Life on the Social Security Plantation
The "entitlements" of American oldsters
I received my first Social Security check in January. I was actually amazed that my online application went through okay and was approved and processed by government employees, without any hiccups. That’s how low my expectations have become. I am literally stunned when anything works correctly.
I thought long and hard about collecting Social Security at the earliest possible moment, when I turned sixty two. Sure, it would have been significantly less per month, but that’s five extra years of payments. And the system is probably even more unstable than the rest of crumbling America 2.0. The math is impossible, with lower paid young workers having to pay into the system to support all the Boomer geezers like me. They know the numbers don’t work, and they don’t care. As you must know by now, they don’t care about anything except enriching themselves and promoting the satanic agenda which enables their power.
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The conservative Ayn Rand worshipers, the Paul Ryan brigade, are chomping at the bit to end Social Security and Medicare. They consistently refer to them as “entitlements,” which they decidedly are not. Every worker pays into this system for their entire working life. That is thanks to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “temporary” withholding tax, among his myriad of great accomplishments. So the system isn’t voluntary. You must participate, even if you’re a billionaire and obviously don’t need the monthly pittance doled out to the common riff raff in their golden years. Ross Perot wanted a voluntary opt out, and they nearly chewed his head off.
Social Security has always been like a deity to Democrats. They revere it, and to question it at all is not permitted. They insist that Social Security is “solvent” for another million years or so. The numbers tell quite a different story, but statistics (and facts) don’t matter to these crazed Social Justice Warriors. They think the system was one of the great inventions of all time, because it was passed during the administration of FDR, a psychopathic warmonger who naturally is their greatest hero, behind only the tyrannical Abraham Lincoln. Social Security is sacrosanct, and criticism of it is tantamount to beating grandma in the public square.
But Social Security had many problems from the very beginning. The idea of such a social safety net is attractive to many people, including me. No one wants the elderly literally left out in the cold after they can no longer work. That feeling is naturally stronger in me now, since I have reached the stage where I am considered elderly. Wow, that seems impossible. I will never call myself elderly (or old), no matter who else does. As someone once said, never let an old person into your body. Given the unfortunate drift of our society, it has come to the point where, for most old people, if the government doesn’t pay them a stipend, they can’t economically survive.
The question few ask is, prior to FDR signing the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935, what happened to Americans when they retired from the workforce? Sure, life expectancy was lower, but that’s a bit misleading. You still had more babies and young children dying in alarming numbers, which skewered the overall statistics. Nursing homes largely didn’t exist, either. The answer is obvious; old people were cared for by close family members. Think of The Waltons. That’s the way it worked for the most part. Not only grandma and grandpa, but unmarried older uncles and aunts also lived with family. There were few nursing homes and no Social Security to rely on.
For unclear, and head scratching reasons, Social Security has always had an income cap, in regards to taxation. While it has increased over the past several years, presently only the first $160,000 in income can be withheld for Social Security. So, the wealthiest Americans have always paid a much smaller percentage of their actual income into the system, which they of course will one day benefit from, even though they have no need for the pocket change it will provide them. This seems like a baffling way for “liberals” to devise a tax, as it is the antithesis of their beloved graduated income tax. They also have never demanded means-testing.
For Social Security to have a chance at working, every penny of income should be subject to taxation, and there should be strict means testing. Multi-millionaires and billionaires obviously have no need for it, and shouldn’t receive it. And those who do need it should be getting enough to live on. But you don’t hear the supposed “Soak the Rich” Left ever advocate this. Where is Bernie Sanders on this issue? He should be saying it, not me. Instead, they all worship at the altar of Social Security, instead of attempting to reform its many flaws.
As usual, the conservative view here is no rational alternative. In fact, for the elderly, it would be a disaster. Since the Ayn Rand-inspired Right still worships the rigged and corrupt marketplace, they act as if there is a private option for the vast majority of old people. Pensions for blue-collar employees and the working poor have gone the way of eight track tapes and thin Victoria Secret models. How does the Right expect most retired people to exist, without Social Security? Unless they’re retired government workers, they aren’t likely to have any pension at all. They can’t depend on family. As I’ve noted many times, American families are largely dysfunctional.
