Entitlements

Pandering to Geezers

It's a bipartisan problem.

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With less than three weeks to go before Election Day, we can't be certain who will emerge with control of Congress. We can be certain, though, about what the party that wins will do with its power: suck up to Granny.

We know that because candidates are wearing themselves out screaming hysterically at their opponents for allegedly suggesting anyone with white hair should ever be asked to sacrifice in the interest of fiscal balance, economic vitality, or national survival. Not, by the way, that their opponents have actually made any such suggestions.

Rep. Debbie Halvorson, D-Ill., has an ad in which one old person after another angrily scolds her Republican opponent, Adam Kinzinger, for proposing to raise the retirement age. Their thoughtful critiques include such lines as "Don't you dare!" and "Keep your hands off my Social Security!"

But Kinzinger is not putting his hands on the benefits of frail little old ladies like those seen in this commercial. His stated idea is to gradually increase the future retirement age "to take into account increases in longevity"—not to force 80-year-olds back into the coal mines. No one is talking about increasing the age of eligibility for those already retired or anywhere close to retirement.

Halvorson depicts the very idea as an atrocity that she and her party would never consider. As it happens, though, House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland gave a speech in June asserting that "we could and should consider a higher retirement age, or one pegged to lifespan."

Democrats are not alone in their pandering to retirement home residents. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who is running for the Senate against state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, attacks the Obama administration for a health care plan that includes "$500 billion in cuts for seniors, who depend on Medicare."

If you are a normal person, you may assume that these cuts mean the government will be spending far less on Medicare benefits. But normal ways of thinking do not apply in the political arena. In truth, those benefits will keep growing at a brisk clip. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in the next decade, Medicare outlays will increase by 76 percent. Spending per recipient will rise by 36 percent. That sound you hear is the world's smallest violin.

Kirk neglects to mention that even some Republicans favor moderating the growth of (aka "cutting") Medicare spending. Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, one of the party's young visionaries, proposes to save money by replacing the existing entitlement with vouchers, so retirees can buy private coverage.

That may or may not be the optimal remedy, but there is no escaping the need to contain entitlement costs. The anti-deficit Concord Coalition points out that by 2042, absent reform, Social Security will take 50 percent more out of the economy than it does today, forcing a big increase in payroll taxes. The outlook for Medicare is even worse. Something has to give.

The good news is we're all living longer. The bad news is we can't afford to retire with any semblance of comfort unless we work more years to provide the funds for our leisure years. A higher retirement age is unavoidable, unless we all volunteer to shuffle off to the graveyard ahead of schedule.

The normal retirement age is already scheduled to rise to 67 by 2022. Even if it were slowly bumped up to 70, future retirees would enjoy higher living standards than current ones. Eugene Steuerle, an analyst with the center-left Urban Institute, says this change would allow median lifetime benefits per person "to increase from about $250,000 for today's people in their 50s to $360,000 for their 10-year-old kids."

The story for Americans who are now retired or verging on retirement is even less scary, since the higher retirement age would not apply to them. The changes in Medicare would mean only that their benefits would not grow quite as rapidly as they would have otherwise.

Says Steuerle, "Purely from self-interest, the elderly should lobby for Social Security reform because no other budget revision so totally exempts them from sharing the pain of deficit reduction."

Maybe Halvorson and Kirk will run ads featuring unhappy fourth-graders saying, "Keep your hands off that Social Security check I'll collect when I get old" and "Don't mess with the Medicare benefits I'm going to need in 2070." But in their eyes, truth is no virtue.

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  1. 2 from Elvis:

    What do I really have left in life but this place? It ain’t much of a home, but it’s all I got. Well, goddamnit. I’ll be damned if I let some foreign, graffiti writin’, soul suckin’, son of a bitch in an oversized cowboy hat and boots take my friend’s souls and shit ’em down the visitors toilet!

    Ask not what your rest home can do for you. Ask what you can do for your rest home.

  2. 2 from Elvis:

    What do I really have left in life but this place? It ain’t much of a home, but it’s all I got. Well, goddamnit. I’ll be damned if I let some foreign, graffiti writin’, soul suckin’, son of a bitch in an oversized cowboy hat and boots take my friend’s souls and shit ’em down the visitors toilet!

