Social Security
Social Security refers to the federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program passed in 1935. Social Security is a social insurance program that is primarily funded through dedicated payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA). Tax deposits are formally entrusted to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, or the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund. According to the 2012 Annual Report of the Social Security Trustees, Social Security’s expenditures exceeded non-interest income in 2010 and 2011, the first such occurrences since 1983, and the Trustees estimate that this deficit will continue. The deficit of non-interest income relative to expenditures was about $49 billion in 2010 and $45 billion in 2011, and the Trustees project that it will average about $66 billion between 2012 and 2018 before rising steeply as the number of beneficiaries continues to grow at a substantially faster rate than the number of covered workers. After 2020, Treasury will redeem trust fund assets in amounts that exceed interest earnings until exhaustion of trust fund reserves in 2033.

Connoisseurs of Liberty

By George Will,
from CATO Institute,

One of the truly momentous movements in our nation’s history occurred in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, when conservatives and libertarians realized that they were shut out of the entertainment industry and increasingly shut out of academia and the media.

The basic principles of liberty are moral—these rights are natural to creatures of our nature. But these principles are now not just moral, they are also urgently necessary. Because unless we have an open, free, mobile, dynamic society, we are going to have the most bitter distributional politics imaginable. If we continue to bump along at 2 percent or less growth, we will have an unrecognizable civic culture in this country. The only path to vigorous economic growth is to liberate the country from the dead hand of government and get out of the way of the natural wealth-creating aptitudes of the American people. We are sleepwalking into the most predictable crisis in our nation’s history. As the baby boomers retire and the entitlement state becomes more and more oppressive, the natural instinct of the government is going to be to increase the weight of government by increasing the tax take, producing a death spiral. The problem is, obviously, that the welfare state we have exists to subsidize two things that did not exist in 1935, when, with Social Security, we began to build a welfare state. The two things that did not exist then are protracted retirement and competent medicine. When they passed Social Security in 1935 and set the retirement age at 65, the life expectancy of an American male was—65. (Congress did its ruthless arithmetic in those days.) The average length of retirement in America expanded in the 20th century from 2 years to almost 20 years. Social Security was never designed for this. And competent medicine—my goodness. In 1924 Calvin Coolidge (the last president with whom I fully agreed) was living in the White House when his son Calvin Jr., 16 years old, played tennis without socks. He got a blister, it got infected, and he died—a lingering, agonizing death, in the White House, because medicine, even for presidents and their families, was almost incompetent.

And the problem is this: the government knows how to do Social Security. It identifies an eligible cohort by age, and it writes them checks. That pretty much exhausts the government’s competence. Delivering services and fine-tuning and regulating behavior are beyond its competence. Let me dwell a bit more on medicine—in 1900, 37 percent of all deaths were from infectious diseases. That’s now down to 2 percent. Only 18 percent of deaths in 1900 were of people over age 65. Today it’s 75 percent. Medicine went from the conquest of infectious diseases to today’s role of managing chronic ailments. Probably 40 percent of Medicare patients are living with three or more chronic ailments, any one of which would have killed them before modern pharmacology. Thirty percent of Medicare expenditures go to people in the last six months of life and are, definitionally, of limited medical value. What people do not realize in this current debate about health care is that even before the Affordable Care Act was passed, 50 cents of every health-care dollar was spent by the government. The American people have very little skin in the game.

... because Harry Reid of the great state of Nevada was the majority leader, and he wanted Nevada to be eligible for some of the 20 billion more dollars in border pork, they just declared it a border state.

The danger is that the more we interfere with the voluntary, spontaneous order of a free society, and a free world order, the more we consign ourselves to slow growth ... Do we want to have a government-centric society—a society in which government is assumed to be the organizer of American creativity?

I want you to come back with me to a crime scene...The crime occurred in April 1934...It occurred at 138 Griffith Street in Jersey City, New Jersey...Today 138 Griffith Street is a barber shop; then, it was a man’s tailoring and pressing shop run by Jacob Maged, a 49-year-old immigrant from Poland, father of two daughters. The crime he committed was putting in his shop window a sign saying he would press a man’s suit for 35 cents. Now, how did that become a crime in the land of the free and the home of the brave? The New Deal was in power, the New Deal knew everything, and the New Deal had a theory. The theory was, when you have a depression, prices go down; therefore—a historic non sequitur—we’ll have a recovery if we can force prices to rise. Therefore, we must outlaw competition, because competition drives down prices. Therefore, they had the National Industrial Recovery Act, and the first National Recovery Administration (NRA), which wrote 500 different codes of non-competition, cartelizing American industry.

The government had decided that 40 cents was the proper price for pressing a man’s suit. For his nickel crime, Mr. Maged was arrested, fined $100 (doesn’t sound like much, but the median family in- come that year was $1,500), and sentenced to 30 days in jail. The judge thought this was a teachable moment, so he canceled the fine, pardoned him from his sentence, and hauled him back into court where—and this is from the New York Times —he “gave him a little lecture on the importance of cooperation as opposed to individualism. Maged left the court with the New York Times trailing him. Duly chastened, he went back to his shop and took out the offending sign promising a 35-cent job and put in its place the Blue Eagle. The next morning the New York Times reported that Maged, “if not quite so ruggedly individualistic as for- merly, was a free man once more.”

A free man—if you define freedom as embracing a government propaganda symbol under the threat of fine and imprisonment. I don’t.

... neither political party today is recognizably committed to the liberty movement—to the belief in the spontaneous order of a market society and the creativity that alone, by providing the economic dynamism of which we are capable in this country, can enable us to fulfill the promises we’ve made to ourselves without having, as I say, ever more bitter distributional politics.

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