Sunday, July 10, 2011

Social Security and Other Distractions

"They say" that people don't read anymore, that they need sound bites and online writers should keep their articles to one page because we all suffer from collective Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). I disagree, I think we can read and comprehend better than they give us credit for.  Today I want to throw a few things out there worthy of consideration because apparently, we have so many issues going on that we can't keep track of everything and the confusion is giving us indigestion.

The more issues that are conflated, the more anxiety and apathy generated - That, in my opinion, is the plan. Some of the "issues" are not issues at all, but between the games played by the politicians and the lazy media, we are led to believe that there is not a single person left in this country capable of reason or adult-like behavior.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Social Security is an insurance every working stiff pays into through payroll tax deductions.  This insurance says to every working man and woman out there, that when our bodies begins to decline, our muscle tone is not what it used to be and our most productive and energetic years have been spent to benefit a company or corporation, we will be ENTITLED to receive a measly $500 to $800 a month or so, to supplement whatever we have saved up for our retirement in the form of a pension plan, ROTH and IRA accounts.

Some individuals pull in $2,000 a month or more because they have contributed a tremendous amount in their lifetime through payroll deductions.  They too, are ENTITLED to those checks in their older years because their insurance premiums were higher than most.

What are the odds that your 401K will be solvent in your later years? What are the odds that your pension plan has not been used as petty cash by the gamblers on Wall Street? What are the odds that you have earned enough credits through a life of hard work to even merit $800 a month in Social Security benefits?

Maybe you have had great paying, back-breaking jobs that kept you in the category of Middle-Class financially but placed you in the position of health-risk to most insurers and now, as you approach your later years with pains and stiffness in your joints, you wonder, if you can just stop... stop working and start living, because at some point you are ENTITLED to stop.

That is the story we have been told: Work hard all your life and when you get old(er) you will be able to enjoy the product of your labor.  You are ENTITLED to it, you played by the rules and America has a contract with you that is solid as a rock.  After all, this is the United States of America and we keep our promises because we are honorable, decent and in the end, a Nation governed by laws and moral rectitude.

Somewhere along the way, greedy bastards have kept an eye on your contributions and decided that if they skim a 'little off the top' you won't notice.  Social Security is sound, there is no shortfall in Social Security.  In fact, it has been such a successful program that Congress has never felt qualms on using YOUR money to fund crap we don't need or want by leaving I.O.U's behind and conveniently forgetting to create revenue to restore what was "borrowed".
Now they are raising up dust telling you that they want to kill Medicare, disassemble Social Security and give you a "voucher" for everything.  From schooling your children to providing for your old age.

Maybe Wal Mart will accept your vouchers in conjunction with newspaper coupons (if newspapers are still around by the time you retire) and give you the colonoscopy you need by another retiree earning minimum wage.  Maybe Target will match the deal and maybe, just maybe, your children won't mind letting you stay in the backroom for the remaining of your miserable old life.

Is it true? are they going to dismantle Social Security? In the words of Speaker of the House John Boehner: "HELL NO! YOU CAN'T".  Because we are not going to allow it.  The greed and corruption is no longer disguised with euphemisms we may be bamboozled with; it is up front and center, and frankly, we would have to be complete morons to confuse the so-called "plan" with a real solution to a NON-EXISTENT problem.

I also expect that any changes made to either social security or medicare will be to streamline the system and make it better.  Elected democrats are not suicidal or weak enough to allow their crowning glory to be trashed.

Older folks were fond of saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well, Social Security ain't broke, but the greed-that-be wants to get their hands on all of it.  Wall Street was not satisfied with the gazzillion dollars they got from you or the quadrillions they gave each other in bonuses for a "job well done" destroying America's economy, shipping YOUR jobs overseas or lying through their teeth about their 'creative mortgage incentives'.  They want more and there is only one place to get more without doing any kind of work, producing a single thing or being held accountable for: YOUR money.

Social Security looks to them like that little jar of loose coins and singles some parents keep in the house for "just in case" moments.

I don't believe for a minute that Social Security is going to be destroyed, it is one of the greatest democratic achievements of our time and at the time of inception, it became a national treasure.  A nation that takes care of its citizens is a great nation indeed.  Third World countries can't or won't because their resources are accumulated and squandered by the top 2% or by one big, extended royal family.  (Does it sound familiar?)