    Ask not what your rest home can do for you. Ask what you can do for your rest home.

  3. Gotta love Bubba Ho-Tep. Love the score too.

    1. The commentary track with Bruce Campbell in character as Elvis is priceless. “Ah didn’t make many horror pictures, terror pictures… well, there was Harum Scarum.”

      1. Bruce Campbell is priceless in almost everything he does. It really surprised me it took as long as it did for Campbell to get his due. I guess his fans had to get old enough to be able to make commercials, movies and TV shows in order for him to really prosper in front of a larger audience.

    1. Yeah, but I’m sure they were all over it when the money was flowing to Democrats via nonprofits. After all, NPC is “nonpolitical,” right?

      1. Um, that should be NPR. I guess MNG will make fun of me now.

        1. The other queers around here need to teach that twink a lesson.

      2. you are all NPCs in the first person shooter that is my life.

    2. I heard that. Has anyone noticed that amid all the Democrat (but not Republican) hand-wringing, the one player in all this who is consistently ignored, if not utterly invisible, is the voter himself? The Democrat-strategist narrative is dependent upon the fiction that voters base their decisions solely on the over-the-top propaganda of TV ads. Even if that were true, wouldn’t the complainers’ beef be with the vapidity and intellectual laziness of the electorate? But no. Democrat pundits never put the blame where it belongs. It’s always the “other” who are imperiling our sacred republic with “secret money,” and not voter dissatisfaction with those in charge.

      1. Exactly. If the electors are so stupid that they will vote for anyone who has the shiniest and most omnipresent eye candy, what’s the point of democracy anyway?

      2. But that cuts both ways. Why should either side care about the right to advertise if advertising has no effect?

        Last I heard, nobody had any proof advertising for anything ever had any effect. About the only feedback you get is if you offer a discount to customers who say they got your ad.

        1. This election cycle already has plenty of big-spending losers, but the handwringers would have us believe that the biggest spenders are always victorious. By the way, how many of those millions in campaign dollars have MSNBC or CNN refused? Does the New York Times pass on campaign ads? Their accounting departments certainly are not complaining about this particular revenue stream.

    3. So NPR jumped on the bash the Chamber of Commerce bandwagon? Hilarious.

      1. They didn’t mention the Chamber in the morning segment. Perhaps this afternoon? But I think that’s too much even for NPR. Many liberal media establishments have criticized and questioned Obama’s bizarre attacks on the Chamber, but the Administration isn’t backing down. In fact, they seem to be doubling down.

        1. Correction: the Chamber was mentioned in the NPR piece, but not in the “foreign influence” sense that the Administration is alleging.

  4. The Democrat-strategist narrative is dependent upon the fiction that voters base their decisions solely on the over-the-top propaganda of TV ads.

    Yep, we’re idiots who need the protection of “our betters” as consumers and as voters. How we’re going to control our elected “betters” after they are given the power to control us for our own good is never addressed.

    1. The nice thing about it is that, this time, the regime’s strategy will fail. Citizens United is a done deal. The election-day cake seems to be baked. The strategists are looking past the election, writing the eulogy of their own funeral before the fact, and attempting to put it in the best light by blaming the “scary” 501(c) organizations and their nefarious, secretive, possibly foreign bankrollers who “stole” the election from the virtuous but helpless electorate. It’s a comically transparent strategy, one that even rank-and-file Democrats must have a hard time swallowing.

    2. The target of the foreign money story is the base. Think “selected, not elected”. You can’t send a January fundraiser out that says: “We got our asses kicked because we’re ineffective, arrogant morons — send cash.”

  5. We know that because candidates are wearing themselves out screaming hysterically at their opponents for allegedly suggesting anyone with white hair should ever be asked to sacrifice in the interest of fiscal balance.

    None of the reforms are serious because none of them address the reason that these programs destroy so much wealth: Social Security and Medicare are pay-as-you go plans. The millions of people who got something for nothing are dead.

    I don’t have white hair yet but when the time comes for me to collect a small fraction of the 15+ percent I was forced to put into Social Security and Medicare I will expect it. And that is with the knowledge today that for the next 25 years my OASDI/HI rates will go up, my benefits will be decreased, the age of eligibility will increase and the benefits themselves eventually will be means-tested. After a lifetime of sacrificing at the alter of payroll taxes this seems reasonable.