The numbers vary slightly, even the ones I quoted in Survival of the Richest, but all tell the same bleak story. Over 70 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. About the same percentage have less than $1000 savings in the bank. So when that large majority of Americans retires from the workforce, exactly how are they supposed to feed themselves? Where are they supposed to live? $1000 won’t last them long. And odds are their children and other family members won’t be able to help them financially, or won’t be willing to for the kinds of senseless reasons we see in millions of feuding and fractured families.
So, to those of us who don’t accept coincidences, you had an interesting coalescence of contributing factors occur in the mid-1930s. First, the decision was made by FDR to create Social Security, in response to the better thought out and more radical proposals of Huey Long and Dr. Francis Townsend. Second, families pretty rapidly stopped taking in their older relatives. How much of that was related to Social Security is unknown, but it’s a historical fact. And nursing homes, along with “retirement communities,” began to spring up everywhere.
Townsend and his followers were bitterly disappointed in Social Security. The Townsend Plan would have mandated immediate, and bigger payments for especially the poorest elderly persons. And you would not have had to pay into the plan for 40-50 years in order to start getting your money back. Huey Long would be assassinated less than a month after Social Security was passed into law. Huey also advocated a thirty hour work week, and a mandated one month annual vacation for all workers. And his “Share Our Wealth” plan would have exempted the first million of income from any taxation whatsoever. Now that was populist.
To quote from one of Huey’s timeless speeches, “Everyone has begun to realize something must be done for our old people who work out their lives, feed and clothe children and are left penniless in their declining years. They should be made to look forward to their mature years for comfort rather than fear. We propose that, at the age of 60, every person should begin to draw a pension from our Government of $30 per month, unless the person of 60 or over has an income of over $1,000 per year or is worth $10,000, which is two thirds of the average wealth in America, even figured on a basis of it being frozen into a few hands. Such a pension would retire from labor those persons who keep the rising generations from finding employment.”
In June, 1935, Huey Long took to the floor of the Senate to filibuster over the Social Security Act, demanding that it be liberalized. In Long’s mind, the program did little to address the massive financial inequities in America, which was of course the foundation of his Share Our Wealth Society. Readers who want to learn more about Long’s life and his very convenient assassination, should read my book Survival of the Richest: How the Corruption of the Marketplace and the Disparity of Wealth Created the Greatest Conspiracy of All. The great John Barbour has said many times that the book is worth the price for the chapter on Huey Long alone. Who am I to argue with a legend?
FDR’s Social Security Act was at the heart of his so-called “Second New Deal.” There is no doubt that Social Security has helped many elderly people over the decades. But what would have happened without it? Would families have continued to feed and shelter their older relatives? Would nursing homes and “retirement communities” even exist? Would Americans have a healthier respect for their elders, as people do in most societies around the world? Well, at least the nonwhite societies.
Social Security’s general fund was a really bad idea. Lyndon B. Johnson was the first president to “raid” the general fund by comingling it with the budget at large. Other presidents like Ronald Reagan did so as well. And it should never be forgotten that Reagan, the great “tax cutter,” was the first to subject Social Security taxes to….a tax. You’d think a great “tax cutter” like that would understand double taxation when he saw it. They should have set up individual accounts for each worker, to isolate all funds effectively. They could have been given the option to invest some of it in more lucrative ways. But none of this was done, or ever will be done.
I don’t think I’ll ever have to pay taxes on the monthly incremental returns from the Social Security taxes I paid into for forty five years. It doesn’t look like I’ll make enough money from my writing for that. But you never know, and the system is, not surprisingly, complicated. Just as no liberals protest the income cap or lack of means testing for Social Security, no conservatives seem to care that this very blatant tax is subject to another potential tax. One can only wonder at what Huey Long would have said about this system, had they not murdered him less than a month after it became law, over his courageous filibustering efforts.
The other part of our wondrous economic safety net for the elderly is Medicare. I think I’m the only one outside of the Ayn Rand disciples who want to eliminate it altogether, who has pointed out just what a bad deal Medicare is. Signed into law in 1965 by corrupt FDR acolyte Lyndon Johnson, Medicare also takes a portion of every worker’s paycheck for their entire working lives. However, they keep charging you a monthly fee when you finally are eligible to collect its “benefits.” It appears to have gone up to almost $165 per month now. And they only cover 80 percent of your medical costs. Which used to define a substandard employer healthcare plan.
