Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Benefits or Entitlements

Benefits and entitlements, are they one and the same or are they different breeds of animals? There seems to be a trend for those in the bureaucracy of federal (and even state) government toward calling anything they pay out to citizens as entitlements. Now, I'm not sure. Is it because I'm becoming a crotchety old man (NOT)? Or, is it because those in the elected offices, their high ranking appointees and the massive legion of high level bureaucrats are using governmentspeak or doublespeak to get us to believe something that isn't true.

Would this be the first time the government has attempted (and often succeeded) in duping the "flock?" I think not. That is a huge topic for another time. However, as humans, we are basically pack animals. Although, it's probably more accurate to say we're like flock or herd animals. Watch cattle in the pasture sometime. When it's milking time they all line up one behind the other and follow the leader right into the milk barn. A new word becomes the "in" word to use in the pop culture - cool, dude, awesome, right on, righteous, bro, etc. All of a sudden, it slips into our vocabulary and pretty soon we're all using it.

So, if the government keeps using the word "entitlements" when referring to any payouts to citizens that have qualified to receive earned benefite payments, will we all eventually begin to accept that word for everything? I guess we could call it the "Word Game," only this game is controlled by government doublespeak.

Now, I, for one, have a pretty good idea of the difference between a benefit and an entitlement and I don't much like the definitions being crossed over and made fuzzy.


When it comes to certain payments made to individual citizens by the government, I go with this dictionary definition: " a payment or service provided for under an annuity, pension plan, or insurance policy" from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In other words, the individual invested or paid into some kind of fund by contractual arrangement with the long term benefit being some kind of payment after meeting the investment requirements of the contract. In the case of the government, I'm referring, more specifically, to such programs as Social Security and Medicare.

Most U.S. citizens have had to invest (involuntarily, I might add) into the Social Security Trust Fund and Medicare year after year at a combined rate of 15.3% of the total income. I know many will say that the employee only pays half that amount and the employer pays the other half. But, let's be realistic. The employer could pay you the other half and you'd pay the full 15.3% just as self-employed individuals do or to put it another way, if the employer was not required to pay the 7.65% the government would dock your paycheck for it. This is yet, another way of distracting you from reality and the truth.

The bottom line is that just about everyone working on the books for any business or as a self-employed individual will pay a combined 15.3% of which 12.4% goes to the Social Security Trust Fund until (at the current ceiling) your annual salary reaches $113,700.00. Next year that increases to $117,000.00. The balance of 2.9% goes to the Medicare fund and there is no salary ceiling for the Medicare deducted from your salary.

The point? You and I have invested (paid) into these accounts, involuntarily (we had no choice under the law). There is the implied contract that when you reach a certain age (typically defined as the "age of retirement) you will begin drawing a "benefit" from your Social Security account based on how much you contributed to your account over your lifetime.

You'll also be eligible to take advantage of the Medicare health benefit Part A that covers hospitals, nursing homes, hospice and such. Optionally, you may pay a nominal monthly premium to the government to receive Part B benefits that cover doctors, tests and a myriad of other medical necessities. In other words, Medicare is a form of health insurance policy that you've partially prepaid and continue to pay into.

This is no different than you investing your funds in a 401K, IRA or other qualified pension fund. You receive a lifetime benefit based on how much you invested. And the Medicare insurance is similar to an employer or a private healthcare insurance policy from a private insurer. You have invested in and are due to receive the benefits you "contracted" for based on the terms of the contracts.


So, now, let's look at entitlements. The Merriam-Webster definition that comes closest to government entitlement programs is: "a type of financial help provided by the government for members of a particular group." In other words the recipients of this government help have not invested in the programs that provide these various forms of help. This is different than those receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits, for which they involuntarily contributed throughout their working lifetime.

So, these funds come from funding provided by other citizens who have part of their tax money given to people who haven't been able to or just didn't contribute to the programs. I'm sorry! But, I see a significant difference between a plan someone has invested in, earned and is now receiving the "benefit" of that lifelong investment and an "entitlement," where someone is benefiting from the system and from everyone else's productivity, but hasn't contributed into the system themselves.


