Years ago, when I lived in Bozeman, Montana, something was going on at the federal level regarding Social Security that inspired me to organize a meeting, and to publicize that meeting on radio. I was quite the activist. It was nerve wracking, as I had no idea what the turnout would be. The subject of the meeting was the viability of the Social Security Trust Fund, and of Social Security itself. I was not receiving benefits, but since I was a wonk, I was steeped in numbers regarding the Trust Fund. I did not understand at that time that that Trust Fund was nothing more than a plot device crafted to create the illusion that benefits were threatened, and to convince young people that Social Security would not be there for them when they retired. Overall, the big picture was a movement behind corrupt senators like our then entrenched Baucus and Burns that Wall Street should be in charge of our retirements, and that the concept of “defined benefit” needed to be replaced by “defined contribution”. (If you do not understand either of those terms, now is the time to get up to speed. They are critical.)
The group I used was called “Wonderlust,” and the meeting was a huge success, even drawing a wonk from Washington to act as monitor and inspiring a huge turnout with older people asking and demanding answers to intelligent questions. What a relief! I feared a cricket fest. But to this day I regret my own lack of understanding of the nature of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and all of our “entitlements”.
I also now have a better understanding of the nature of not only how those programs are financed, but also how student loan debt is used to chain young people to undesirable jobs for no good reason. College education needs to be merit based – if a kid works hard, he or she should leave the institution and start a career without the baggage of “debt”. Kids aged 17 and 18 are making financial commitments that they’ve no idea about, as they are a decade away from possessing a fully formed cerebral cortex. They should not be allowed to undertake a long-term financial commitment. For the most part, their parents cannot pony up the money. The loan commitments are severe and last decades. There is no getting around them. Student loan debt is permanent. Not even bankruptcy can free them from the burden. That is an abusive and unnecessary policy.
Perceived necessity to finance entitlements like Social Security and Medicare by burdening young people, and further burdening young people with debt for something so basic as an education, are tools of enslavement. No, we cannot afford to do anything we want to do, and cannot lavish benefits on a society without the resources to pay for them. But the means of paying those benefits is not the tax and borrowing systems. These are mere devices to 1) keep inflation in check, and 2) chaining young people into burdensome and inescapable debt as they launch their careers. The means of paying is our economy, our productivity, our work ethic. We can easily afford Social Security and free college education for dedicated and hard-working students. Medicare and Medicaid are indeed a drain, as our health care system is so burdened by corruption that goes by the name private “insurance.” . (I might also add that the cost of college education is extremely burdened by institutional entitlement and lack of “teaching,” replaced by entrenched bureaucrats and professors who don’t do much more than what they used to call, in the railroad business, “featherbedding”.)
I awoke this morning with a head of steam, fed up with the corruption behind the thing called “Climate Change.” That got me going. However, I am also aware that corruption is all around us. I write plenty about CC, but have only rarely written about entitlements, as there is so little understanding out there about the true nature of our incredibly corrupt system of politics and supposed financial tools used to pay for the things we need. But I am not in essay mood, as readership, already strained, drops off at the mere mention of anything as complicated as how to finance retirement for our aging population.
I decided to write about it briefly, and let it go. Just understand that if you are young and wondering about your retirement, know that you must take care of yourself even as financial demands on your earnings are considerable. College debt, mortgages, car payments, medical insurance, and just paying for raising kids will strain the hell out of you. But if you wish it so, you can make Social Security real by simply demanding that corrupt politicians and Wall Street barons leave it alone. It is there for you for so long as you demand it to be so. You have that power. They have already hammered the system plenty, Bill Clinton the major tool used to reduce benefits. But the abuse of the system stops the moment you realize that the system is like Dorothy and her red slippers. A mere click of the heels makes it work.