Social Security Comic Books Offered Kids a Way to Avoid Costly Obligations to Mom and Pop

Between 1956 and 1969, the Social Security Administration published a series of comic books intended to sell the seniors' retirement program to youngsters. One of the arguments the series makes is that Social Security is great because it relieves children and young adults of responsibility to help pay for the expenses of an aging parent. Don't want to deal with mom and dad's late-life costs? That's what federal retirement benefits for seniors are for. 

Except, of course, that's not quite how the program ended up working in practice. 

Via Slate, here's a page from a 1965 comic about a young woman whose dream was to get married, but her father's expenses just kept getting in the way. (Click on the image to see a larger version). 

It's interesting to see Social Security make the case for itself on the basis of health care costs. The political class of 1965 didn't think it would do enough to pay for senior health care costs; that same year, Medicare and Medicaid were passed into law

These days, the program's defenders tend to argue that Social Security should be protected because seniors have "earned" its benefits.  "You've paid into these programs your whole lives. You've earned them," President Obama has said. The implication is that it's your money, taken out of your paycheck, and you should get it back. It's a highly misleading argument. Many people believe it's a government-run savings program, but in fact it works more like a straightforward transfer program: current benefits aren't paid out of individually held accounts but out of taxes paid by today's workers.

And the benefits that many seniors have or will receive are worth far more than they paid in: A single earner couple turning 65 in 2010 and earning the average wage would have paid in about $294,000 in Social Security taxes over a lifetime — but would get about $447,000 back, according to the Urban Institute. Include Medicare in the mix, and the imbalance is even larger: Lifetime taxes paid in would be about $352,000 while benefits would be about $798,000. (Two earner couples both making the average wage and retiring in 2010 would pay enough in taxes to finance their own retirement benefits, but would still get more out of the system overall when Medicare benefits are factored.)

It's funny, then, that the program was advertised as a way for young adults to avoid financial responsibility to their parents. In fact, it enforces it. Thanks to the way that Social Security's transfer financing works, today's younger workers end up paying for retirement benefits for today's seniors whether they want to or not. 

You can find the SSA's achive of its comics online here

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  • Ted S.||

    Gotta love Ponzi schemes.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    No, you don't.

  • John Thacker||

    But of course the money had to come from somewhere.

    It's no surprise that social insurance provisions like Social Security are correlated with decreases in fertility. Instead of paying for your parents, you pay for everyone's parents. Having kids becomes more of a sucker's game.

  • Greg F||

    But of course the money had to come from somewhere.

    Same blind spot that the Keynesian's exploit to justify their "stimulus" nonsense.

  • tarran||

    It's important to understand that there are three components to the problem:

    1) The amount paid in benefits greatly exceeds the amount people paid in.

    2) However, is people invested the same amount in something like a variable annuity, permanent life insurance product or a retirement account, the cash value of those investment vehicles would vastly exceed the benefits paid out in Social Security

    3)Having the social security administrator 'invest' the payroll taxes in equity markets to bring it in line with the payout that people should be getting would result in the effective takeover of the capital markets by the government.

    So essentially, the choice is:

    1) Get rid of it entirely (the sensible option)
    2) Go full on fascist by allowing the govt to buy shares of private companies .
    3) Continue to fuck people out of a secure retirement by diverting their savings to the shitty investment that is government bonds.

  • JW||

    So...trap?

  • Rhinonamous||

    Trap.

  • GILMORE||

    tarran| 11.27.12 @ 1:55PM |#

    It's important to understand that there are three components to the problem:

    1) The amount paid in benefits greatly exceeds the amount people paid in.

    2) However, is people invested the same amount in something like a variable annuity, permanent life insurance product or a retirement account, the cash value of those investment vehicles would vastly exceed the benefits paid out in Social Security

    This is easily demonstrable.