    1. The millions of people who got something for nothing are dead.

      Nobody got something for nothing. Everyone who “got” something was taxed during his working life to fund the scheme. The biggest problem is that the payout is exceeding the pay-in.

    2. Stop thinking of it as an entitlement and start thinking of it as a transfer payment.

      Just because you have an SSN does not mean you have an “account”.

      “Paying in” to a wealth transfer scheme does not guarantee, nor should you rely on, a “pay out”.

      Getting statements from the government about “projected benefits” is just another part of the deception.

      1. Well stated.

      2. Stop thinking of it as an entitlement and start thinking of it as a transfer payment.

        It does not matter how you think of it, my point is that the people with white hair have a very legitimate claim to their benefits. The disgust for the wealth-destroying capacity of these programs should be placed squarely on progressives and the government, not on senior citizens.

        Getting statements from the government about “projected benefits” is just another part of the deception.

        It is not “projected benefits” it is “estimated benefits” and it is not a deception it is a contract. Or as the fucktards at the SSA call it, a “compact”. Ask the Indians what one of those is worth.

        1. It isn’t a compact.

          Nobody has legitimate claims for anything (if they did, why isn’t that “property” claim transferable?)

          If government cut off food stamps tomorrow, you would not say the poor have a legitimate claim. It is the same thing with SS. It is a transfer payment to the old; nothing more.

          1. If government cut off food stamps tomorrow, you would not say the poor have a legitimate claim.

            You and I would not say they have a legitimate claim.

            A zillion leftists would.

            1. The key part is: what would the government say?

              Despite obfuscations on the government’s part, including “benefits statements”, your own “account number”, talking about “investing” in the program, etc., Social Security is a straight transfer program. 65-year-olds who pay those taxes their entire lives are no more entitled to SS benefits than anybody else who pays taxes and sees none of the benefits (i.e. the wealthy and food stamps, the employed and unemployment, and so on).

              A legitimate claim is a legal claim. And legally, Social Security exists today and may not exist tomorrow, and there is all of jack and shit when it comes to “claims” against that program.

          2. Well, I think SP is getting at is that it is a social welfare program.
            And I think one of the main causes of NOT being to discuss the program ratinally is that a LOT of people have been indoctrinated to believe that is their money (Hell, I get a statement that sure looks like an account telling how much money I am due).
            If those who are supposedly progressive were forced to understand that SS gives to the older, richer, whiter as the expense of the poorer, younger, and darker, than maybe some reasonable reform could be discussed.
            Of course, I am getting to be ancient, so I WANT MINE!

            1. Except he said “I will expect [SS benefits]” and that the old people have a “very legitimate claim”.

              The wisdom of such “expectations” aside, no one has a claim on Social Security benefits.

              The solution (to take care of yourself, that is) is to advocate for Social Security reform, while socking away enough for your retirement without relying on one penny from SS. “hope for the best; prepare for the worst”.

        2. “It does not matter how you think of it, my point is that the people with white hair have a very legitimate claim to their benefits.”

          Fleming vs. Nestor begs to differ.

          SS is a tax–nothing more, nothing less. It is not an insurance program, it is not an entitlement, it is not a contract. It is a tax, and as such it’s one that can be increased or eliminated entirely depending on the whims of the regime.

          Sooner or later these white-haired people are going to figure out that the government lied to them.

          1. Don’t they know already? They do. They just don’t care. They’ll eat their own grandchildren to stay on the gravy train. And oh, how cheaply they were bought!

  6. It’s a shame how the mainstream media has made this issue off limits for debate. As one approaching retirement, I see no reason why co-payments and means testing should not be introduced into Medicare and Medicaid to improve their fiscal health. Most in our society is already accustomed to this aspect of healthcare.

  7. When government institutes a retirement program as a matter of nationwide law, and takes taxpayer money to fund it, they can raise the retirement age to whatever they decide.

    What the government gives us, it can just as easily take away.

