhaul of the Postal Service, which is on the brink of insolvency.” To the second, just go back to your previous post, where you attempt to lambast me for my assumed belief in a bloated defense system. Yes, the federal government does, and should, run and organize a national defense. But does it do it well?

    Ultimately, in commenting on your post, I attempted to illuminate one simple idea: that the federal government is currently inefficient, bloated, disorganized, and virtually omnipotent. These choice adjectives are clearly displayed in its behavior over the last 80 years, as its power and role in the life of the individual have rapidly increased. Specifically, this role is evidenced in the regulatory practices and social programs that, while mostly well intended, have had their clear and severe negative implications.

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    • Aha! We do agree on something. Community, charity and family!! I simply add a fourth pillar, government. Sadly, ALL our institutions are suffering from decay and corruption, and we need to work diligently on improving them all. Anarchy is not an intelligent answer.

      “Common knowledge” about Social Security is wrong!! Many banks and corporations have failed. But Social Security endures. What other institution can you point to that is guaranteed financially solvent for the next 29 years? Social Security will not FAIL, even 30 years in the future. Worse case scenario, Social Security would have a shortfall of perhaps 25 percent, 30 years from now, but ONLY if no corrective action is taken. Since the population covered is so large (includes almost every American) and the time frame is so long, relatively small adjustments can correct predicted funding deficiencies. And once the demographic anomaly of the Baby Boom generation begins to fade away, which will already be under way by 2037 or 2041, or whatever future year you choose, Social Security will soon rebuild a surplus Trust Fund to serve future generations.

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  8. *reverse the 2037 and 2041 numbers

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  9. The last point I will make is that the comparison between business and social security that you make above defines both the danger of social programs and the effectiveness of the market. To the first, social programs like social security do not outlast businesses because they are any more efficient, successful or well run. Rather, they outlast them both because they garner votes and because there is no direct competition to upend them when they are vulnerable. Hence, the long period of downward trend towards insolvency that we see with social security today. To the second point, the effectiveness of the market is defined by the failure of bad businesses. In the market place, efficiency and success define which businesses survive. In this environment, with competition and sans a voting interest, a failing program like social security would be demolished by the forces of the market. Put simply, the survival of social security and the failure of businesses has no correlation because government programs are not allowed fail. Unlike the market place however, they are allowed to slowly degenerate and without reform, eventually trend toward insolvency.

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    • Yes, in a pure market economy, efficiency and profitability WOULD determine the survival or failure of enterprises. But what’s left of the marketplace in America is corrupted by greed, selfishness, and misguided choices. Greedy corporate leaders have systematically siphoned away the strongest parts of the American economy by 1) moving the industrial base to the cheapest of the cheap labor markets overseas, and 2) transforming our economy FROM industry and infrastructure construction TO the more profitable and easily corruptible banking and financial manipulation enterprises.

      What you say is true, Ryan. In America, the corrupted corporate sector has found FAILURE to be more lucrative than SUCCESS. Unfortunately, the strategy of hollowing out and exporting American industry is now so complete, there’s nothing left but the financial sector. No room left for anything but continued failure.

      Social Security thrives because it serves a human need. And yes, with continual improvements, aka reform, it will continue to succeed. Viva reform!

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  10. Barry Kennedy

    You are nothing but an old socialist. They should completely strip away all these socialist programs of forced wealth redistribution. If you want money, earn it! It is old people like you asking for handouts that is going to send us broke. If you were too dumb or irresponsible to save and invest your money throughout your life you deserve to wind up in a soup kitchen where I may or may not choose to give you charity. When you force people to give you charity you are a socialist fool. I hate socialists. This country is turning against socialists like you so be ready. Loser.

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  11. Poor Barry. Name-calling is the weakest form of argument. It is really a failure of argument. To quote some of your name-calling: “Old socialist;” “Old people like you;” “asking for handouts:” “too dumb or irresponsible;” “deserve to wind up in a soup kitchen;” “you are a socialist fool;” “I hate socialists.” “Loser.”

    Well.

