Guest Editorial…Those entitlements belong to the people

There is a huge omission in all this talk about fixing the federal deficit.

Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan, a host of GOP Congressmen and even the Obama Deficit Commission proposals steadfastly recommend that “entitlements” must be raided to fix the nation’s burgeoning debt.

There is one big problem with that assessment. These so-called “entitlements” are not government handouts—though that’s the way conservatives portray them—they are accounts that American workers have paid into for decades.

This money does not belong to the federal government, it belongs to us, the American taxpayers.

We’re talking about Social Security and Medicare. Each paycheck you receive has deductions that go to these accounts, yet now citizens are being told they have to give their money—by way of cuts in benefits or changes in eligibility requirements—to the very government that has done such a poor job of taking care of it.

The government is the caretaker of record for these funds, yet over the years, particularly since the Reagan tax cuts started us down this road, both Social Security and Medicare have been raided to pay for ill-advised wars, a bloated military-industrial complex and tax cuts for corporations and rich people.

Yes, there have been tax cuts for the middle class, the working poor and the poor. Those cuts at least benefit the people who are paying the majority of the money going into the Social Security and Medicare accounts.

If you scrutinize the GOP deficit reduction proposals and the Obama Commission proposals you will find that the rich and the corporations—the biggest beneficiaries of this 40-year boondoggle—are virtually spared from sacrifice to pay down the very deficit they so happily contributed to.

The most sensible way to correct this is for the cap on Social Security to be removed, with an exclusion of income between the present $90,000 threshold and $250,000. That was President Obama’s suggestion, and it is a good one.

Everyone earning over $250,000 would be responsible for the same 12.5 percent that all of us are paying on the first $90,000 of annual income and below.

Millionaires and billionaires shouldn’t be capped at $90,000 as they are now.

That move alone would fix Social Security.

Taxes should also be raised on people who earn $500,000 or more annually, and the loopholes that allowed corporate giants like Exxon/Mobil to pay no taxes for 2009 should be eliminated. If all loopholes are discontinued, the corporate tax rate should be lowered to stimulate commerce while at the same time assuring that Big Business pays its fair share.

In the United Kingdom, where conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has instituted draconian austerity measures, citizens with bullhorns are standing in the streets in front of corporations which are benefiting from lavish tax breaks and shouting that they pay their taxes.

U.S. citizens should take a lesson from that, because we are being bamboozled.

The way the federal budget pie chart is presented by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) hides the money already spent from Social Security and Medicare in the past and makes them liabilities.

In Fiscal Year 2008 the CBO had Medicare/­Medicare spending at 33 percent and Social Security at 21 percent, while defense was 20 percent.

In truth, in FY 2009, 53 percent of taxpayers’ dollars went to defense and only 30 percent went to Social Security and Medicare.

Plainly put, our government is trying to fix the mess it created on the backs of those who can afford it least, while continuing the tradition of the last 40 years of allowing the rich and corporations to be subsidized by the general population.

It’s called welfare, except poor people are not getting it.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)


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