OTHER COUNTRIES

Other countries did not have this safety net for the elderly, widowed and disabled and they took a look at their situations and did something about it.  Today, every industrialized nation has an ongoing safety net that keeps expanding and changing with the needs of the times and their population. Yes, they have done better and we need to look at it and implement it.  Don't you think that corporations have a real problem with credibility when they scream against unions, minimum wage and taxes?

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

For instance, General Electric has a workforce in France that earns more than their American counterparts doing the same job. They are Union workers and G.E. pays more in taxes in France than in the United States. Their employees get FIVE PAID vacations a year plus more PAID holidays than their American counterparts, and yet, they love doing business there and throughout the globe.

Keep that in mind because GE is NOT the only corporation doing business abroad and not bringing the zest for innovation and production to the United States, as a matter of fact, in March of 2011, G.E. will acquire a French company by investing 3.2 Billion dollars - A wonderful business move, but G.E., like many others, is no longer an American Company, G.E. and others are multi-nationals with no particular loyalty to country of origin.

In spite of what the corporatist Supreme Court says, corporations are not people, the sole purpose of their existence is to maximize profits and eliminate costs.  Humans care about humans, corporate social responsibility is implemented by people working for the corporations who must influence the culture of the workplace to make things happen.

Think about it for a while, let it percolate, and take a realistic look at our way of life.  Consider that their global expansion includes Spain, Germany, The Netherlands and Japan just to name a few but little to no developments in the United States.

Corporations are not evil, they are allegiances created on paper, but some of the people running those corporations have a tunnel vision that precludes them for seeing or caring about the effects of their actions on the environment we all must share and the lives of families across the various communities they operate in.

Exxon and British Petroleum have more recently been in the news, but there are others who keep taking and don't give back.  They have no plan of action for how they mess up and worst of all, they accept no responsibility for the damage they do.

The solution is not to stick the hands in the cookie jar and deplete or privatize Social Security, but to demand social responsibility from company's and corporations as the price of doing business in what can easily be, once again, the greatest country in the world.  


AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

We have remained stagnant and we are no longer #1 at anything.  For some reason, we think that if we continue to bring up American exceptionalism from generation's past, somehow it rubs off on us.  Let us deal with reality shall we? - Our generation's exceptionalism will be done by our generation to add to the ones that came before us, not by claiming previous generations victories and struggles as our own.

We have the responsibility to leave our positive mark in OUR lifetime.  The greatest and biggest achievement of America's exceptionalism now-a-days seems to be bitching, moaning, whining and stomping our feet like toddlers who are not getting their way, while blaming Timmy, our invisible friend, for the mess in the living room.

Wisconsin residents decided to be proactive and rectify the situation.  The rest of the country needs to get off the couch and do the same.
  • Write letters to your elected officials that clearly express what you want them to do to benefit society.  Be clear, concise and respectful.  Do it often, demand responses and remember their names at election time.
  • Is there a special election being held in your state? VOTE damn it! and make damn sure you have vetted the person you are voting for.  They are not gods, they are YOUR employees and just like your foreman and human resources person made you sweat the interview before they hired you, you have the right and obligation to find out if this person applying for the job is properly qualified and understands what the best interests of your community are.
  • STOP blaming President Obama for every little thing and acknowledge the following: MANY have listened to talk radio show hosts as if they were the answer to what ails us.  When they tell you to stay home on the upcoming elections recall Boehner's words and say "HELL NO! WE CAN'T do that!" because those talking heads are just people with their own agendas, for some it is ratings, for others it is ego, and many of them are insecure individuals who need constant adulation and recognition to feel good about themselves.  Let's be clear: You are not a psychiatrist, you are not qualified to treat their emotional disorders and your time and energies are best suited to take care of you, your family and the welfare of your community.  Listen, think for yourself, and make the decisions that matter based on your situation because one size, does not fit all.
  • Give credit where credit is due and recognize that when we sat out this past election, we limited what President Obama could do.  If we had vetted the people who sought the job and retained the ones that do a good job, we would not be having the distraction and anxiety-causing drama we are exposed to daily.  We would have been well on our way to take our country forward instead of remaining stagnant. 
What Has President Obama Accomplished? and did he get any thanks or credit for it? Here is a sample:  WHAT THE "F" HAS OBAMA DONE SO FAR?  and the best Twit this week:
Conservatives think Obama is a Jesus-figure to the Left, and the Left expects Obama to walk on water... and both sides are crucifying him.
President Obama has said it over and over again, "I can't do it alone" and we left him alone.  He has said that if we want him to do something, we should "make him" do it.  

