Two Plus Two Newer Archives  

Go Back   Two Plus Two Newer Archives > Other Topics > Politics

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 11-27-2007, 05:09 AM
natedogg natedogg is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: California
Posts: 2,570
Default Understanding the Social Security scam

In order to understand the Social Security scam you must ask yourself "What is the program supposed to do?" Or in the case of defenders, what is it you believe Social Security accomplishes?

Two of the most common answers are:

1. provide destitute seniors something to live on
2. act as a mandatory retirement savings program for all

Muddying the waters is a standard and brilliant government tactic when it comes to protecting massive programs and Social Security has been no exception. It comprises several different programs at this point so it's hard to pin down a strict purpose.

Let's assume that you believe the main purpose of Social Security should be to give destitute seniors something to live on, i.e. welfare for the elderly.

That's a great idea. Feeding impecunious retirees is a laudable goal.

However, as soon as you frame Social Security as a welfare check for the aged, you realize instantly the implementation is crazy. This "welfare" system is sending checks to Warren Buffett! The majority of the checks are cut to people who are not destitute! And the kicker is that the tax which ostensibly funds the program (it doesn't, see below) is levied on those who can least afford it! It is a system that takes money from the struggling working class and gives it to a class that is mostly comfortable retirees along with a few that are broke.

Social Security as welfare fails miserably. Anyone can see that there is a better solution to feed starving retirees.

So let's try framing Social Security as a mandatory retirement savings program instead. This is where the scam really gets exposed.

The first thing you should know is that Social Security taxes do not fund Social Security checks. This is hard to believe, I know, because we've all been told differently, but it's true. Revenues from Social Security tax are not in any way earmarked, saved, held aside, locked away, or anything else.

The Supreme Court case Fleming v. Nestor (http://www.ssa.gov/history/nestor.html) established that the taxes you pay for Social Security are just another tax and the revenues are not distinct from the general fund. Furthermore, this case established that the government has no binding obligation to pay you one dime of a Social Security benefit. Of course, they promulgate a false sense of entitlement by referring to the debt as an "obligation", but it is not an obligation.

But wait, they are tracking the revenues and outlays and the trust fund aren't they? There *must* be something tying my Social Security taxes to the actual outlays, right? It's all internal accounting shenanigans. Your Social Security Taxes might as well be labelled "The Silly Tax" and the revenues would be as closely tied to SS. It's all part of the charade to keep us complacent about the 15.3% payroll tax. The bottom line is that the govt revenues go into a big pot, and they cut Social Security checks out of that pot, and they make some notes about it for internal accounting purposes. The so-called excess revenues that should be in the trust fund (more on the trust fund below) are just a spurious categorization of general funds.

What this means is that there is no legal or regulatory connection, none whatsoever, between what you pay into Social Security and what you get out of it. [em]Benefit calculations do not take into account the amount of tax you paid.[/em] This should be indication enough that it's not a retirement savings plan. Your Social Security taxes are just another tax. Your benefit is entirely up to the whim of a future congress. They are not bound.

You may think this makes it hardly sound like a retirement program and more like a general benefit or giveaway, while providing cover for an unconnected burdensome tax. And you'd be right.

So much for being a retirement program but it get worse, because there's a "trust fund" myth foisted on the public. The myth serves to perpetuate the notion that it is a retirement savings program. Simply using the word "trust fund" implies as much. It gives people the impression that there is a huge asset ready for disbursement to all the people who paid into it. It implies that your money has been earmarked and kept safe. But that is entirely false.

Instead of real assets, there is a note from Congress that says "We promise that a future congress will continue to fund this program". That's all there is. And the note itself is only there to further the pretense that there is some kind of relationship between your Social Security taxes and the benefit coming to you. But there's no relationship. It's just internal accounting shenanigans.

And these taxes that are disingenuously labelled as Social Security tax are levied disproportionately on the poor. A single mother living on $10,750 a year pays $1500 in Social Security tax, with no way out of it. It's taken right off the top before she can even start making deductions. And since I've already shown this tax for the lie that it is, any reasonable person can see this is outrageous.

The whole thing is a giant smokescreen to enable the government to justify onerous taxes on the poor and middle class and then fund massive giveaways to the rich.