So, I vehemently object to my Social Security check and my Medicare insurance being lumped in with social entitlement programs in order to make me and others receiving our "benefits" feel guilty. After a lifetime of contributions, we're NOT "takers" living off the public. And that, in my opinion is what our elected officials, their high ranking appointees and so on are attempting to do with their government doublespeak.

The reality is that the government has plundered the trust funds for these two benefits (and others). They were not just bad stewards of "OUR" money; they essentially have turned it into a new form of Ponzi Scheme. It makes Madoff's scheme look like he was a novice.

Our Social Security checks aren't coming from the compounded earnings of our "invested" contributions of 40 or more years. Our Social Security is coming from the pockets of our children's and grandchildren's generation. But, we're supposed to feel guilty because the government has bumfuzzled the public. They are trying to blame us for their incompetence and disregard for the law.

The Point?

The point is simple. We deserve the benefits we invested in and earned, period! Our children and grandchildren shouldn't have to pay for our benefits, they should be investing in their own benefits. But, like all Ponzi Schemes, someday this is going to come crashing down and lots of people are going to be hurt by it. Governments are, by nature, fiscally irresponsible because they aren't spending their own money. They don't have any money. They're spending our money. If they need more, they blame the public, take things away and raise taxes or create new taxes so it doesn't look like they're raising taxes. It's simply a shell game and we . . . are the marks.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind helping other people out. I believe we live in a great country where we do care about those who are less fortunate. But, I don't believe, other than in a few specific instances, that we should be taking care of people for all or most of their lives. Everyone can do something to contribute to society. I truly care about those who are in unfortunate situations. Unfortunately, some people in our society have not only allowed themselves to fall into these situations, but planned to take advantage of the system. Call it gaming the system if you will.

We are a very generous country. And, interestingly, those who seem to have less than others are often the most generous and charitable. I know some very wealthy philanthropists, many who give away sizeable amounts of money anonymously every year. But, too many of those we know are extremely wealthy work closely with their tax accountants to gain the maximum, personal, financial advantage for their charitable contributions. In other words, they want to be "rewarded" for being charitable.

Private Help Organizations

There are also numerous organizations, faith-based and secular, that provide all kinds of programs to help those who have fallen on hard times. The Mormon Church, for example, has their own form of welfare program within the church. I don't believe they call it welfare, though. They help their people regain their footing and climb back up again and be productive members of both the church and society as a whole. The Salvation Army is another such organization. There are also "pay it forward" programs. Someone is helped with the expectation they will reach out, once back on their own feet, to help one or more others in a time of need.

Certainly, we have people who have become disabled in one manner or another. This is a very unfortunate circumstance, especially if the person is relatively young. It's even harder if they have a young family. Unfortunately, there are some people who get into the disability roles by gaming the system and live off the public dole for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, others get assistance from the disability programs and learn new skills or find other ways to help themselves regain some degree of productivity, self-esteem and dignity.

There, But For The Grace Of God, Go I!

Hey! For all I know, I may be "entitled" to some of these entitlement programs. I guess I could even play the system, if I were of a mind to. To be honest, I don't consider it playing the system, but I do take advantage of senior discounts when they are offered and I certainly paid my one time fee for my lifetime national park pass. I see these as small "rewards" for having contributed to society for most of a lifetime. I don't consider them entitlements.

I haven't looked, therefore I've not taken advantage of any "entitlement" programs I may be eligible for. Some people may say I'm foolish. If I'm eligible, I should go for it. Frankly, I don't need it right now. I hope I never will. But, if I do, I'll do it grudgingly. I'd rather see others who truly need help, more than I do, have the advantage of getting it.

