The Insecurity of Social Security Part II

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In Part I of the Insecurity of Social Security, found here, the recent revelation of the upcoming, and entirely foreseeable, insolvency of the Social Security disability fund was discussed to some extent.  With a sense of compassion for the reader, this subject was divided into two parts to prevent snoring and glazing of the eyes.  So now, with eyes and minds refreshed, we delve into Part II.

The fiscal dilemma in which the trustees of the disability fund find themselves is essentially, very basic economics.  Not enough money, no supply, to meet the needs of the people, high demand.  You can find direct info on this fund at the website here.  As noted, “the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.”

So that’s the stated, basic purpose.  To financially assist those citizens with disabilities.  As previously stated, I believe this to be a worthwhile goal for any advanced society and from what I have found, so do others.  It is an issue that in its most basic form, truly crosses party lines.  There will be those who need financial help and there are those who can, and more importantly, will be willing, to help those in need.

To be perfectly honest, I find the notion of citizens helping citizens, of their own free will, to be an entirely plausible notion.  And it is not a position that rests solely on faith.  There have been and will continue to be organizations devoted to helping and providing assistance in all forms.  Financially generous millionaires and generous middle and lower-class members who give what money and time they can.  We do not need government compulsion to direct our benevolence or generosity.

Case and point: Grover Cleveland is not widely known as one of our foremost presidents.  But in his day, he was able to hold a firm line regarding the appropriate extent of government involvement in the lives, and charitable activity, of the American people.  In a piece from the Independent Institute, “Cleveland believed in keeping government expenditure at the minimum required to carry out essential constitutional functions.”

As president, he famously vetoed a bill that would have provided government assistance to Texas farmers suffering from drought.  Upon his veto he wrote: “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution; and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadily resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people.”  Cleveland also stated that, “the friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied on to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune.”

Nevertheless, there are detractors who raise some issues with the more privatized notion of charity.  Here is an article from the Atlantic with just such a position.  Check this piece out and see how it stands in comparison to current events.  As stated, “the government’s footprint has always grown alongside the rest of society.”  Yes, it has.  And what good does it do when that foot, causing the print, has the welfare of our society under it?

I am not so idealistic as to assume that the Federal government will pack up shop, say “Well, we gave it a go” and leave the entitlement system in the hands of private citizens.  But the fact remains, they have tried and are currently, by their own admission, failing miserably.  Meanwhile, an unintended consequence of compulsive “giving” to the state in order for that state to “give” to others is that the people will not have that money to give away, as they would choose, to those who need it most.  The middle-man gets it first and it seems that many monies are lost along the way. Unless people find a way, independently of the ineffectual bureaucratic hands, through churches and private institutions, money will always be lost, wasted and therefore, incapable of helping those for whom that money is meant.

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The Insecurity of Social Security

Mr.-Monopoly-brokeThere is an important role of society in providing some level of support or “social safety net” for those citizens who are hurt, sick or fall on hard times, and I have found that most citizens, on either side of the spectrum agree with this basic tenet.  The reasons in favor of this support do vary: some may simply believe in the noble effort to help those in need, others see an alternate reality, with sick and dying bodies littering the streets.  Regardless of the motivations, there is a consensus that some people will need help, financial help, in their lives and that other people have the ability to provide that assistance.

With that as a backdrop, we can move forward into a discussion surrounding the vessel for determining who will receive financial support and how those funds will be distributed.  Over the past hundred-ish years we in the United States have seen an explosive expansion of the so-called “entitlement” system, the likes of which, such expansion, would be the envy of any private corporation.  From unwed mothers to to school-age kids, groups of all kinds have seen increased advantage meant to provide financial assistance in their lives. (Evidently this does this sense of grace does not extend to alleviate the abhorrent conditions plaguing the VA)

But now, as it turns out, the money does not stem from an infinite source but, of course, from the compulsory payments of citizens to one another through the omniscient powers that are the state and federal governments.  And as with all human endeavors, it too possesses fallibility.

