Everything that’s wrong with America in two sentences

You-Lie-copyIt turns out that someone I’ve known for yours is, in fact, a conservative.  We were both pleasantly surprised to find that we had that in common.  He recently forwarded me an email with two telling sentences.

I’ve seen both of these wandering around the internet, but for some reason their juxtaposition struck me as very powerful — or maybe it’s just that tonight Obama’s giving his SOTU, which I am not watching, and these thoughts counterbalance whatever malarkey he’s spouting.  I’ll read what he has to say tomorrow.  Reading is always better than that tight-ass, clipped, whiny hectoring.

Anywhere, here’s that email:

1. We are advised to NOT judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge ALL gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics. Funny how that works.

And here’s another one worth considering.

2. Seems we constantly hear about how Social Security is going to run out of money. How come we never hear about welfare running out of money? What’s interesting is the first group “worked for” their money, but the second didn’t.

Think about it…..

Image: PowerLine

Why married women deserve Social Security benefits

From 1947, a week worth's of woman's work.

(From 1947, a week worth’s of woman’s work)

James Taranto highlights a couple of women, Lisa Arnold and Christina Campbell, who complain that it’s unfair that married women, when widowed, get to receive social security benefits that tie into their husband’s social security “earnings.”  Here, per Taranto, is the heart of Arnold’s and Campbell’s argument:

“More than 1,000 laws provide overt legal or financial benefits to married couples,” they complain. “Marital privileging marginalizes the 50 percent of Americans who are single. . . . Marital privilege pervades nearly every facet of our lives.” Income-tax liability is generally (though not always) higher for unmarried earners; married workers more or less automatically have access to spouses’ health insurance; couples can share individual retirement accounts, and so forth.

[snip]

That of course begs the question. Any policy that differentiates among individuals is “discriminatory,” and not all discrimination is unjust or irrational. One of Arnold and Campbell’s examples–Social Security–illustrates the point quite nicely.

If a single person dies without children, her money will–must–go into the system to be provided to whomever [sic] needs it most, which is good because that was the original intent of Social Security. However, if a married person dies, the money can be routed back to her family. This is good for the married person, but fails to account for the important people in singles’ lives.

“Social Security privileges marrieds in many ways,” the duo complain. “For example, [a] married woman could receive up to 50 percent of her husband’s benefits while her husband is alive.” Wait, that sounds like a cost of marriage to the hubby. “Spouses can also receive 100 percent of their dead spouse’s benefits, if the deceased’s benefits are higher than the recipient’s would have been.”

As one would expect, Taranto quickly exposes the logical flaws in their argument, one that flows from a fundamental misunderstanding about social security:

The bottom line is that a married woman is likely to collect considerably more in benefits than a single woman with the same lifetime income. The difference runs into six figures in the hypothetical example Arnold and Campbell devise. That sounds unjust: Why shouldn’t benefits be fully concomitant with the money one paid into the system?

Because that’s not how Social Security actually works. Although it is often misunderstood as an insurance plan, in reality it is a pay-as-you-go welfare program. That is to say that tomorrow’s retirees depend for their benefits not on their own contributions but on tomorrow’s workers. If you retire single and childless, that means you’re living off the labor of other people’s children. Why shouldn’t you get a smaller benefit check than those who accepted the personal and financial burdens of raising those workers?

Taranto is absolutely right about the issue from the social security end, but he could have made a further argument — namely, that Arnold and Campbell are being utterly sexist insofar as they’re denigrating a woman’s very real financial contribution to a marriage.

The old male chauvinist pig argument was that, because women made no income, they actually contributed nothing of value economically, either to the marriage or to society as a whole.  The first feminists were quick to point out that this is a fallacy, as the stay-at-home mother’s contributions do, in fact, have a very real valuable.  If mom were to vanish suddenly, and there was no female relative to step in to fill the gap, the father would have to hire someone to shop, cook, clean, and, most importantly, raise the children.

Children playing

Merely feeding children is not enough.  In an America with large swathes developed after the automobile came along, and in one dominated by media-fed fears of child-snatching, the caregiver spends an inordinate amount of time ferrying children about, whether to school, to friends (if you want them to be marginally socialized), to mandatory “volunteer” activities, to doctor’s appointments, or to sports and other extracurricular activities.  Additionally, when the children are little — and maybe even more when they’re big — they need to be supervised so that they don’t get into mischief.  Their associates need to be vetted (druggie or good kid?) and their emotional and intellectual development overseen.  Children are hard work.  There’s pleasure involved, but, boy!, is there work.

Many women work outside of the home, with their income going to pay for childcare.  This works only if the working mother’s income is sufficiently high that, after the household and childcare fees are met, and after the woman pays all her taxes (including Social Security withholding) there’s something left over.  Otherwise, she’s just working so that she and her husband can pay someone else to raise the children.