This form of leadership is frustrating to most because we want to put a guy in place that will handle everything without our involvement.  We are tired, we are busy, we are worried.  If we can do our paying jobs, why can't elected officials do theirs?

At some point we forgot that it is part of our job to hire the right people.  Maybe then, we can relax a bit, but until then, there is no rest for the weary.  We, the people, need be proactively involved and that includes organizing at the local level and being very clear with those who seek to represent us.  If they are cute, have great hair or look virile is no longer the criteria.  We need people who have a brain and who view their jobs of public service as serving the public, not their own personal agendas.  Senator Bernie Sanders comes to mind every time I think of a good example, surely there are other like him in every community?


FINAL THOUGHTS
  • What if all this nonsense is another distraction? What is being cooked behind the curtain? What happens when we do nothing? Hold no one accountable?
  • What is going to happen if we continue arguing with others in social media and with each other?
  • At what point do we show our kids that we are all grown-up and we are not their peers? That we are serious people and in charge of unpleasant situation, but the buck stops with us?
It is not pretty being the adult in the room, but as long as we keep acting like children, they will continue to bully us and take away our candy.  You know, the one we paid for by working hard.

I know it is a long article, but there is much to talk about. I look forward to your comments.

12 comments:

Michael Galvin said...

Olivia, thank you for a thoughtful stream of logically connected analysis. Your clarity aids your thesis that we are being played by a cynical conservative movement which includes the majority of the Supreme Court of the US.

You are correct,Social Security is in solvency. It is strong, and if not messed with will remain so. It is also a contractual entitlement because we have paid into it.

Your overall thesis of these special conservative interests confusing the issue with propagands is on point. If we the people, lose faith in the government and do not act, but instead give into our sense of dispare and become apothetic, we will indeed be rendered into a third world nation. The elite will be controlling, rich, and powerful; but the average American will be experiencing systematic economic distress, unemployment, lower living standards, and lower life expectancy. The elites do not care, just as they do not care if China limits the birth of children or Latin American landowners can rape their peasant women with impunity, as they don't care that soon a majority of Africans will not see middle ages due to crime, war, starvation, and disease.

Only we the people have the power to change this direction. As you rightfully point out we cannot expect one man to do it: even Obama! It takes a committed, informed and hard working population focusing their attention on changing our culture from one of apothey to one of care.

Well written article. I join you my sister in teh struggle to recapture the mature, reasonable society that reflects good will and open opportunity for all Americans.

Olivia Emisar said...

Dear Michael,
Democracy has always been a struggle to implement and maintain, but it is even more daunting when forces are hell bent in destroying in the endless quest for more money and power. Your point on "controlling birth" in China just goes to show the hypocrisy of using the same argument two different ways. In this country it is the wedge issue, in China, not a problem.

Thank you for your comment. It is strengthening.

BlueTrooth said...

The controversy surrounding Social Security is a bit misguided. The proposed change that was being floated would have actually solidified Social Security at a cost of about 14 cents per month per beneficiary. And it wouldn't actually be a "cost", but a minimal reduction in the increase based on cost of living adjustments. The benefits would not only NOT be "cut", but they would continue to adjust upward. Yet "Progressives" started screaming that SS was "on the table" and surely the President was ready to "cave".
One reason Boehner wanted to avoid the grand bargain is that Social Security would then be fully funded BEYOND the current 17-25 year estimate. It would become a non-issue and be off the table for decades.
It seems to me ironic that Progressives have decided it's their turn to be the "party of NO", no matter what the details might be.

Olivia Emisar said...

BT,

You are incredibly perceptive and made an excellent point about the solvency of Social Security and Boehner.

IMHO, I think a lot of the so-called Progressives are using the shield to enrich and glorify themselves. Much like a talk-show host we talked about earlier.

BlueTrooth said...

Wow, I sure do sound like a gloomy gus! And a bit too matter-of-fact in my assumptions. There's a lot of speculation and uncertainty surrounding the debt ceiling debate. My basic point was to suggest we look at the potential for upside before drawing the lines in the sand. The distinction between a "principled stand" and simply being obstinate is sometimes irrelevant.
The most important vote in our lifetimes is fast approaching. Restore sanity in 2012!

Phil said...

