Entitlement Programs: Amerika’s Real World Soylent Green
…and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!
Critique of the Gotha Program – Karl Marx
It was 1875, and Germany was well on its way to breaking Marx’s wretched little heart by enacting just enough social welfare to pacify its proletariat and preventing idiots like Karl from making any important decisions. Marx wrote the on the Gotha Program in an effort to prevent his revolutionary ideas from becoming more co-opted than the DNC-sponsored anti-Iraq War Movement of 2006. He failed, but his motto remains the standard Twitterplate description of what Marxism is ultimately supposed to accomplish.
What Marx attempted to establish was thoroughly unworkable in a static or shrinking economy. That, in a sense was a saving grace. It had its own limiting factor, you ran out of other people’s money. What the United States has achieved through entitlements is worse.
Two of these programs, Social Security and Medicare, threaten to devour just about the entire Federal Budget in a few short years. The world gripes about the Spending “Death Spiral” of the F-35. What nobody mentions is that Medicare and Social Security added together comprise over twice as much spending as the entire US Defense Budget. Throw in other entitlements, and 58% of the government’s budget consists of transfer payments.
Nearly Three Times What We Spend on Defense
Clearly, this will not be a sustainable course of action. The size of these programs will grow. The demographics of our nation dictate that the number of people paying into them will decrease. We can do some simple mental calculus to demonstrate the approaching Big Government Chernobyl Event that will occur if this trend is left unchecked. The cost of entitlements is upward monotonic for an infinite period of time. The number and the wealth of the workers paying taxes grow infinitesimally small in comparison to the population of tax-eaters. These entitlement programs go out of business due the ridiculous balance of payments.
In order to prevent this Chernobyl Event from reducing our national balance sheet to molten plasma, I offer the modest proposal that we limit Medicare and Social Security in scope and population to the point where they would be merely as a large a drag on productive society as what Marx proscribed as optimal for Gotha. Let the tax revenues still come from those with appreciable wealth, but let’s limit the population receiving benefits to those who would otherwise die in misery and poverty.
People will balk. “But RMJ, we were pro-mised! The money is in a lock box with my name on it!”
Hmmm…How do I explain his nicely? I can’t explain his nicely. So why bother? About that lock-box, and those IOUs….SUCKA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OK, fair enough. That’s not a definitive analysis. After the IRS lays hands on FICA money it is that it is immediately deployed to The US General Fund. At that point, it is totally fungible with all of the money from any other tax, excise, tariff; fee or duty the USG successfully collects. From the day the taxes supporting Medicare or Social Security are collected, they just get dumped into a kitty.
So let’s stop lying to people. Let’s just admit that in a just world, Social Security and Medicare (if they continued to exist at all) would both be run in accordance with the principals of Marxism. At that point, we would have to hit them both with a nice, spiffy means test.
We then tell them the truth about FICA and the Medicare Tax. They are not investing in their own future. They are only being shaken down for a generational transfer payment. They are being shaken down for a generational transfer payment that will soon be taking money out of their paychecks to make sure people like Warren Buffett and T. Boone Pickens feel adequately provided for in their dotages.
So what gets salvaged if we succeed in this crazy scheme that breaks the generational compact and prevents the typical McDonalds Fry Cook from paying their fair share of Mitt Romney’s elderly health care expenses? Well, it will admittedly be nothing sexy. Here’s how I described the best possible end state when I blogged this idea before.
However, what can be salvaged here; is a decent old age insurance program for the working poor. It will be Communism for the not-quite compos-mentis. Here’s how that much can be flensed off this beached whale of a socialist boondoggle.
We rank potential recipients in inverse order of their net worth. Those who have worked a requisite number of years, say at least 12, qualify, at age 65, for Gubbermint Cheese. We pay the most broke qualifying payees first and pay everyone 1/12 of an amount that puts an individual 25% over the poverty line, in cash, each month. We pay this out until we disburse an amount equal to that budget year’s SS projected collections, and no more.
That’s the new Social Security. It sucks because it’s a Communist Plot. But unlike the current Social Security, it never runs a significant debt, it pays the most helpless working members of society first, and it sucks in all its honest glory, without the pretense associated with “national investments.”
And that, quite honestly, is the best I think we can possibly do with the poorly-designed and rapidly failing system of national entitlements. If we trim this Goliath down on a Procrustean bed until it actually is reduced to a manageable size, we can possibly make it work. Our nation realistically needs a safety net. Our nation will not survive if we continue buy votes by providing a safety hammock. Everyone yaps that this will be politically incorrect to tell average voters. I say that someone d— well better get out there and explain that Soylent Green is really people.
This is the second in a series of blogs on how the GOP must restore the republic. See Part I here.