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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t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 12:22 pm
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Myfather15 @ 10:36 & HA @ 11:09

What can I say but that I agree to disagree!! How much more can I say,"That I value your comments, AND I see your arguements DO HOLD water!!" There is an old saying, "Keep up the good fight!" I know just as I know that I am breathing, I believe we will always argue but we will ALWAYS respect each others' beliefs!! Think I will take a break now BUT I will continue to read comments!! Thanks again!!

dichotomy
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dichotomy 12/09/13 - 12:27 pm
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SSI fraud is so rampant that

SSI fraud is so rampant that it is shameful we are stupid enough to let it go on like it is. I would venture a guess that less than 25% of the people who are drawing it are actually disabled. Many are simply drug addicts who we enable by paying them to be addicts. Just like we pay the unemployed to stay unemployed. Or the food stamp addicts we pay so well they decide it is a lifestyle. Cut ALL of this crap out and you will be surprised how many ABLE people we have and how many people actually CAN find a job when their cable TV gets turned off.

OJP
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OJP 12/09/13 - 12:30 pm
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@Humble Angela

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

It's not, and that position is a straw man. It's like saying you are pro-good things and anti-bad things.

And this Forbes chart shows that the money overwhelmingly goes to those who need it/are trying: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/leonardburman/files/2012/02/SNAP-2010.png

86% of recipients are: workers, the elderly, the disabled, and kids.

teaparty
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teaparty 12/09/13 - 12:32 pm
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"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."

HA, I agree but they should pay us the interest on OUR MONEY they have been taking by force.

teaparty
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teaparty 12/09/13 - 12:36 pm
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"86% of recipients are:
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"86% of recipients are: workers, the elderly, the disabled, and kids.:
OJP, if you believe those numbers I have a bridge I would like to sell you.

Bizkit
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Bizkit 12/09/13 - 12:48 pm
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The rich supported Obama

The rich supported Obama because he supports them-they typical lie that it's the other side who is bad. More Wall Street millionaires supported Obama and other millionaires supported Obama to help him get to the top accumulation of wealth for any presidency. I can't believe some people still believe anything the president says or has said-what a Rube.

Bizkit
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Bizkit 12/09/13 - 12:56 pm
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Like any biological system

Like any biological system you can't have more consumers than producers-its a failed ecosystem. Rather than the Dem communist strategy of wealth redistribution and drag everything down-why not increase the opportunity for everyone to be wealthy. Dems are so mediocre with no imagination. I easily envision America the land of opportunity to increase your standing and wealth-which historically has been the case till more recent times. Obviously some folks saw opportunity and took the chance and grabbed it to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs while others chose poorly and aren't productive nor reaped the gains of such productivity. America doesn't produce anything anymore so how can we be productive with jobs? Congress needs to ban technology that puts people out of work-because we need everyone to work and be productive. From industry to farming hands are being replaced with technology and robotics. Likely future surgeons will likely all be robotic to eliminate human error-as all pharmacies. It makes sense to improve but at what expense?

t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 01:06 pm
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Bizkit @ 11:56

"Dems are so mediocre with no imagination"

I agree with this statement and the rest of your comment about availability of jobs in order to EARN entitlements. I know it would not set well with Democrats or Republicans, BUT WHY not creat government jobs that would AT LEAST make welfare, Medicaid, and food stamp recipients EARN their benefits??!! I mean, these jobs might be "in name only", BUT this would teach them, "AT THE VERY LEAST" how to show up at a job on time and stay at that job for 8 hours!!

Bizkit
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Bizkit 12/09/13 - 01:11 pm
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Great idea tbledsoe we get a

Great idea tbledsoe we get a return for our investment. Now its just a black hole that sucks everything up and has no upside. Better to spend the money and invest in their future to be productive in some capacity rather than dependents. Like who would want their kids as life long dependents-time to get off the tit.

t3bledsoe
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t3bledsoe 12/09/13 - 01:11 pm
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Bizkit @ 11:48

"The rich supported Obama because he supports them-they typical lie that it's the other side who is bad. More Wall Street millionaires supported Obama and other millionaires supported Obama to help him get to the top accumulation of wealth for any presidency. I can't believe some people still believe anything the president says or has said-what a Rube"

Again, I agree with your comment!! I believe Obamacare is going to make the insurance companies "FILTHY RICH"!!!!

robert2410
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robert2410 12/09/13 - 01:34 pm
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Giving money and power to
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Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

robert2410
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robert2410 12/09/13 - 01:38 pm
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There is only one basic human
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There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you darn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.
- P.J. O'Rourke

Humble Angela
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Humble Angela 12/09/13 - 01:43 pm
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OJP...let me know when you
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OJP...let me know when you see that "straw man" using coupons and buying only the generic brands, because his EBT doesn't have enough to live on.

Humble Angela
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Humble Angela 12/09/13 - 01:53 pm
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OJP....problem with your pie
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OJP....problem with your pie chart. How do we know that the slice labeled "elderly and disabled" is legitimate? How many have fake disabilities, like have been mentioned above? Do you have those numbers? Not knowing the number of bogus disabilities could GREATLY skew your numbers, couldn't it? Unless you are saying that there is no fraud........which would be a very naive statement.

Humble Angela
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Humble Angela 12/09/13 - 02:23 pm
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Nice....you point out very
Unpublished

Nice....you point out very real problems with statistics, and someone gives the "thumbs down." I guess the truth is a hard pill for some to swallow.

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 12/09/13 - 02:46 pm
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Means testing...

You already are means tested. When they started taxing SS benefits (Reagan/Greenspan), it taxed people with other income over the prescribed threshold; in other words, people of better means.