Social Security is often mis-characterized as a pyramid scheme by detractors, but this could only be accurate if there was an actual pile of money resulting from the scheme that will go to the early contributors. There is no such asset.

So, to summarize:

1. It fails miserably when we frame it as a welfare program. It is in fact nearly the opposite of a welfare program, transferring money from the working poor to the wealthiest class of people.

2. If we frame it as a retirement savings program we see that there's no savings happening by any definition of the word.

3. The "trust fund" is a lie, and in fact is a convoluted pretense designed to reinforce a mistaken belief about the relationship between your Social Security taxes and Social Security benefits.


So, what is GOOD about Social Security?

A good number of retirees in penury are able to feed and clothe themselves because of Social Security checks. But this minor good can be achieved in a more effective way, although it wouldn't provide a nice smokescreen for taxing the hell out of the working class. Defending the Social Security status quo requires cognitive dissonance and double speak. The Social Security apologists rely on various fallacious spins.

Here are a some typical apologist positions:

1. The trust fund really is an asset. Just as when you purchase a good, your networth hasn't changed. You now own the good.
response: This is patently disingenuous. The trust fund is more like an accounting of how much you spent on hookers and blow. I'd really like to have one of these apologists point me to the "assets" that the trust fund purchased and how the govt will liquidate it in order to pay my checks down the road.

1.b An extension of the argument above is that if they didn't have a tax surplus to spend, they would just borrow the money, as if spending levels are something that happen in a vacuum. I'll let you work through that prevarication on your own.

2. Without Social Security, there is a moral hazard created for those who would be foolish and not prepare for their retirement.
Response: This is a common defense, but it is a red herring, since Social Security does not save their money anyway, and there are plenty of other ways to address this moral hazard.

3. The number of recipients who need that money for basic necessities is greater than you think.
response: this implies a false dilemma. DUCY? I'll let the apologists hang themseves on this one if they want to try pursuing it.

5. Saving for retirement together as a group creates a safety net,whereas individual retirement savings can be wiped out due to bad luck.
Response: If it was a retirement savings program the apologist might have a point here. But this answer assumes the antecedent because there is no real savings going on. Even so, the individual bad luck problem is easily solved with private annuities. But what if the annuity company goes bankrupt? That's what insurance is for. Hell you could make annuity companies buy a government backed insurance plan similar to FDIC if it makes you feel better, but this group safety net argument is just a red herring. There are plenty of ways to solve it without ripping off the poor.

6. "Hey, canada has a trust fund. don't tell me we can't do it."
response; Canada's trust fund is miniscule compared to ours, and they invest it in a foreign market (ours).


which brings me to

7. We just need to lock up the trust fund with real assets and it will be fine.

response: I have explained before why it wouldn't even be possible to have a trust fund even if we wanted to but I'll recap:

1. Holding onto the cash simply ensures a negative return due to inflation.

2. Investing it in the market ensures government control of industry and creates a huge moral hazard for our decisionmakers, as the investment choices of the trust fund would be the biggest prize available to lobbyists and industry. Furthermore the investment directors have little incentive to do their job well. For an excellent example of what happens when you put government bureaucrats in charge of investing your retirement fund, check out the history of the CalPers fund.

3. Investing it elsewhere (such as in foreign treasuries like Canada does) is not politically feasible, nor is it a safe investment since the US is the safest place for capital (yeah yeah I know it's looking shaky right now). Even if those objections were overcome, we return to the same moral hazard as #2, but in this case we have foreign governments vying for the trust fund prize instead of domestic rent-seekers. Hardly an improvement. And the investment decisions would be politically motivated instead of taking into account what is the best investment, which defeats the purpose.

Bottom line, Social Security is a scam from any angle, and in every case where the perceived goal of Social Security is used as a defense, there is a better way to achieve that goal.

natedogg
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 11-27-2007, 05:17 AM
maxtower maxtower is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,264
Default Re: Understanding the Social Security scam

The only people who defend SS are those who are collecting or about to collect checks.

Everyone I know who is under 35 just assumes this money won't be available to them in retirement.

Unfortunately, the former group votes, while the latter doesn't...
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 11-27-2007, 07:49 AM
mosdef mosdef is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Toronto
Posts: 3,414
Default Re: Understanding the Social Security scam

You are right on many key points, your post has two fairly large errors in it.

