Social Security & Medicare: America’s Downfall?

Dear Dr Hurd: You have written about Social Security a number of times so I am viewing you as a reliable sounding board on the topic.

I have spent some time digging around and using SSA stats and a few other documented sources. I have come to the conclusion that we should be CURRENTLY running a $40 billion surplus MONTHLY in contributions to SSI.

My question is this: Assuming my calculations and sources are correct, why can’t we buffer the system to make it work indefinitely? Sure the number of folks getting benefits is going to increase — but so is the number of folks paying in.

Dr. Hurd’s reply:

You’re missing the point. It’s not whether we can buffer Social Security (and Medicare) indefinitely; it’s whether we should.

People take it for granted that these programs are fair. But they’re not. Nothing based on coercion is fair. These programs are mandatory, and that’s what I’m against.

If Medicare and Social Security were that great, no coercion would be required. People would rush to join them. Kind of like millions rush to, Walmart, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Apple computers, or other hugely successful private enterprises.

The only reason Social Security and Medicare are politically ‘popular’ is because people are afraid to lose them. That’s understandable, but fear is no basis for praise.

By monopolizing retirement income and medical care for the elderly over the last 50-75 plus years, the government has made people way, way more dependent on government programs than they otherwise would have been.

If we could turn back the clock and start over, I’d say never have these programs in the first place. It’s too late for that, and of course every effort must be made to pay back those who were forced (for decades) to pay into them. But like it or not, these programs are as impractical as they are unjust.

Consider Medicare. Earlier this year, reported that ‘Medicare costs are going through the roof both because the number of beneficiaries will more than double by 2080, but more importantly because the cost per beneficiary will more than quintuple!’  These are based on numbers released by Obama’s own U.S. Treasury Department.

The government also said that Medicare’s giant hospital trust fund will be exhausted in 2026, two years later than projected last year, while the date that Social Security will exhaust its trust fund remained unchanged at 2033.

For Social Security, according to the government’s own ‘trustees,’ retirees will continue to receive about 75 percent of benefits once the Social Security trust fund is finally exhausted in 2033.

While the combined Social Security trust fund was projected to be depleted in 2033, the trustees warned that the funding threat to one of the component trust funds that makes payments for workers on disability is much more urgent. It was projected that the disability trust fund would deplete its reserves in just three years in 2016. [Associated Press reported all this 5/31/13.]

Most people don’t agree with me that Social Security and Medicare should never have been launched in the first place. Suggesting such a thing is about as popular as opposing baseball, motherhood or a Higher Power.

But the people who react this way, including the President and established members of Congress in Washington DC, offer no alternative. Democrats blame Republicans for not taxing the rich enough, knowing full well that even a 100 percent tax rate on the rich won’t begin to sustain these programs. Nor will massive taxes on the middle class, something Democrats will supposedly never endorse. As for Republicans, they have enjoyed control of the government at times, but chose never to confront this issue, either.

The root cause of the government shutdown? The budget, obviously. And the cause of the budget crisis is, very simply, Medicare/Social Security. These programs are growing faster than our floundering private economy can hope to sustain them.

The only solution I see is privatization of Medicare and Social Security. We can plan it rationally now, or react to the total collapse as it ultimately unfolds.

So far, the verdict of the politicians and the American people is clear: Evade, blame and hope the problem will go away on its own.

Not going to happen.


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