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news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Conservative Progressive Musings: Rethinking Social Security

February 7, 2005 07:04 AM

Someone wiser than me said, either here or in another posting, that without common reference points, arguments will invariably fail to come to a resolution. And it appears that is where we have arrived.


The broad issue here is whether the entitlements enacted over a half century ago are still relevant.

In her first two paragraphs, Anderson clearly takes the defensive point of view that Social Security, at least, does not debase people by making them dependent on government ... (nor does) it sap people's self-sufficiency and make them a burden on others. . This is the fundamental divergence point. Those who would tear down the entitlement programs of the last century would argue these programs do exactly that.

Subsistence programs were created to keep people alive, to put bread on the table and a roof over the heads of those less fortunate. Sixty years later, those programs have ballooned into entitlement programs guaranteeing not just life, but a comfortable lifestyle, and not just for the unfortunate, but everyone. They are out of control and they are bankrupting our public finances.

But more importantly, these well-intentioned programs are doing exactly what Anderson claims they are not. They are bankrupting the soul and character of the American people.

Today's generation spends 40-50% of their take-home pay on housing, at least 1/3 of their hard-earned income on servicing debt in the form of interest payments.

We don't save.

We don't save because we don't have to. It's guaranteed. My father's generation would only put 25-30% into housing, buying 1200 square feet for a family of five instead of 2500 for a DINK. My father drove Fords and Chevys; we drive BMWs, Volvos and Lexus. My father put 15-20% into savings, not only for retirement but in case he lost his job; we put that much on credit and then file unemployment claims.

We have lost the ability to be frugal, prudent, thrifty. Growing up in a society where risk and danger has been consigned to boogy man status has made us complacent and indifferent to our future.

I am not saying there isn't a place for subsistence programs. But because of political expediency, those programs have escalated into devastating entitlement programs.

February 7, 2005 05:07 PM

To quote a famous crook, "let me make one thing perfectly clear". I am all for social progressivism. But for a program to be progressive, it needs to advance something. The current basket of entitlements do nothing. Unless we embue a program with supernatural powers (like taxing authority), the basket will eventually run out of bread and fish and need to be replenished. Just like the rolling "fixes" to Social Security, these basket demands a constant restocking. I'd rather spend a little more in the short term and teach everyone to fish (hmm. I seem to remember a great philosopher using that metaphor).

The G.I. Bill was the second most successful social program of all time. Millions of veterans were given billions in educational vouchers which they could use at any accredited educational facility and earn any accredited degree they chose. A pity that program fell victim to the anit-war sentiments of the mid-1970s.

We need to do the same for all the basket-emptying entitlement programs. Not just eliminate them, but replace them with something that will survive. I am thinking of FEMA here, which is arguably the most successful social program of all time.

When disaster strikes, billions of aid is pumped into the affected areas to recovery and rebuild. But once the most serious effects have been mitigated, the spigot is turned off. So why can't we do the same with the War on Poverty and the failure of Social Security (definition: anything that requires an endless supply of something is a failure) and the health care mismanagement crisis.

Any takers?


Anonymous DSC said...

Do you really find FEMA that successful? I have no idea, but one problem that I find is that we continually dump money into places like Florida when natural disasters (i.e. hurricanes) are common. What incentive does the state have to take on its own cost-benefit of building houses in such a vulnerable area? It seems the rest of the country is just supplementing people who choose to live near the beach. I realize this is off topic and not FEMA's only use, but I still find it having some of the characteristics that were discussed in the post.

8/08/2005 11:26 PM  

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