There is no government “issue” in this country that is not buried under a really huge mountain of stinking interest group propaganda. The wider ranging the potentially affected “market” for the “issue”, the more lobbies get involved and the more self-serving propaganda gets churned into the mix. Getting a decent handle on it is like trying to herd a thousand cats. Such colossal messes are tailor-made for our two-team competition of opposing political parties, each of which carefully selects which interest-group propaganda it wishes to champion. With issues that potentially affect everyone, it’s virtually impossible to separate fact from fiction, so the net result, and probably the primary intention, is to thoroughly confuse everyone. In the end, no one understands what is really going on. They just think they do, firmly believing that Their Truth is the Real Truth. (See “Propaganda And Marketing”, posted separately.)
The Patient Protection and “Affordable” Care Act and the companion Health Care and “Education” Reconciliation Act were signed into law in March 2010, and a year later I have yet to find any source that understands the 2,500+ pages of law well enough to explain it to the average taxpayer. It’s been reported that none of the legislators who voted on the bills ever read them, so it’s not likely that they’re going to be explaining them, either. The propaganda about these humongous laws remains as heated today as it was when they were being “debated” in Congress over two years earlier in 2008. The lobby machines just keep churning at overload levels, resulting in a cacophony designed solely to convince people of gibberish. It’s a safe bet that each of the many lobbies DO understand those pieces of the pie that benefit their group, but since I don’t have a lobby, I’m left wandering in the wilderness.
The hardest thing to find in America these days is a Trusted Source, a reliable oracle who will disseminate objective facts in a logical understandable fashion and allow the reader with a good mind to reach their own conclusions on the matter. This is especially true in a culture that places such a high premium on self-serving emotional mush rather than on objective information uncluttered by sneaky ulterior objectives. It’s also true in a culture that purposefully censors so many of the relevant inconvenient facts that run counter to interest-group objectives for “me”. This is all a natural consequence of the way we now teach our children – what to think, rather than how to think. With the almost fanatical dictatorial support and secrecy afforded these laws by self-serving women in Congress like Nancy Pelosi, it’s fairly easy to conclude that they are, in sum, a very good deal for America’s women, so I guess, given the way our culture works, that’s all that’s necessary. Of course, who actually pays for it all has “yet to be determined”. I figure that if it was a good deal for men, it never would have gotten this far past all the knee-jerk screaming from women, including all their countless lobbies, politicians and “journalists”.
The whole idea of the new law, as always, is to get “someone else” to pay as much as possible for “me”, and “now”. Everyone knows that the new law will not lower health care costs in the US, since the primary focus is on getting more money into “the system”. The ostensible main purpose is to get 30,000,000 “poor” people covered by health insurance they cannot afford.* The overwhelming majority of such “poor people” are “single mothers”. But who pays for it? Those higher costs will vary from region to region, but overall across the country I’ve seen studies estimating that health care insurance costs of those with median incomes will increase 55% for women and 100% for men (naturally), but since such studies are conducted by women’s groups, I suspect that the actual increased costs to men will be even higher than 100% – while women’s propaganda will (naturally) push the line that they have once again been “victimized”. (See Footnote #4.) So I figure that it’s the usual rip-off of men to benefit our “special” women, with healthy young men the biggest suckers, which makes sense since this group, with no lobby, routinely gets screwed every way possible from the moment of birth anyway. (Just check out our “schools”.)
Often a good tactic is to judge things on the basis of which lobbies are supporting what, but, in this case, I still don’t understand any of it enough to try to explain it to anyone. So I won’t even try. (I should admit that I don’t really understand Medicare, either, and that program has been around for 45 years.) This latest mess is at least a hundred times more complicated than Medicare, so I’m eternally thankful that, due in no small part to my own responsible due diligence, I remain in very good health in the most obese and self-indulgent nation on Earth.
So I’ll use here something that also affects everyone but which I do understand – Social Security. I strongly suspect that the main principles with Social Security also apply to “Health Care”, just on a far more colossal scale. The trick is to stick to the basics.
Such massive social programs inherently are greatly affected by demographics. Demographics are of keen interest to the nation’s civilian and military intelligence services, because major trends in demographics – regional, national, continental and global – are excellent indicators of future trends and problems that will ultimately affect and challenge much of mankind, potentially in conflict. (In fact, there are many in the US intelligence community who view global demographics as the most critically important strategic factor for the 21st century.) Since the US is such a major player in the world, those intelligence agencies would be negligent if they did not also devote attention to American demographics. Demographics are the characteristics of human populations and population segments, especially when used to identify consumer markets and their suppliers, the “Haves” and “Have nots”, etc.. Politicians rely on the objective analysis of demographic data and statistics to craft the requisite “spin” needed to keep themselves in office, without actually revealing why they talk the way they do. This results in work conducted on behalf of the nation and its strategic long-range future instead being used for self-serving short-term tactical objectives – in subordinating the “us and our future” to the “me and now”, a tactic that has become institutionalized Inside The Beltway since the rise of the Baby Boomers. “This is what I want for “me” now; someone else can worry about tomorrow.”
Social Security was enacted in the US at a time (1933) when the average expected life span of men was 58, and 61 for women. So the retirement age for workers in 1933 was set at 65, seven years above the average death age, to cover those very few workers who lived that long so they wouldn’t become an unbearable burden on their families. The costs of assisting these few would be shared equitably among all workers at quite low premium rates easily affordable by so many. In 1933, and well into the 1950s, the overwhelming majority of workers died on the job before reaching Social Security eligibility.
