Jonah Goldberg, Editor-at-large of National Review Online (NationalReview.com, also syndicated in, among others, The Los Angeles Times) had a post on Social Security on their TheCorner blog, Tuesday, 10/30 03:16 PM 2007 "The Burden...of Social Security." I send him lots of stuff, he never responds, he didn't disappoint this time.
Here's what I sent:
You: "But it's very hard to imagine a political realignment so profound that it would yield an America without something like a Social Security card and an old-age pension, for at least the poorest old people."
Me: I know you know better, but it would be nice occasionally to read an NR pillar like yourself, rather than coming up w/ a sentence like that, come right out and say that there is nothing in the Constitution remotely justifying an old-age/poor peoples' pension system run by the Federal Government. If we can stretch the preamble's 'promote the general Welfare' and Article I section 8's 'provide for ... the general Welfare' clauses, why even have a Constitution - just elect an all powerful King once and for all and be done with it.
There is a perfectly fine tool to try and put this mess in the Constitution, Article V's amendment process. But do you really think a system like we have now would ever be approved by 2/3 of both federal houses, and 3/4 of all the state legislatures? Somewhere along the way the people would realize that some things are best done federally (military) and some things not (education, welfare.)
Like education, welfare under the Constitution is a local, or state, responsibility. Education would have certainly been a lot better off if left there, and welfare? I know things were tough for the elderly in the old days, but both sides of my family came from the poorest of European 19th century immigrants and needed to work very hard to support themselves and their families, and they all eventually died, but none at unusually young ages (a great-great grandfather was 103,) and none of starvation (the Swedish grandmother probably died from eating too much of what she loved: cheese.)
So what do we have now, w/ our Federal systems? I live in a pretty nice nabe in Chicago, but I can't walk a block to the McDonald's in the AM, nor either of two huge supermarkets two blocks away, without passing a half dozen fit looking pan handlers, and another half dozen struggling geezers (and I fit from that description myself) struggling to afford even a daily senior coffee at Micky D's solely on their federal pension.
You: "Moreover, even Milton Friedman would have conceded that the whole point of the automatic deduction from your paycheck is that it's less intrusive — or at least feels less intrusive."
Me: That 'automatic deduction' is actually a direct tax on the employer (and I understand - I may have read it in NRO - that Friedman, if he didn't know it right off, was reminded of it by Rose every day of his life 'til the day he died.) Oh, they keep telling us that "it's our money", but it is an absolute fact that since it's 1935 inception, not a single wage earner (distinct from the self-employed) has ever paid a penny into the so-called Social Security fund. Absolute? I suppose there were a few million people who felt a slight reduction in their first pay envelope after August 14, 1935, but at one per cent, it was the old cameltoe under the tent flap story. And back then, w/ people losing their jobs all over the place, the ones that had that deduction felt lucky to deserve it.
Now the employer didn't say much about this, because 1) there were so few of them, and 2) they could pass on the tax quietly to their customers (and the same for the self employed.) So the feds were able to suck vast sums near-painlessly from the soft underbelly of a growing economy.
But the pain comes in the fact that since nobody feels the money going to the feds, nobody gives a damn what they do w/ it, either. Apply the same technique to the federal income tax and the problem is multiplied ten-fold.
The only thing that counts is the employer-checking-account to employ-checking-account transaction. If the individual taxpayer was forced to write a check on his account to the feds once a month, how long do you think bridges to nowhere, farm subsidies to millionaires, earmarks, would last? If it ain't "intrusive" nobody's gonna care.
But yet another plus for the feds is that this system builds a guaranteed voting block to keep the whole stinking mess going. And it's a voting block that thinks they are getting something for nothing!
The final crime? All those SocSec 'deductions' coming in are immediately spent, on anything but pensions - they go into the general fund. They're up to their ears in 'bonds', but follow them far enough, you will find the statement: "The Unites States taxpayer, will pay to...."
Amendment XXVIII: "Taxes levied by the Federal government on individual citizens must be paid directly to the government by the citizens." RIP Milton Friedman.
Arn Nelson in Chicago (The Democrat-occupied west bank of Lake Michigan - Illinois 9th CD, repped by Nancy Pelosi's evil twin, Jan Schakowsky.)