Robert J. Samuelson, along with Paul Krugman, is probably the most popular and well known economist in the Socialist Democracy of Amerika. Both are committed Keynesians who never met a government spending or wealth transfer program they didn't like. Both are extraordinarily popular with the media because they represent that form of socialism that is wrongly labeled compassionate and caring. Last week Samuelson wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post Writers Group that showed up in my Denver Post. The column was entitled "A safety net, not a gravy train" and it contained Samuelson's doctrine that Social Security is unfair because payouts discriminate against the poor, whatever that means. Let me tell you a little bit about it.
Samuelson has written in the past about all sorts of inequalities and alleged "gaps" in government programs that allegedly harm the poor and enrich the wealthy. He believes government needs to get involved to fix all of those non-existent problems. He begins his column by writing, "And now comes the life expectancy gap. It may change the national conversation over Social Security and an aging society -- for the worse." Oh no! Go tell it on the mountain! Samuelson has discovered a new gap and it is a horrible and terrible thing. Only the actions of an omnipotent and beneficent government, as guided by Samuelson himself, will be sufficient to fix this problem.
Samuelson has discovered that the "process of aging" is "skewed in favor of the middle and upper middle classes." The National Academies of Sciences is a quasi-government institution, established by the federal government way back in the time of King Lincoln, to provide biased information to career politicians and bureaucrats that will justify their intrusions into the free market. The NAC conducted a study recently and determined that "among men life expectancy has improved substantially for the richest 60 percent but for the poorest 40 percent gains are tiny or non-existent." According to the study, "for the richest fifth of men, there was a 7.1 year increase in life expectancy for those born in 1960 compared to those born in 1930. Meanwhile, for the poorest fifth of men life expectancy fell slightly for those born in 1960 when compared to those born in 1930." Samuelson concludes, "As a generalization, the higher your income the longer you will live." Not surprisingly, Samuelson sees this information as a problem that requires government action.
Why is this a problem? Samuelson explains when he writes, "Social Security and many programs for the aged were designed to favor the poor, but the longer life expectancies of the middle and upper-middle classes offset this bias. Because richer male workers collect payments for more years than the poor, their lifetime benefits are much larger." Horror of horrors! Those who pay more end up, on average, getting more back. This is terrible! No self respecting socialist can allow this state of affairs to continue. The rich exist to be soaked, not to get some of their money back when they retire. The poor exist to be pandered to, not to die at a younger age because they make stupid lifestyle choices. Samuelson wraps up his alleged problem by declaring, "We are spending the most money for the longest periods to protect people who need the least protection, because they have more private savings and pension benefits than do the poor....Does this make sense for us as a society? To me the answer is no." Well Robert, I have no idea who the "we" is that you write about in your column. And I also have no idea who this "society" person is you write about. But I do know that what you describe makes perfect sense to me. Those who pay more into the system should get more out of the system. That is simply being fair. But being fair is not what socialism is all about. Socialism is about casting the "poor," however they may be defined, as victims of the rich in desperate need of government transfer payments.
Samuelson makes the same mistake all socialists make. He assumes that the poor are moral and the rich are immoral. That allows him to justify his transfer payment schemes. Study after study has shown that many, if not most, of the people populating the bottom 20% of the income population smoke more, are more overweight, have less health insurance, go to the doctor less often, exercise less, eat inferior diets and when compared to higher income cohorts consume more drugs, especially alcohol. (The only group that consumes more alcohol than the poor are career politicians, but that is a different blog post.) Indeed, just considering the effects of alcohol consumption alone can account for a huge portion of the lower income that exists in the lower 20% of the income population. Heavy drinking and productive work do not go hand in hand. Now I must ask a simple question. Why should the government force me to subsidize the retirements of people who made the voluntary decisions to smoke, overeat, consume harmful drugs, never exercise, eat poorly and drink themselves into a daily stupor? Why is that my fault? Why am I responsible? Why should my money be taken from me and given to them simply because they made the voluntary decision to live irresponsible lives while I made the opposite decision? Socialists never answer these questions. They simply presuppose that the "poor," whoever they are, are poor because of circumstances beyond their control. They simply assume that the poor are noble beings in need of help. Although there may be some isolated instances in which that is true, it is rarely the case.
To solve the problem that does not exist Samuelson calls upon his god, the federal government, to delay the age at which the "rich," whoever they are, are permitted to begin receiving Social Security payments. In addition he also wants a means test prior to dispensing those benefits. Those who have lived responsibly throughout their entire lives will be punished by having their benefits reduced and those who lived irresponsibly their entire lives will be rewarded with benefits far in excess of what they deserve.
Not only do the irresponsible members of the lower 20% of the income population make out like bandits by getting benefits far in excess of their contributions, the Social Security system actually subsidizes irresponsible behavior by rewarding it. The breakdown of the family, the proliferation of divorce and single parenting, the endemic practice of fornication and living together among so many couples and the financial rewards associated with being a welfare mom all contribute to the poverty that is to be found in the bottom 20%. The folks living there have no incentive to amend their lives and seek to provide for themselves. They have become welfare dependent and are happy to be there. Indeed, in most cases they see welfare and eventual Social Security as an entitlement that they deserve because "the man" never gave them a fair shake in life. Victim complexes abound in the bottom 20%.
Let's be clear about several things here. First, Social Security is an immoral program to begin with. The government has no moral right to be the enforcer of a mandated retirement program. Every individual citizen in this envy-filled land should be free to provide, or not provide, for his own future. There is no constitutional basis for Social Security and it must be admitted by everyone who seriously thinks about it that it was created as a vote garnering scheme by career politicians who wanted to stay in power. It works, if one can say that, only because the majority of the people in this sad land are able to get more back than they pay into the system by stealing from the wealthier minority that make most of the payments into the system. In a democracy the majority always wins and the top 20% of the income population inevitably loses.
Writing about what should be is a waste of time. Social Security is here and there is nothing that is going to stop it. In that case it should be fair. Payouts should be based upon payins and every participant in the system should have the same imputed rate of return on his "investment." Furthermore, the system should be required to be solvent just like the government requires all private pension plans to be solvent. Of course those are pipe dreams that will never come to fruition. Social Security is insolvent and only propped up by infusions of taxpayer dollars. We all know that Social Security pays out far more than it takes in. It is a Ponzi scheme in which current benefits are being paid for with current receipts. If any private pension were operated like Social Security the government would shut it down and imprison the Trustees. The difference is that Social Security is subsidized by the taxpayers and the taxpayers consist exclusively of the top 49% of the income population. Hence we see that an even more egregious injustice takes place when Samuelson's precious system makes monthly payments to the hoards of irresponsible and immoral louses who make up the bottom 20% of the income population. Not only are they stealing Social Security contributions, they are stealing income taxes as well. Not to worry however. This is a proper state of affairs in a socialist system. All is well with the world when the productive members are being robbed and the unproductive members are being rewarded. That is called a democracy and it is precisely what the majority desires.