cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
I am old enough to have participated in many election cycles. Although I can’t determine precisely when I heard the canard telling people that Republicans will destroy Social Security, I have heard it many, many times and I’m hearing it again.
This is such a disingenuous argument, and yet it seems to grab the imagination of the voter, otherwise it wouldn’t be a perennial favorite topic of so many campaigns.
There are very real and very important issues with Social Security. To start, there is no “trust fund” and there has been no “trust fund” for many years. Social Security is, and has been, on a ‘pay as you go’ basis for decades. Congress simply cannot resist taking money from any pool no matter the future implications. There are so-called pieces of paper residing somewhere in the great void we call a federal government that attest to the fact that certain sums have been borrowed and that they’ll be repaid…at least that is the case if we believe the story.
We know a few things for sure:
· There is no segregated pool of money from which Social Security benefits are paid. Those benefits come from the general fund.
· There is a point in time where the burdens of providing Social Security benefits will overwhelm the ability of the few remaining that pay into the system to cover its cost. That time is rapidly, in terms of the magnitude of the cost, approaching and is exacerbated by the bulge in the number of people retiring coupled with the length of life of those who retired earlier.
· There is the need for our politicians to come to grips with this issue rather than to continue to ‘kick the can down the road’ (I know I used this phrase recently, but it is appropriate and likely to be used over and over again in the future since that is the favored method of solving today’s problems.)
· The number of people who were paying in versus the number drawing out stood at about 3.5 people funding Social Security for every person receiving benefits based upon the census of 2000. By the year 2030, it is estimated that this ratio will have dropped from 3.5:1 down to 2:1. In the early years the ratio was greater than 70:1 given projected life spans, etc.
· The current system will soon be, literally, unsustainable.
Against this backdrop, some politicians resort to this scare tactic aimed at seniors and the soon-to-be seniors. “My opponent favors privatizing Social Security” is a common statement. Another favorite is the line that talks about “what happens if all the money is put into the stock market and it collapses?” I heard those lines last evening in the Feingold vs. Johnson debate; you can decide from whom you think the charges were received.
The term “third rail of politics” of course refers to the apparent death wish of any politician willing to extend a plan to reform Social Security. That has unfortunately often been the case. That may help some to win re-election…but it does nothing to solve the problem that already has it ‘nose under the tent-flap’.
Enter stage-right Paul Ryan (R-WI) who is among, in my opinion, the most knowledgeable people in Congress when it comes to budgets and the arcane things that go into finding solutions for problems such as Social Security. Of course, he is being attacked by the opposition for having had the courage, the political fortitude, to advance his “Roadmap” that sets forth a proposed solution. Refreshingly it is a proposed “solution”, and not more of the same old scare tactics, yet it is being used to attack Ryan and his cohorts in the Republican Party.
It drives me nuts when I think about the impact of a sound bite versus that of a well-thought and genuinely presented plan such as Ryan’s.