At that time most jobs still involved hard labor and almost all workers were men, who were expected to provide for their families by working in the labor market to earn an income. Most men delayed marriage until they were reasonably certain of their ability to fulfill their responsibility to earn an income sufficient to provide for their families. Women fulfilled their role in such a society by having and raising healthy children to adulthood and by maintaining the home for the family. It was a complimentary role system that had worked reasonably well for millennia, except that women did not earn a wage in the home and usually out-lived men. (See Footnote #1.)
Today the life expectancy of men is 75 and 81 for women. All things being equal, to be equivalent to the original intent of Social Security, the retirement age today would have to be set at or above 82. But the intent of Social Security has changed with time.
The first thing to remember is that Social Security is NOT a pension system; it
is a social welfare program. Social Security and similar “entitlement” programs are, by design and intent, “pay-as-you-go” plans, in which each succeeding generation pays for the one immediately ahead of it. Such programs are solely dependent on current workers paying to support current beneficiaries. The government’s intent with Social Security in 1933 was a logical extension of the practice of families caring for their own members in old age, a practice followed as best they could by Homo sapiens in most cultures throughout human history until the arrival of the Baby Boomers in the 1960s. In effect, earlier children said, “You gave birth to me, fed and cared for me, raised and educated me to adulthood, so I will repay you by caring for you in your old age.” Children become taxpaying workers who would help care for the generation ahead of them in their old age if needed. The Greatest and Silent generations bought into an extension of this natural philosophy when they endorsed new government programs that sought to lend a hand in extreme situations, especially during a period of extreme economic hardship in America – the Great Depression. However, the birth rate had to be high enough to make the whole plan work, because there had to be enough taxpaying workers to share costs equitably without overburdening the workers. In the beginning, the plan worked perfectly, primarily because it was based on social concepts long in existence that had proven remarkably adept at surviving all sorts of highs and lows in human conditions and environments.
Greatest Generation was born between 1900 and 1925
Silent Generation was born between 1926 and 1945
Baby Boomer Generation was born between 1946 and 1966
The 80,000,000 Baby Boomers are the children of the Greatest and Silent generations. (See Footnote #2.) (The very small Silent generation is usually lumped in with the Greatest generation for such purposes, as “younger siblings”, but largely because they were also the “forgotten” generation that had fought the unfinished war in Korea, have always been “a little outside” in their own minds while still fully embracing the values of the Greatest generation.) The birth rate of the Greatest Generation 1946-1966 was a very high 3.5 (topping out at 3.8 in 1957). This very large number was more than enough to ensure that the Greatest (and Silent) generation would not be an undue burden on their Baby Boomer children when they reached old age, that there would be adequate numbers of workers paying for their benefits if and when they were no longer able to earn an income of their own, and that the Boomers would be able to easily afford the necessary premiums.
During the 1960s, however, young Baby Boomer women, looking at their mothers, began to view their traditional role in society as “oppressive”, and they wanted to be “liberated” from such an existence. Two very important ways they could be liberated was by having fewer or no children, and by entering the labor market themselves. Benefiting from many technological innovations and safety measures provided by the Greatest Generation to all of our society, women began flooding into the suddenly far easier labor market by the tens of millions, driving down the value of labor and quickly making it necessary for two workers to provide for a family at the level previously met by only one worker. Many decided to forego the family part entirely. By the early-1970s, when the Baby Boomers began taking over, their birth rates were dropping fast. Over the 35 years between 1971 and 2007, due in no small part to an abundance of workers and piss poor prior planning, wages in America rose by just 4%. But productivity doubled (200%), making labor even less valuable. Worker wages now are the smallest share of national income since 1945, and not many Americans are buying everything in sight for their growing families as did the long-suppressed Greatest generation. Obviously, there is nothing inherently “wrong” about any of these trends. They are simply realities. Women, as members of a democratic society that enshrines certain inalienable rights on all members, including the right to pursue their own happiness, could rightly demand to pursue any path they wanted to in life. However, along with all the very loud discussions of “rights” during the 1960s and 1970s, by many different groups, the part about “responsibilities” got crowded out of the discussion. The first victim of the rights crusades was responsibility.
From the 3.8 in 1957, almost twice as high as replacement level, US fertility first dropped to less than replacement level (2.1), just 15 years later, in 1972. During most of the 1970s and 1980s women gave birth to fewer than 1.9 children on average, a rate insufficient to replace the population, and the rate continued to decline. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the Boomers, looking at their own handwriting that was becoming apparent on the wall, should have started adjusting things accordingly. There have always been a number of options available with Social Security to adjust responsibly to developing demographic trends. They could have set in motion a number of systematic adjustments down the road that would have gradually (1) raised the premiums, and/or (2) reduced the benefits, and/or (3) increased the age of retirement eligibility. (See Footnote #2.) But, except for a number of very minor “tweaks”, all they did over the next forty years was (1) raise the eligibility age for full benefits for women from 62 to 65 (the same as for men, even though women still live almost twice as long in retirement as men), and (2) later slowly raised the full eligibility age for all from 65 to 67.
- In 1933 eligibility age came 7 years after expected death. Only a very few qualified.
