There's a difference between benefits and entitlements

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While I enjoyed reading Ed Conant’s op-ed piece “Democrats should start entitlement reform with Social Security Fix” (Nov. 17), I find his use of the term “entitlement” (although technically correct) rather than “benefit” for Social Security problematic. Visit www.ssa.gov and you will find a “Benefits” tab but not an “Entitlements” tab.

A major problem with the blanket use of the term entitlement is that it conveys the impression of some similarity between government programs like Medicaid or food stamps – which do not receive financial support from its recipients – and programs like Medicare and Social Security, which do receive the support of its recipients’ taxes paid during their pre-eligibility years.

ONE OF TWO Social Security Trust Funds, the Old Age and Survivors Insurance, is funded by payroll tax revenues and interest earned by special nonmarketable federal securities purchased with the trust fund’s surplus. Unlike more conventional “retirement” plans with flexible investment strategies, OASI’s annual rate of return on its “investments” is rather fixed. This limits the fund’s ability to maintain solvency, as the number of eligible recipients increases or when the national economy weakens.

Numerous strategies have been proposed to address the potential OASI shortfall. Mr. Conant mentions other remedies like raising payroll taxes (penalizing working people) or chained CPI (penalizing fixed and limited income seniors). Mr. Conant does not address other proposed solutions like increasing the age for full eligibility, means testing and eliminating the payroll tax cap.

HOWEVER, GIVEN the decreasing ratio of contributors to beneficiaries since the SSA’s inception, these measures will probably fall short of completely fixing future OASI revenue gaps. In my opinion, with proper and responsible oversight, a plan that allows the SSA to invest some of its revenues more flexibly like traditional “retirement” plans do (yes, there is risk involved) could have the greatest potential to ameliorate the present situation with the least penalty to its contributors or recipients.

I agree with Mr. Conant’s concern about the significant (and partly unexplained) increase in those receiving the tax-supported Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Preventing (or at least decreasing) fraud and revisiting current eligibility criteria would be a nice start, but will require putting many more boots on the ground and, for a refreshing change, some (or better) evidence-based guidelines for enrolment.

FINALLY, MR. CONANT does not identify one of the major “elephants” in the entitlement room. This elephant is the sizeable number of social welfare programs supported by American taxpayers, along with their growing number of recipients, and a long-time favorite child of the Democratic Party.

With increasing federal deficits, these programs are among the least sustainable of the “entitlements” unless they too receive major and long needed overhaul. Perhaps, this is a better starting point for the Democrats’ entitlement fix.

(The writer lives in Augusta.)

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jimmymac
51141
Points
jimmymac 12/09/13 - 01:52 am
1
0
WELL STATED
Unpublished

Well stated Mr. Devoe. SS and Medicare are not entitlements. I wish I had the money I and my employers paid into SS and Medicare. They could take the monthly benefit check and keep it because I would have done much better if I could have kept the money paid in. Entitlements are programs received by people who aren't paying into anything and receive the benefits paid by taxpayers.

Riverman1
98708
Points
Riverman1 12/09/13 - 06:49 am
14
2
Good observations

Good observations. I'll only add that means testing for those receiving SS is not fair either if the person has paid into it over his life. Because he has also invested wisely or has a nice retirement from work, he should not get his SS that he paid into?

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 12/09/13 - 07:01 am
16
2
I would love it the
Unpublished

I would love it the Government would just cut me a check for what I have paid, and I'll never use their "service" EVER. I'm quite sure I can invest more wisely than they have.

ymnbde
10994
Points
ymnbde 12/09/13 - 07:11 am
8
2
once the bureaucracy becomes an entitlement for the bureaucrats

the entire system should be purged
and the federal government has become system of bureaucratic entitlement
it needs to be purged, in the form of states rights
and the school system especially needs to be purged
in the form of vouchers
the marketing campaign for the "private" schools would include alumni
telling how their success was due to their education
and each school would have to actually educate
or their "bureaucrats would be unemployed

seenitB4
103341
Points
seenitB4 12/09/13 - 07:45 am
14
1
Yeh, cut me a check too

It needs some adjustments for sure....but don't lump soc sec in the gimmie mix bag.