Family

The core fact here is that raising children and running the household is a job.  There are two ways to view this when looking at a married couple.  Either the man and the woman are a partnership, with each having a different function, but with all profits derived from the enterprise, in the form of the husband’s salary, covering the partnership as a whole.  Under this view, as a contributing member of the functioning partnership, the mother is clearly entitled to a share of the Social Security payments, even though her side of the partnership consisted, not of working outside of the home but, instead, of enabling her husband to earn a cash income that’s subject to social security withholding.

A less nice, but still accurate, way of looking at social security payments and stay-at-home moms is that the husband essentially employs the wife.  He earns the money, and he gives it to her to provide services such as housekeeping and child-rearing.  In her absence, he’d have to pay someone else — in cold, hard, taxed cash.  Because she is an employee, her earnings are subject to Social Security withholding, something that the government sees to by taking those withholding from the husband.  After all, if it wasn’t for his children, she could be out there earning money.

Husband's funeral

It’s perfectly true that not all women have children or that there are women with children who cheerfully work outside the home.  On the bell curve, though, both of those situations occupy the long-tailed margins.  The reality is that married women mostly have children, and that these women mostly provide child and household care, and that, by doing so, these women mostly see their personal income drop, even as they contribute to their husband’s income on behalf of the marital estate.  This last fact means that they’ve earned Social Security benefits as certainly as their husband did.  And these women certain deserve the payments after their husband’s death because their withdrawal from the labor market to benefit the family means that, once hubby dies (and hubby is statistically likely to die first), they no longer have much, if any, income-earning capacity.

Arnold and Campbell couldn’t be more sexist than when they demean stay-at-home moms by arguing that their contribution to the martial partnership is valueless and that it shouldn’t be compensated in the form of repayment of the money the government forcibly wrested away from the family unit.

They trusted their welfare to the Government

I am standing Hwy 2, passing through the Blackfoot “Res” in Montana. What I see before me doesn’t look like much, a scrubby field under low hills and Montana’s incredibly beautiful big sky.

Where I am standing is the former site of the Badger Creek Indian Agency, where the Blackfeet Indians gathered after their buffalo had been slaughtered and the government promised them food and support in exchange for having given up their independence and self reliance.

By the winter of 1883-1884, however, the government had really, really screwed up. The Indians’ own source of meat (buffalo, deer, elk) had been destroyed. Their limited crops had failed. Their limited livestock was depleted. They were running out of food.

Since 1881, Indian agent John Young’s repeated requests to the government for more food aid had been met with bureaucratic indifference. Frankly, the “government” didn’t care very much and there were budget constraints that had to be met.

Then, in the winter of 1883-1884, the inevitable happened: starvation came. By the time the world outside the reservation heard about it, one quarter of the population (600 Indians) had already starved to death. The surrounding Montana communities responded immediately, sending relief trains of emergency food, livestock and blankets to the Blackfeet survivors. The government, by contrast, did nothing. After the fact, they held hearings, absolved themselves of responsibility and, finally, blamed Indian Agent John Young for gross negligence.

This is a story to keep in mind for all those that believe that it is somehow a good idea to surrender their independence and self-reliance to a faceless entity called “government”. Whether it is welfare, social security, Medicare or Obamacare, I can guarantee this: the government will screw up through indifference and people will die. Not because government is “bad” or that the people in government are “bad”, but because people are people and government can never be better than our collective human nature. And, once stripped of our independence and self-reliance, there will be no recourse. We will not be able to rely upon surrounding communities to rush to our aid.

The truth shall set you free, including the truth about Social Security

A Ponzi scheme is a pretty simple animal:  You pay old investors using money put in by new investors.  When you run out of new investors, nobody gets paid.

Social security is also a simple animal:  We pay old taxpayers money put in by new taxpayers.  Because there are more old taxpayers than there are new taxpayers, and because these old taxpayers no longer contribute much, if anything, to the pot,  pretty soon nobody gets paid.

Ponzi schemes cannot be reformed.  They are inherently flawed.  Their painful death is inevitable, since it is programmed into their composition.  We know with certainty that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  It always has and it always will.  We also know with certainty that Ponzi schemes inevitably run out of money.

Perry used his prominence to state something that all honest people know to be true:  Social Security is inherently unsustainable.  It’s not a fraud, but it’s destined to failure.  As demographics change, and as we suffer through the repercussions of the Stimulus, that failure will occur sooner, rather than later.  No amount of tweaking will prevent that from happening.  The only way to “fix” Social Security is to do away with it:  give some lump sum payment to those who already depend on it, give phased out payments to this who are uncomfortably close to depending on it, and tell everyone else “We’re sorry we screwed you.”

As far as I’m concerned, Perry gets big kudos for having the honesty to take his high-profile and use it to announce that the Emperor has no clothes.

A history lesson about your Social Security card and benefits *UPDATED*

Danny Lemieux sent me an email regarding Social Security that I reproduce here.  I know that the bit about the “not for identification” is true, because I have in front of me my card, which has that message, and my children’s cards, which don’t.  I do not know if the rest of the email message is true, and trust that, if it’s not, you will correct me.  Snopes, interestingly enough, has no word on this one:

Subject: History Lesson on Your Social Security Card

Just in case some of you young whippersnappers (& some older ones) didn’t know this. It’s easy to check out, if you don’t believe it. Be sure and show it to your family and friends. They need a little history lesson on what’s what and it doesn’t matter whether you are Democrat or Republican. Facts are Facts.

