Morality of Social Security

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Dave
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Morality of Social Security

Postby Dave » 2011-10-25 07:45am

TL;DR: Poster claims few people were poor in the past and those relied on friends and family, and that the existence of a safety net like SS causes people to rely on it. Also "stealing our hard-earned dollars" etc.

So a tea-party-ing buddy of mine posted something on facebook about hating social security, and I got into a debate calling people on facts, claiming social security was morally superior to not having SS (because you're helping people, right?), and asking how they expect to handle those who are bankrupted prior to retirement for various reasons. Though no one has given me any answer on the "accident insurance" side of SS, on the whole, it's been productive.

I'm stuck, though, on the most recent post on the morality of SS:



“Why is it morally bankrupt?”
In any industrialized nation, it is only a fraction of a sliver of a minority who are unable to support themselves, and even in the days before America’s entitlement state or social security, they didn’t starve in the streets. Most turned to friends and family. Many others turned to voluntary social insurance programs run by private mutual aid societies, like the Security Benefit Association and some people turned to private charities. If Americans a century ago could flourish without an entitlement state, how much easier would it be today, when even most “poor” people own cars and plasma TVs? The entitlement state was never needed to ensure that the unable got fed. It is and always has been geared, not to the unable, but to the unwilling: to that entitlement mentality that expects payment “according to his needs.” And by rewarding that mentality, we foster that mentality. The entitlement state is geared to the unwilling at the expense of the willing and able. WHAT COULD BE GREATER EVIDENCE THAT IT IS MORALLY BANKRUPT?The basic principle behind the entitlement state is that a person’s need entitles him to other people’s wealth. It’s that you have a duty to spend some irreplaceable part of your life laboring, not for the sake of your own life and happiness, but for the sake of others. If you are productive and self supporting, then according to the entitlement state, you are in hock to those who aren’t.
What made America the noblest nation in history was that it was the first country founded on the idea that each of us has a right to live and work for our own sake, that it’s our own job to try to make the most of our life, and that the government’s sole purpose is to protect our freedom to do so.


I guess I just want some clarification on the historicity of this and the logic behind having SS to begin with. Is it a safety net or a mandatory retirement fund?

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Re: Morality of Social Security

Postby Broomstick » 2011-10-25 08:22am

Dave wrote:I guess I just want some clarification on the historicity of this and the logic behind having SS to begin with. Is it a safety net or a mandatory retirement fund?

It's both.

In any industrialized nation, it is only a fraction of a sliver of a minority who are unable to support themselves, and even in the days before America’s entitlement state or social security, they didn’t starve in the streets.

People in the US certainly did starve to death at times. It's the social safety net instituted at the time of the New Deal that largely put an end to that.

There was the option of stealing food - either you got something to eat, or you went to jail where you were fed.

Most turned to friends and family.

Which is why it so often sucked to be an orphan.

Many others turned to voluntary social insurance programs run by private mutual aid societies, like the Security Benefit Association and some people turned to private charities.

Most of those charities were religion-based and discrimination certainly did occur. If you weren't the proper stripe of Christian it could be extremely difficult to get help.

If Americans a century ago could flourish without an entitlement state, how much easier would it be today, when even most “poor” people own cars and plasma TVs?

1) Define "flourish". A century ago, in 1911, most of rural America still used outhouses and didn't have electricity (the rural areas wouldn't get electric until the 1930's, under FDR).

2) This statement assumes that the poor have always been poor. A substantial number of the poor were actually middle class a few years ago, especially right now. As an example, I've been under the poverty live for 4 years now. Yes, I own two vehicles - bought and fully paid for back when I had steady employment and retained after I became impoverished. This is how some poor people have acquired expensive items - they bought them when they weren't poor.

The entitlement state was never needed to ensure that the unable got fed.

During the Great Depression it certainly was needed - and it was retained to avoid similar circumstances occuring.

It is and always has been geared, not to the unable, but to the unwilling: to that entitlement mentality that expects payment “according to his needs.” And by rewarding that mentality, we foster that mentality. The entitlement state is geared to the unwilling at the expense of the willing and able. WHAT COULD BE GREATER EVIDENCE THAT IT IS MORALLY BANKRUPT?The basic principle behind the entitlement state is that a person’s need entitles him to other people’s wealth. It’s that you have a duty to spend some irreplaceable part of your life laboring, not for the sake of your own life and happiness, but for the sake of others. If you are productive and self supporting, then according to the entitlement state, you are in hock to those who aren’t.

If being on the government tit is as easy and wonderful as he implies why doesn't he quit his job and try it out himself for awhile?

What made America the noblest nation in history was that it was the first country founded on the idea that each of us has a right to live and work for our own sake, that it’s our own job to try to make the most of our life, and that the government’s sole purpose is to protect our freedom to do so.