KSL
150691
Points
KSL 12/09/13 - 08:14 am
9
2
The disability part really

The disability part really needs scrutiny. There are far too many people getting benefits who are capable of doing something, even iif they have to change from what they were doing.

JRC2024
11531
Points
JRC2024 12/09/13 - 09:00 am
7
3
KSL, I know that to be true.

KSL, I know that to be true. One of my employees fell and broke his wrist. He has now retired and getting SS and just started getting a disability check. He plays golf, goes motorcycle riding and just purchased a boat to rebuild. Both checks amount to about $1200.00 a month but he does not deserve them. He still works at playing. OH, and my workers comp insurance company paid him $50000.00. What a sham and nothing I could do about it.

Bizkit
37088
Points
Bizkit 12/09/13 - 09:08 am
6
3
JRC get in line-that is

JRC get in line-that is becoming a common occurrence. You take all the risks as an employer and your employees reap all the benefits of a paycheck and benefits-and no worries. But see you made a profit and are a bad capitalist as far as Obama sees you-so you need to have your wealth given to those who didn't earn it. We will soon be able to thank Obama for a communist utopia of no wages, communal ownership of everything, and a one class society.

kissofdeath
485
Points
kissofdeath 12/09/13 - 09:53 am
4
12
Unbelievably, Republicans

Unbelievably, Republicans want to slash food stamps again - to the tune of $ 40 billion in catastrophic cuts that will ruin lives and destroy families. More than 47 million people - one in seven Americans - rely on food stamps to eat, including 1 million elderly New Yorkers, 2.3 million children in California and Texas, and 900,000 veterans. There isn't much time. We need your urgent support to fight back against Tea Party Republicans and the outrageous cuts they are pushing against - Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 12/09/13 - 10:08 am
9
4
Please explain how cutting
Unpublished

Please explain how cutting food stamps will "ruin lives and destroy families." Good grief...is that the hyperbole police I hear coming? If EBT doesn't pay enough to eat on, then explain why I have NEVER in my life seen someone at the checkout with an EBT card in one hand and some coupons in the other?

Why is it so outrageous to expect people who CAN work to work?

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 10:01 am
4
2
LTE

I will probably take this LTE almost line by line to comment on, BUT I could not wait to say how much I like and agree with this LTE!!!!

Bulldog
1354
Points
Bulldog 12/09/13 - 10:08 am
9
3
Its not your money!

Hey, kissofdeath, it's not your money! If you and others of your ilk want to support these people then please go right ahead. BUT USE YOUR OWN MONEY! As Margaret Thatcher opined: "The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other peoples money."

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 10:08 am
3
2
HA @ 9:59

"Please explain how cutting food stams will ruin lives and destroy families. Good grief...is that the hyperbole police I hear coming? If EBT doesn't pay enough to eat on, then explain why I have NEVER in my life seen someone at the checkout with an EBT card in one hand and some coupons in the other?

Why is it so outrageous to expect people who CAN work to work?"

First I thank-you for your "DITTO" comment about I enjoy my "give-and-take" with you, CG, and carcraft and for that matter EVERYONE of you!!

Second, You, amoung others, know that I have made no secret that I am on SS Disability. Having "being forced to pay taxes AND SS", I have only a little regret for being on disability!! I believe this LTE defines "entitlements" to the letter!

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 12/09/13 - 10:10 am
5
3
T3, I'm sure you paid for
Unpublished

T3, I'm sure you paid for years into SS for just such an occasion. Most on Medicaid have paid ZERO into the system.

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 10:17 am
5
1
LTE

"means testing and eliminating the payroll tax cap"

Even though my mom would not agree on "means testing", she is quite capable on living on her interest from money in the bank and dividens on VERY GOOD stock investments!! I would say that my own mom could probably do without ANY SS at all!! I realize that ALL WORKING PEOPLE were/are FORCED to pay into SS, BUT IF you are going to look at lowering "entitlements", THEN START with the people on welfare, Medicaid, and food stamps!!!!