1. Benefit calculations do not take into account the amount of tax you paid.

This is not quite right. If you're talking about the basic pension at retirement, the benefit is a formula based on covered earnings and the contributions are also a formula based on current earnings. This means that the benefits are linked to contributions. I think what you mean to say is that the benefit is not intended or calculated to be be equivalent in value to the contributions you put it, i.e. it is not a defined contribution pension scheme. But everyone knows this, and it doesn't (by itself) invalidate the scheme. It makes it a defined benefit scheme with subsidies between members, which occur all over the place in the private market.

2. "Hey, canada has a trust fund. don't tell me we can't do it." response; Canada's trust fund is miniscule compared to ours, and they invest it in a foreign market (ours).

Well, if the money were not taken from taxpayers it would have to go somewhere else. Whether it is consumed or invested, that money would need to flow into the global market somehow, so I also don't buy this argument that "the market isn't big enough to handle it".
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 11-27-2007, 09:02 AM
lehighguy lehighguy is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 4,290
Default Re: Understanding the Social Security scam

Don't forget fraudulent CPI numbers.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 11-27-2007, 10:39 AM
TomCollins TomCollins is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Approving of Iron\'s Moderation
Posts: 7,517
Default Re: Understanding the Social Security scam

I anxiously await the reply of the master of the status quo. Good post nate (when isn't that the case?).
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 11-27-2007, 11:01 AM
Moseley Moseley is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 394
Default Re: Understanding the Social Security scam

Here is another way in which it is a tax scheme for the rich:
I think it was 2004, when I was doing some research, and found that the ssi surplus for that year was approx 350b.

The general budget's deficit, after taking out ssi outlays and ssi income for the year from the equation, was about 780b.

See how much of the deficit (350/750) 44.87% was paid for with ssi surplus monies.

The individual paid in 1/2 of that 350b and the employer paid in the other 1/2.

Since the cap is 97,500 (we'll say 100k), anyone making less paid ssi taxes on 100% of their monies and had 48% of those ssi taxes go to paying the deficit.

Those football players making 2m a year, were taxed for ssi on 5% of their gross income.

A football player, with nothing more than a high school education,(many don't go to college now before going pro) only contribute taxes on 5% of the gross to ssi, while a college grad with a computer sciences degree pays out taxes on 100% of his income.

Now, this wouldn't be a problem, if it weren't for the fact that the 2+ trillion dollar surplus that ssi suposedly has, cannot be repaid without congress raising taxes.

So, it's the class of citizens who earn under 97.5k that have been paying for a good portion of the deficit every year.

When Clinton claimed to have balanced the budget one year, it was because there was enough of a ssi surplus that year to pay for the deficit in the general budget.

It's a sad sad day. The American Middle Class has let their representatives [censored] on them without a fight.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 11-27-2007, 11:07 AM
mosdef mosdef is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Toronto
Posts: 3,414
Default Re: Understanding the Social Security scam

[ QUOTE ]
Since the cap is 97,500 (we'll say 100k), anyone making less paid ssi taxes on 100% of their monies and had 48% of those ssi taxes go to paying the deficit.

Those football players making 2m a year, were taxed for ssi on 5% of their gross income.

[/ QUOTE ]

They also only get benefits based on 5% of their gross income, so this is hardly a flaw.

Then again, you made contributions to my pension plan on 0% of your earnings and I had to make contributions on 100% of my earnings. ZOMG MY PENSION PLAN IS A GET RICH SCHEME FOR YOU!!!!
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 11-27-2007, 11:16 AM
Moseley Moseley is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 394
Default Re: Understanding the Social Security scam

[ QUOTE ]
[ QUOTE ]
Since the cap is 97,500 (we'll say 100k), anyone making less paid ssi taxes on 100% of their monies and had 48% of those ssi taxes go to paying the deficit.

Those football players making 2m a year, were taxed for ssi on 5% of their gross income.

[/ QUOTE ]

They also only get benefits based on 5% of their gross income, so this is hardly a flaw.

Then again, you made contributions to my pension plan on 0% of your earnings and I had to make contributions on 100% of my earnings. ZOMG MY PENSION PLAN IS A GET RICH SCHEME FOR YOU!!!!

