FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Can we imagine our founding fathers making a statement like, “First we must make a good, long list of entitlements for all our citizens,” before they wrote our Constitution or Bill Of Rights? What they did do was write a Constitution that (with a few amendments) has stood the test of time, giving the citizens of our nation a government that is the envy of the world. The primary right we have is the right for us to pursue happiness.
It seems in recent years our leaders have developed another right that some of our citizens (not all) must have their entitlements. Basically the term “entitlement” grants a notion or belief that one is deserving of some particular reward of benefit. It also may refer to the belief that everyone should receive the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, or willingness to take risk.
Not only is it confusing, but very expensive. The cost of entitlements has risen to the point where it consumes almost one-forth of the economy’s total output, and that could very well lead to fiscal disaster for our country.
It’s not that some so-called entitlements aren’t good, they certainly can be. It’s just that they have been set up in a manner that their cost shoots straight up to the point whereas they will have to explode (or implode) sometime in the future.
And yes, Social Security was such a program that was set up wrong. It was indeed set up like a Pyramid scheme. The earlier payers and retirees made out fantastically, but now a lot of us will never receive as much as our employers and we paid in.
The first Social Security retiree was Ida May Fuller; she received her first check for $22.54 on Jan. 31, 1940. Ida May only had to pay into the newly minted system for a mere three years. Her total payments came to a scant $24.75. (To be fair, her employer had to match that amount.)
She continued to receive checks till her death in 1975. However by the time of her death in 1975, Ida May had collected $22,888.92 from Social Security monthly benefits. It was said that President Roosevelt planned to phase in a more normal annuity-like program similar to those offered by private insurance companies, but they saw immediately the political value of the Social Security program, as it was. So it stayed the same, as a Pyramid scheme, and that’s why it’s in such trouble today. And that’s why our children and grandchildren will have to pay the penalty.
Almost all entitlement programs are set up the same way…Medicare, Medicaid, etc. These and so many other entitlements are a big reason our deficit is so high and growing higher every day.
Do we really want to become like Greece and Spain? When the economy gets so bad, bad things happen to good people? Perhaps we, the citizens, should take the position that the main entitlement we want is some common sense in Washington.
The bottom line is the current administration and the U.S. Senate has practiced spending excesses that have shot our deficit into the stratosphere and there’s no end in sight. With baby boomers growing older and out-of-control spending, especially on entitlements, we have a real financial crisis on our hands.
The only real solution is to cut spending (including entitlements) by setting priorities and making logical decisions…something that hasn’t been happening in Washington recently. The House passed a budget last year, but the Senate wouldn’t even consider such a thing. They won’t do their job. They ignore their responsibilities. They simply won’t go on record, because they think by not doing anything they won’t be blamed for anything.
We’ve often heard the old saying, “Don’t just stand there, do something.” Well our current Senate seems to be saying, “Don’t just do something, stand there.”
(Bob Harper writes a column of general interest.)