    You should know, Barry, that Social Security and medicare are not “handouts.” These are government insurance programs that I have been paying a significant payroll tax for every week of my working life. Since I’m 63 and started working at age 16, I’ve been paying into my Social Security and Medicare for 47 years, and I am still working and paying. It’s not a handout! It’s bought and paid for over a lifetime of work.

    “Too dumb and irresponsible to save and invest your money” — To the contrary, Social Security follows the exact strategy that mutual fund marketers now advise: Start saving very early (in my case age 16) and be disciplined over a long period of time. Social Security disciplined EVERYONE to save every single work week through the payroll tax. Investment advisors always emphasize the long time period of disciplined saving is the key to retirement security. Social Security was the original mutual fund and the original IRA. The problem is now other people want to steal from the Social Security mutual fund.

    The big mistake American workers have been making for the past 70 or 80 years is assuming that we could TRUST future generations not to try to STEAL the money we paid in each week when we finally get old enough to retire. The money paid into Social Security is money that BELONGS TO the working people who are now retiring. But it’s a LOT OF MONEY, and large amounts of money always attract thieves and scoundrels. It’s no surprise that Wall Street and the powers that control our financial system would like to KEEP our Social Security and Medicare money, in other words STEAL our money.

    Barry, I’m sorry that you feel so much “hate” for your fellow human beings, whom you label “losers.” Be well.

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  12. sonofjames

    Social Security has not failed yet because of the forced theft aspects of the program. “Trust Funds” is a euphemism or misnomer. “Your” money is not held in trust for you. It is transferred to current claimants. The hope is that when the day arrives for current workers to collect, that other younger workers will also be subject to heist, giving some of their money directly to the new generation of claimants. The funds are not held for you. They pass right on through.

    You alluded to another issue, which is that not only are there not trust funds, but some of SSA collections go to pay other bills. Where is the “trust” in that?

    Social Security is far too generous. That is normally the case when the “benefactors” (Congress) are addicted to OPM – Other People’s Money. If things fall short, they’ll just steal more from the workers. Whereas when Social Security first started, there were approximately 100 workers to support every recipient. Now, it’s less than 3 per recipient. That’s too huge a burden on those 2 – 3 workers.

    There was a promise made at the beginning that the tax would not be more than 1%, if my memory serves. We can all see what happened to that.

    So, over the years, Congress has been very very generous with OPM. That’s so easy to do – no personal cost and lots of votes, for a program that in the long run hurts a nation by legal theft, wealth transfer, and creation of dependency. Yes, dependency. We now have an entitlement mentality and people demand “their” Social Security. With no trust funds, it’s only theirs as long as the Ponzi is propped up and as long as the promisers decide they can’t keep the promise any more.

    One of the driving forces behind the institution of the program was the desire to get older workers out of the way so younger workers could have at the jobs, and save the companies money as they could pay those workers lower wages than the long-termers. Retirement is a recent concept driven by social programs like this, and the so-called retirement age is an arbitrary figure set by people who thought they new what is best for the unwashed masses.

    It was a wrong-headed central power grab, with false promises, from the beginning,

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    • sonofjames

      Wow. I should have proofread more carefully: “until” the promisers decide, not “as long as”, and “thought they knew”, not “new”. I type too fast on this iPad.

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  13. ‘Fascist…Communist…Ponzi’ Honestly there’s no debate happening here, just a bit of rhetoric being tossed back and forth. I’m all for debate, in a democracy we thankfully still have the right to an opinion, but I’ve never noticed it doing one bit of good when it comes to convincing the other side.
    Where is the compassion, I want to know. Ryan Webler? I’m not sure what world you live in, but poor people aren’t likely to have wealthy families who will stop them from falling through the cracks.
    We have social security and Medicare in Australia but a population explosion is being predicted for us so it’s only a matter of time before we end up like you, broke and looking for a way to cut funding where it’s needed most.. Frankly it scares me. Our government still subsidises some medication, but it has started to declare the full amount on the medicine labels. The indicators are there and it’s only a matter of time that one of our over-paid politicians with all the perks,and a fabulous pension scheme will follow the American model. I believe that in the US you can’t afford to get sick. What use is your government, or mine if it can’t look after its people?.

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