- In 2011 eligibility age comes 11 years before expected death. Now almost everyone qualifies, especially women workers, who live on average over six years longer than men. While net life-expectancy increased 18 years, eligibility increased only 2 years.
Thus, Social Security has “evolved” far beyond its original intent. Government has assumed a really huge portion of responsibility that had been borne throughout human history by families. Furthermore, the Greatest Generation’s President Johnson, looking at other social problems and not yet seeing the demographic changes ahead, in 1965 added both Medicare and Medicaid to the Social Security “safety net” under his “Great Society” social welfare programs. These massive liberal programs, responding to violent social unrest in the US, rivaled those of Roosevelt during the Great Depression. (Some, including one designed to “eliminate poverty”, were subsequently abandoned, since they achieved the exact opposite of their objectives, while also adding tens of thousands of bureaucrats to the people’s payroll.) In 2003, perhaps seeking to dampen public opposition to the “War On Terrorism”, even “conservative” Baby Boomer President Bush signed into law a major new change to Medicare that added Prescription Drug coverage. Paying for all these Baby Boomer programs was never adequately addressed; President Bush even went so far as to reduce taxes during two major wars, ensuring that the people would not have to sacrifice anything, would even benefit, while their nation waged these costly wars with the sacrifice of “someone else” – an approach similar to that of the Roman Empire in its latter years.
The birth rate for native-born white American women today is 1.1. That is the average number of children born to native-born white American women of child-bearing age. Some women have no children, some have 4 or 5.
Since a birth rate of over 2.1 is needed just to maintain a group’s status quo in our society (to simply replace two parents, one male and one female, through adulthood, plus accounting for premature deaths), that 1.1 birth rate is only half of what is needed. This means that this American racial group (native-born non-Hispanic whites), if such rates continue, will be an insignificant American minority in two generations – well before the end of this century. But even a birth rate of 2.2 alone is now well short of that needed to address geometrically rising entitlement costs; without truly massive immigration the US would need a birthrate approaching 3.0 to pay for our contemporary society’s largesse. Americans today have more dogs than children. They now spend more than $30 Billion every year on dog and cat food alone, and 51% of that is for “gourmet” dishes fit for any human’s restaurant table. Dogs are certainly cheaper and less of a bother than children and permit their owners much greater self-indulgence, but it’s not likely that those dogs are going to be paying taxes to support their owners in old age, or for our plethora of welfare and women’s health programs.
The best estimates of the Social Security benefits that Congress is committed to meeting for current living citizens are $6 Trillion (and for Medicare $34 Trillion) – for a truly staggering total of $40 Trillion. (Reliable estimates for the new Prescription Drugs entitlement program are not yet available.) The problem is that Congress doesn’t have that money; Congress depends on current workers to pay those costs. Not only are there not nearly enough workers in 2010, over 20,000,000 of them, mostly men, can’t even find jobs.
A nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the value of all goods and services produced by all citizens over a whole year. The US is the world’s largest national economy; its GDP for 2010 was estimated to be nearly $14.7 trillion. (This is approximately one-fourth of the total GDP of all national economies on Earth.) But a very significant portion of that GDP is represented by Federal, State, and Local government spending of taxpayer dollars, which is about $4.7 Trillion (about 32%, one-third) of the total – leaving $10 Trillion (68%) produced by the non-government sector. If you are making $10,000 a year, and paying Federal, State and Local taxes, how long would it take you to pay off $6,000 in debt plus interest? Do you think every worker in the country could do that? And that’s just the current debt, the smallest part of The Problem that grows every year.
A very critical part of the problem is demographics – birth rates (and, by extension, taxpayer numbers). Because of low birth rates now producing too few taxpaying workers, plus much longer life spans, it’s easily possible for the cost of those “entitlement” programs to exceed the total incomes of workers. Well before that point (and absent a worker revolution), society goes bankrupt, dissolves, vanishes. Absent some significant intervention, their low birth rates means that the generation behind the Baby Boomers will not be able to benefit from entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare nearly as well as their parents did, if at all. The Greatest Generation ensured they would not be an undue burden on their children; their children, the Baby Boomers, did not do the same. On the contrary; concerned only about themselves, the Boomers actually ensured that their children and grandchildren would never see the benefits they did.
According to the Federal Reserve, one in five people aged 55-64 in 2013 has no money of their own saved for retirement. Almost half of them intend to rely completely on Social Security to cover their expenses after retirement. These people are the oldest members of the American Baby Boomers who, as a really huge group, elected to have only a third of the number of children needed to eventually pay for their retirement while also refusing to lower their Social Security benefits, and, in fact, significantly increased both their Social Security and Medicare benefits. (About 40% of the Boomers today are below the age of 55, but similar findings also apply to their savings.)
Consider that in 1960 a majority of men died on the job, never reaching the retirement age of 65. Today an upper-income woman of 50 can expect to live to age 92, and a lower-income woman of 50 to age 79. How many Americans have demanded that the minimum qualifying age for Social Security be set at 75 or higher? Not many. Apparently Americans feel it’s perfectly acceptable to have “someone else” support them for a full third of their lives, but they do not feel compelled to first have and raise enough of their own children to meet such staggering obligations.
