Saturday, February 27, 2010

Social Security and Entitlement Mentality

My mother is a retired Certified Financial Planner. She worked for many years helping people figure out the best ways to invest their money to ensure a stable and prosperous retirement. The other day I called her and she, knowing my proclivity for writing about such things, proceeded to voice a particular gripe that had been bothering her lately. She had been watching a cable news channel, as she is wont to do, and they had been talking about Social Security. They kept using the phrase “entitlement program” when reporting on the money owed to well to do Social Security beneficiaries and this is what bothered my mom.

She felt the phrase seemed a little derogatory, especially the way the reporters were enunciating it as if it was the most distasteful phrase in the English language. She also felt that it was a misrepresentation of what Social Security was meant to be. She was born in the 1930s and like most people her age she's been paying into Social Security her entire working life. She feels that she's simply getting back the money she'd paid in. As she explained to me, it's not an entitlement, it's her money that was entrusted to the government for safe keeping and now she depends on it at least in part so she can live the life she's become accustomed to. I agree. Being unemployed, I certainly wish I had back the money I've put into Social Security.

She can't help it if they've taken money out of the trust fund and squandered it on other things like wars of aggression and interest on loans. The problem is, I explained to her, that she trusted the government. That was everyone's first mistake. Have we learned nothing? Even back in the thirties we should have known better than to trust the government, especially with something as important as retirement planning. That should be testament as to just how difficult times were back then. Perhaps things are getting just as difficult these days because those in government would like to once again have us in the desperate straits we were back then so that we have to depend on them. If we are all poor and destitute they believe we will turn to them for help and guidance. I wonder if we will make that mistake again.

I asked my mother what would have happened to her had she sold her clients a plan like the government's Social Security. She told me she would have likely been arrested for selling a ponzi scheme. That's the real problem. If one goes to a CFP there is accountability. CFPs have reputations to uphold. If they steer clients wrong or give them bad advice they likely will not get recommendations from their clients and their businesses will stagnate and perhaps fail. If they act in an unethical manner they will likely be sued. If they act in a criminal manner they will likely be arrested and face the possibility of jail. What happens when Social Security goes bad? Who's accountable then? Maybe, just maybe, a couple of congressmen or senators might not be re-elected. Big, fat, hairy deal. The worst part is, they get to keep their nice cushy pensions that are paid for by taxpayers.

Perhaps in the thirties popular sentiment was really against such government programs. Perhaps the federal government more or less ignored the people and did as it wanted much like it does today. Perhaps the papers and mainstream media were controlled by big government statists as they are today. Perhaps the voice of the common man was as silenced, intimidated and compliant as it is today, or even more so due to the absence of the Internet. I don't know. I wasn't around back then. I do know that somehow the concepts of liberty, individual freedom, self reliance and personal responsibility were crushed against the rocks of political expedience as this nation rushed toward big government solutions to economic woes caused by government intrusion into free markets in the first place.

Like many people in the freedom movement, I am busy unlearning much of the propaganda and programming that was forced upon us as children in the government indoctrination centers. We are not a purely righteous nation always battling for the side of good against evil enemies who would enslave us, steal our freedoms and sentence us to a life under the watchful eye of a cruel police state. We as a society have done that to ourselves. We haven't known true freedom in this country since not long after the notion of individual freedom was exalted in the founding documents. The social engineering and big government programs that have been enacted in the interim have done nothing to ensure freedom and liberty for the people of the United States of America and have done everything to give power to an elite political class that seeks to maintain control of society. They do not do things to service the common folk of this nation, they do things to increase their own standing and status in life and exalt themselves. Politicians are not to be trusted.

So more than seventy years ago a bunch of politicians decided to start taking money from individuals and putting it away for them, mostly without their permission. It's supposed to be a voluntary program, as many taxes started out, but somehow it became as good as mandatory. Try to get out of paying it and see what happens. Try living in modern society without a Social Security number. While I've heard stories of people who have accomplished this feat, it seems that one shouldn't have to jump through so many hoops to get out of a supposedly voluntary system. It is likely perceived by many as not being worth all the trouble and many more likely don't even realize that it's possible, so hardly anyone even questions the tax.

To complete the illusion, years ago the politicians offered a bill that would have “allowed” people to take their money from Social Security and invest it as they would like. Can you imagine, allowing people to keep their own money and do with it as they see fit? What a concept! What would you have done given the choice? Would you have continued to trust the government or would you have taken your money and invested it with someone who could be held accountable? Somehow, the bill didn't pass. The few in the political elite class decided they knew better how to invest than the many who earned the money. Now, as ever, there is fear that Social Security will go broke. I have my doubts as to whether or not I'll ever see a cent of the money I've paid into it, let alone my children who are also paying into the system. It is yet another example of how government fails due to their own foibles.

