Social Security and Medicare are Contributory Programs Not Entitlements

We are all angry about this week’s events and the performance of our Republican leadership. They did nothing to further conservatism or enhance the Republican Party’s image with the general public which is important for maintaining control of the House in 2014. However I do have a cause which I think can help America and conservatism.Let me start with a story.

While in college the IRS figuratively put a gun to my head and forced me enroll in and begin contributing to a pension plan and also a prepaid health insurance program. The programs are Social Security and Medicare. While they didn’t really put a gun to my head at the time, had I found a way to not pay these taxes then eventually federal agents would have showed up at my door with guns to take me to jail; if I resisted then the guns would have come out. My employer’s also paid in an equivalent amount which might have went to me in salary. Over the years I just considered the FICA taxes as simply tax and didn’t think much about them. I always expected to get something from my payments in the future but I never even took the time to look into what I might receive. Now I am much closer to the time when I might get something from all the money I and my employers have paid in. I want these benefits or my money back.These are not truly entitlement programs  for most of us, they are forced contributory programs. We contributors to these programs are not entitled to benefits because we paid for these future promised benefits.Its simply a financial transaction. Saying I am entitled to Social Security and Medicare insults me and it should insult you too. We involuntarily contributed and now we deserve the promised payment.

My proposal is for us conservatives to stop categorizing Social Security and Medicare as entitlements and to become the defenders of their long-term sustainability by treating them as national contributory pension and medical plans. Social Security is a national pension plan. An involuntary, poorly managed, and underfunded pension plan but a pension plan none the less where both the employee and employer contribute. Medicare is simply a prepaid health insurance program. An involuntary, poorly managed, and underfunded prepaid health insurance program but a prepaid health insurance program none the less; both the employee and employer contribute to its funding in addition to payments made when the participant begins receiving benefits. Like it or not they exist now, they will exist in the future and we are going to participate.

If the Republican Party take up the cause of making Social Security and Medicare sustainable pension and medical insurance programs then they can essentially separate these programs from other Federal spending and entitlement programs because they are , for the most part, contributory programs funded by those receiving the benefits. I realize some other Federal programs may be contributory by this definition but lets start with these two. The first step by Republicans in becoming defenders of Social Security and Medicare would be to demand the contributed  funds go into a totally separate fund from the rest of the Federal government. I know you might say the go into a separate account now but in fact they count toward total Federal revenues and spending. Put them into Al Gore’s “lock box” and do not count them at all with the rest of the Federal government accounts. Next set a goal for long term sustainability of these programs. If we want Social Security to be sustainable either contributions must go up, benefits must come down,  or some combination of these 2  must be implemented. Reduced benefits could be lower payments, increased eligibility age, means testing, etc. The same is true with Medicare except reduced payments to providers can be added as a tool to achieve sustainability. Finally we need a plan to get to sustainability because what we pay in now is not sustainable over the near term. Medicare is a big driver of deficits.

If we decide to take up this mantle as defenders  our contributory social programs then the arguments on how to achieve sustainability  boil down to – you pay me now or your children and your grandchildren pay me later. In other words you reduce benefits or increase contributions now or your children and their children will pay for you later. The argument is stark and clear and easy to explain. I think this will separate the producers from the takers and the people who genuinely care about their children’s future and those who just think it sounds good. I think this is an issue which will gain Republican and conservative support from the general public and help us do something good for our future and our children’s future also. If we do this we also change the conversation on the national deficit and spending. About one half of the deficit issue goes away or is at least transferred into programs where people can understand that they, or their children, must pay for what the get. The rest of Federal spending and the deficit is then due to what I will call the Constitutional public good programs, non-contributor welfare programs, and political welfare programs(political give-aways). Many welfare programs are necessary and justified and I want them to continue like most of the general public. However I think many people will recognize that the generosity  of these entitlements may not be justified. In that will be another opening for conservatism.

“Know the Truth and the Truth Will Make You Free”