The Baby Boomers, who are now between the ages of 45 and 65, now want ever longer lives through medical miracles to enjoy in retirement, but they also naturally expect “someone else” to pay the bills, figuring that their meager premium payments over their working lives will suffice. It doesn’t work that way. Real life isn’t a Ponzi scheme. The Greatest Generation had and raised so many healthy and well-educated children that it was easy for those children to spread their costs over their huge numbers. Those very easy-to-afford Baby Boomer premiums went to pay for their parents’ small generation; the children of Baby Boomers must now pay for the Boomers. But there isn’t nearly enough of those kids, those taxpaying workers, and the costs are just far too high. The Boomers failed to put the necessary number of workers in place or adequately adjust benefits in line with significantly changing demographics. It all required proper forward looking groundwork, sufficient investment and sound planning. It required adults solidly based in logic and reality to embrace their responsibility for the future and especially for their children, the generation behind them. All of this was absent during the rise of narcissism.
Rather than aggressively attack the entitlement program itself, rather than assume their own just responsibility, the Baby Boomers took two other main approaches to “contain” this burgeoning problem.
Loans. There remains considerable confusion about Social Security money. All workers pay the same Social Security premium rates deducted as a separate line item (FICA) from their pay checks. In 2010 FICA taxes were collected at a rate of 7.65% on gross earnings (up to $106,800). Most of that (6.2%) was for Social Security (Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI). (The rest is for Medicare, for a total of 7.65 of earnings).
(These premiums are matched equally by employers to total 15.3% – of which 12.4% is for Social Security. Employer contributions to Social Security is another factor in total worker compensation.)
Because it’s a separate line item, many people have assumed that the money is deposited into a special bank account to be used for that purpose only, that it was going into a special account with their name on it to be returned to them as a pension when they retired. But the money actually goes into the General Fund. The FICA account is just an accounting of each person’s paid premiums and gainful employment years. The General Fund pays current beneficiaries. Any money collected by the General Fund above that required to pay current beneficiaries is kept by the General Fund, which issues an IOU to FICA in the form of securities (loans). There is no real separate mountain of money earning interest waiting to be paid to future Social Security beneficiaries. Any cash collected above current Social Security bills is spent on other government needs, and the General Fund adds any IOUs owed to FICA to the government’s overall debt.
If cash collected is not enough to pay current beneficiaries, the government borrows money to pay the shortfall in the form of securities (such as bonds), which also adds to the overall government debt.
And the Baby Boomers have borrowed really staggering sums of money. They do this primarily by issuing IOUs that pay interest to the buyer, with the guarantee that the IOUs will be redeemed for full face value at the end of the loan period. These IOUs are called securities, (usually in the form of bonds), and they pay pretty good interest rates at the time of issue, interest rates that remain constant throughout the length of the loan, which often is 10, 20 or more years. The interest rate has to be sufficiently above the inflation rate in order to entice buyers. If the inflation rate rises to erode that interest rate, the buyers may decide to cash in their bonds before incurring losses. So, those who remain on watch after the bonds are issued have to ensure that (1) interest is paid out of the General Fund, (2) inflation rate does not rise to overly threaten interest rate, and (3) there is sufficient cash on hand in the General Fund to pay the bonds at redemption time. And they must do this while still paying out ever rising amounts of total benefits to retired people.
So far, it has not been difficult to find buyers for these bonds, since the US government has never failed to pay them off, with interest. Since the bonds are periodically offered in very large amounts, and usually in very large denominations, the principle buyers are other governments seeking a solid investment that pays decent dividends, dividends which, of course, are not taxable by those other governments. (In Japan a big majority of such government bonds are purchased by Japanese citizens – who then have an important vested interest in their government’s solvency, in its responsible money management.)
Unfortunately, those on watch after the bonds are issued are usually the next generation, and those children have to ensure that there are sufficient funds available to pay the interest and redeem the bonds issued by their parents. If not, then the kids have no option but to issue more bonds. This is like borrowing money from one credit card to pay bills due on another credit card, while paying interest on both – all due to debts incurred by their parents. It rapidly becomes self-defeating.
It’s much more than just about “me”. That humongous American debt also acts to uncut and suppress the poorer parts of the world by making it more attractive for global money to earn dividends doing nothing but buying the relatively secure US debt (lending money to the US Government) than in investing it with slightly greater risk directly in poorer countries. Governments with extra money do not want to lose it, so they always look for the safest places to invest it, places with little or no risk that will earn some profit, at least enough profit to stay even with or ahead of inflation. If you’ve managed to save and scrape together $10,000 more than you needed for your own needs, would you invest it in US savings bonds, or would you risk it all by investing it in an obscure start-up business in Pontianak? (It’s a medium sized city in Indonesia on the big island of Borneo.) You earn interest from your secure “investments” at home, but an entrepreneur in Pontianak with a brilliant idea never does find his investor, never does create his company, never does offer good jobs to hundreds of others, never does churn wages and taxes back into his community. Furthermore, much of that profit you earn goes back out in the form of taxes needed by the US Government to pay interest to all those others who also bought parts of the US debt. So Pontianak, Indonesia, remains a depressed city full of poverty and hunger ripe for civil strife, strife which may be held in check by American charity giving or foreign aid, but could very well eventually require the US military to step in to help maintain some semblance of order – at even greater cost. When you step back and look at the Big Picture, American self-involvement looks just incredibly stupid and selfish. If Americans just paid their own way, did not saddle their children and grandchildren with huge borrowing to meet their wants of today, just imagine what $17 Trillion in “disposable money” could do if invested in smart projects throughout the Third World. Now add to that mountain of available money the really huge interest that wouldn’t have to be paid on that debt every year; it, too, becomes available for smart investment elsewhere. So that debt not only cripples future generations of Americans, it also helps cripple huge portions of the rest of the world, too. American debt is actually a brake on the global economy.
