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Social Security and the Tyranny of NOOMPs

The debate over Social Security and America’s mind-boggling debt is going to get more heated.  We’ve seen over and over in polls that people favor cutting spending… unless that spending involves them directly.  In my industry we see it with the NAR and every Rotarian Socialist program that comes down the pike.  But we see it with everyday homeowners too.  “Yes!” they scream with their signs and their votes, “cut spending across the board.  I’ve been taxed enough!”  But suggest eliminating the mortgage interest deduction and see what happens.  “It’s way too important,” and “What would that do to the real estate industry?” (virtually nothing, by the way).  What’s to be concluded?  We are dealing with a nation of NOOMPs. (You remember NIMBYs, right?)  NOOMPs are people who support spending cuts, so long as those cuts are Not Out Of My Pocket.)  And I suggest there’s no greater concentration of NOOMPs than within the AARP.

Robert Samuelson wrote a good piece in Newsweek recently entitled Who Rules America? It’s The AARP.  In it, he suggests “the AARP sets overall priorities (in government).  Its power derives from the fear it inspires in senators, congressmen, presidents and political candidates.”  He went on to say “No one wants to strip needy seniors of essential benefits.  Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid provide crucial protections for millions of poorer and older households.  But for many relatively healthy and economically secure Americans, these programs constitute middle-class welfare.”  That last bit of analogy apparently caused such an uproar (ostensibly from middle-class Americans who don’t appreciate it when someone points out they are on welfare), that he felt obliged to write a second article entitled Social Security: A Form of Welfare to try and set the record straight.  I applaud Mr. Samuelson for his frank and honest discussion, but I don’t think he goes far enough…

The Social Security system has been a welfare scheme since its inception.  If it had been a situation where people paid in and then later withdrew – what we might call a retirement account – and which Congress then went in and stole from (leaving behind their ubiquitous IOUs), we could fairly blame the politicians with abandon.  But that’s not the case.  This was sold as a “pay as you go” system and approved by not only politicians, but by the public as well; in election after election after election.  Worse yet, Congress did continually raid the funds and leave behind IOUs, creating the bankrupt situation in which we currently find ourselves.  So here’s the question: do we blame the politicians who kept crooked records and stole (sorry, “borrowed”) money that wasn’t theirs in order to pay for programs people demanded, or do we blame the people demanding them?

I, for one, am tired of hearing people, especially Baby Busters –quite possibly the most economically, politically and culturally devastating generation in America’s brief history – arguing that they have some kind of contract; they paid in and they deserve their money back.  Or worse: that they paid in and now current generations owe it to them to continue this Ponzi scheme of wealth redistribution.  I’ve got a thought: you, as a generation, voted for the politicians that ignored the Constitution and started government on its current, bloated sense of self.   The unfunded and under-funded attempts at social engineering were initiated on your watch and with your blessing.  It was your call to continue a system anyone with a grade school education could have pointed out was unsustainable; a system that could only survive by increasingly taxing later generations.   How about you take a big bite of humble pie, admit you were wrong, and clean up your own mess.

I haven’t seen polls to back this up, but I don’t know anyone under the age of 50 (and paying attention) who expects to receive Social Security in their lifetime. So here’s a proposal: we will happily forgo any “benefits” due us for what we’ve paid in thus far – for having supported this theft of our wealth – in return for you taking responsibility for your decisions.  Maybe you can raise the retirement age, maybe you can means test the income, maybe you can cut the pay-out; but here’s the point: I don’t care what you do about it.  Just stop shoveling it my way.  Our current generation of politicians and voters has already given me a $1.5 trillion dollar yearly deficit to deal with and that’s more than enough.  To borrow from the vernacular of your day: Start being stand-up… and stop being NOOMPs.

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