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 10:21 am
3
1
LTE

"I find his use of the term “entitlement” (although technically correct) rather than “benefit” for Social Security problematic."

GREAT STATEMENT!! SS funds are FORCED out of pay checks, therefore considered a benefit as a result OF BEING FORCED TO PAY INTO!! It is true that I would not be taking such a stand if I was still being FORCED to pay into SS, BUT it must be seen as the prenciple of the matter!!

RMSHEFF
19749
Points
RMSHEFF 12/09/13 - 10:24 am
4
2
Humble Angela is making

Humble Angela is making progress with T3, he may now be a "closet" TeaParty member !

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 10:27 am
4
2
HA @ 7:01

"I would love it the Government would just cut me a check for what I have paid, and I'll never use their "service" EVER. I'm quite sure I can invest more wisely than they have"

Once again, you have said a mouth full of truth!! It is simply amasing how you and I have grown, over the months to agree so often, BUT many people are afraid and can not afford to invest what little bit of money they have BEEN FORCED into paying SS over the years. I can, of course, see your point!!

myfather15
58401
Points
myfather15 12/09/13 - 10:29 am
7
1
t3bledsoe

If you're on disability because you NEED it, then you should NEVER feel ashamed, ever!! Christ taught us to take care of one another and we should be doing just that!! Now, He didn't teach us to give the government our money and let THEM take care of everyone. I certainly WISH I had the money to substantially take care of people who are truely disabled, but the fact is I do not. Fact is, I struggle myself, day to day. But I am more than happy to know my tax dollars are going to help people like yourself in ANY capacity.

But, I also find ways to help others who are less fortunate than I. I try to give to charity funds, especially this time of year. Recently, one of our fellow employees went out with a major surgery and it's hurting them financially. We've held two events to raise money for he and his family and he said it has helped tremendously. Although I struggle, I still gave money to this fund; because it's the right thing to do. I gave what I could afford to give.

Also, like HA said; I'm sure you paid into SS for many years before becoming disabled.

The only problems I see are those we've talked about many times. I've worked the streets for 18 years now. I've seen first hand how many people are abusing the systems and receiving undeserved "benefits". I see how many people's disability is "drug addiction" or alcohol abuse and they are simply unemployable; because they are unreliable. They work the system for every dime they can get, then steal and rob to support their habits.

Then there are those who are just to sorry to work!! There are MANY of them, and that is a FACT!! These are the types that people are displeased with, not people who honestly NEED help. People should not only be willing to help those in need, we should feel GOOD about helping them!!

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 10:35 am
3
1
Ymnbde @ 7:11

"and the school system especially needs to be purged
in the form of vouchers
the marketing campaign for the "private" schools would include alumni
telling how their success was due to their education
and each school would have to actually educate
or their "bureaucrats would be unemployed"

I don think that your's and my "politics" are very far apart!! When Edgefield County first opened up a private school, I wanted to go there, NOT BECAUSE OF INTERGRATION, but for what I viewed as a better quality education!! Maybe I could spell a lot better!! (LOL) Seriously, I had no choice but to go to public school and I have to admit, "Students at BOTH kind of schools MOST WANT to learn or it is on the students' fault!!

myfather15
58401
Points
myfather15 12/09/13 - 10:36 am
3
2
t3bledsoe, I made this comment to you on another thread.

But I doubt you will revisit the thread so I'll repost here, although it's a little off topic, but not by far.

Since it's Monday morning, I won't wish you a great weekend, but I hope it was a great weekend for you.

Morally, I feel the way you do. People should simply make more; I've never seen how $8.00/hr is enough for anyone to live on, period. But I also see the other point of the argument. If you give the fast food workers $15.00/Hr as they are demanding, we will ALL be paying $15.00+ for ONE "Value" meal at McDonalds!! I for one, would NEVER pay this amount to ANY fast food restaurant!! I would completely stop eating at them and I'm quite sure that many people, would be right with me. Then what happens? The restaurant closes down; then millions of jobs are lost and the economy collapses.