This vaunted “benefit” would leave the poor and working class subject to financial ruin over any serious medical issue. 20 percent of anything serious is a very, very great deal of money. And yet, the great “socialist” Bernie Sanders is pushing hard for “Medicare for All.” No one on the Left will criticize the ridiculous nature of this “benefit.” You still pay for it every month, even after 40-50 years of withholding taxes. And then, their failure to adequately cover medical costs has resulted in the boom of the supplemental insurance industry, which most elderly pay for out of fear of those towering medical costs, that Medicare will not cover.
The Ayn Rand Right, of course, doesn’t want Medicare at all. Which I guess would be a good thing, if you replaced it with something that actually covered the costs of the aging demographic that needs healthcare services the most. But they don’t want anything to replace it. They conceive of healthcare as a “privilege,” not a right. And again, they trust the criminal marketplace, which in this case has spawned a medical- industrial complex that is publicly acknowledged as the third leading cause of death itself. With the “warp speed” vaccines, and the hospital “protocol” which killed my brother and untold others, I believe they may very well now be number one.
They don’t care about any of us, but they care the least about the oldest of us. We’re not that far removed from science-fiction films that touched on this subject, like Soylent Green or Logan’s Run. In Canada, they have instituted a euthanasia option that would make “Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian blush. If an AOC type politician advocated that here, you can bet most Americans would support it. Why not? They’re consistently pro-death and anti-life on everything from abortion to war. As the brother of Democratic Party mob boss Rahm Emanuel has advised us, there is no “need” for anyone to live longer than seventy five years.
I am grateful for my monthly Social Security check. It certainly pays me more than my full-time writing and podcasting career does. But I’m mindful that younger people will never get the opportunity to cash one of these checks. They’ll never be reimbursed for the money they spent years or decades being forced to pay. And what about all the people, like my brother in law who died unmarried at fifty eight, that never got a single penny back of the substantial funds they contributed to this system? There’s something fundamentally wrong and unfair about that.
I think everyone should have the option of a lump sum payment. This would be particularly attractive to people in their forties or so, that have already paid decades into the system, but have little confidence it will be there for them at retirement. Which might be when they’re eighty years old, if our atrocious politicians keep kicking the can down the road by just raising the retirement age. There is no will to solve this problem, and no insight on how to do so if there were.
My brother was on Social Security disability, and it was a godsend for him. And yes, as the conservatives will tell us, there are millions like him, who perhaps aren’t and weren’t technically disabled. If my brother had just collected his regular Social Security, it wouldn’t have been enough for him to live in a treehouse, because all of his jobs were low-earning ones. What do you do with all the physically, mentally, and emotionally challenged people, whose families can’t or won’t deal with their issues? Ayn Rand would just let them die. Survival of the fittest. Evolution carried to its logical extreme, and the basis for the eugenicist mindset that rules the world.
I had to go to the local Social Security office a few times for my brother. You really see America 2.0 in all its glory there. It makes the local DMV attractive by comparison. We waited for hours, as a slew of non-English speaking people kept entering and leaving. Finally, an English-challenged worker “resolved” our problem by screwing it up again, resulting in an added visit back to the place. I pray that I never have to visit a Social Security office about my benefits. Like Diogenes searching for that elusive honest man, I am still searching for a competent government employee.
That is the crux of the biscuit here, and the reason why a strictly libertarian approach is not practical, and certainly not moral. Ideally, families would support those who can’t succeed to any appreciable degree in life for whatever reason, the “unfit.” But how many families won’t let their own aged parents live with them, even when they’re fully functioning? We have to have some kind of safety net for these millions of people. Thanks to the increased cases of autism, this number is bound to rise in the future. While Ayn Rand said that we have no obligation to care for our neighbor, some of us still believe we at least should care for our closest relatives.
My children will never collect Social Security. Whenever the system crashes, and it must crash because of the undeniable mathematical reality. there is no chance of it being replaced with anything half as good, let alone something better. We might already be at the Mad Max stage by then, battling for food and water with the zombies who no longer can get a cell phone signal. As I’ve said many times, you could put any random group of preschoolers in charge, and they’d do a better job. And you could put any random group of death row inmates in charge, and they’d be more principled.
"I Protest" by Donald Jeffries is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.