Saturday, December 29, 2012

Social Security and Medicare Are Not Welfare Programs

The members of Congress have called Social Security and Medicare "entitlements" so long they seem to have forgotten both the origin and purpose of the two programs. 

Webster's definition of the word entitle which most closely defines this usage of entitlements is:  "to give (a person or thing) a title, right or claim to something:  furnish with rights for laying claim. . ."
There is nothing in this definition to define or explain entitlements as nasty little four letter words.  Yet, judging from the verbal behavior of many conservative congressmen, that is how they view both Social Security and Medicare.

Let's focus attention, once more, on some of the Congressmen, past and present, who have vilified these and other "entitlements".  There are those like the former Congressman from Missouri who announced that he never liked Social Security and that he had not designed it.  But that is mild compared with the Congressman who said we "are a nation of whiners expecting to receive something just because we were promised it -- in the same conversation where he rejoiced that there had been no cost of living increase that year, so there would be no increase in C O L A.

It is exactly this attitude of company officials and their compadres in government that caused the need for social programs in the first place. 

It is kind of a fad these days for Americans to get bent out of shape over sweat shops in foreign countries, but people tend to forget about the sweat shops in Europe and the United States in the early years of the industrial revolution.  They were, in fact, a reason that our "social programs" exist today -- these entitlements that are anathema to a good many company owners.

Social Security and Medicare are frequently viewed as handouts by Congress and Conservative business owners, when they are better termed insurance programs.   In order to insure our old age financial security, most American workers have paid compulsory insurance premiums throughout their work histories.  Just as we were forced involuntarily to pay those fees, our leaders are supposed to see we receive the "insurance" when we reach the appropriate age.  Does Congress understand the word compulsory?  This compulsory program is required from both participants and government officials.  A previous Congress and Administration made a covenant with Americans to provide payouts to retired seniors and another previous Congress and Administration set Cost of Living Adjustments based on the Cost of Living Increase.  Remember the word Covenant.

As this author has stated repeatedly in these blog articles, if company owners had done their jobs right morally and ethically, such programs would never have been necessary.  But greedy and selfish people have, throughout history, worked employees, including women and underage children, in sweat shop conditions.  They have overworked and underpaid them, thinking only of how to fill their own pockets.  They have ignored basic safety standards.  Then they have used up and cast out workers as so much garbage when they got old, injured, sick or frail.  What Americans among us do not know about these conditions and the steps that were taken to remedy them?  We studied them in history in public schools.  Did your private educations leave you underprivileged in knowledge?

Social Security laws cover much more than just the aged.  They are also for survivors, the disabled and Medicare (which falls under a separate fee).  They offer an employment security benefit which includes unemployment and worker's compensation benefits.  Employees and their employers both contribute to the funding of these programs.

So, yes, we are entitled to the payout from them because we paid our insurance premiums and it is the law!  They differ radically from the social programs for the poor which are paid from our collective income taxes.  The latter programs include food stamps, HUD housing, energy assistance and Medicaid.  Too many of your former hard-working employees have suffered the humiliation of having to ask for public assistance due to inadequate Social Security payouts already.

Social Security and Medicare are supposed to be separate funds left untouched until needed and allowed to earn money in sound investment programs.

The pity is that members of Congress did not have "x-ray" foresight so that our leaders could accurately predict future funding needs.  But that is not going to wash as an excuse not to meet the requirements for the programs.  The baby boomer excuse is also wearing thin.  Lawmakers have known about them for many decades now.  Congress is going to have to increase premiums on current workers just as they have done in the past on other generations.  They are going to have to stop "forgiving" current workers from paying their full premiums.  They will need that money much more sorely once they retire.

The law required us to pay the premiums and now the law should require Congress to see we get the "lawful" Cost of Living Adjustment based on inflationary increases. 

Perhaps if everyone replaces the term "entitlements" with the word insurance, Congress and businessmen will begin to have a proper understanding of the programs.  They would know that an insurance company that collected premiums without honoring agreed upon payouts would be committing crimes -- fraud.  Such companies would probably be dissolved or replaced and their owners imprisoned.  If Congress reneges on this covenant, should they be prosecuted, too?  Who would be whining then?

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