Recently other governments have begun to look a lot more closely at America’s accounting books, fearful that the country just may be reaching the point of over-extension, after which the country is no longer a reliable banker, a sensible investment. It’s telling enough that very few Americans buy their own government’s bonds. Americans, who now rely almost entirely on Big Daddy Government and thus save almost nothing, could never even begin to pick up those government bonds. (Note: With almost no mention in the US “news” media, in late 2011 China, heretofore by far the largest buyer of US bonds, stopped buying those bonds. In 2012 the absence of buyers of US debt has been made up by the US Federal Reserve, which has bought up most of new US debt mainly by printing almost $2 Trillion in new money. With no improvement in the economy to back up all this new cash, it is only a matter of time before inflation begins to rise rapidly, eroding away the value of money in the hands of American taxpayers. Even worse, it’s still debt, which our children and grandchildren, and their children, will have to pay off. So far, China has not tried to dump the mountain of bonds it already owns on the world market – which could prove catastrophic to the world economy.) All of this is a major reason why government now seeks relentlessly to find “someone else” to pay the bills, and “the rich”, as well as “big business”, represent particularly inviting targets – targets which are needed to keep the economy going while creating necessary income-producing, and taxable, jobs.
And all because American Baby Boomers simply could not live within their means.
Immigrants. The second Baby Boomer approach to The Problem has been to import really staggering numbers of immigrants, the largest such migration in American history. Despite the precipitously low birth rate for native-born whites, the overall birth rate for the US is just under 2.1, almost enough to maintain the current status quo. This is a good sign; in the West, only New Zealand and Ireland are in the same ballpark. All other Western countries have birth rates from 1.9 down to 1.4, which indicates that their
populations are declining, despite immigration. (Russia, with almost no immigration available, has a birth rate below 1.4, and its population is declining faster than almost any other country.) Such low birthrates place an ever-increasing burden on fewer and fewer taxpayers to keep everything viable. All countries in Latin America, however, have birth rates from 2.4 up to 3.5, which indicates that all their populations are growing even without immigration, and growing beyond their economies’ ability to support such growth. This demographic difference has proven a blessing for the United States and its native self-involved birth-averse population.
The Hispanic birth rate in America (3.0+) is twice as high as that of the rest of the American population, and Mexican-Americans have the highest birth rates overall, followed by Puerto Ricans and Cuban-Americans. In fact, Latin-American Hispanics have birth rates in the US that are equal to or higher even than in their native countries. Our most critically important import has become Hispanic immigrants, especially Mexican women who are willing to have and raise children. Those children will be what keeps us afloat much longer than would have been possible without them. This is why neither political party will aggressively enforce our immigration laws; we need as many of those Hispanic children as possible, legal or otherwise – to take up our shameful slack. These Hispanics are “the new Irish”. Our government, led by legions of bureaucrat “feminists” in the Department of Health & Human Services shadows, actually aggressively encourages illegal immigration along our border with Mexico, and even designs dangerous schemes intended to import children and young women. (It’s one of thousands of ways American “feminists” get “someone else” to take the blame, pay the bills and do the hard stuff for “special me”. Most such schemes involve various ways of ensuring that children separated from mothers are reunited – in the US. Over 60,000 children are intercepted at our borders every year, and estimates are that at least four times that number are not intercepted. No one is certain how many are left to die in deserts on both sides of the border, simply abandoned by human traffickers.) For very many native “feminists” in America, it’s greatly preferable to import others to do what they themselves were specifically designed to do but are now too “special” to do; many symbolically “earn their stripes” by having or adopting their one “trophy child” to place on a comfortable shelf for all to see. (It helps keep fast-fading myths about American women alive among those who don’t want to look too closely for truth.)
Note: Most Americans think that all illegal aliens (or “undocumented immigrants” (sic)) are impoverished Mexicans or Hispanics from other Latin American countries who sneak across the southern US border. (“Undocumented immigrant” is a ridiculous oxymoron; it’s not possible to be an immigrant anywhere without official documents proving the status.) But a majority of illegal aliens inside the United States are actually people from considerably better off countries who enter the US legally in broad daylight, usually via international airports, and then simply remain past the expiration of their visas; it doesn’t take them long to pick and choose the benefits they like, such as voting and welfare, while leaving the responsibilities, like military service and procreation, to “someone else”. A favorite route for such illegal aliens is the student visa, which allows the holder to obtain a good education (at full fare) and then disappear into the American woodwork (while hanging on to the passport from their native country should it ever become preferable to simply bail out). The US government is notoriously lax in executing its mandate to locate and expel such people; this has led to a general belief throughout the world that the United States belongs, and is available, to everyone free for the milking, the “land of milk and honey where the streets are paved with gold” – paid for by that half of US citizens who actually pays taxes.