Now, the ONLY way to make this work, would be for SOMEONE to make sure the OWNER's PROFIT, is where the difference comes from. Meaning the owner takes the pay cut, not increases the prices to make up the difference. Now, the big question is; WHO is it that FORCES the owner to take the profit loss? The government is the only logical answer!! It a FREE Country, this simply can't happen!! BINGO!! There you have it, Communism at it's finest!!

I also disagree; people can ALWAYS improve themselves, IF they have the drive to do so!!

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 10:39 am
2
1
SeenitB4 @ 7:45

"It needs some adjustments for sure....but don't lump soc sec in the gimmie mix bag"

VERY GREAT STATEMENT!! I love your statement, not because I am on SS Disability, BUT because almost ALL of US have been FORCED into paying into SS!!

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 10:46 am
2
1
KSL @ 8:14

"The disability part really needs scrutiny. There are far too many people getting benefits who are capable of doing something, even iif they have to change from what they were doing"

I respect and agree with your statement!! As I have admitted more than once, I am on SS Disability and yet I can see your point!! I worked for a total of 19 years; some being seasonal jobs; and when I became verbally violent toward my co-workers, I and my Doctor agreed that I should seek SS Disability. Allthough I am on disability for more than one reason, I do agree that SS Disability resipients need more scroutiny!

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 10:52 am
4
2
Kissofdeath @ 9:53

"Unbelievably, Republicans want to slash food stamps again - to the tune of $ 40 billion in catastrophic cuts that will ruin lives and destroy families. More than 47 million people - one in seven Americans - rely on food stamps to eat, including 1 million elderly New Yorkers, 2.3 million children in California and Texas, and 900,000 veterans. There isn't much time. We need your urgent support to fight back against Tea Party Republicans and the outrageous cuts they are pushing against - Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid"

I assume you are serious and not kidding! I might be a hypocrit for saying this, BUT AS LONG as there are illegals picking our veggies, then there are jobs to be had by welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid resipients!

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 10:59 am
1
2
HA @ 10:10

T3, I'm sure you paid for years into SS for just such an occasion. Most on Medicaid have paid ZERO into the system"

Thanks for this comment!! The SS Office has had 11 years to reevaluate me and I believe they understand how literally it might be a violent situation to send me back into a work environment!

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 11:04 am
6
1
RMSHEFF @ 10:24

"Humble Angela is making progress with T3, he may now be a "closet" TeaParty member !"

I still consider myself as a moderate Democrat, BUT IT IS VERY difficult to even try to deffend Democratic law-makers when they have taken such a turn for the worst!!

OJP
8265
Points
OJP 12/09/13 - 11:09 am
6
3
@Humble Angela

"I would love it the Government would just cut me a check for what I have paid, and I'll never use their "service" EVER. I'm quite sure I can invest more wisely than they have."

I can get behind this, but only if it is agreed that anyone doing so who loses money (e.g., 2008) is unconditionally ineligible for Social Security.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 12/09/13 - 11:09 am
6
3
T3...you say that you believe
Unpublished

T3...you say that you believe that the Republicans are "for the rich." Tell me.....what have the Democrats done in the last 50 or so years that have helped the poor be less poor?

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 11:11 am
2
1
Myfather15 @ 10:29

I am so very greatful for your comment!! I can not think of any more to say BUT THANK-YOU!!

Scratch
150
Points
Scratch 12/09/13 - 11:19 am
3
2
Distinction Between Terms

I appreciate the letter writer's distinction between "entitlement" and "benefit." When I think of system reform, however, I want the system to result in a "guaranteed distribution," not a "guaranteed benefit" like the present SS system. The former result from investments, hopefully made over decades, that grow the economy, are not provided to Congress to spend as it decides, and can be passed on to one's heirs. The current "Thrift Savings Plan" available as a retirement tool to fed gov't employees could definitely be used as a model for Social Security. Social security was developed as a "guaranteed benefit" and might have been just fine in 1935. In the 21st century times have markedly changed. The vast majority of the so-called rich are in that category due to investments. Why not employ that method in our Social Security system. It is simply foolish not to!

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