Many outlets are now reporting on the insolvency of the Social Security disability fund, as reported by the benefactors of the burgeoning bureaucracy in Washington.  Cuts to this fund are being predicted and an overall restructuring of the disability payment system is a likely consequence.

But this is not news.  And contrary to this article’s suggestion that “there is an easy fix available for the disability program: Congress could shift tax revenue from Social Security’s much larger retirement fund, as it has done in the past,” the money does not exist.  The funds for Social Security do not sit idle in an exclusive account waiting for me to turn 65 or 67 and cash in.  They have been borrowed against, and borrowed against and loans rolled over into new loans with interest and subsequent payments due forthwith.  But when there’s no money, there’s no money.

Start with a debt load of over $17,000,000,000,000 and you can work through the details.  It combats reason to claim that this money is owed by a government but that that same government possesses the billions upon billions required by all of the entitlement programs, of which Social Security is a huge component.  It also combats reason, admittedly to my way of thinking, that this form of public welfare is the best manner in which to provide for the social safety of the citizenry.

People are people whether they work for government or a private business.  They possess bias, and belief, and incorporate knowledge into making decisions.  Where such decisions have led those in charge of the Social Security disability fund is to a state of fiscal delinquency.  Whether or not the Feds should be in charge of these programs seems to be a rather moot point.  Blame fraud, abuse, ignorance or stupidity.  Blame Republicans, Democrats, the rich, drug addicts or my cat Raisin.  In those immortal words, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

The waste, abuse, fraud et al. are well known.  Find articles on the subject here, here, here and here.  For all of its devoted benevolence, those in power are terrible trustees of public finance.  The source of their ineptitude lies in the fundamental concept that what belongs to everyone really belongs to no one.  There is limited accountability and even more limited knowledge by the common folk, as much a result of a self-imposed naiveté as anything else, as to what is happening to all that money.

And now admittedly, and not by an accusation of a right-wing nut but by their own accounts, the system meant to support citizens in need is going broke.  Yes, they can restructure and move some money around but as with the debate concerning the minimum wage, without a shift in the foundational approaches taken to create an economic and financial system, we will have these same fear-based discussions in another five or ten years.  Nothing changes if nothing changes.

But there is an alternative and you can probably guess what I am going to prescribe.  Remember, people are people, but people in charge of their own money are infinitely better guardians than people in charge of other people’s money.

**I had meant to go further into alternatives but I think I will save that and make this Part One of Two on the ways that people can help people, financially speaking.

I Side With…

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On both sides of the spectrum, the gaps are being filled (and then some for Republicans) with potential nominees for the upcoming presidential election of 2016.  Can’t wait for the TV ads to start a-rollin’!! (Insert disgusted groan)

The Democrats are running with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren still kinda, sorta, maybe on the fence, but only if our country needs them.

The Republicans seem to think we need them desperately, all of them.  Social issues conservatives, a doctor, a TV personality tycoon, fiscal reformers along with tried and true (and previously failed) men and women.

More will be written, both here, there and everywhere, regarding these folks and the election in general.  But for starters, I wanted to share and interesting source for information on the issues and the candidates as they currently stand.

Take this rather thorough quiz at the following site:

https://www.isidewith.com/elections/2016-presidential-quiz

It will match you with current candidates from both parties.

Murder in the Sanctuary City

Golden-gate-bridge-sunsetHow many times have you heard it said “the law is the law” as a justification for or against a particular action?

As members of a relatively free society we are able to pursue the life, liberty and happiness that our founding principles afford us.  But only activities within the established legal confines are deemed acceptable while certain proscribed actions result in a variety of consequences and punishments.  The vast majority accept the law and live accordingly everyday.

But a disturbing trend continues where designated officials, the very authorities in charge of enforcing our laws, shirk the legal constraints of society.  And in so doing they leave law-biding citizens vulnerable to the elements that the law is meant to protect against.