The Department of “Homeland Security” released a report in January 2015 on the 45,000,000 people who visit the US legally every year – and the more than 500,000 of them who then overstay their visas, i.e., enter the US legally and then remain illegally. The figures are for those who enter via plane, ship or vehicle for either business or pleasure. Every country in the world has people who violate the terms of their stay in America every year, but among the worst offenders are:
Country FY 2015 FY 2014
Canada 100,000 90,203
Mexico 45,272 37,227
Brazil 37,000 28,790
Germany 22,554 17,321
Italy 19,000 32,524
Netherlands 8,184 31,085
UK 19,000 20,550
China 18,246 18,006
Colombia 17,155 13,561
India 14,348 11,653
France 13,407 28,450
Spain 12,560 13,093
Venezuela 12,729 7,265
To be fair, the average rate of visa overstay for almost all countries is less than 2%. Still, these people have money for comfortable travel and come to the US primarily to make more money, and are far more likely to displace middle-class American workers. (I refer to such people as “Takers”, who come to milk what far more substantial others built and fund, while contributing nothing themselves. You certainly won’t find them in the nation’s armed forces, for example.) At least the poor Mexicans come to work and have babies and make a real investment in America’s future by starting at the bottom and working up. (Note that over 60% of the population of Canada was born in another country, and a significant number of them use Canada as a transit to America. Also note that Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela are notorious for their level of corruption and that China and India favor certain classes of citizens.)
As in almost all other challenges with which they were faced, the main options selected by the Baby Boomers were to find “someone else” to pay the bills – huge loans for their kids to pay – and “someone else” to do the hard stuff – huge numbers of immigrants to have and raise the absolutely needed children. If those options had not been available, the USA would have already gone out of business, rather than just pushing its expiration date further down the road. The main “significant intervention” route the Boomers chose were really huge loans and many tens of millions of immigrants mandated by their own lifestyle choices. So far, those Hispanic immigrants are helping to produce workers needed to keep up with the burgeoning costs of American leisure years in their ever longer retirements, but still not nearly enough to keep up with the humongous costs further ahead, especially in the Medicare world.
In fact, the future viability of our whole society is dependent on this enormous flood of Third World immigrants, who will eventually, well before the end of this century, transform the US into a Hispanic country (probably managed by a much smaller but very well-educated elite cadre of smart and hard-working Asian-Americans and Indian-Americans. In 2013, China moved ahead of Mexico as the source of the greatest number of legal immigrants to the US – 147,000 vs. 125,000. China has a one-child policy that does not exist in the US.)
In 1950 there were twelve taxpaying workers easily supporting the small Social Security benefits of each senior citizen for a few short years after retirement. Forty years later, with dramatically increased Baby Boomer lifespans and benefits coupled with their dramatically lowered birth rates, there were only three taxpaying workers supporting each retiree’s Social Security benefits – a four-fold increase in burden. Only the most massive immigration in history has kept such entitlement programs from going bankrupt. Even with that massive Third World immigration and its high birthrates taking up the Baby Boomer slack, in a few years, when the peak of the Baby Boomer tidal wave floods into very lengthy retirement, there will only be two workers supporting each retiree. Such crushing burden is simply unsustainable. All of this has been obvious such the 1970s. The super-spoiled Boomers never considered the impact on the future that their lifestyle choices and entitlement demands would have on their children and grandchildren. It’s small wonder why childless Boomers and Boomers with no more than one designer child so strongly support massive Third World immigration – or why both political parties agree with them, even to the point of ignoring existing immigration laws. Their sheer numbers are enormous political power. And since 1980 the majority voting bloc in America has been women.
Politicians have been doing a lot of chest-thumping lately about having reduced the annual deficit in the last couple of years – from Congress spending $1.4 Trillion more than it takes in to “only” $500 Billion more than it takes in, every year. But all this really means is that our debt is still rising, just a little slower. In 2014 the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a long-term analysis of federal costs and spending that should deeply alarm every American, but they aren’t likely to hear about it from their politicians. As the 80 million Baby Boomers retire, the CBO found, the soaring cost of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest payments on the debt will add $10 trillion more to the existing $17.6 Trillion in national debt over just the next decade – to a staggering $27 Trillion in 2024. In the two decades after that, those entitlements will add another $100 Trillion – to a mind-boggling $125 Trillion by the time the Baby Boomers reach the end of their lives in 2044. Soaring health-care costs would only add to the misery, with the average retiree paying $140,000 into Medicare and receiving $430,000 in benefits. That’s a stupendous “gift” to bequeath to those who must follow them. On this trajectory, taxes would double and our economy will collapse. Period. Many of the Boomers will still be alive to see the deliberately suicidal death of the great nation they were handed gratis by their Greatest Generation parents. Any other of the world’s countries would already be bankrupt with the debt that US is carrying today; the numbers projected for the future are simply catastrophic, and totally unsustainable by any society under any conditions.
It’s not at all surprising that the self-involved and privileged Baby Boomers were easily able to turn – in their own minds – a social welfare program intended to assist them to care for their parents in old age into a guaranteed and supplemented savings program for “me” in “my” old age, damned the generations behind me, including my own children. It’s pretty difficult coming up with a worthwhile human endeavor in which the Baby Boomers have not been dismal failures. And they were very effective at passing such “me” values on to their own privileged children. We can only help all those new immigrants to become productive taxpaying American workers as fast as possible, while also hoping, praying, that they will NOT become too much like us too quickly.
But, obviously, some responsible adults need to take the “entitlements” bull by the horns and make some very major program changes, fast.