Social Security Cards up until the 1980s expressly stated the number and card were not to be used for identification purposes.

Since nearly everyone in the United States now has a number, it became convenient to use it anyway and the NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION message was removed.

Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, introduced the Social Security (FICA) Program. His promises are in black, with updates in red.

1.) That participation in the Program would be Completely voluntary [No longer voluntary],

2.) That the participants would only have to pay 1% of the first $1,400 of their annual Incomes into the Program [Now 7.65% on the first $90,000, and 15% on the first $90,000 if you're self-employed],

3.) That the money the participants elected to put into the Program would be deductible from their income for tax purposes each year [No longer tax deductible],

4.) That the money the participants put into the independent ‘Trust Fund’ rather than into the general operating fund, and therefore, would only be used to fund the Social Security Retirement Program, and no other Government program [Under Johnson the money was moved to the General Fund and Spent], and

5.) That the annuity payments to the retirees would never be taxed as income [Under Clinton & Gore up to 85% of your Social Security can be Taxed].

Since many of us have paid into FICA for years and are now receiving a Social Security check every month — and then finding that we are getting taxed on 85% of
the money we paid to the Federal government to ‘put away’ — you may be interested in the following:

Q: Which Political Party took Social Security from the independent ‘Trust Fund’ and put it into the general fund so that Congress could spend it?

A: It was Lyndon Johnson and the democratically controlled House and Senate.

Q: Which Political Party eliminated the income tax deduction for Social Security (FICA) withholding?

A: The Democratic Party.

Q: Which Political Party started taxing Social Security annuities?

A: The Democratic Party, with Al Gore casting the ‘tie-breaking’ deciding vote as President of the Senate, while he was Vice President of the US

AND MY FAVORITE:

Q: Which Political Party decided to start giving annuity payments to immigrants?

A: That’s right! Jimmy Carter and the Democratic Party. Immigrants moved into this country, and at age 65, began to receive Social Security payments! The Democratic Party gave these payments to them, even though they never paid a dime into it!

Now, after violating the original contract (FICA), the Democrats turn around and tell you that the Republicans want to take your Social Security away!

And the worst part about it is uninformed citizens believe it! If enough people receive this, maybe a seed of awareness will be planted and maybe changes will
evolve. Maybe not, though. Some Democrats are awfully sure of what isn’t so — but it’s worth a try. How many people can YOU send this to?

Actions speak louder than bumper stickers.

UPDATE: Please see comment 10, which has some links and extra facts to show that the Republicans are not without sin in the degradation of Social Security.

UPDATE II:  If you just stumbled across this post recently, I hope you enjoyed it.  And if you’re interested in conservative political and social writing, I also suggest checking out my more recent posts, which you can find at my home page.

Economics for idiots

Lawrence Lindsey explains in language even a numerophobe can understand precisely why Obama’s Social Security proposal isn’t just mean-spirted, pandering and illogical, but is also disastrous for the American economy:

Although the formula connecting benefits to tax payments or “contributions” has evolved slightly over time, it still adheres to this basic message. Today, what Social Security terms a “low-wage” worker will pay (in present value terms) $77,197 over his or her lifetime and get $112,261 in benefits. A median-wage worker earning $42,000 will pay $171,550 and get back $187,085. A “high-wage” worker making $67,000 will pay $274,480 and get back $245,085.

Under the current formula, lower-wage workers get a slightly better deal than do higher-wage workers, assuming the same life expectancy. But the principle remains that as workers’ wages rise so do the taxes they pay, and so do the benefits they will get from the system.

Sen. Obama would do away with this principle by requiring higher-end workers to pay taxes without getting any extra benefits linked to their higher contributions. This would be a big step toward turning Social Security from a contributory pension scheme into just another welfare program.

The economics of what Sen. Obama is proposing should be at least as troubling. A high-income entrepreneur would see his or her federal marginal tax rate rise to 53% from 37.7% under Sen. Obama’s tax plan. He proposes a 4.6 percentage point hike in the personal income tax rate, a loss of some itemized deductions, and a 12.4 percentage point hike in the Social Security payroll tax. This would take a successful entrepreneur’s effective marginal tax rate higher than what it was under Jimmy Carter or Richard Nixon, when the maximum tax on an entrepreneur was 50%.

One of the lessons from the disastrous economics of the 1970s and the subsequent Reagan tax cuts is that everyone – particularly entrepreneurs – responds to incentives. If you take away 10% of a high earner’s after-tax income at the margin, he will cut his taxable income by at least 4%. At the margin, this taxpayer now takes home 62.3% of his earnings, a figure that will drop to 47% under the Obama plan. According to a widely accepted economics rule of thumb, the entrepreneur’s taxable profit would drop by 11.2%.

And that’s not all.  Read the rest here.