JAMES L. BROWN: Mr. Hightower is wrong again

To the editor,

I am writing in reply to Jim Hightower’s column from the edition on Monday, March 6 entitled “Nobody needs a lecture on morality from Paul Ryan.” In this column Mr. Hightower goes after House Speaker Paul Ryan for wanting to make reforms on our country’s Social Security system. This is following the usual attack on the evil corporate “greedmeisters and their political henchman” who are just out to hurt people, I guess. I have many problems with Mr. Hightower’s column.

First, Social Security is considered an entitlement by many, especially those on the receiving end of the system. It is also essentially welfare, contrary to what Mr. Hightower believes. Social Security was originally set up as a fail safe for the elderly of our population by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress during the late 1930’s. The age recipients were to receive their benefits (65) was also older than the average life expectancy in the United States at that time (just over 60). Social Security has also vastly expanded its potential recipients by adding widows and children of prior recipients, and a many more on disability Social Security benefits as well.

Second, Mr. Hightower attacks Speaker Paul Ryan as immoral for trying to reform a “moral” system of our nation. I believe many of us can claim the Social Security system is immoral. Contrary to myth, there is no trust fund that is saving our Social Security taxes for us to have later. Those of us currently paying taxes are supplying the money to pay for Social Security benefits. This is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. The very first Social Security recipient was Ida May Fuller in 1940. She paid a grand total of $24.75 in Social Security taxes during her life and ended up receiving $22,888.92 in benefits for the remainder of her life. Right from the start Social Security showed its logic and “solvency.”

When Social Security began in 1940, 160 workers paid into the system per retiree. Now it is under 3 workers per retiree. The system is broke and insolvent. Therefore, Social Security needs reform. George W. Bush promised to fight for Social Security reform while campaigning before both terms of his presidency, but never made anything of it. He even had a somewhat friendly Congress for a couple years to help him. Many have promised to reform the bankrupting system, especially with our massive national deficits and overall debt to consider.

The reform failures have disappointed many, like myself, who would rather apply our Social Security tax money into our own private retirement plans of our choosing that can reap more benefits to live off of. We cannot live off Social Security and it was not originally intended to cover our living expenses in entirety.

Social Security is not a right or entitlement. Even our beloved and cherished U.S. Supreme Court has said so. In 1937 Helvering v. Davis and in 1960 Flemming v. Nestor the decisions made it clear that Social Security was not a right and the money being paid into it did not have to be used on Social Security benefits alone. As economist Dr. Walter Williams has said, the Social Security system is simply a Ponzi scheme and it needs to be reformed.

James L. Brown

Big Rapids

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