The recent shooting of Kathryn Steinle at Pier 14 in San Francisco is a tragedy rooted in the dereliction of duty of the city’s leaders.  San Francisco prides itself on being a so-called “sanctuary city” where immigration status is a non-issue, despite federal laws to the contrary.  The result of this “compassion” led to an inevitable consequence, the murder of a young woman.

The shooter, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been deported on five separate occasions yet successfully returned each time to the United States, finally landing in San Francisco.  And in San Francisco, legal immigration is not worth supporting and illegal immigration is not worth pursuing.  “San Francisco and SFSD policy is to deny ICE detainer requests, barring special circumstances, such as a warrant for a suspected violent offender. The ICE detainer request was denied, and on April 15, 2015 Lopez-Sanchez was released. Two and a half months later Kate Steinle was killed.”

The same story notes that “Sanchez said he knew San Francisco was a sanctuary city where he would not be pursued by immigration officials.”

The hubris of the San Francisco policy is that it upholds its own relative standard, dismissing the  objective legal one, and does so at the expense of other values that such progressive ideology purports to extoll:

The man was on drugs, not busy at a job that Americans don’t want to do, as the justification for allowing illegal immigrants to remain so goes.

He somehow has access to a gun (he claims he found it) which would suggest that gun control measures are also lacking, not in substance but in practical application.  In other words, they exist but don’t work.

The cries for such control that follow tragedies like mass shootings, along with the regulations on smoking and trans fats, stem from the benevolent desire of the state to protect us from ourselves.  But keeping this guy out of the country, where he would not have been able to shoot Kathryn Steinle, is not a compassionate enough reason to enforce the laws regulating immigration.

Here is a guy who shoots a woman, thus conducting his own private, literal, War on Woman.

And for the animal rights folks, “Sanchez had initially told police he had shot the gun at sea lions, ABC 7 reported.”

But even an event as exposing as this will not sway the feeling-based, subjective reasoning that is a direct and tragic insult to the rule of law.  The mayor of San Francisco stated, “Let me be clear (a subconscious nod to the president I’m sure): [the policy] protects residents regardless of immigration status and is not intended to protect repeat, serious and violent felons,” he said.

He reveals the necessity of law by refusing to support the law.  Of course it is “not intended to protect repeat, serious and violent felons.”  That’s the very definition of an Unintended Consequence.  They occur without intention but nevertheless result from the flawed policy of his sanctuary city.

But do you know what the Intended Consequence is of immigration laws that deport, incarcerate or otherwise eliminate people like Lopez-Sanchez from our society?  That’s right! It prevents them from being on drugs at Pier 14 with a gun at the same time as Kathryn Steinle.  That law helps promote a sanctuary city for the legal citizens who reside there.

The law is the law because it was created following the rule of law.  If laws need to be changed, updated, amended or discarded there is a process that allows for such legal evolution.  But until they do change, we are subject to those laws and the corresponding penalties should we break them.  I sometimes speed, jaywalk and used to smoke in public in the city of Burbank (similar restrictions exist in Boulder). But I don’t get to absolve myself from consequence because I view those laws as mean, discriminatory or otherwise not worthy of my adherence.  No, I get a fine because I am subject to such laws and must follow them.  All of them.

This mayor, the president, all executive government officials of every city, state and the federal government are tasked to enforce existing laws, as well as follow them.  When they start choosing which ones they will enforce, people die, literally.  When they choose feelings and ideology over legal doctrine, they become rulers, not public servants.

Kathryn Steinle is dead because a man shot her in a drastically misnomered sanctuary city.  That man was subject to the law, and its punishments, on numerous occasions.  But because relative, subjective compassion rules in the not-so-sanctuary city of San Francisco, the law has become a suggestion, more what you call guidelines than actual rules.  This tragedy could have been prevented by the rule of law.  But those in power decided that “the law is only the law if I agree with it.”