(See “Julia, The 2012 American Woman“, posted separately.)
a. Mothers. The “special” status of women in society derives from their ability to have and raise the children society needs to survive; absent the fulfillment of that most critical function, absent a justification for “special” status. No society would deliberately push its
birth rate down so far that it spells the society’s demise. But today, over 55%, and steadily rising, of American women between 18 and 48 have never been married and never had children, but still enjoy gratis the status and benefits their grandmothers actually earned. A really huge number of women are now riding free on the backs of those minority of women who actually earn society’s “special” status, and almost none of them realize it due to the effectiveness of their many powerful lobbies incessantly championing rights without responsibilities. A majority of those who do have children have just one child much later in their lives than in previous history; 40% of babies born in this country are now born to unmarried adult women, often as “fulfillment” “designer” children of working career women. Many of them predictably are born with disabilities.
The lingering popular notions of “women”, “family” and “children” in America are very much out of date – thanks to propaganda incessantly churned out by women’s lobbies designed to keep and even expand all the old benefits while changing all the old rules. Most of these unmarried women who are having children are NOT poor OR underage, but adult women who have made conscious and informed decisions, largely at the expense of “someone else”. Many of these mothers have farmed out much of their parenting responsibilities to “someone else”, i.e., “it takes a village”, largely on someone else’s dime. For thousands of years, all it took was a mother and a father; now suddenly it takes a whole public social services system, including schools, paid by “someone else”. In American society, women’s dependence is dramatically shifting from husbands and fathers to Big Daddy Government – which means that “someone else” is being required to pay increasingly more for the choices our women make – at the overall detriment to society. In American politics, “family” and “children” have long been code words meaning simply “women” – our most powerful self-interested majority. Apparently American women believe that the boys they “raise” and “educate” will end up as “men” too factually ignorant and intellectually impaired to ever figure out what happened.
b. Equality. Of course, there was always another option available for adjusting Social Security. Social Security is an insurance plan. In the early 1970s, women’s lobbies went to court over insurance premiums, first with auto insurance, and won. Up until then everyone paid the same premiums for the same coverage. The court agreed that since male drivers had higher accident rates, with greater pay-outs, they should pay equitable premium rates to account for the higher costs of their average lifestyles, and women should pay less. It was a fair decision. Ever since, all commercial insurance companies have applied detailed actuary tables that take gender (and other factors) into account when setting premiums for their respective groups of policy-holders. The same reasoning has never been applied to the biggest insurance plan of all – government “entitlement” plans. That reasoning just might result in something actually equitable.
Consider: Average life expectancy for men is 75, and 81 for women. At first glance that six year spread seems small. But full Social Security benefits don’t begin until age 67. So the average man will receive benefits for 8 years, while the average women will receive them for 14 years – a difference of 43% more for women, almost twice as much benefit. Since everyone pays the same Social Security premiums, all male workers subsidize women’s premiums for that really huge 43% pay-out difference. No women’s lobbies will discuss this, and none will entertain the thought of including this huge subsidy in with women’s “pay”. (Such reasoning should not be applied to women who are not in the labor market, but remain in the home having and raising at least two healthy children each – which was fundamental to the original Social Security concept, itself based on the human family structure existent for millennia. Such women fully earn their benefits in other ways that are valuable, even critical, to society – actually more so than do childless women in the workforce, or women with their one “designer” child.)
And that’s just Social Security. The current humongous Medicare bill is almost six times larger than the Social Security bill, and steadily rising. The US government spent more than $2.3 trillion on health care in 2008, more than three times the $714 billion spent in 1990, and the massive Baby Boomer generation was just starting to knock of the door. Medicare benefit eligibility starts two years earlier than Social Security, at age 65. As always, accurate gender data is very difficult to find. Most of what does exist is produced by self-serving women’s lobbies, usually to support shifts in treatment emphasis, so that data can’t be considered reliable (or truthful), especially when you consider that there are rarely any lobbies representing the other side of the equation. When data does show higher costs for women, it’s usually blamed on women not getting adequate treatment early enough. So the truth is anyone’s guess. Still, assuming that treatment costs are exactly the same for both genders from age 65 to death, men as a group will receive those benefits on average for ten years, and women as a group will receive those benefits on average for 16 years – a difference of 63%, a difference that is also being subsidized by male worker premiums. Here, too, no women’s lobbies will discuss this, and none will entertain the thought of including this huge subsidy in with women’s “pay”. (These lobbies religiously speak only of “pay”, only of hourly wages or annual taxable income, and absolutely refuse to discuss extra significant benefits and subsidies as an integral part of the full compensation package; it’s just more of the usual carefully tailored propaganda.)
But medical costs are not equal, even assuming equal lifespans, are they? “I go in for a ten-minute medical check every two or three years. You go running to a doctor every two or three weeks. So why should my gender be required to subsidize your gender’s hypochondria, pay the same medical insurance premiums that you do? ‘Fairness’ apparently only applies when you benefit, right? I’ve been listening to that song all my life.” Most commercial insurers do charge pre-Medicare-eligible women higher premiums than men because claims show that women ages 19 to 55 tend to use far more health care services than men. (This is one equitable practice the new “Health Care” law seeks to end.) Women are much more likely to visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take prescription drugs and to have certain chronic illnesses and thus have significantly higher pay-out rates than do men. The elimination of gender rating was one of the most important changes made by the new health care law signed by President Obama on 23 March 2010, which, naturally, is an important reason why our majority “special” women favor this discriminatory law so much more than do men. The new law requires men to subsidize women’s much higher pay-out costs in commercial insurance just like they do in Social Security and Medicare. Of course, the reverse would be the case if men were benefiting so much from such huge subsidies provided by the other half. It’s all a part of the familiar socialist tactic of taking it from “someone else” and giving it to “me”, a tactic so much better than everyone just “paying their own way”. (The new law has the ironic “Affordable” in its title as an insider’s nod to all the women’s groups who supported US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s concerted efforts to keep its details secret from the public at large until after it was enacted.) In America, just being female is a very expensive “pre-existing condition” the new law eliminates from consideration.