    They lied to us all for 75 years about the Social Security trust fund, and they can now correct the problem created by their lies by making changes to the age when you can retire. It doesn’t matter that, by 65, probably half of the working people of the country are embarking on various processes of debilitation. Now they’ll have to wait until they’re 70 to draw the money they put into their retirement as FICA taxes all of their working lives. Such wind through your nether channel, folks. Welcome to the nanny state.

  8. Now they’ll have to wait until they’re 70 to draw the money they put into their retirement as FICA taxes all of their working lives.

    Read Ayn Randian’s post again. Nobody put money into their own retirement as FICA taxes. That money went into other people’s retirement (and into the general fund), and is now all gone.

    1. It does not change the fact that the payroll tax funds the scheme, regardless of how you define the transfer mechanism, or how many detours the cash makes along the way, or whether the funding is sufficient to cover the entire obligation. It clearly is not sufficient, and the “fund” itself is certainly an illusion, a bookkeeping trick. But the “fund” is not “gone” so long as the federal government keeps the faucet open. Available cash does actually exist. But there isn’t enough of it, under the current revenue and payout scheme, to cover every obligation.

      1. But there isn’t enough of it, under the current revenue and payout scheme, to cover every obligation.

        The technical term for this is “insolvent”.

        In business and personal affairs this leads to the legal state of bankruptcy.

        In government, it generally leads to a fiscal crisis or inflation.

        1. We call it ‘stagflation’ – 70’s, here we come.
          As I have kept my powder blue leisure suit, and gold chain, I will prosper (the leisure suit is a McGuffin – bold, bitchez)

          1. Oh shit, disco ain’t coming back is it?

  9. Old people vote. more then any other group of people in this country would be my guess. they vote in even the most boring smalltime state elections etc etc… that’s why they get everything they want.

    1. Change the voting ages to 18 through 60.

      1. No, change the minimum age for voting to 62! heh.

      2. Or as a friend of mine once said, have elections on Saturday.

  10. More comedy from the land of Lincoln (the Picassos call it home).
    *sigh*

    Oh, from this GenXer to teh B-Boomers: Please leave something in the kitty.
    Besides a full ‘Depend’ http://www.us.depend.com/

  11. There’s a hilarious negative ad being run hereabouts. Three old geezers (and geezer is an understatement) are shown in series, against a white background, each railing against Senor Office-Seeker. One of them even says, in his most-disgusted voice, “He even called Social Security a Ponzi scheme!!”

    Is it pre-ordained that the old just get stupid? Guess I better join AARP…

    1. The Ponzi scheme that dare not speak its name.

  12. Snarking aside, what are us older folks who played the game for 50 years or more supposed to do? Eat cat food? No, I know: get a job at a convenience store. The tax money that went to SS over the years could have been invested – by me – in my own retirement. I never quite made enough to have a retirement fund large enough to live on mainly because I wasn’t smart enough to become a school teacher, I guess. The distortions that federal and state laws create in retirement planning and nearly everything else are overwhelming for the average Joe and Josephine. Now if I made enough so that I could claim “I forgot” as an excuse for not declaring $134,000 in income – our beloved Sec of Treasury; remember? – I wouldn’t have the problem.

    My point is, what are those of us who are retired supposed to do? Die? Don’t forget the folks trapped in the various government schemes, like welfare, food stamps, working for companies which are rent-seeking, not profit-seeking, etc etc, as you debate how to create the libertarian version of the “Brave New World”. This isn’t a plea for mercy; it’s a reminder that we’re not just going to die off in one fell swoop and make it easy for you.

    1. I’m going to be there shortly too. What we who are about to collect s.s. and medicare need to do is support realistic reforms that greatly reduce these programs over time and give people time to adjust. Too many seniors (e.g. AARP) want no changes – even if they don’t affect them.
      I would support some modest means-testing that was based on what one had earned in one’s working life, not what one has in assets today. Retirement age has to be raised to at least 70 and early retirement to 64. Portions of the tax need to be directed to individual accounts.

      1. I agree.
        I will be going to the great geritol land shortly. But what everybody there should think about is this:
        It really isn’t your money in a separate account. I know you were lied to. But even though the old are more immune to gubermint cutbacks than most, we are not entirely immune. If the country doesn’t prosper, neither will we. That is why it behooves (you know, ‘behooves’ is an interesting word – does it mean that you get hooves, or shoes for your hoofs?) us to have economic policies that provide for the maximum standard of living.

