Cui Bono?

What’s that, the brother of the guy in U2?

No, it’s Latin for don’t touch my effin’ entitlement program:

[M]ore than half of all entitlement spending helps middle class Americans.

As for income levels, those in the middle — earning between $30,000 and $120,000 — received 58% of all entitlement dollars in 2010.

One reason so many middle income Americans are using the safety net is the recession. Workers nearing retirement age have found themselves without work in recent years and were forced to go on Social Security and Medicare earlier than planned.

I know I’m pretty tiresome on the subject, but the recession ended 3 1/2 hears ago. We just reelected a guy for the miraculous (and fraudulent) achievement of wedging unemployment below 8%. Why are people making more than $100,000 receiving one cent in relief?

The share of middle-income American households receiving Social Security benefits jumped to 69%, up from 63%. Likewise, the share of Medicare recipients in that group rose to 64%, up from 58%.

“These are programs that are of great concern to the middle class and greatly affect their well being,” said Arloc Sherman, senior researcher at the center. “Social Security has the large effect of keeping people in the middle class.”

With respect, that’s not what it’s for. It was founded as a program to keep the elderly from starving during the Great Depression (when life expectancy was lower than the retirement age), not as an annuity paid out over decades.

It gets worse:

Disability benefits, meanwhile, have become increasingly popular as the nation ages and the economic downturn makes it harder for the disabled to find jobs. Those with health issues who would prefer to keep working, are forced to go on disability instead. Applications for the Social Security disability program reached an historic high in the wake of the Great Recession, exceeding 2.9 million in 2010, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Once people start receiving benefits, few leave the program. The average monthly benefit was $1,068 in 2010.

On the other side of the political aisle, the worry is not who is getting the benefits but how many people. The Heritage Foundation just released a study showing that 70 million people are in at least one of 47 government programs.

“Our concern is that entitlements and safety net programs have been growing so rapidly over time, regardless of the economy,” said William Beach, who just stepped down as Heritage’s director of the Center for Data Analysis. “The numbers are becoming unsustainable or already are.”

70 million people is about 30% of the population. Three in ten—almost one in three—receives some sort of government assistance. How is that sustainable, and how is that defensible in a (once) prosperous country? And given that people rarely go off these programs once they’re on them, how do you change the system to something that is sustainable?

If you have the answers to these questions, you may be qualified to be president. But good luck getting elected.

1 Comment »

  1. Buck O'Fama said,

    January 15, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

    “…how do you change the system to something that is sustainable?”

    Well, kinda like baseball funnyman-catcher Bob Uecker’s answer on catching the hard-to-catch knuckleball: you wait until it stops rolling and then you pick it up.

    The system will NOT be reformed by politicians because too many of them (I’m looking at YOU, Barack Obama) are willing to pretend there are painless ways out in order to win elections. A modern politician knows he can either try to solve problems responsibly or he can win the election, but not both. So, the answer to the question is, “we wait until the system stops collapsing and then we pick it up.” Hopefully, we will be able to.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment