Americans Who Invite Their Elected Officials to Lie

Smashed pink piggy bank with note that reads IOU

Social Security’s Disability Insurance trust fund will run out of reserves next year without congressional action, trustees said, urging U.S. lawmakers to address the nation’s unsustainable entitlement programs.

Beyond 2016, continuing income will be sufficient to pay 81 percent of scheduled disability payments, trustees said in an annual report released in Washington on Wednesday. One solution mentioned is Congress shifting funds from the larger Social Security retirement fund.

Combined, the Social Security retirement and disability fund reserves are projected to be exhausted in 2034, a year later than the trustees predicted last year. The Medicare health system will exhaust its main financial trust fund in 2030, the same year as predicted in the 2014 report. [Bloomberg News 7/22/15]

Where will the funds come from to sustain Medicare and Social Security beyond 2030 and 2034?

Raising taxes will not help. The more government raises taxes on the wealth producers (who pay the most in taxes), the less wealth there will be produced — and the smaller tax revenues there will be. Granted, taxes will continue to be raised; but higher taxes haven’t done any good up to now.

We can only raise the debt limit so much. If we raised the debt limit into infinity, that would presumably solve the problem, based on the way we do things now. But if it were feasible to raise the national debt limit into infinity, we could do away with currency altogether, along with the requirement to work, save or do anything else. The economy would consist of a gigantic computer in Washington DC which eked out endless amounts of (supposedly worthwhile) dollars for citizen-consumers to spend on anything they want. It would be Utopia run by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

“Lawmakers should take action sooner rather than later,” the trustees, led by Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, said in a statement released with the report. “Social Security as a whole as well as Medicare cannot sustain projected long-run program costs under currently scheduled financing.”

Lawmakers will do no such thing. Lawmakers lie for a living. This is not a cynical statement. Cynicism would suggest that deceit is inevitable; it’s not. It does not have to be that way. If we didn’t have popular yet fiscally unsustainable programs like Medicare and Social Security, the politicians would have much, much less to lie about. No politician will speak the truth about Medicare or Social Security, because that would make people uncomfortable — and uncomfortable people will presumably throw them out of office.

It’s an interesting psychology. Most Americans, particularly those already receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits, view those benefits protectively. “Don’t you dare touch my Social Security or Medicare.” For those who paid into this system equivalent to the benefits they’re now getting, that’s a valid emotion; but we know for a fact that that’s not true of most people. If it were, the programs would not be facing bankruptcy in 2030 and 2034.

Normally, when you think of something as “mine,” there’s a sense of personal responsibility about it. Yet that’s not the case with Social Security or Medicare. Republicans blame fiscally negligent and socialist Democrats for the problem; and Democrats say the problem either does not exist, or is only the result of Republicans who are “mean.” More independent types ignore the partisan fighting, but amiably assume that it will all work out. How? Somehow.

“Somehow” is not the attitude you would take to ensure that your car has proper brakes, or that your house gets the new roof it needs to avoid being blown off in a storm. A sense of psychological ownership generally goes along with actual ownership. Not so with Social Security and Medicare. The mindset with these programs is more like that of a public park. “Well, I pay in taxes. Let someone else take care of it.” It’s not your park, anyway. Whose park is it? Nobody’s in particular. The park just belongs to everyone in general. Which means the buck doesn’t really stop with anyone. But somehow, we assume, that park will always be there, and will end up taking care of itself.

With Medicare and Social Security, the stakes and the consequences of this negligence are far worse.

Yes, most politicians are liars. The honest few end up that way, because they’re denounced if they speak up, even in a tepid or timid way, about the truth. (Look how far the Tea Party got in Washington DC, sadly.) Politicians lie to us to protect us from our own fantasies that it’s possible to manufacture something out of nothing, which government is almost exclusively in the business of doing, at least since the dawn of the welfare and entitlement state.

Speaking of lies, look how well the super-high minimum wage is working out in progressive/socialist utopia Seattle, WA:

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law is supposed to lift workers out of poverty and move them off public assistance. But there may be a hitch in the plan.

Evidence is surfacing that some workers are asking their bosses for fewer hours as their wages rise – in a bid to keep overall income down so they don’t lose public subsidies for things like food, child care and rent.

Full Life Care, a home nursing nonprofit, told KIRO-TV in Seattle that several workers want to work less.

“If they cut down their hours to stay on those subsidies because the $15 per hour minimum wage didn’t actually help get them out of poverty, all you’ve done is put a burden on the business and given false hope to a lot of people,” said Jason Rantz, host of the Jason Rantz show on 97.3 KIRO-FM. [ 7/22/15]

Politicians knew they were lying when they predicted that increasing the minimum wage would lead to greater prosperity and independence for all. They said these things because doing so gets them applause, votes, and a nice, self-fulfilling feeling of virtue (where virtue is defined as giving to others, even if it’s with other people’s money.) Progressive types who push for minimum wage increases are big ones for self-congratulatory praise, along with self-reinforcing praise among their peers, for the awesome compassion and foresight they supposedly possess…even though every law they pass ends up in disappointment or disaster, just like Seattle’s minimum wage hike.

The twist is just one apparent side effect of the controversial — yet trendsetting — minimum wage law in Seattle, which is being copied in several other cities despite concerns over prices rising and businesses struggling to keep up.

Despite a booming economy throughout western Washington, the state’s welfare caseload has dropped very little since the higher wage phase began in Seattle in April. In March 130,851 people were enrolled in the Basic Food program. In April, the caseload dropped to 130,376.

Some restaurants have tacked on a 15 percent surcharge to cover the higher wages. And some managers are no longer encouraging customers to tip, leading to a redistribution of income. Workers in the back of the kitchen, such as dishwashers and cooks, are getting paid more, but servers who rely on tips are seeing a pay cut.

Some long-time Seattle restaurants have closed altogether, though none of the owners publicly blamed the minimum wage law. [ 7/22/15]

The idea that government can determine a one-size-fits-all approach to life — whether it’s wages, health insurance, retirement plans, or anything else — is the biggest lie of all. Sadly, more people than not take a comfort in this false idea, and as a result keep rewarding our officials for lying to us.

Politicians count on the citizens’ fear of the truth to get away with lying to citizens who want to be lied to — at least when it comes to a false sense of comfort, security, or approval that comes from being seen as supporting the welfare state (especially if you’re well off and feel guilty for it).

It’s the same mindset as that of a dysfunctional family. Everyone sees what’s going on, or at least senses that something must be seriously wrong. But they struggle not to know, and they struggle to ensure that nobody else names, out loud, what could be going on. That’s precisely where America is now, with respect to Social Security and Medicare in particular — and these programs are the primary cause of our gathering economic storm.

Progressives and other advocates of socialized medicine, minimum wage laws and all the rest keep insisting America is one big “family” and all must take care of one another, for that reason. Yet the family is a big, deceitful and increasingly bankrupt, dysfunctional mess.

You can have that family. Some of us are more than ready to opt out of an obligation to a dishonest, corrupt welfare state which the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution never imposed on us, in the first place.



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