    2. Ike|10.14.10 @ 11:03AM|#
      “Snarking aside, what are us older folks who played the game for 50 years or more supposed to do? Eat cat food? No, I know: get a job at a convenience store.”
      Snarking aside, I hope you’ve been saving/investing.
      Along about 30 years ago, I thought it was pretty obvious that s/s was a disaster in process, and relying on it was like relying on, oh, the government to do something right.

      1. Yes, it was obvious about 30 years ago; that’s 1980. We voted Reagan in and thought that the Repubs were going to carry on. They did, but as in “Par-ty” not what we voted them in for. What else were we to do? Run for office ourselves?

    3. I thought the point of the article was that nobody’s talking about killing off SS for current retirees. Heck, I didn’t even see any commenters saying that, though I may have missed one or two.

    4. Sorry Pops, when the Fed finally drops a Cleveland Steamer on our chests you will be among the first to go. Unless your gnarled fingers can still fire an AK. (Hope you got plenty of clips stashed in yer hoveround).

      You see, stakes are much higher than your cat food diet. Trust in the Lawd, and pray it’ll be quick. Or help us make the Fed something near-solvent with your mighty aged vote.

      It’s our only hope Obi Wan!

      1. Twenty-four years in the Army, sonny, including three years in Vietnam and three more in Iraq. Bring it on!

        Yeah, I know. I’ve been trying to vote for the right idiots.

        1. OK, I’ll shut up now.

  13. Come on man, it’s way past time for an article on legalizing drugs! What the fuck has happened to this magazine?

  14. The good news is we’re all living longer. The bad news is we can’t afford to…

    That about sums it up.

    1. Maybe we’re living shorter, and the lack of money just makes it seem longer?

  15. Geezers need excitement. If their lives don’t provide them this they incite violence. Common sense, simple common sense.

    1. Oh, nice Streets shout…

  16. We note with interest that SSI checks will contain no increase for the second year in a row. It is also interesting that Food, Housing and Utilities increases are not used in the COLA calculation. I hadn’t planned to buy a new Corvette or Cadillac convertible with my Social Security check so, if I, a geezer don’t go frittering away my money on such frills as food, or heat, or rent, I will never miss the increase I was expecting!

    Are DC Dummies so Dense they dont know that Housing, Food and Utilities are the only things Seniors spend their benefits on? And didn’t they noticed the Government workers already got their increases? Why wern’t they who are still working and drawing a paycheck, asked to sacrafice? And when will their retirement age be moved to 67? Inquiring minds want to know

  17. fresnodan, your post reminds me of the guy who asked: Hey, Doc, if I give up smoking, drinking and womanizing, will I live longer?
    Doc says, It’ll sure as hell seem longer!

    And then there is the cartoon of the Geezer (Who was older than his mother)
    in his doctors office with his walker.
    The Doc says, George, remember the twenty years you added to your life with clean healthy living? “Well These Are Them”!
    It only hurts when you laugh.

  18. Regular Guy writes, “It’s a shame how the MSM has made this issue off limits for debate”.
    Yes, they have done it!
    How in hell did they do it?
    We are kept in the dungeon like mushrooms and fed bullshit. But we never catch on so It is somewhat our fault.

    Case in point. The wheels come off as soon as the phrase “Privatizing Social Security”. The premise being a portion of the FICA payments would be invested in the market at some level. That makes people piss their pants! The mushrooms are too dumb to recognize that some of the largest investors in the market are PENSION FUNDS! It’s a good idea, and the only idea for growing the Unions’ retirement funds but too scary for SS funds. To paraphrase Pogo, we have met the enemy and he is us, the dumbshits!

  19. Eliminating prescription laws would greatly reduce the cost of medicine. It will be claimed that these laws protect the public. I think however that all these laws do is protect the income of doctors!

    1. Thank you Jerome.

      I just read the entire comments section, and that was a great one to end it with.

      I have been trying to expose the prescription system as just a gravy train for the medical cartel for a long time now, and I’m glad someone else sees this to.

      OTC heroin baby!

      Also, fuck patents.

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