Thursday, February 18, 2016

Social Security Entitlement

Social Security and Medicare are not free programs. Conservatives and liberals alike take issue with hearing these referred to as "entitlement programs" and rightly so. Anyone who earns a paycheck sees the line items detailing how much of our pay goes to fund these programs. We invest heavily all our working lives expecting that these programs, our investment, will return to us in earned benefits. Rightly so! These were taxes we paid with expectation of return on investment.
Throughout our working lives, many of us planned other retirement resources as well. I'm lucky to have worked for one company for more than 20 years. My employment came with a pension plan. Through the years, I was provided an annual review of how that plan would impact my retirement. That was a nice benefit as I looked down the road. Then I had opportunity for a 401k and company match. I took advantage of that as well.
And then things changed. The pension plan was frozen. The replacement would not grow at the same pace. No problem. The company had a plan to make up for that. And then the company changed as market pressures took hold. The company cannot make up for that now. But no problem, there's still the 401k.
As a rather educated person, I work my 401k as best I can but it seems these are very locked down and we cannot safeguard our investments from volatility of markets. I've watched helplessly as those resources dwindle as well.
The only investment that has remained rather stable is Social Security and Medicare and that is often in danger by political forces that refer to them as "entitlements". I'm paying in the same and the same expectation of return remains. They are not free programs to me or to most anyone who understands what they have paid into these programs. Our collective understanding - our collective support - our collective voice - in reference to these programs is the power behind these successful programs.
We see a line item for Social Security and for Medicare on our paycheck. We should view all of our tax dollars as investments. We are investing our dollars into the society we want. We can expect a return on that investment. If we invest nothing, we can expect nothing. A democracy gives us opportunity to expect a return. It provides opportunity for a voice in that expected return.
Capitalism does not provide that same opportunity. There is a benefit to good government. We experience the benefit of good government funded and government run programs. Social Security and Medicare are examples. They are not perfect but in my view - looking at the programs offered me for retirement planning - they have remained the most stable and the ones I have some semblance of opportunity to influence most.
So as I hear views of Medicare for all, I tend to think there is more opportunity there than capitalism promises. No it's not free. But it's likely a better investment and one that collectively we may be able to control. Social Security is greater than a check at retirement. Good government is about "social security".

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