Friday, July 09, 2010

Social Security

Let's talk about Social Security since it has been a factor in many of the differences between left and right.  It is popular on the right to say it was a bad idea. I disagree totally. I think it was a good idea not only because it helps the elderly but also for those with disabilities, children whose parents have died. It recognizes that the world isn't always perfect and that even if you do everything right, sometimes things go wrong. It is not welfare because it's like an insurance that people pay into.That was its intention anyway.

Here's the thing, without it where are the elderly? The photo is of my great grandfather who was a miner. He died at 65 in Deadwood, South Dakota and as best I know it he had to work right up to his death. He and my great grandmother never had a lot. They raised a lot of children in a time where nothing was easy, and I don't think there were any social programs to help them out. They would never have been able to save much as they were needing it all to survive. That happened a lot back before Social Security.

I know what some say that their kids should take care of the elderly but not everyone has kids and not everyone who has them has children with enough money to do anything for them. Life is hard scrabble for a lot of people in this country, and it's not because they are lazy.

GW Bush and many other Republicans have favored putting some of what people pay into Social Security into the stock market to be invested. Since the stock market has nose dived recently and even now is up and down, that idea isn't talked about so much. What it would mean is no guarantee for what someone might receive at retirement. It would also have led to a lot more profits for the investment firms and at what price? It would have taken more money out of a system that some claim is broke.

I understand how the right sees all of this, but I don't know how many come from families like mine where Social Security is really all they have when they retire even though they worked hard all their lives. I am so incredibly proud of the people from whom I came. For them Social Security represented a hope that my great grandfather never knew.

Social Security is not broke right now but if it is not tweaked, by continuing the tax on higher incomes, possibly raising the age of retirement given we live longer, it will be broke sooner than some hoped given our job market.

For now, there is a trust fund, which a Republican president raised the taxes to put into as a way to secure it for future generations. The federal government though did what it so often does and used that money with a promise to repay. The problem is will it be able to someday? If it keeps going as it is, there may come a time where they will have to say some won't get Social Security. It might become means tested instead of what it was intended to be for all.

I don't know how many people want to see the elderly in poor homes or worse and unable to buy food. I don't know how many want to see the disabled with no money for shelter or basic needs or children who lose parents to also be left even more impoverished. I  think the talk of Social Security ignores what it was intended to be. It ignores what life was like before it for the old. It ignores how some really do need it to live with any level of independence.

It doesn't provide a lot of money. My widowed mother got $850 a month before she died. She was living in a mobile home on this farm which enabled her to have pride in being mostly independent. A lot of her income back then went to pay for her medications. She wasn't one for going to the doctor and she was that stubborn type of woman who pretty much called her own shots until the day she died which was in her own bed, in her own home, and on this farm. She left a small inheritance for her son and daughter which says she lived frugally, and it was Social Security that enabled her to have pride to the end of her days.

I don't have an objective view of Social Security. I cannot see it like some might. I see it as something this country did because it was the right thing to do. It is not fun to pay taxes but for heaven sake what is the alternative? Do people really believe that churches will take care of everybody?

To me Social Security is a good program. It is a social insurance program and not charity. For those like my family, it's made a huge difference where they didn't have to fear old age like my great grandfather probably did or where his wife never again had a home of her own. I know that some will say why should other people pay for that. Well, I say it's because sharing is good for us and it's not a burden when it's for the elderly, the disabled, and children who have lost parents. 

I understand good people see this differently, but I think they are wrong just as they think I am. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree.


Kay Dennison said...

I am grateful for my Social Security. No, it isn't the ideal; there are some serious issues with it which it that should be addressed but mostly it's a pretty good program and they do try to be efficient.

cj said...

If social security had never been enacted, perhaps people would've planned to take care of themselves instead of falling under the false belief that the government can do a better job of that than they can.


Rain said...

Well, who can know for sure and maybe there are people who could save but chose not to, but a lot of people today count on say a government pension (which is the only pensions left for the most part) or what they will get from Social Security and it's not really that they would not save if they could. It's that they are barely getting by and they are lucky to keep food on the table and heat in the house with the wages they get. I don't think people who did get Social Security like my mother thought of it as the government taking care of them but rather as something they paid into and more like a program they had created and believed was fair. She never got food stamps and likely could have qualified if she had chosen to do so. My people worked and didn't take anything from government that they didn't have to take. If they credited anyone, it was probably the earlier generation who opted to agree this was a fair thing to do for their elders.

Those like my great grandfather, who didn't get Social Security due to when he died (1926), did the best they could to raise their families. He likely knew he'd have to work until he couldn't do it any longer. As a hard rock miner, it's amazing he kept it up as long as he apparently did. I really do not know. I only got his photograph and learned more about his life in the last few years. Families so often went different directions to try and keep jobs. My branch of that family came to Oregon while others stayed in South Dakota.

I do think a lot today who work for the government sometimes at wages less than they could get elsewhere, one of the things they have counted on is a pension when they retire and I don't think they see it as government taking care of them.

Rain said...

Just to make it clear, if my mom had wanted to get food stamps and qualified for them, I would not have seen anything wrong if she had applied. A lot of people who do take them do so because it's the only way to feed themselves or their families. These programs aren't really giving any individual all that much.

The thing though that I was bringing up in the last blog was why does the idea that someone would get food stamps or welfare bother the right so much but that a corporation who was supposed to be serving our troops in war would cheat on what they charged and that doesn't seem to irk the right nearly as much?

The more I have thought about this, the more I have felt that the right and left each need to be concerned whenever there is abuse of a system intended to help people. So the left should care about abuse in the social programs but the right should care when a corporation has gamed the system also. Both should upset us equally and maybe then we'd have a chance to fix them both. Whether someone is wealthy and cheats or poor and cheats, it's not right. But I know that we find our irritation nerve tweaked by different things and what I don't understand is why.

wally said...

The Social Security program is a huge fund of money that the Wall Street predators are salivating over. "Privatization" is the term used by these crooks to transfer money from public coffers into private pockets. I've read many commentors who believe that everyone should save for their own retirement and not depend on government, but those same corporate predators have refused to allow workers to benefit from their own productivity. Wages are stagnant while corporate executive pay has skyrocketed. How can you save money when your pay doesn't even keep up with the rate of inflation? Rich people like to think that poor people won't make the effort to lift themselves up, but the truth is most rich people are not self made, they have not lifted themselves by their own boot straps and they participate in a system that enriches them while impoverishing others.

Greybeard said...

Great insights Wally.

Paul said...

Where would a lot of people be without Social Security is a good question to ask.