The Les Spillman letter

First, my letter:

March 17, 2011 in Opinion, Letters
Savings up to the individual
By The Spokesman-Review

Seriously addressing the March 12 Charles Krauthammer column, when do entitlement programs such as Social Security, which was originally intended as a publicly funded social safety net for the poor, become an entitlement program for the middle class and the wealthy? Probably when the middle class and the wealthy demanded that the government turn Social Security into a socialized pension program. Thus moving this entitlement program well beyond its original targeted demographic.

Thus, for true reform to start taking place, Social Security should first be targeted for people who struggle to make a living. But for everyone else, what is stopping the rest of you from starting a savings account, buying savings bonds, putting money into IRAs, CDs to money markets or setting up a 401(k) at your place of work? The more you can plan to save for your own future, the less likely you might see Social Security as a publicly funded pension?

Joan E. Harman
Dalton Gardens, Idaho

Now to address Les Spillman,
“I find it very interesting that some folks, e.g. Ms. Joan Harman’s letter of March 17, call Social Security an entitlement, not an earned benefit.”  Actually, if Mr. Spillman had bothered reading the Charles Krauthammer column that I had referred to in my letter, he would have realized that Mr. Krauthammer referred to Social Security as an “entitlement program.”  Indeed, the next Krauthammer column on the same topic, also declared that Social Security no longer had the necessary funds.  Mr. Spillman could have addressed one or both of the Krauthammer columns, he chose not to.

Continuing:  “Social Security refers to the federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program as established in 1935.  It was set up as such and not as an entitlement or income supplement to the “poor” and paid for by the “middle class” and the “rich.”  Review my letter, where did I say that?  I had not.  What Mr. Spillman forgets is that in 1935, this country was still in the midst of a depression that would last about a decade until World War ll.  There was not a “middle class” until after the war was over.  There were instead, people who struggled to make a living for whom the above program was initiated.  People who were made poor by the depression.  And what “rich people” existed, opposed in large part Franklin Roosevelt’s “socialist measures” to get this country back into a greater degree of economic stability.  I am quite sure that along with all other “socialist programs,” the very rich would have opposed funding Social Security.

Continuing:  “It was quite simply a program funded by the workers for retirement, as very few people were funding any kind of retirement for themselves, so BIG brother stepped in and forced people to “save” for their golden years.”  Wow, again refer to the Great Depression.  In a time of high unemployment, people were highly unlikely to “save for their own retirement” when they had no money in the first place.  And for those who did have the means to work as well as those who had personal wealth, had to as Mr. Spillman correctly asserts, now begin putting in a stipend of money to provide a publicly funded social safety net not only for those people who couldn’t save for their own retirements, but also for people who had jobs, would have a readily available pension upon retirement.  This stipend, to be provided through payroll taxes.

Continuing:  “I find it blatantly absurd that some folks now say that I am not entitled to the benefit that I funded throughout the 50-plus years of my working life.  When I read a letter like that one, I wonder where that person got their wealth and does not need or want Social Security.  Was it from some government-supplied pension plan, a union plan, a large corporation plan, or plain hard work and intelligence?”  Refer again to the above letter.  And then refer to what Mr. Spillman originally denounced “BIG brother” doing back in 1935.  “BIG brother forced people to begin saving for their golden years;” but now Mr. Spillman wants to say that he is “entitled to” what “BIG brother” forced him to do over 50-plus years.  Should I have to repeat myself to the point of ad nauseum?  The idea that Social Security could become a supplemental pension that was publicly funded by way of federal law on the behalf of the middle class and the rich was because they also demanded that the fund they were contributing to, should also be federal pay outs to themselves in their golden years.  In short, an entitlement program.  But, at the same time, those who struggle to make a living (including myself), are not really able to “save” or build up a lot of private retirement by any source listed in the letter.  Those who are far wealthier meaning; that they are able to make at minimum $50,000 a year, could indeed save far more for their own retirement and not insist on depending on Social Security by the time they get ready to retire.  Certainly, when I made slightly over $6,000.00 in take home pay at my primary job; then I am hardly “wealthy” by anyone’s standard.  The 401(k) pension does not get much money when my “work week” consists of a one 4 or 5 hour shift.  And no, I am not a member of a union, no I am not a recipient of a federal pension.  Before presuming, Mr. Spillman could have asked.  Indeed, he could have asked the very people who published my letter in the first place to refer directly to me if he wanted that kind of answer, or to refer to my on-line response when the letter was published as the start of a comment thread for others to respond to.  Well, Mr. Spillman managed to make a major fool of himself.

Finally:  “I will agree with one thing she said:  ‘The more you can plan to save for your own future’ is a very good idea, as Social Security has been used for things it was not intended to fund.”  Well thank you, for finally acknowledging that Social Security has been seen by many as an entitlement program.  And that real reform as I only said is to return the concept of Social Security back to that targeted demographic of people who struggle to make a living and can’t really save for their own future.  And for those who can, to not demand that Social Security become a provender for those things it was not intended to fund.  IE supplemental retirement for those who are millionaires to billionaires.


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