There 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.