Hey, G.I Joe and Rosie Riveter where are you when we need you the most. America's greatest generation was baptized in the fire of necessity and shouldered the burden of fighting a world war. They were boys and girls when it began and in their mid to late twenties when it was won. On returning to civilian life those veterans and their wives were ready to begin their life adventure no longer content to share rooms and meals with an extended family in small walk up apartments. Mostly they wanted work and were ready to stake out their claim to a brighter future. Out of their need for housing and cars and furnishings for growing families boomed a working class economy. America was the new leader on the world stage briskly stepping out from the shadow cast on the former colonies quickly rising above second nation stature.
It was in the flame of that furnace that the prewar promise of Social Security was forged and cured and the idea of Medicare tempered. Joe and Rosie contributed with hard cash payments and would rail at the thought that politicians would one day minimize and belittle the programs referring to them as mere entitlements. Social Security was never meant to be equated with home relief, or welfare and there was nothing free lunch about it. Each worker and their employer was and is required by law to pay into it.
Workers and their employers have made equal matching contributions paying a total of 12.8% of salaries into Social Security. A self employed individual paid the full sum without contribution from others. Social Security was the original and foundational contract with America having been established by mandate and without benefit of collective bargaining. It is and was always simple, uncomplicated, ala cart, pay as you go, don't pass go, don't collect $200.
Regularly and with a consistency so systematical as to be considered conspiratorial, Congress withdrew money from Social Security leaving in their wake bad government IOU's. In short Social Security for the many contributors was robbed by the Congress to spend in favor of and for votes of the special interests. There is little left other than the bald, naked, promissory notes of a government bereft of morals and dignity and most importantly one without cash.
It's not that there isn't enough tax money to go around, there is plenty but it's being gobbled, often wastefully by special interests and unions including the support of civil service pensions. Surely many civil servants make contributions to pensions and should rightfully collect from them, but to compare them with payments made into Social Security is like comparing apples with having none. Social Security if left alone was fully funded, but pensions always required raising taxes to fund them. Much like paying interest only on credit cards pension debt is never paid. Ergo the Social Security contract with America is suddenly and conveniently called an entitlement being vulnerable and retractable; but the contract with the few and preferred is off the table and sacrosanct. Go figure.
Raising taxes solve nothing and worse enables government encouraging further irresponsible spending. Does the word entitlement come to mind? If there is ever a solution to be realized it will be in jobs, real jobs, jobs that Americans can work at now not twenty or thirty years hence. Sure Americans are interested in the environment and green jobs, but what is needed most is the dirty, greasy coal fired steel jobs of foundries, factories and assembly lines where real wages can be earned. For more than a decade Americans have only made deals, we no longer make stuff. As a nation we need to make stuff and left alone all else would fall back into line without government mucking.
This June more college graduates and those having earned MBA's will remain unemployed unable to find work. What does that portend for the economy when the number of high school graduate and other lesser educated young people are factored in. It doesn't matter whether jobless numbers are increasing exponentially or geometrically when arithmetically there are no jobs in actuality. Kind of poetic but it sucks when the house has been foreclosed and sold. As a nation we need to make stuff and let the deals make themselves.
However, most taxes, laws, rules and regulations are repressive and have the effect of barbed wire blocking growth and driving business off shore keeping people hurdled in and subservient to government. Serious consideration must be given to closing down and disenfranchising the alphabet soup of Federal regulatory agencies and open up the free range to commerce and business and watch America come back to life. Government must back off becoming content to leave the business of commerce to business and passively collect taxes.
America was not meant to become a nation like Britain or Greece or France, stifled in ancient hierarchy without a vision for the future; but rather an experiment, a game really, one to be played and lived up front and openly. The hero is supposed to be an adventurous inventor, a wily scrapper a dude with rolled up sleeves, a shock of hair across his brow and a coal smudge on his cheek. He wears white socks and done right no one knows who made his jeans and sneakers or what car he drives, or for that matter would care. Instead America has been whored off by Congress and now belongs to the thin nosed beady eyed kid with wire rim glasses, handmade Hong Kong suits and thin soled Italian leather shoes. He ain't no dude, he's a financial analyst, lobbyist or lawyer or worse all three in the employ of a foreign company.
I thought it cool watching the Iranians and Egyptians and then Libyans marching in protest for democracy. Conversely I think it odd that Americans sit back and watch their democracy slip away permitting threats being made to their Social Security and Medicare. What would Joe and Rosie have done?
Congress get yourselves and government out of the way or fairly soon commentators will begin to write that this recession has made the Great Depression look like a bad weekend. Just saying... Doc Graham, 5/28/2011