First and foremost, we are not the "nobelest nation in history" and never have been. That's jingoistic bullshit. Yes, the US has done wonderful things. It has also done horrible things, like genocide against the Native Americans and chattle slavery of Africans.

As for the "the government’s sole purpose is to protect our freedom to do so", I wish to direct him to the preamble of the US constitution, specifically the bolded part:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
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Re: Morality of Social Security

Postby Dave » 2011-10-25 10:54pm

Thanks Broomstick, that was quite helpful! I especially liked the emphasis on the preamble, nice touch.

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Re: Morality of Social Security

Postby Broomstick » 2011-10-25 11:34pm

It would be nice to have mortality statistics re: starvation for the 19th Century, but I don't know where you would go to get those. There certainly were records of people stealing food, or being jailed for debts in the past, which would be proof that those old social "safety net" systems back then were far from perfect.

It's damn near impossible to starve to death in the US these days, outside of anorexia (which has nothing to do with poverty). There are certainly malnourished people walking around, but obtaining calories is no problem. As the girth of many impoverished Americans shows.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice

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Alyrium Denryle
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Re: Morality of Social Security

Postby Alyrium Denryle » 2011-10-26 08:07am

In any industrialized nation, it is only a fraction of a sliver of a minority who are unable to support themselves


Poverty and poverty related statistics through time argue otherwise.

Image

In `1930, the poverty rate overall was at 40%ish That is hardly a sliver of a minority

. If Americans a century ago could flourish without an entitlement state, how much easier would it be today, when even most “poor” people own cars and plasma TVs?


Child mortality through time:

Image

30% child mortality prior to kindergarten is not flourishing. It was MUCH higher in 1900

As for family and friends, what if someone has no family? What if their friends and family are also poor, afterall, the poverty of parents is the best indicator of someone's poverty as an adult.

Additionally, how can relatively small private charities handle the demand for aid when some 30 or 40% of their congregations (as they were almost exclusively religious) are themselves poor? They cant.

As for cars and plasma TVs, has the massive increase in unemployment just not occurred to this person? Many of the people who are poor now, were not ALWAYS poor. In fact, poverty has a turnover rate, so some people get out of poverty, while other BECOME impoverished.

The entitlement state was never needed to ensure that the unable got fed. It is and always has been geared, not to the unable, but to the unwilling


Then explain why poverty turnover rates are higher in other industrialized countries with more extensive entitlement programs. Are americans just lazy? What is meant by poverty turnover is the rate at which a person who is in poverty gets out. So a higher turnover rate would mean that a person who is in poverty gets out faster in say, germany, than the same person would here. The reason is not that Americans are lazy. The reason is that our system is poorly designed. The poverty threshold is very very low compared to cost of living, and it is all or nothing. A person so much as a dollar above the poverty threshold gets nothing, and the payments through the programs are actually BETTER than what they would get if they even slightly above the poverty line. As a result, there is a financial incentive to stay that way. Combine this with trickle down economics being a giant bucket of fail (A company that can run its business with 100k employees will not hire 20k more just because you give them higher tax breaks. They pocket it as profit) and it becomes very difficult to actually get people out of poverty.



The person you are arguing with is obviously not historically literate, or in fact even Numerate.
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Re: Morality of Social Security

Postby Lusankya » 2011-10-26 09:32am

Alyrium, are you sure that's 30% and not 30 per 100,000 or the like? Because I find it seriously difficult to believe that the USA today has a child mortality rate of nearly 10%.
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Re: Morality of Social Security

Postby Alyrium Denryle » 2011-10-26 11:28am

Lusankya wrote:Alyrium, are you sure that's 30% and not 30 per 100,000 or the like? Because I find it seriously difficult to believe that the USA today has a child mortality rate of nearly 10%.


Oh shit. I feel sheepish. You are correct. Those numbers are per thousand. :oops:

I blame it on the fact that it was 7 AM and I was barely ambulatory.
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Re: Morality of Social Security

Postby Samuel » 2011-10-27 07:00pm

Technically showing child mortality was higher in the past doesn't show that social welfare programs brought it down. I'm not saying they are useless, but the graph makes it pretty clear that the main change is technological over that time period as welfare and income have been much more stagnant

In `1930, the poverty rate overall was at 40%ish That is hardly a sliver of a minority


The graph starts in 1959. The first clear data for everyone (18-65) is 1965, which puts the overall rate at 10%. I know- sleep deprivation.

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Re: Morality of Social Security

Postby Alyrium Denryle » 2011-10-28 10:54pm

The graph starts in 1959. The first clear data for everyone (18-65) is 1965, which puts the overall rate at 10%. I know- sleep deprivation.


The 40%ish was from another source. I could not find graphical representation.
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