What does and will continue to irk me to no end, is government employees getting ridiculously large bonuses for just doing their jobs. There are some who say that governments are the largest and most costly forms of welfare and public dole there are. If these people want bonuses they should join the private sector where they have to earn their bonuses. Those hundreds of millions of dollars of bonus money could go a long way to bolstering the money taken from the Social Security and Medicare accounts. They could also go toward helping more people (not for a lifetime, however) who are in greater need of a little helping hand getting back on their feet than the government employees in their nice secure jobs with comfortable pensions awaiting them at retirement.

Remember! It's important! Do NOT listen and buy into all the politicians, their lackeys, the talking head media types and others who continue to call our BENEFITS entitlements. Yes! We are entitled to them, but that's because we EARNED them. The only place there should be guilt is in Congress, the White House and the media who keep buying into the semantics game and acting like the government's mouthpiece.     

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Business as Usual - Elections 2014

Flickr Photo - Creative Commons License 2011 - Kevan 

Well, thank goodness (actually, there is no goodness) the 2014 mid-term elections are over. It reached a point where I'd find myself retching every time another political ad came on or I'd see it in print. I hung up on robo calls - (thankfully, I got few). For everyone reading this who still believes government is or can be good, well just keep your Shirley Temple, Good Ship Lollipop mentality.

Government is not good - in any form! It never has been and never will be. It is, unfortunately, necessary. It's necessary because most humans (notice I didn't make that all inclusive) have the basic drives and abilities to survive individually. But, put a group of them together and they act like a pack, herd, gaggle, flock (choose your word) and ultimately an alpha human will emerge and control the rights of the rest of the group. Oh, and by the way, I'm already sick of the 2016 election campaign and it hasn't even officially begun, yet.

It's been one week as of today, Wednesday, November 12, 2014, since most of the results of the 2014 mid-term elections were officially announced. The party of the largest land mammal in the world scored, what has been termed as and with much gloating, a "sweeping victory" over the party of the stubborn beasts of burden. In Brett Butler's immortal words, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Or to quote a more contemporary individual of questionable celebrity status (and not a fictional character), "What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?" Thanks for that, Hillary Clinton. You're right, it doesn't.

Where I Stand

So, let me get this straight for everyone. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I am not a liberal or conservative. I'm not a Libertarian (though I often sound like I am). I am a member of a party with only one member. It has a long name. It's the Radical Rational Living Free Commonsense Freedom Loving Independent Party. As I said, it only has one member, ME!

I seek no political office. I accept, mostly grudgingly, the often insane and even obscene laws of the land - federal, state, county, city, community and neighborhood. They are too voluminous for anyone to deal with. Of course, the vast majority of which are never enforced unless it is for the political expediency of some sociopathic politician's personal interests (or those supporting him or her).

Actually, I did my best, spending over 60 years of my life, attempting to live up to the letter of the law as I was conditioned to do by my parents, church, school, college, the military and over 57 years as an entrepreneur (beginning at age 12). I attempted to be a model citizen. This included serving my country voluntarily and not dodging the draft during an unpopular war. Hmm! Is there such a thing as a popular war? And what I learned, after all this time and voting for people I thought (unwittingly) would represent my interests, is that little ever changes other than a few faces and names. Otherwise, it's Business as Usual.

Everyday, since last Wednesday, my email box is filled with the gleeful conservative Republicans spitting their victorious vitriol at the liberal Democrats. And, of course, the liberal Democrats are sputtering back, "You'll be sorry! These Republicans will screw you (just as we've been doing, but didn't want you to know it).

Heck! I have no psychic powers, but I can predict the future. In one to three election cycles, the conservative Republicans will screw up enough - AGAIN - (just as the liberal Democrats have been doing) for the pendulum to swing back to the Democratic side. Wow! How can I know that? Simple, I looked back into the history of the U.S. government. Business as Usual.

Is Anarchy Evil?

