“Stupid People” and Social Security

by Sean Hackbarth

According to Duncan AKA Atrios Black I’m one of those “stupid people” or “morons” who have the audacity to suggest I and others be allowed to invest our Social Security contributions in something other than the word of politicians. Black writes, “Social Security is a lovely program which works just fine and really needs no changes other than extraordinarily nonurgent tweaks to the tax formula at some point.” It’s a “lovely program” unless you actually think it will 1.) be there for your retirement; and 2.) add to the comfort of your retirement besides paying for a few rounds of golf a year.

Social Security defenders aren’t honest with how they describe the program. It’s consider “social insurance” or part of one’s retirement fund. In reality it’s a pay-as-you-go system. There’s no account at Social Security headquarters with my name on it that contains any asset. The money I “contribute” to Social Security comes out of my paycheck and straight into grandma’s and grandpa’s wallets. If I’m lucky enough to retire theoretically my Social Security would come from current workers. That’s not a social insurance program it’s a redistribution program, a welfare program. But since most beneficiaries are middle class retirees we don’t admit they’re all welfare beneficiaries. My grandparents and myself would both be better off if I just wrote out a check every month. They’d get their cash without politicians and bureaucrats getting in the way.

Also, since Social Security is simply welfare for old people instead of something of tangible value when the retiree dies that’s the end of the money coming in. If Social Security were an actual investment account upon death the remaining value of the account would go to whoever is in the retiree’s will.

Years ago, I took part in a Pew Charitable Trusts–more “stupid people”–day-long discussion on fixing Social Security. The large group heard speakers–obviously more “morons”–talk about the problems with the system. We then broke down into small groups. Being young, precocious, and just out of college I offered my little bargain. I offered to give up any claims on Social Security, even the little bit of money I had already paid in, if I could be allowed to invest my portion how I saw fit. No one took me up on the offer. Someone told me that if I invested badly I’d come to the government for help anyway. Others didn’t want me to opt out of the current system because they needed my money. It wasn’t enough for me to obey the law and be a productive member of society. I had to also be a serf to the welfare state.

That moment was eye-opening. Despite the rise of conservative ideas the American public is trapped in a mindset where individualism and real autonomy is to be feared and opposed. Many talk about having the right to be left alone, but when it comes down to it they fear the repercussions of a nation abiding by those politics. Ultimately I can’t be left alone to invest in my own retirement. Either I’m incapable to stupid to pull it off, or I’ll come crying to the government for help.

Too many lack the imagination to see beyond the welfare state status quo. They fear a possible future where they and their neighbors have to take responsibility for their retirements like they do to put food on their tables, put clothes on their back, or put gas in their cars.

The Right wing movement has come far from the days of Barry Goldwater’s landslide Presidential defeat to the electoral successes of Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and George W. Bush. Stagflation and the fall of the Berlin Wall just about killed any serious idea of moving toward greater central economic planning in the United States. For now, that battle has been won. However, the Right still has much to do to convince the populace that most government programs aren’t as effective, efficient, or moral as letting people be free. A few big questions have been answered but the battle for liberty has just begun.

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23 Responses to ““Stupid People” and Social Security”

1

It’s consider[ed] “social insurance” [. . .] In reality it’s a pay-as-you-go system. There’s no account at Social Security headquarters with my name on it that contains any asset.

Well, there’s no account down at American Family Insurance that contains my asset, either, but when something happens to my house or car I expect my coverage to be paid–payment that comes, essentially, out of the premiums paid by other AmFam customers at that time. I’m not limited in how much I get out based on what I’ve paid in to date, either.

Same could be said for health or life insurance. Why not Social Security?

2

“That moment was eye-opening. Despite the rise of conservative ideas the American public is trapped in a mindset where individualism and real autonomy is to be feared and opposed.”

Sean, I don’t understand why you don’t carry that principle across the board?

You lambaste and chastise the heck out of volunteer individuals patrolling the border to prevent Illegal Immigration like all get out.

If you believed in “individualism” and fixing the messes that the socialized aspect of our Government leaves behind,

then it makes no sense that you flip 180 degrees everytime you mentioon the minutemen project.

3

Illegal Immigrants, imho, are raking in the Social Security DOUGH btw.

They keep getting access to the Government’s welfare programs and like grovelling, desperate people they could care less about the long term damage it has on America’s quality of life.

4

You’re a stupid person if you believe Social Security is supposed to be your retirement plan.

If you want to invest your money, invest it as you please. There’s no shortage of options there for you to take advantage of. Social Security is social insurance, and it’s there in case your risky retirement strategies don’t pan out. The fact that you would want to take that insurance and gamble with it is what makes you a stupid person.

5

In America you’re supposed to be allowed to make ’stupid’ decisions, decisions like investing your social security money instead of buying retirement insurance, all part of that whole freedom thing…

6

In America you’re supposed to be allowed to make ’stupid’ decisions,

Since when? Seems like we have all kinds of laws against you doing stupid things. Laws for handling food (instead of stupidly putting your hands on my hamburger before washing your hands after taking a dump), laws against drinking and driving, laws against driving around with no insurance. Even laws against taking drugs that don’t hurt you, for fun. (I don’t see conservatives miffed about any of that stuff.)

