Thursday, January 2, 2014

Revisionist History is Certainly Entertaining When One is Not Encumbered by Facts

In addition to writing books and blog columns, I occasionally post comments on my Facebook page, but I try not to write on other people’s pages. After all, we writers are like prostitutes: when you do it for a living, you shouldn’t give it away for free. But sometimes, someone will say something so aggravating or so outrageous that I can’t help but reply. Case in point: a young woman I’ve never met made a series of comments that professed profound misunderstanding (some would say ignorance) of several common issues affecting many of our fellow citizens. Unfortunately, as she is not alone in her ignorance of the facts, it occurred to me that my rebuttal to her comments might benefit others, so I’m reprinting it here in an edited version.

The young woman – from her photo I would judge her to be in her early 30s – posted on my 67-year-old friend’s page. She reiterated the all too common refrain these days that older people are robbing the young by sponging off Social Security benefits and receiving Medicare which she believes will not be there when she retires for her to benefit from. She was upset Florida Gov. Rick Scott had allowed a state film industry tax incentive to expire, costing her friends their jobs, claiming this would cause the film industry to flee the state. She went on to argue government was unnecessary and Ronald Reagan was “the greatest economic president we’ve ever had.” She closed by blaming President Obama for failing to create jobs.

You knew I wasn’t going to keep quiet, didn’t you?   ;)

 My response:

Wow. There is so much wrong with your post, I don’t know where to begin.

Social Security and Medicare aren’t just for old people. One out of five Social Security recipients is under 60, including young adults who have become disabled and 4.4 million children. Seventeen percent of Medicare beneficiaries are under 65. Additionally, many families receive Social Security death and disability benefits. This is not a battle between the younger and older generations. Newsflash kiddies: no one ages in reverse; one day you will be old too, and you’ll need the benefits and protection of Social Security and Medicare as much then as many older Americans do now.

You say our friend will be saved. No one will be “saved” by Medicare and Social Security. A common misconception of young people is older Americans are receiving these huge Social Security checks each month. FACT: Anyone living on only Social Security income is living below the U.S. poverty level, which in 2013 was $11,490. No Social Security recipient is getting rich off of his or her benefits, or even receiving enough money to live on.

You fear Social Security will not be available for your generation, or in your words, it will lose it. No generation should be required to lose Social Security or Medicare. Just the opposite: Medicare should be expanded to cover every U.S. citizen, effectively becoming a single-payer system, which is what we should have had instead of the conservative Heritage Foundation based Obamacare concept of insurance exchanges that only benefits the insurance industry and not the consumer.

You write that Social Security is “not a benefit but I’m not sure what else to call it.” I’ll tell you exactly what to call it: Social Security is an entitlement. Now let me explain what that word means. It means the individuals who worked their asses off for 40 or 50 years and every month paid a portion of their paycheck into the Social Security system are entitled to get their money back, with interest. Social Security benefits are called benefits because it is a government insurance program into which premiums are paid and benefits are received, just like private insurance programs. These benefits are not altruistic gifts from the government or taxpayers; they are money being returned to those who paid into the system. I find it ironic the laziest generation in modern history is the first to complain about hard-working people finally getting compensation that is due them.

It’s unfortunate people in the film industry may be losing their jobs. However, millions of people, in all industries, have been losing their jobs for many years now and many of us have, for some time, been greatly concerned about the economic health and well-being of those individuals and families throughout the country, not just in Florida, and not just in one industry. Maybe this will open your eyes to what’s been happening around you.

Additionally, Gov. Scott has reduced corporate taxes, which should make Florida an attractive place for the film, or any other, industry. Of course, the real reason Florida is attractive to businesses is obvious if you step outside. While the temperature is at or below freezing levels in every other state today, it is a beautiful 78° in Florida. Film crews aren’t going to get much filming done in a blizzard. Businesses will locate in states where they can offer their employees an attractive environment. Employees want to live in a tropical paradise like Florida. Tax incentives are icing on the cake.

You ask, What good does the government do? Local government builds the roads you drive on, constructs the schools you attended, pays the teachers who taught you, maintains some the hospitals you need, maintains the parks you visit, and provides security for yourself, your family, and your home in the form of police and firemen, among other things. The federal government oversees the safety of the nation’s food supply, its transportation system, and trade with other nations. It also provides disaster relief when hurricanes and earthquakes overwhelm local governments, and protects our country from attack by hostile nations. I’m sure others can add to this list.

You wrote, “We should not be asking, what can the government do for me. We should be asking, what can I do for my self.” That is the wrong question. The more appropriate quote comes from JFK: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” We’re all in this together and we should be working toward a country in which we are less interested in what we can do for ourselves than in what we can do for others.

And yes, I must admit, Ronald Reagan was a far greater actor than any of us ever gave him credit for when he was in the movies. His greatest role was playing president and his stage presence was magnificent. But his irrational theory of supply-side economics was a joke and when two thirds of my class graduated from one of the nation’s top law schools in 1983 without job offers, no one was laughing. It was reminiscent of today, when Wall Street is booming but on Main Street men and women stand begging on street corners. The best economic presidents were men like Clinton and Truman, who balanced their budgets, unlike Reagan, and who presided over periods of prosperity. There is certainly no agreement among economists that Reagan was “the best economic president”, although I’m sure Fox News can find some “expert” to make that claim, just as it has found “experts” to deny climate change. You state, “more poor people became millionaires overnight during that time.” I don’t know what fantasy world you were living in the 1980s, but in my world, I don’t recall a single poor person becoming a millionaire overnight. Revisionist history is certainly entertaining when one is not encumbered by facts.

You say you were much richer before Obama came into office. But I was much richer before George W. Bush came into office. During the Clinton years, we had peace and prosperity; but eight years of George W. Bush’s unpaid for tax cuts and multiple wars erased the Clinton budget surplus, replacing it with a multi-trillion dollar deficit, and sent the country into the greatest depression since the 1930s. It is not surprising we would all still be less rich now, under the Obama administration. It will take years, if not decades, to repair the damage done to our economy and that assumes an aggressive president like FDR and a cooperative Congress, neither of which appear on the horizon.

I do agree with you on one point: it is disingenuous for the government not to include food prices in the inflation index. By the same token, it is equally disingenuous for the government not to include individuals who have given up looking for work, or the underemployed, in its stated unemployment rate. Jobs did increase under Clinton, fell drastically under Bush, and have not recovered significantly under Obama; but to what extent one should attribute blame or credit to the president for job creation is debatable.

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