Can we please stop getting upset when Social Security benefits are referred to as an “entitlement”? They ARE an entitlement- something someone who had paid into it is entitled to receive. The definitions of entitlement, according to Merriam Webster: 1 a : the state or condition of being entitled: right : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract 2 : a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program 3 : belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
For some reason, we read the word as having only the third meaning and feel insulted.
There’s plenty to get upset about when you listen to certain politician’s proposals to reduce the deficit by cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits for current workers when they retire, or the proposal to raise the retirement age to 70. If you work on a factory floor, on an assembly line, in a warehouse, on a retail sales floor, at keyboard or any number of other physically exhausting jobs for most of your working life, your back , your legs, your shoulders, your wrists are ready to retire long before you reach 70. Let’s concentrate our displeasure on those proposals, and maybe suggest to our legislators that the deficit could be reduced by eliminating more tax cuts for the wealthy who already shelter much of their wealth from taxes or in raising the cap on taxable wages.Or maybe do some research and find better solutions.
But also, let’s stop calling Social Security a government Ponzi scheme and accusing the government of raiding the Social Security Trust Fund. Yes, measures need to be taken to keep the fund from running dry, which some estimates say could happen by 2034. For about 50 years, Social Security was a "pay-as-you-go" system, where annual payroll taxes from current workers pretty much covered that year’s benefits checks for retired workers. In order to prepare for the coming surge of retiring “baby boomers” a tax increase was enacted in 1982 and a surplus began to build. Under the Social Security Act of 1935 the U.S. Treasury is required to take the surplus and, in exchange, issue interest-accruing treasury bonds to the Social Security Trust Funds. The Treasury, meanwhile, uses the cash to fund government expenses, though it has to repay the bonds whenever the Social Security commissioner wants to redeem them. As far as I know, to date the government has never defaulted on paying out Treasury Bonds. But with more and more Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and fewer current workers paying into the fund, that surplus is dwindling, and as technology replaces human workers in many industries, the problem could get worse.
So let’s channel our anger in more productive ways. Stay engaged, keep informed. Let our elected representatives know our concerns- phone them, e-mail them, write them letters. Ask questions and demand answers (politely, if possible). And vote- at every opportunity.