I guess, if anything, I'm an apolitical, benevolent anarchist. Oh, my God! Did he say anarchist? Yep! I did. I said it. But, while anarchists are typically viewed as evil and malevolent, they don't have to be. The traditional dictionaries usually retain older, traditional and sometimes archaic definitions for words. But, as with everything in our world, words evolve and can have modified or new meanings such as this one I cite from the "Urban Dictionary:"

"Anarchists are people who want to live under their own authority. Political authority is what they are against, and some will go to extreme measures. Anarchists are extremely peaceful, but when time comes to take action they go right ahead. They are anti-consumeristic and often times grow their own food. Anarchism these days is often found in youth, particularly people around the punk rock scene. Anarchists are not people who make bombs etc. This is where the title for the "anarchist" cookbook went wrong."

The italicized, underlined and bolded words are my emphasis to make sure the context is not compromised. Also, I find with age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes changes in thinking and philosophies.

It's not just youth who are rebellious. Actually, we were all rebellious when we were young. We all seemed to have times when we thought we knew it all and the "establishment" was a bunch of fuddy-duddies and didn't understand us. During my youthful years there was a name for the young people who really pushed the envelope, they were called "Hippies." Most hippies grew up and eventually bought into the prevailing, mainstream, societal model. A small number never did.

While I had my own rebellious attitudes during my youthful years, I was never a hippie. I had my secret desires to live free and unencumbered by the ever increasing burdens of dealing with an uptight society full of laws, codes, regulations, rules, ordinances, etc. However, I was probably a bit more like the fictional character, Alex Keaton from the popular 80's sitcom, "Family Ties." Alex was portrayed by Michael J. Fox. The show was the launching pad for his acting career.

I said I always attempted to be a "model citizen," but to be honest, the very nature of the entrepreneurial spirit is one of a certain non-conformity and rebelliousness. I did my best to stay within the law, but I was ever bending, testing and pushing the envelope.

Eventually, I realized that the box was getting smaller. The government was getting larger and I, like the vast majority of the population, probably 95% to 97%, was just a pawn in the real U.S. version of the "Game of Thrones."

Business As Usual

So, here we are. The 2014 mid-term election cycle is over. The sword of power passes from the one dynasty back to the other dynasty. Will there be changes? Of course! That's the purpose of the entire game.

We still have a sociopathic, arrogant, deceitful, ineffective, classless individual in the executive office with his own self-serving agendas. We have a Congress that is now controlled by the other dynasty. They will attempt to undermine the executive. Meanwhile the executive will do everything he can to stalemate the Congress and continue to portray them as "the problem." The executive will continue to play games with our enemies and throw anyone under the bus from his administration to assure that he is always beguiling. After all, it's his legacy as the greatest Pretender in Chief that is most important to him.

I wouldn't hold your breath for the economy to dramatically improve. I'd be concerned that the terrorism threat in the U.S. will likely escalate. More scandals will be added to the already existing scandals that have yet to be resolved to the satisfaction of the minions according to virtually every poll. And we may all reach the point of dry heaves long before the November 2016 election. The mainstream media will keep plying us with propaganda. Yep! I'd call that Business as Usual.

As for me? Well, I guess, I'm reverting in many ways to just being an old "hippie." I've figured out that I'm tired of playing "THE Game." I just want to live out however many years I have left staying as under the radar and off the grid as I choose to and enjoying the freedoms, I have left. Hopefully, those aren't ripped from me by more new laws designed to control and keep a finger on my location, life and thoughts.

As for you? Refer back to Rhett Butler's quote. I don't care where you stand or what you believe politically, religiously, ethnically, racially, nationally, financially, environmentally or in any other way. You have the right to whatever it is. Just DO NOT even attempt to tell me what or how I should believe or you're treading on quicksand. I am a Free Thinker and plan to remain that way until I die (and thereafter if there is a thereafter).

My only political aspirations are as the current sole member of my Radical Rational Living Free Commonsense Freedom Loving Independent Party. By the way, it is open enrollment for anyone wanting to join my Party (and party is the operative word, because that's what we'll do - we'll party).