    (*although I'd have not mentioned VAs, since I've seen some that really sucked as investments between 2002-2012: mainly because they have such high expenses)

    Typically, an annuity or LI product can provide approximately *double* the amount of contribution ('premium') in benefits over even a fixed period like 20yrs. Over 40+? The compounding effect starts to get pretty dramatic.

    if people had *real* health savings accounts, or *real* personal income reinvested for them for retirement ('mandatory 401K')... we'd look at the current Social Security/Medicare system and wonder why in hell anyone would want something so inefficient and unproductive. Instead, we're stuck with trillions in unfunded liability and apparently can't conceive of any way out of the hole these programs have dug for the country *other than to make them bigger*

  • GILMORE||

    in case anyone needs a harder Nut-Punch today... =

    Why $16 Trillion Only Hints at the True U.S. Debt

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/.....4AHFuTmYlQ

  • johnl||

    The SSTF would be in better shape if it had invested in 30YT. Instead, it invested at an artificially low rate. Essentially, the fund was raided by Congress the whole time it's operated.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Is there another group of programs that has so destroyed the fabric of family and community than the so called Great Society programs?

  • AuH2O||

    The New Deal programs?

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    The New Deal programs?

    I would agree with you that the Great Society programs finished what the New Deal programs started.

    Sometimes a person can wish for a hell so FDR and LBJ could share a cell.

  • AuH2O||

    As a deist, I have no reason to believe in an afterlife, and I am not even that big on Heaven.

    But I very firmly wish for their to be a hell. I like to think that Josef Stalin somehow, someway, got to experience the pain of every single one of his victims. Helps me sleep better at night.

  • Robert||

    What has deism to do with belief or disbelief in afterlife? They seem to be entirely separate issues.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Sometimes a person can wish for a hell so FDR and LBJ could share a cell.

    Who would be the wife and who would be the husband? I'm thinking LBJ would be on top, which would suck for FDR as Johnson supposedly had a huge dick.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    FDR was a momma's boy, so yeah, LBJ would definitely be the top in that relationship.

  • toolkien||

    How does Bush II and Medicare Part D get a pass? The accrual basis debt as reported in the Financial Report of the United States Government shot up from $31,000,000,000,000 to a cool $42,000,000,000,000 over one reporting year - with one stroke of the pen. The present value of Medicare Part D was ~$11,000,000,000,000. But I guess people missed that part. That unabashed fiscal liberalism was the final straw for my having anything to do with Republicanism. I could hold my nose and make peace with the moralist right, but when it went full on fiscally liberal, socially conservative what was there to like? I'm not overly partial to elephants either.

  • AuH2O||

    Oh, actually, I just thought up a better one: The Cultural Revolution.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    These days, the program's defenders tend to argue that Social Security should be protected because seniors have "earned" its benefits. "You've paid into these programs your whole lives. You've earned them," President Obama has said on a number of occasions.

    If I spend my entire life burning my money, is the government entitled to give me the entirety of what I wasted when I reach 65?

  • Belgian||

    Government: a series of convenient, if inconsistent, lies propagated by useful idiots like Tony.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    That comic is what turned T O N Y into a liberal. True story.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Wow...that's some hard core Soviet/Red China shit. And notice that the poster was made for May Day.

  • ||

    That perfectly encapsulates the mind of the statist. Absolutely revolting.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    IT TAKES A VILLAGE...(of the superstitious and fearful to execute a woman by stoning because she's just not like the rest us)!

  • ||

    Collectivism: it's what's for dinner.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Collectivism: it's what's for dinner.

    Sure, after standing in line for 8 hours for bread, and another 8 hours for meat (if you can get it) because collective production and distribution systems work so well.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It Takes Some Pillage.

  • ||

    Children's Bureau, which is the federal agency responsible for the health and welfare of America's children.

    What was that English fellow's name? George something.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Jetson.

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    "Jane, stop this crazy thing!"

  • Bardas Phocas||

    We should also fine - no, tax Dad for not having adequate health insurance. Now his daughter will die an old unloved spinster becuase of his freeloading ways. I hope he dies.