Yet even if Social Security goes broke, that's not the most devious aspect of the scheme. Even if you're getting money back, you are likely not getting anywhere near the value of the money you originally put into it. The value of the dollar has conservatively dropped more than 90 percent since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913. Where did that value go? Perhaps into the hands of a moneyed elite, a de facto royalty, as it were? If the stated purpose of the Federal Reserve is true, that is if it was truly set up as a means to stabilize the US economy, then this fact alone shows that it has failed miserably in its mandate. When something fails, particularly something as important as an institution which is supposed to supply a nation's currency, it should fail utterly and its owners should be held to account. Instead, the owners of the Federal Reserve have enriched themselves to the point where they are the wealthiest, most powerful families in the world by screwing the wealth producing common folk and despite their failure to provide the service they promised.

Previous to the creation of the Federal Reserve, the dollar held its value fairly well. Since the dollar's official approval by congress in 1786 and until the inception of the Fed in 1913, the dollar's value actually increased. In other words, if one had put a dollar away in 1786 and then somehow been able to get that same dollar back in 1913, that person would have been able to purchase more with that dollar in 1913 than he had been able to in 1786. It seems to me that the system was working fine before the invention of the Federal Reserve, with the exception of a few short lived downturns mostly caused by manipulations of hard currencies by powerful international banking interests as they attempted to influence public opinion in the US to create a demand for a central bank. The public's distrust of central banks was such that those who wished to implement one were forced to use cloak and dagger methods, disinformation and political dirty tricks to force this institution onto the American people. It was an institution set up to further enrich and consolidate control to those who were already rich and powerful. Why else would someone try to fix something that wasn't really broke?

Can you imagine what life would be like if you could save a dollar today and ten years from now its buying power would increase? How much easier would it have been to plan for retirement? How much easier would it have been to know what money could be put away for the future and what money one could afford to risk on investment? A stable currency, which was provided in the freer markets of the past, makes for a more predictable economy where one is better able to live out a dream. A fiat currency based on debt, such as we use today due to the creation of the creature from Jekyll Island, makes for an economy which must by its very nature expand and contract. It leads to wealth being lent rather than created or owned and therefore it is wealth that can legally be taken away, even if it was well earned. Basing currency on commodities that represent something earned combined with a reverence for the sanctity of private property makes for a prosperous society with a slow but steady growth of wealth.

Social Security is not an entitlement in the sense that it is owed to one without being earned. It is an attempt to gain back wealth that has been entrusted to others. More than that, it is an attempt to regain the purchasing power that was there when the money was earned. A penny saved may be a penny earned, but a penny put into today's Social Security may well be a penny lost, or squandered on something else.

There are those who go through life thinking the world owes them a living. The world owes you nothing. It is up to each and every one of us to go out into the world and produce, therefore we earn our keep. The only entitlement any of us should have is the entitlement to keep what we earn. If it is lost, we should have no one to blame but ourselves. We do not have even this simple entitlement in our modern society as we are forced against our will to give a portion of our earnings to a bureaucracy that cares about nothing else other than expanding its own power.

The problem is, we exist in a society that is ruled over by a class of people who produce nothing. They use force and deception to collect money from the productive in society. They become wealthy on the backs of the common folk and then leave the productive class begging for what should have been rightfully theirs in the first place. It is time to make Social Security a purely voluntary program. It is time to make it easy to opt out. It is time to let it pass or fail on its own merits. It is in fact time to make all government and taxes voluntary. It is time to phase out all monopolies and let competitors offer their services to the public where once only government entities were allowed.

Freedom is the answer. Economic and social liberty are the tools of prosperity. Bigger government and more collectivist practices can only stagnate and stifle the economy. It will only channel more wealth and control to the already super wealthy and powerful. The entitlement mentality, believing one is entitled to wealth one did not earn, helps grow government and cement the collectivist mindset. A truly free market, given the chance, will do a much better job of holding the unethical accountable than one size fits all government solutions could ever do. Failure should not be rewarded by increasing budgets as government does. Success should only be possible by providing excellent goods and services. Once we recognize the source of the problem, we can start dismantling its mechanisms, reverse the economic downturn we find ourselves in, and once again become the free and prosperous nation we were meant to be.

No comments: