Column on What’s With Social Security?

What’s With Social Security?

Tibor R. Machan

When shortly after I arrived on these shores I got my first job as an usher in a cinema in Philadelphia, back in the fall of 1956, I asked about the deduction from my paycheck that went to social security. I had no agenda, just curiosity.

My employer said those funds are taken by the federal government and put aside so that when I get old I would have a nice little bundle instead of spending it now and being left with nothing for old age. I recall asking but why not just rely on my own worries about my old age, worries that would surely prompt me to put away something for my old age. My employer had no answer to this. But he did try to assure me that I should relax because at least there will be this stash awaiting me when I get old and won’t be making much money anymore.

Well, I never bought the paternalism of this policy but neither did I have the savvy and know-how to resist paying the feds. They are clever in how they make employers do the dirty work so that if you resist they don’t need to deal with it but leave it to their unwilling subjects to handle the matter. (I guess when it comes to extortion, the feds like to farm it out rather than deal with it directly.)

At this point in my life, having reached the age a while back when the feds allow me to get back some of the funds taken for me for my own good, I hear noises from the President of the United States of America that unless the debt ceiling is increased now, it may lead the feds to stop paying social security to those legally entitle to it. How’s that? Wasn’t the money that was taken from my paycheck put into a fund from which I would later be able to get some support, support I was told I couldn’t arrange for on my own, only with the intervention of the feds? If that is what they did with my funds, namely put it away for me for my old age, how could it be that they will have to stop paying it out to me? What on earth did they do with those funds? I was never asked about this, no one appealed to me for permission to raid them instead of holding them for me what I became old. Had I had the option of putting the funds aside, I would most likely have invested it so that these funds would have gained a good deal of interest or made me prosper some other way. But no, the feds claimed they know better how to provide me with financial security in my old age than I do! And yet now the president tells me that the feds need to borrow money so as to make sure I get my money back?

What’s curious, also, is that no one appears to have noticed this funny accounting by the feds and called the president on the carpet for putting social security payers in a bind. He keeps warning about the good faith and credit of the feds but right here, up front, this good faith and credit appears to have been betrayed already. And even though I read a bunch of Op Ed pieces in the major papers, especially The New York Times, no one seems to be aware of this; certainly no one is throwing a fuss, pointing an accusing finger at Washington for having betrayed all social security payers like this. Why not? Why is everyone so silent about this dirty deal? Is there some kind of secret pact here that no one wishes to make public?

And this is the organization that millions of Americans, especially prominent and influential ones, want to entrust with our health insurance? And with taking care of us in innumerable other areas of our lives like guarding us against financial mismanagement and pharmaceutical malpractice?

Isn’t that a joke? Why are people so gullible? Sure, they don’t mean to be stupid but stupidity isn’t something people consciously intend to cultivate. No, stupidity is mostly a function of gross negligence and when it comes to light people usually say, “But I didn’t mean it.” Yeah, well but you didn’t bother to think about it either. The result is malfeasance and imprudence galore, usually with other people’s resources.

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