Clinton presided over an increase in that rate,

http://www.ssa.gov/history/InternetMyths2.html

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 12/09/13 - 02:59 pm
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My very simple solution

to at least help with the SS funding crisis is to start delaying eligibility. After all, it is the increase in lifespans that is a big part of the financing imbalance.

You can do it without creating any pain too. Don't just raise the age for everyone, raise it something like this:

For every year you are away from 66 (or 65, or 67-depending on birth year), add one month. If you are 65, you are eligible in 13 months, not 12. If you are 50, eligibility is 67 + 4 months, 20 y.o.'s would be 69 + 10 months, a child born today would be 71 yrs 6 months.

You get the picture. A child born today probably will have remaining life expectancy in years @ 71.5 equivalent to a 66 y.o. today.

jimmymac
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jimmymac 12/09/13 - 03:11 pm
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RAISING AGE
Unpublished

Why is it the people who draw SS should wait until at least 62 to draw SS benefits? People working in the public sectors are eligible to retire in their 40s if they have 30 years service. In some public sector jobs the retirement can come after 20 years. Why is the private SS system expecting people to work so much longer but public workers get away with a much shorter work requirement? Both retirement systems are having huge shortfalls but only SS is in danger of being targets for reductions.

Bizkit
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Bizkit 12/09/13 - 03:58 pm
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Well it's a losing battle. I

Well it's a losing battle. I think our days are numbered. Time to grow out a pony tail again and join the Dems and vote communist. If you can't beat em-join em. Why bother anymore. Why be a producer when I can be a consumer a live off the govt dole and take other peoples money rather they mine with income redistribution. Sadly the income redistribution never touches the wealthy who make over a million which leaves the middle-to-upper middle class and lower upper class taking the biggest hit=which is also a lot of small business. The wealth inequality remains the same because the idiots don't know the difference between wealth and income redistribution. They never touch wealth just income which other countries have raided private wealth for redistribution, and is likely what is planned to come next=communal wealth. Besides I'm sure the CIA and Justice Department have a file on any poster who has spoken ill of Obama. So a change of tune is in order-Obama is great. I'm now a Obama fan-he can do no wrong because we have a permanent get of free card-Rep admit they are stupid. Yep stupid of evolution, stupid of woman's rights, stupid about abortion, stupid about drugs, just plain stupid. Vote Dem for life=because utopia is coming. Course in order to have utopia we may have to rid ourselves of some dissenters and genetically inferior beings who screw up the gene pool with conservative genes. Now I'm on the winning side I don't have to worry-shhhhhhhh. I'm in the closet now. Like tbledsoe I'm a liberal Dem now. I'm on the Obama train-toot toot, toot, toot, toot, toot, toot. Hey that reminds me of Savoy Brown and Hell bound train. Seems appropriate-gosh my hair is growing into a pony tail already-I feel liberal and next will be the progressive transformation. Change is good and "everything" has to be changed. No more status quo of anything-no matter it works or not. It doesn't matter if it works -it has to be "changed" and in a "fundamental" way. Ah I'm learning the language fast. I feel like Jekyll and Hyde. Dang you Hyde.

Bizkit
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Bizkit 12/09/13 - 04:07 pm
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I'm feelin' patriotic and

I'm feelin' patriotic and it's Christmas so I'm giving all my salary to the federal govt-because they'd it spent more wisely than I anyway. And besides I want to share the wealth and we all be a part of a "communal wealth of industry and property and possessions". Who needs a salary in utopia. I'll have so much free time I'll have to take up dope to waste time-seems the inner city solution with no jobs and nuttin' to do. Man I haven't smoked a joint since the 70s-but I gotta get with the program to fit in with my new progressive friends. I can trash Sarah Palin and Rush and talk about how stupid they are as I and my progressive friends get wasted and pass out from smokin' too much medicinal pot. I'll have Alec Balwin and Bill Maher on speed dial. Dang I have to give up my religion to fit in-Alec thinks his Christian brother is a moron. Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all. Reminds of Good Fellas and joining the mafia. I think I'll stay an independent.

teaparty
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teaparty 12/09/13 - 04:18 pm
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Bizkit, it does make a person
Unpublished

Bizkit, it does make a person want to throw-up over the stupidity don't it

myfather15
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myfather15 12/09/13 - 06:19 pm
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teaparty

Absolutely!! Trying to understand how liberals think, makes you want to puke or bash your head against a wall until you passed out; to get mental relief.

Bizkit
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Bizkit 12/09/13 - 06:36 pm
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Experimentin' with ideology

Experimentin' with ideology is like messin' with drugs, and I can see how the progressive ideology can be so addictive-just create this utopia in your mind and no bother how to pay for it, give someone else's money away, no responsibility or care, communal property, communal sex and our children are communal with no mommy or daddy, communal health and wealth. It's going to be great-just think it and like Pharaoh it is so. Gosh.

PassingOnBy
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PassingOnBy 12/10/13 - 11:10 pm
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Simpler solution

When Social Security was created, the average person's income was around $1500-2000/year at most. So the salary cap set for paying into the system was about what a Hollywood contract player made in a year--$100K or thereabouts. That was considered big bucks back in the 1930s and no one could conceive of people now making millions a year.

Today, the cap is still stops at only $108K total annual salary for contributions, no matter how much one makes. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the average Congressperson all stop paying when they hit that $108K contribution cap. Even doubling the cap to around $220-250K a year would keep the system solvent and preclude having to raise the retirement age or whatever.

Someone mentioned getting interest on the money they put in--guess what? Most people will draw out much more than they paid in. It amazes me that people like Ron Paul, who whines incessantly about the program, pony up for their check the first day they become eligible because they're "entitled" to it. Ayn Rand even demanded her cut, despite attacking the system for a good 30 years prior.

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