The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

Opinion

August 17, 2011

CONFER: Social Security, Medicare really are entitlements

MIDDLEPORT —  

When the issue of cutting America’s two largest and most broken social welfare programs — Social Security and Medicare — was broached during the recent debt ceiling debate, most Americans raised a considerable stink about it. Because of that, reform was never really tabled. It would have been political suicide for any representative or senator that dare force much-needed transformation of how we observe the golden years and peoples’ responsibility to prepare for it.

That’s because almost everyone is under the assumption that it’s “their money;” they paid into the system and it’s coming back to them. Under that belief system, these aren’t entitlement programs. Maybe that’s a way that seniors and soon-to-be retirees kid themselves into believing they’re not collecting welfare from the government. More likely, though, it shows how we’ve been misled.

In high school we were taught that President Roosevelt created Social Security to give us — as the name implies — security in our retirement years. The government would take some of our money and set it aside so that we could have access to it when we needed it for food, shelter, clothing and utilities during old age. We were told that President Johnson took that same route when his administration launched Medicare, taking and saving our money for our health coverage once we, or our providers, left the workforce for good.

That message of alleged self-preservation continues throughout our adult lives as we are inundated with propaganda ranging from public service announcements to television ads to regular Social Security status reports.

It’s imperative that this be understood: Seniors and workers are only half right. For the most part, they did pay into the system. But, it’s not their money coming back to them; it’s everyone else’s. Social Security and Medicare are entitlement programs and it’s foolhardy to think otherwise. From the start, those who were employed (and therefore seeing the respective taxes deducted from their checks) paid for the seniors.

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