[/ QUOTE ]

Your thinking is flawed. The ssi surplus cannot be repaid. That's 3 trillion dollars of the 10 trillion national debt that was paid for with ssi surpluses.

I was wrong in my original thread when I quoted 2t, it is 3 trillion.

http://www.yellowstone-national-park...s/ssi-fund.htm

If those making 97.5k were paying into a retirement program, then it would be fair and you would be right.

But that is not the case. The Gov't is using the excess to pay the deficit down before going out to the public and borrowing the rest, with no way to repay it, without raising taxes.

So, by raising taxes, they will be taxing us again to pay back our ssi surplus.

It is also a fact, that all they need to do to keep ssi afloat, is raise the cap on ssi taxes to 150k. ZOMG!! A football player making 2m a year, would have to pay ssi taxes on 7.5% of his gross!

We are fast approaching the day, when there will be no ssi surplus due to the outlays to the baby boomers, and congress will not have the 350b each year in ssi taxes to pay down the deficit. Instead they will have to go out and borrow to pay back the 3 trillion to the ssi fund.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 11-27-2007, 11:21 AM
mosdef mosdef is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Toronto
Posts: 3,414
Default Re: Understanding the Social Security scam

[ QUOTE ]
[ QUOTE ]
[ QUOTE ]
Since the cap is 97,500 (we'll say 100k), anyone making less paid ssi taxes on 100% of their monies and had 48% of those ssi taxes go to paying the deficit.

Those football players making 2m a year, were taxed for ssi on 5% of their gross income.

[/ QUOTE ]

They also only get benefits based on 5% of their gross income, so this is hardly a flaw.

Then again, you made contributions to my pension plan on 0% of your earnings and I had to make contributions on 100% of my earnings. ZOMG MY PENSION PLAN IS A GET RICH SCHEME FOR YOU!!!!

[/ QUOTE ]

Your thinking is flawed. The ssi surplus cannot be repaid. That's 3 trillion dollars of the 10 trillion national debt that was paid for with ssi surpluses.

I was wrong in my original thread when I quoted 2t, it is 3 trillion.

http://www.yellowstone-national-park...s/ssi-fund.htm

If those making 97.5k were paying into a retirement program, then it would be fair and you would be right.

But that is not the case. The Gov't is using the excess to pay the deficit down before going out to the public and borrowing the rest, with no way to repay it, without raising taxes.

So, by raising taxes, they will be taxing us again to pay back our ssi surplus.

It is also a fact, that all they need to do to keep ssi afloat, is raise the cap on ssi taxes to 150k. ZOMG!! A football player making 2m a year, would have to pay ssi taxes on 7.5% of his gross!

We are fast approaching the day, when there will be no ssi surplus due to the outlays to the baby boomers, and congress will not have the 350b each year in ssi taxes to pay down the deficit. Instead they will have to go out and borrow to pay back the 3 trillion to the ssi fund.

[/ QUOTE ]

That's all well and good, but none of it is relevant to the idea that the poor are getting a raw deal because they make contributions on a greater percentage of their earnings. The distortions created by the mechanics of the system do NOT find their root at the contribution/benefit formula. Consider the alternative: the rich pay based on 100% of their earnings but get a benefit based on 5% of their earnings. This is better?
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 11-27-2007, 11:28 AM
Moseley Moseley is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 394
Default Re: Understanding the Social Security scam

"That's all well and good, but none of it is relevant to the idea that the poor are getting a raw deal because they make contributions on a greater percentage of their earnings. The distortions created by the mechanics of the system do NOT find their root at the contribution/benefit formula. Consider the alternative: the rich pay based on 100% of their earnings but get a benefit based on 5% of their earnings. This is better?"

That's not the way it works. The more you pay in to ssi, the more you get when you retire. So the football player would get more ssi at 62 paying on 150k of his income.

We would not have a problem keeping ssi afloat, if the surplus had not been used to pay down the deficit and the ceiling on ssi taxes had increased with inflation.

The MAJOR problem is: Congress is having to come up with a way of dealing with the fact that they will no longer have 300+ billion in ssi surpluses to pay the deficit, while at the same time, having to come up with billions every year to pay back the 3 trillion ssi surplus.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 12:56 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions Inc.