Women’s lobbies are not the only interest groups playing games with facts. Even though federal employees were finally required to join the program in 1984, nearly 7,000,000 state and local government employees across the country still do not participate in the federal Social Security program. Most of these people are better paid employees like teachers and police officers who have very good pension plans that only require government to confiscate money from everyone else to remain flush. Such pension programs, along with their platinum health care and 401(k) plans plus solid job security and excellent working conditions, are never mentioned when the unions representing these workers complain about “low wages” while adroitly avoiding any discussion of “compensation” (which would include lucrative extra benefits like pensions and health care). (And teachers unions never mention that the full compensation is for a nine-month “year”.) Focusing solely on “wages”, which usually is only half the picture, is very effective propaganda among a naive public.
Footnote #2. The Depression-era birth rate between 1931 and 1937 was the lowest of that century, bottoming out in 1933 at 1.64, making the Silent Generation very small.
The post-War birth rate between 1946 and 1966 was the highest in US history; peak years were 1950, 1957 and 1961. The Greatest and Silent generations had delayed marriage and child birth during hard times caused by severe economic depression and wars, so as parents they were older than previous averages. Their huge baby boom created the biggest and most solid economic boom in American history.
Footnote #3. Investments versus Entitlements. Federal spending over the past 50 years for two of government’s fundamental missions shows some very stark shifts. One such mission is “investments,” which includes maintaining our national infrastructure, helping assure that our work force is educated to a high standard in skills needed by our economy, underwriting the kind of basic scientific research that is too risky or long-term to attract private money, and keeping our military equipped and manned with the best people possible. The other mission is “entitlements,” a catch-all descriptor for the safety-net programs that provide a measure of economic stability for the aging and poor: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.
In 1962 the Greatest Generation was laying down the foundations of prosperity. About 32 cents of every federal dollar, excluding interest payments, was spent on investments, only 14 percent on entitlements – a very healthy ratio for a properly balanced society. (This was the legacy of Democrat President Kennedy’s New Frontier – though the largest infrastructure project in US history, the interstate highway system, was his predecessor’s, Republican President Eisenhower, initiative. The 1960s Space Program was a really huge government investment throughout many major sectors of American society that had great positive impact far beyond the program itself, especially in education, research and development and new technologies, which made their impact felt in nearly every aspect of society. The country essentially coasted on this massive 1945-1970 investment for the subsequent forty years.)
In the mid-70s the lines crossed. Investments declined while entitlements climbed, primarily to meet Baby Boomer demands. Because it had grown up under constant deprivation and adversity, the Greatest Generation, as soon as the WW II guns fell silent, was intensely focused on their children, their families and the future, on providing them everything possible. Their Boomer children, however, had been born into and grew up in the magic cornucopia created by the Greatest Generation, and believed that it was all a gift from God just for them that would keep on giving forever. With the Baby Boomers, driven mostly by “feminism” and the anti-Draft mobs, the focus shifted to “me”.
Today we spend less than 15% on investment and a staggering 46% on entitlements, more than the exact opposite of a half century ago.
And it gets worse.
By 2030, when the last of the Boomers have surged onto the Social Security rolls, entitlements will consume 61 cents of every federal dollar, starving our already neglected investment and leaving us with an under-skilled work force, lower rates of job creation, and an infrastructure unfit for a 21st-century economy. When you add in servicing that really huge Debt, we will be hemorrhaging more than twice as many dollars as we can take in, i.e., we will be “operating” beyond bankruptcy.
Some of the entitlement bloat comes from the addition of new programs — notably the prescription drug benefit fostered by the second Boomer president, George W. Bush (coupled with a huge tax cut to blunt anticipated anti-war fervor), and the “Affordable” Health Care Act (to curry favor with the super-majority woman’s vote). Some of the growth is built into formulas that increase benefits faster than inflation or G.D.P. And a lot of it is the really huge numbers of Boomers now aging into Social Security and Medicare. But most of it has been due to Boomer voter refusal for forty years to buy into any reduction in benefits in the face of drastically changing demographics created by their own lifestyle choices. We’ve reached the point where our elderly population over the next 30 years grows 100 percent, but our working-age population grows by only one-fifth. Entitlements have grown so much, with corresponding declines in those paying for them, that there is nothing available to invest in the future. All of this was entirely predictable back during the 1970s, but all the spoiled Boomers did was infect their fewer children with the same spoiled entitlement mentality. “Even though our own investment was negligible, we are owed it; the future can take care of itself.” With their great numbers it was quite easy for the Baby Boomers to pay for their Greatest Generation parents in their brief retirements, but it will be nearly impossible for their far fewer children to pay for the lengthy retirements of their Boomer parents. Apparently investment in the future is no longer even on the table; that’s another problem for “someone else”.