Social Security Is Welfare, Just Like Food Stamps
by Future of Freedom Foundation
The Social Security program is a perfect example of how people can deceive and delude themselves when it comes to socialist programs. Advocates of Social Security have long convinced themselves that Social Security is a savings-retirement program rather than a welfare program.
It is a classic case of the life of the lie — the life of self-deception. In reality, Social Security is a welfare program, just like food stamps. Like food stamps, it is nothing more than a program in which the federal government forcibly seizes the money of one group of people and gives the money to another group of people, after deducting a certain amount to cover the government’s expenses for conducting this “service.”
That’s the way it’s been from the very beginning. Ever since Social Security was enacted in 1935, the federal government took money from one group of people and gave it to another group of people. That’s the way it’s been ever since.
In fact, the law that established Social Security was clear from the get-go: It’s nothing more than a welfare program. And when cases challenging Social Security reached the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court made it clear that this was nothing more than a welfare program, not a savings-retirement program.
Nonetheless, many Americans, especially those who have reached Social Security age, have convinced themselves that Social Security is really a savings-retirement program rather than a welfare program. This is manifested in the oft-heard phrase employed by Social Security recipients: “I put it in and I have the right to get my money back.”
The phrase “put it in,” of course, implies that a person has deposited a portion of his income into a savings account. The phrase “get my money back” implies that the person is simply withdrawing his money from that savings account when he reaches Social Security age.
A recent example of the life of the lie and self-deception appeared in an op-ed in last week’s Los Angeles Times entitled “Hillary-Clinton Flunks the Yes-No Question Test” by Jon Healy. Discussing the differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over how to “close the funding gap” in Social Security, Healy writes:
But Sanders didn’t acknowledge how the move would transform Social Security from an insurance program into a welfare program, transferring wealth explicitly from higher incomes to lower ones…. One reason Social Security has withstood attack after attack over the years is the public’s sense that it’s a savings program — what you receive in benefits is based on what you pay in. That sense would evaporate if benefits were capped but taxes were not…. Clinton pointed out other changes that could be made to shore up the Social Security Trust Fund without reducing benefits or turning the retirement program into something that looks like welfare.
Do you see what I mean? Notwithstanding the fact that the Social Security law established it as a welfare program, and notwithstanding the fact that the Supreme Court has held that Social Security is nothing more than a welfare program, and notwithstanding the fact that Social Security is based on the government’s forcibly taking money from Peter and giving it to Paul, Healy seems to adhere to the lie and the myth — that Social Security is really a savings-retirement program rather than a welfare program.
Why? Why do so many people insist on engaging in this life of the lie and this life of self-deception? Why not simply be honest? Why not simply say, “We know full well that people’s Social Security money is coming from money that the government is taking from working people and that’s okay with us”?
My hunch is that deep down, Social Security recipients know that there is something morally wrong with forcibly taking something that rightfully belongs to someone else. Indeed, conservative advocates of Social Security have long condemned food-stamp recipients on that very basis — that they are buying things with money that has been forcibly taken from working people. The average Social Security recipient doesn’t want to be like a food-stamp recipient.
But the fact is — the reality is — that the Social Security recipient stands in the same position as the food-stamp recipient. He is taking money that rightfully belongs to other people, and he’s using the government to do this, just like the food-stamp recipient does.
In an absolutely ingenious political ploy, the federal government has fed into this life of the lie and life of self-deception. First, it established a tax that would specifically “fund” Social Security and Medicare, another socialist program. Second, it established a Social Security “trust fund.” And third, it established a schedule of payments that people would receive upon reaching Social Security age.
It’s all really nothing more than a fraudulent way to reinforce people’s life of the lie and self-deception. These political devices are designed to tell people: It’s okay for you to feel good about Social Security because Social Security recipients are not really taking other people’s money but instead simply getting their own money back.
But the fact is that those devices are nothing more than ploys designed to disguise reality. Reality is that Social Security is a welfare program, just like food stamps. The government uses force to take money from people who are working and gives it to people who have reached Social Security age.
It makes no difference that the government imposes a tax and calls it a Social Security tax. It could have instead simply raised the income tax by the same amount. Or it could have imposed a new tax and called it “the additional federal tax revenue tax.” What the government titles its various taxes is quite irrelevant. What matters is that they are all nothing but taxes — taxes that fund the overall operations of the government, including both welfare and warfare. Thus, no one has ever “put their money in.” They have simply been taxed.
By the same token, there is no trust fund and there never has been. As soon as the government receives the taxes it collects from whatever source — income taxes withheld, estimated tax payments, FICA, tariffs, or whatever, it spends them. In fact, as everyone knows, is spends more than it brings in with taxes. It borrows the difference. That’s what the ever-increasing mountain of federal debt is all about.
So, what’s the Social Security “trust fund” all about? No, they don’t deposit everyone’s FICA taxes into the “trust fund.” Like I say, they spend that money just as soon as they get it. But long ago, to reinforce people’s decision to live the life of the lie and self-deception, they created a Social Security “trust fund” in which they deposited federal IOUs rather than real cash. It’s those IOUs that people are convinced are funding their Social Security payments. The IOUs reinforce their conviction that they are getting their “money back.” But it’s all political legerdemain because the only way to pay the IOUs back is go out and tax people.
Despite all this legal trickery, the fact is that people are not getting their money back when they receive Social Security payments from the government, just as the first Social Security recipients weren’t getting their money back when the government began sending them checks. The money that people have paid in taxes during their work years is gone. It was spent, some of it by giving money to Social Security recipients who are now dead.
Social Security recipients exclaim, “Don’t reduce our benefits and don’t even think about canceling our socialist program. We have become hopelessly dependent on it and could never survive without it.” The food stamp recipients say the same thing. So do Pentagon, CIA, and NSA. Same with the DEA, HUD, HHS, Department of Homeland Security, and all the other recipients of federal welfare. Everyone on the dole demands that his dole be continued, no matter how heavy and difficult the burden for those who are being taxed.
Meanwhile, the federal government continues hurtling toward bankruptcy and taking the country down with it.