  • Lord Humungus||

    and that's why the ancients invented pillows - for smothering old people. /snark

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Well, because of global warming, we will no longer be able to set them adrift on ice floes.

  • AuH2O||

    You gotta love the fifties.

    Young woman:Couldn't I just work after I got married to support my father?
    SSA: Getta load of this crazy dame!

  • Lord Humungus||

    These are modern times! Now we have young adults also paying for grandma's everyone's insurance. It's just a big ol' sinking ship, all the way down.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Was Janet Julia's grandmother?

  • Jordan||

    It's funny, then, that the program was advertised as a way for young adults to avoid financial responsibility to their parents.

    Nothing terrifies collectivists more than having to act on their own principals.

  • Jordan||

    Perhaps I should say "professed principals". Their true principles don't extend beyond "GIMME DAT".

  • sarcasmic||

    "Might makes right"

    They respect violence and nothing else.

  • Drake||

    Reads more like an advertisement for health insurance and ALFLAC. Stupid old fool didn't have insurance?

  • Stephdumas||

    I wish then some English editor will translate this Franco-Belgian comic titled SOS Bonheur, originally published in the mid-1980s, it's more worth reading then the SSA archive.

  • ||

    Many people believe it's a government-run savings program...

    Do they really? Are there seriously a lot of people out there who think the government saves money? I can't comprehend that.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    That's typically where the stupid "SS has a $2 trillion trust fund!!" argument comes from.

    They don't realize (or, like Shriek, compulsively ignore) that in order to cash in that "trust fund," the government has to take out debt to cash the bond.

    Social Security has always been a tax; it's only viewed as an entitlement due to decades of prog brainwashing. Flemming vs. Nestor, however, established that SS is a tax and that you don't have any right to receive benefits from the program.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    I just read "The Future is Now" comic, where social security payments are referred to as a "present". The State is so good to us! So generous!

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Nevermind, they were referring to the present as in "present tense". It still works.

  • db||

    I argued with my Mom over this recently. When I pointed out she never once has asked me to help her purchase health insurance, she said something like that would be unfair to me because she paid in for many years to medicare. I pointed out that she is not getting her own money back, but mine, just as her parents medicare was financed out of her paychecks. I would rather pay directly for it. She thinks that's unfair. She doesn't have a good answer for why it's more fair to stick a gun in other people's children's faces to force them to pay for her health insurance than it would be to ask me for help if she needed it.

    I think a lot of it is the illusion of independence that Medicare and Social Security offer. Dependence on a faceless government program is completely different than having to justify oneself to an individual when one asks for help.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    She doesn't have a good answer for why it's more fair to stick a gun in other people's children's faces to force them to pay for her health insurance than it would be to ask me for help if she needed it.

    It's called being duped. No one ever wants to admit having been a mark, much less a mark of great, benevolent government.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Of all of the reasons to hate one's elder family members, their placing substantial financial obligations on us decades before we were born is the best.

    I didn't sign on for this shit. They signed me up for it long before I was an itch in my daddy's pants. Fuck them.

    Of course I go to jail if I don't pay, so double fuck my grandparents and great-grandparents for placing me and my children in substantial debt as a condition for being born.

  • Agammamon||

    Color me confused by this comic.

    1. She can't work after getting married? Ok, I guess comapnies like Avon weren't in existence for a freaking century before this was written. She can still bring in some money.

    2. Dad doesn't have any savings at all? None?

    3. Were people in the '60's really so selfish, greedy, and self-centered that your fiancee could reasonably expect to call off the wedding because one of your parents got sick?

    Seems that even in olden times (ie before I was born), government wasn't above trotting out bullshit scenarios as the norm and using that to justify the power-grab of the day - kinda like "Julia".

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    "It's funny, then, that the program was advertised as a way for young adults to avoid financial responsibility to their parents. In fact, it enforces it."

    This reminds me of one of the principles that have proven most useful to me as a citizen: Take any political pronouncement. Negate it. Plan and vote on that basis. On rare occasions, you will be wrong. But overwhelmingly, you will be right.

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