Re: Social Security…I think the main problem is that ever since inception the public has been sold a false story that the SS tax is a fund where money is put away for you, and eventually you get it back when you need it. In fact that’s never been the case…those aren’t bank statements you get each year, they’re simply statements of what you’ll receive under the current law given what you’ve paid so far. Yes, it’s true that you’ll receive more if you pay more, but the amount was and is not guaranteed by the taxes paid. It’s always been pay as you go, with the first recipients receiving money they never paid in taxes. I believe the surpluses of the system have always been included in overall general cash available for all government spending. It’s not a bad thing that the expectation people have that these are bank accounts is being undermined because it was never true to start. We pay today for people already retired, and future earners will pay for us.

However, I DO believe the word “entitlement” is appropriate, and that we should have a guarantee of certain standards of living when we retire. I have a huge problem with the fact that this debate is even taking place at all, along with the Medicare debate, when the SS tax is a relatively small flat tax (4.6% for employees and 6.2% for employers) and capped at income of $106,800. That means a person who makes $500,000 has met their annual obligation by late March and they pay nothing more until the following year. Were they really hurting from January to March? Why not remove the cap on the employee portion, and use a graduated scale so low earners pay a very small percentage and high earners pay more, but not to exceed the current rate of 4.6%? It could also be combined with the medicare tax to create a simpler, fairer standard that combines both concepts into a single tax vehicle, while raising far more money than is the case today, and without hurting people who can’t afford it.

It’s no coincidence that this debate is happening now while the Baby Boomers are starting to retire en masse. The Boomer’s parents put these entitlements in place, the Boomers paid for their parents, and everyone was happy. Now the Boomers kids, far fewer in number, are bitching about paying for them and “funding” is a problem. No, it’s actually that this country has to decide whether it really gives a shit about the elderly and the sick or not, even in eras when demographic trends create a whole bunch of them. Asking the wealthy to pay a little more by removing the cap would easily settle that question. The fact this debate is occurring without any serious discussion of the cap tells me everyone is trying to avoid the basic issue…does this country actually have any values about standards of living or not. Right now I’d say we like to say we do but our actions say we couldn’t care less.

Olivia Emisar said...

Phil,

I want you to take over Geither's job, starting tomorrow.

Phil said...

LOL!! There are plenty of people who would be better than Geithner, He reminds me of a type of person in a company that is smart and technically competent but so obnoxious and unable to team up with anyone, that everyone collectively undermines them until they get fired. Agree the average prog blogger would do better than him, and that he should be blogging full time.

Olivia Emisar said...

Now Phil...
"... He should be blogging full time.." is an insult to ALL bloggers. LOL. I still think you should, or if you allow me to do so, send your comments to Barack Obama. Surely he has thought it through by now, but a little reinforcement as clearly as you stated it, won't hurt.

PEACE and thanks

Phil said...

Ha, sorry about that. of course, you and I have day jobs, and he should NOT. So there...

If you want to send to Obama, be my guest, if he asks for a resume, lemme know :P

Marie Bagatela said...

Make SS better then it is:
Lower the contribution percentage,IMO shouldn't be more then 5% and lift the cap on contribution...Gates should chip in on all of his billions with the same percentage like some worker who made less then $50 000...
Of course, that rise the Q: what about the amount of SS paycheck? No more then 3x of the average income in the state...
SO, just to make my self clear: all contribute, cause we Human come to that point of a development that we can afford to take care of all of our disabled, misfortune and elderly, its our collective conscience that we care, we all contribute the same low percentage to the last dime we make, but also, we can withdraw not like a retirement, but as what it is: safety net...so it will provide safety, no more then 3 times the average income in the state...so Bill Gates will contribute a lion share and get peanuts like a thank you note...
Sound good?
No cap on contributions will not just make SS solvent for ever, but it will be a sort of saving account that will take care of all the need in the society in concern of helping the youngest( parks, recreation centers, libraries, schools supplies,theaters, playgrounds)the oldest:(recreation and nursing facility, neighborhood help: in home delivery etc)...
The possibility are endless if we elevate the debate beyond simple retirement checks...
SS should be what his name suggest: society provide a close neat net of security for its residents...
We have to dare to dream...

Olivia Emisar said...

Hi Marie,

Interesting expansion on Social Security. Many will disagree on using social security for more than just checks, but will take your ideas further into creating new social programs like they have in Europe. Some of which are similar to what you described.

I'd love to see these matters discussed by progressives with the government once the debt ceiling is raised and 2012 election is over. Then, I think we can all get away from the stupid political game distractions.

Thank you for your input. It is thought provoking.

PEACE