Social Security is a safety net, not a retirement fund

Published 8:39 am Monday, May 27, 2013

It was surprising to me that our politicians made such a fuss about the $85 billion in sequestration cuts, while only a few were concerned about the more obvious problem of the $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities created by their poor management of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Politicians wring their hands and claim to be worried about our growing numbers of poor. I too share a level of concern for the truly needy, but have you ever traveled outside the United States to see what it really means to be poor in other countries? America’s poor are a long way from the world’s typically poor.
Social Security was established in 1935 to limit what were seen as dangers in the financial security of the then modern American’s life. It was originally intended to protect Americans from a lifetime of financial brinksmanship that included the challenges of old age, poverty, unemployment and the burdens of widows and fatherless children. That was all, nothing more, nothing less. Social Security was never meant to be a federal giveaway program to sustain a satisfactory lifestyle.
However, politicians soon realized they could garner votes by promising more free “stuff” to those who voted for them and they could train those voters to rely on the government to care for them. As a result of that type of poor governance, Social Security is now the largest of the four big entitlement programs that today consume 44 percent of our national budget, and are projected to consume 67 percent in less than 10 years. Sadly, 19 percent of the recipients depend upon that monthly check for at least 90 percent of their retirement income.
Part of the problem is that rather than save for retirement, too many Americans ignored the “rainy day” concept, and now want our government to support them after failing to plan for their own future.
Of course, there are people who truly are in dire financial straits. Those are not the people I’m talking about, as they need and should have a government safety net. It’s those people who lived at 100 percent of their income and beyond and who now feel that we taxpayers owe them a comfortable retirement that I wouldn’t allow to continue to take advantage of the welfare system. What will those people do when there is no more money to supply the public trough? Can you say anarchy?
In my opinion, it’s long past time for us to again begin looking primarily to ourselves and plan for our own future. If Congress isn’t willing or can’t stop our nation’s financial bleeding, it won’t be too long before the government tells us that they can no longer provide all those benefits at current levels. That’s not a question of if we’ll reach that point, but how soon we’ll reach the breaking point?
When we do get to that situation, I have only one question for you, will you be ready?
Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert on issues of geriatrics and aging. He’s in private practice in Henderson and Polk Counties. He is the author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease, available on and at the Polk County Senior Center. His podcasts can be heard weekly at Contact him at 828-696-9799 or by email at

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