If you become disabled, you get the full Social Security payments for life, no matter how long you’ve been paying into Social Security. If you can present a private investment that offers the same guarantee, at the same level of efficiency as the Social Security Administration, privatization doesn’t look so bad. But the truth is that conservatives are only interested in this because Bush told them to be. There’s no reason to monkey around with Social Security; every reasonable projection has it fully-funded beyond 2059, beyond which we can’t project the relevant demographics.

7

Any private insurance company has assets to back up claims. If they didn’t they’d be considered insolvent.

Chet, I’ve supported Social Security privatization long before Bush was President. I think for myself. I don’t need Karl Rove sending me orders.

On the Drug War read some National Review. They oppose it.

I’ve learned that the more welfare (in all its forms) the more people are willing to interfere in the lives of others. I’m not allowed to be responsible for my retirement because Social Security is there to do it for me. I shouldn’t be allowed to smoke or eat certain foods because my subsequent illnesses will burden the health care system, increasing everyone else’s costs.

More and more I feel like Gulliver being tied down by the Lilliputians.

8

I only wish most Republicans were as fervent about protecting people’s social freedoms as they are about financial freedoms. I’d be able to take all the talk about being “free to put my money where i want it” at face value if the same people saying it were also willing to say things like, “people should be free to marry whoever they want.” I guess this is why i tend to agree more with Libertarians than i do Republicans.

Still, i subscribe to the following: no man is an island. As much as Republicans abhor it on the outside, we live in a society and as a society, we have to balance between personal responsibility and caring for your fellow citizens.

If $1477 of my tax dollars is going to wars that i don’t support, i don’t see why anyone should make a stink about paying for Social Security, a program that doesn’t kill anyone.

9

Sorry, that should be “$1477 of my tax dollars annually.”

Just admit it, dude…you’re more concerned with your wallet than with the wellfare of others. Merry Christmas and God bless!

10

Chet, I’ve supported Social Security privatization long before Bush was President. I think for myself.

Obviously not.

On the Drug War read some National Review. They oppose it.

Oh, and they speak for everybody, do they? The NR is a wingnut rag that nobody takes seriously.

I’m not allowed to be responsible for my retirement because Social Security is there to do it for me.

What the fuck are you talking about? I don’t know where you live, but in America, you’re perfectly free to put your money wherever you like, including in retirement funds or investments or in fucking baseball cards, if you so choose.

I shouldn’t be allowed to smoke or eat certain foods because my subsequent illnesses will burden the health care system, increasing everyone else’s costs.

Again, what the fuck are you talking about? Smoking is perfectly legal. Eating crappy food is more than legal, it’s encouraged; though why you’d want to do that is a mystery to me. Your only problem is that you labor under these delusions that you’re being prevented from doing something. If you want to smoke, go smoke. Who’s stopping you?

11

Tell that to the health nuts who are banning smoking in bars and resturants then moving to entire towns. And tell that to those in NYC who want a ban on transfats.

12

I hope DJ is then donating thousands a year into Social Security because he just cares so much for the welfare of others.

13

Any private insurance company has assets to back up claims. If they didn’t they’d be considered insolvent.

And the federal government doesn’t? T-bills are the securest investment ever. The problem isn’t a lack of assets; the problem is a greater and greater share of current revenue (including the SS surplus) going to debt service.

14

I hope DJ is then donating thousands a year into Social Security because he just cares so much for the welfare of others.

Dude, i’m not the one who professes to being a Christian but only cares about “freedom” when it’s tied to his wallet. That’d be Sean, apparently.

And for the record, if the government would like to divert the $1477 i’m paying this year for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars over to Social Security instead, i’d be perfectly happy with that. I mean, hey, if Sean wants to opt out of some government spending he disagrees with and put it somewhere else, why can’t i?

15

Chet wrote,

“Chet wrote:

You’re a stupid person if you believe Social Security is supposed to be your retirement plan.

If you want to invest your money, invest it as you please. There’s no shortage of options there for you to take advantage of. Social Security is social insurance, and it’s there in case your risky retirement strategies don’t pan out. The fact that you would want to take that insurance and gamble with it is what makes you a stupid person. ”

You are absolutely correct Chet.

Social Security is not a Retirement Plan.

It is just an unnecessary tax scheme we have to deal with.

Only until it becomes what it was meant to become, a Social Insurance Policy as you describe, will it ever make sense to continue to support Social Security.

As it stands now, it is a dangerous ponzi scheme in which I have to assume NOTHING out of Social Security for calculating my retirement.

Currently, it is a Tax Burdon upon everyone’s shoulders with virtually no benefit for those in their 20s and 30s.

It might have been a good idea in the Great Depression, but even F.D.R. saw his policies as short term solutions. He understood that they should never be long term.

