All of us know what it feels like to have the best of intentions and still come up short, to reach for a goal only to have it slip away, just out of our grasp. The goal was just, the effort was strong; but it was just not meant to be.
Somewhere under a stack of speeches and memos about the war and the economy, Social Security waits to be addressed. The papers all bear the name of a President. Some are old, cracked and yellow; the missive at the bottom of the stack is addressed to FDR. On it is the year, 1940, and the name of the very first Social Security benefit recipient, Ida Fuller. This lucky lady had invested $24 in Roosevelt’s Great Experiment. She would receive $22,000.
Nearly three quarters or a century later, wars and economic downturns continue to get in the way of Social Security solutions. We are promised a healthier economy and a brighter future, but what about addressing ALL the factors contributing to our dismal present. Surely someone has the temerity to dig beneath that mountain of paperwork and ponder the political machinations that force today’s workers to steal from their grandchildren.
No, the hand in the cookie jar is not your own…nor is it mine, but we bear responsibility nonetheless. Roughly six percent of our paychecks are sent to Uncle Sam for safekeeping. Our bosses match this percentage and mail the check on to Washington. That cash goes into the Social Security fund to be invested and to grow, to be there when we put down whatever it is that bent our backs during the working years. The cash goes in, but then what?
Congress reaches in the cookie jar…but before you get too upset, they just want your extra cookies. No, really, just the extra ones. Never have any extra cookies? Me neither, but they’ll take one or two just the same. Someone has to do something with all those excess funds.
EXCESS funds? Where did this idea come from? Well, in 1983 congress passed and the president signed a bill that increased social security taxes; in one 10 year period social security taxes increased by 250%. The full retirement age was raised from 65 then to 66 now and headed for 67. The “extra” money generated was supposed to save the Great Experiment for the next 75 years. Best of intentions, right?
Today, it seems, the extra has become essential, and congress regularly trades “excess” social security funds for Special Obligation Bonds. * Your elected officials are more than willing to pay you a dollar tomorrow for a bridge to nowhere today.
But their obligated to pay it back, right? They have to! I’ll wait for you to stop laughing before I continue.
Still not done?
Laughing so you don’t cry? Yeah, me too. I have to apologize. I didn’t mean for this column to turn into an indictment. I really didn’t.
But you know what they say about intentions.