by tom moodyComments Off on Entitlement is a propaganda word
Conservatives who believe the world is a jungle and we all have to fend for ourselves manage government affairs in such a way as to assure that will happen. What they lack in leadership skills they make up for in propaganda, however. They love to call Social Security an "entitlement," for example, as in the phrase "people who think they are entitled to a government handout." Such whiny people don't exist except in Wikipediafootnotes (also supplied by wingnuts).
Yet everyone in Washington--liberal, neoliberal, centrist, other--uses the word entitlement when talking about Social Security. Originally it was just bloodless bureaucratese but you better believe the Fox News daily talking points memo tells the blowdried talking heads to use it.
Reality check: Social Security payments aren't something you're entitled to, they are something you own. "Paid-in" is the accurate way to describe them.
There are two federal taxes on a paycheck. One puts money in the "general fund," used for day to day operations of government. The other, confusingly called "payroll tax," funds Social Security. The latter exists off the government balance sheet (and is not part of any deficit)--it's held in trust for you and paid out when you need it.
The program has worked well for seven-plus decades but again, conservatives spread the meme that the money has been squandered and you will never get it back. Not true--Congress under Reagan (yes, that Reagan) took steps to fund the trust by raising payroll taxes and it's presently flush. The trustees regularly report on the state of the fund and disability payments are the only part where corrections are needed in the near term:
Combined trust fund assets are projected to exceed one year’s projected benefit payments for more than ten years, through to 2035. However, the Disability Insurance (DI) program satisfies neither the long-range nor short-range tests for financial adequacy. DI costs have exceeded non-interest income since 2005 and trust fund exhaustion is projected for 2018; thus changes to improve the financial status of the DI program are needed soon.
Unfortunately your president has embraced the conservative meme and just proposed lowering payroll taxes as part of his jobs package. The reduced revenue to Social Security will be replaced by IOUs from the general fund, which then makes Social Security subject to deficit-reduction theatre such as we all endured over the "debt limit crisis."
An emerging wisdom is that a Republican can't end Social Security (as Bush demonstrated) and that it will take a Democrat. Obama appointed a commission stacked with people who use the word entitlement and he is taking the first steps to ending the program.