And we are starting to see the effects of treating Social Security and other Welfare programs as long term solutions for people’s retirement.

The problem is that too many of our Senior Citizen’s have assumed that Social Security (IS) their retirement and they failed to invest and save their money wisely.

16

Dj wrote,

“I mean, hey, if Sean wants to opt out of some government spending he disagrees with and put it somewhere else, why can’t i? ”

I looked at my pay stub and while I do see Social Security, I don’t see

Iraq/Afghanistan

listed as a personal Tax line item.

If you can point it out to me then that would be great DJ.

Anyhow.

I don’t want the Federal Governmnt using my tax money to fund all sorts of taxes.

But, we have what is called a representative government. We vote in people to represent us and they decide how to spend our taxes.

About the only thing we got is the “tax cut” to limit government’s taking of our money.

Social Security is different than Iraq/Afgahnistan spending in that it is a taxable line item on our Pay Stubs.

It is a defined amount presented to us at the end of the year.

There’s no easy (possible?) way to determine how much money was spent on the war that is your money.

17

But, we have what is called a representative government. We vote in people to represent us and they decide how to spend our taxes.

Exactly. And when Bush started talking about privatizing Social Security, the entire country balked. No one wants it. Democracy in action!

By the way, good call on putting “tax cut” in quotes, because i sure didn’t see any relief from any of Bush’s tax cuts. At all.

18

Dj wrote,

“Exactly. And when Bush started talking about privatizing Social Security, the entire country balked. No one wants it. Democracy in action!”

I disagree. The vast majority of the country wanted it. It was only the Democrats in Congress and the Liberal Republicans the “balked.”

There’s a difference between the balking of Political Representatives and the balking of Constituents.

And before we start getting into a “Polling Data Fight,” I want to warn you that I don’t trust any poll that isn’t based on a set criteria:

1) Polls Likely Voters
2) Polls at least 900 voters.
3) Polls 50-50 Dems to Repubs
4) Polls with a 3% or less error percentage.
5) Polls with questions that are not skewed or lead-ins.

The poll must spell out (like Gallup does) exactly what they did to achieve their polling results.

6) Must not be a Poll conducted by:

CBS, AP, Reuters.

19

Dj wrote,

“By the way, good call on putting “tax cut” in quotes, because i sure didn’t see any relief from any of Bush’s tax cuts. At all.”

You must make $0 a year then DJ.

I saw plenty of Tax Relief working Minimum Wage jobs.

I saw even more Tax Relief making $40,000 a year.

It is easy to “claim” that you never saw any benefit from the tax relief.

Very simple to say that.

A whole new ball game to actually prove that you weren’t affected.

If I were you I would go back and calculate your last 6 tax returns.

Take the amount you are making today on an annual basis and match it up under the Clinton era Income Tax Rate with your present Income Tax Rate.

That would give your benefit.

But, your benefit occurs every single Income Tax period in which Taxes are lower for you than they would be without the Tax Cuts.

I did the math for an income of $40,000 annual (what I made 2 years ago) and the math works out.

There’s a considerable benefit!

20

http://www.mgcpa.com/calculators/y1999/fm1040a.html

Above!

There you go DJ.

PROOVE IT!

Above is a 1999 Income Tax Calculator Form.

You fill out the form with your current year ANNUAL INCOME.

Then you see how much you are being taxed off of that income in the year 1999.

Then, wise butt, you go and do the exact same thing off of a 2006 TAX CALCULATOR / FORM.

I want to see the results of the 2 Forms 1999 versus 2006 (or if you prefer you can do 2005).

Let’s see if your statement, “I never saw a benefit,” is for real or not.

You can take your 2 results and PDF them over to me:

jmacmilla@emich.edu

If I don’t see a PDF or WORD (file) of the results in 2 weeks, then I will believe that you are nothing more than LIAR!

21

Uh huh.

You sure do have a lot of time on your hands, Jeff. What’s that like? What’s it like to take arguing on the internet that seriously?

22

Dj wrote,

“Uh huh.

You sure do have a lot of time on your hands, Jeff. What’s that like? What’s it like to take arguing on the internet that seriously? ”

I take every argument seriously because this is about real people.

You are not a Robot. I am not a robot.

We are actual, real, human beings who are American Citizens who vote.

It is thus important for me to prove to you that President Bush’s tax cuts gave you a financial benefit.

So, are you going to take up my challenge and produce the results of a 1999 Tax Calculator versus a 2005/2006 Tax Calculator or not?

If you refuse or are refusing my challenge here then I will take that to mean that you are admitting that you LIED in order to further your agenda.

23

Whatever dude. I have to spend the next week preparing promo packages and CDR demos to send off to record labels, play a show, organize a surprise party for my girl, and about a dozen other things that take precedence over digging up my tax records to argue on the internet with some shmuck in Michigan. I’m sorry you take this so seriously. Go ahead, declare me a “LIAR,” complete with Jeff MacMillan trademarked unnecessary capital letters, because i don’t give a shit what you think about me.

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