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Just the Facts Ma’am! Just the Facts!

 

I always liked the Jack Webb TV show Dragnet. I loved it when he spoke to eye-witnesses of a crime and said, “Just the facts, ma’am.” “Just the facts.”

I really think we need a ‘just the facts’ attitude and mentality when we talk about social security these days.

Why would I even talk about Social Security on a cooking blog? I bring it up because for many people their social security is the only thing between them and hunger.  Without their social security check millions of seniors would be destitute. Therefore, this is an important topic for a blog dedicated to helping people eat well on a tight budget.

Disinformation

For the last twenty years or so there has been a well-crafted and massive disinformation campaign from both sides of the aisle waged about social security that has left people not really knowing what it is and what it isn’t. It has also left people with a lot of poor or wrong information about social security.

So today I am going to try and give you Just the Facts.

Brief History

In 1935 Congress passed and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law The Social Security Act of 1935.

This law created eleven (11) separate and different programs. Each of the eleven (11) programs is called a  Title.

Today I am only going to deal with one program (or Title) from that massive law ~~~ Title II.

Title II Federal Old Age Benefits

Title II of the 1935 law is the program most people mean when they utter the term, “Social Security.” Title II of the Act is titled the Federal Old Age Benefits program. This is the  program that sends out those monthly checks to those eligible to receive them upon retirement.

The other ten (10) programs provide other and different services to people other than seniors or retired folks.

What Title II Is and Is Not

Quick easy answer is Title II IS an insurance program just  like your car or house insurance. And it operates in much the same manner as other insurance programs.

Your money goes into a general pot, it is invested in low risk securities and is distributed when you become eligible to retire. From the very beginning retirees always received more in Title II payments upon retirement than they ever paid into the insurance fund when they were working, just like with any other insurance plan.

Title II is NOT a retirement program. Retirement plans work by accepting contributions from workers and investing those funds in the stock market, bonds, and other mutual funds. Pooling funds like this enables an individual to make more money on their investment. In good market years, money is made. In poor market years, money may be lost.

Title II by contrast can only by law invests only in low risk securities to be sure that monies will always be there.

Ponzi Scheme or Something Else?

Title II is NOT a Ponzii scheme. Ponzi schemes are created and started by individuals with the express intent of defrauding people of their monies. The 1935 law had no such intent!

However, Title II IS and always was intended by the 1935 act to be a “pay as you go” program. In other words, current workers pay for current retirees.

There are inherent problems in any pay as you go system.

Therefore, Title II is always at the mercy of changing U. S. demographics.

However, such problems are not insurmountable.  And Title II has over come such problems many times in the past. In fact, the 1935 law and Title II has been modified and adjusted several times over the last 76 years for just such scenarios.

Where Do Title II Monies Come from and Where Do They Go?

Title II is paid for entirely by FICA contributions, often referred to as payroll taxes. Those taxes are deducted automatically from your paycheck. FICA taxes are different from income taxes.

The remaining ten (10) programs or titles in the 1935 law are paid for from your income tax monies.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers the Title II or FICA funds.

FICA funds, by the terms of the original 1935  act,  are not part of the U.S. Federal Treasury. Income tax monies go into the Federal Treasury. FICA funds are separate from the U.S. Treasury. FICA funds go into a separate pot, a Trust Fund.

“The Social Security program has an independent budget that is separate from the rest of the federal government.” [Source 2]

“By law, income to the [Title II] trust funds must be invested, on a daily basis, in securities guaranteed as to both principal and interest by the Federal government.” [Source 1]

All securities held by the trust funds are “special issues” of the United States Treasury. Such securities are available only to the trust funds.” [Source 1]

Does Congress Rob the Trust Fund?

In a word, No.

By the terms of the 1935 original act, the SSA must loan surplus monies from the Trust Fund to the federal government. Congress did not just wake up one day and say, “I want to rob Title II monies.” Again, by the original 1935 law, SSA MUST loan monies to the government. 

However, those loans must be paid back to the Trust Fund with interest. To date the federal government has paid back all loans plus interest. [Source 2]

Social Security is not broke.

“Since 1982, Social Security has had surpluses ranging from $89 million to $190 billion per year. …………. and at the close of 2009,  it had a balance of $2.5 trillion.” [Source 2]

It should be no surprise to anyone that the current recession and high unemployment is putting a strain on the Trust Fund.

If we do nothing……..

However, as long as people are working and FICA taxes are being collected there will always be income into the Trust Fund that can be paid out. There is enough real money in the Trust Fund right now, today, to continue to pay obligations for about 25 years or until 2036. Some people claim there is enough money to pay full obligations until 2041.

Even if we absolutely, positively do nothing to Title II, after 2036 there will be enough money to pay about 70-75% of Trust Funds obligations promised to new retirees.

The 1980’s

In the eighties Title II was in truly in a crisis. Then Title II was nearly bankrupt. It was tottering on the brink. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil worked out a deal that increased the FICA tax, raised the normal retirement age from 65 to 67, and some other similar changes. 

Adjustments to the program can be made again to ensure all obligations can be paid at 100% past 2036. 

Final Notes

 This post is not an exhaustive explanation of  Title II or Social Security.  It is just a basic fact sheet. If you want  more information you could start with the two main sources I used for much of this post [See links below.] Source 2 is especially good for a more in-depth analysis of the financial health of the system.

Further, this short fact sheet did not look at the strain from the borrowing and debt the nation has incurred in the last twenty years or more.

However, one fact you may want to keeping mind is that in the 1950’s the nation’s debt as a percentage of income was much higher than it has ever been in it’s history before or since.

After WW II the national debt was much higher than it is right now because of the expenses incurred fighting World War II. It took decades to lower that debt. Never in that period of time did anyone suggest that Title II be done away with. Everyone received his or her checks on time. I found a chart that illustrates this nicely, but the site it comes from and the chart has a political bent and I promised you I would give you only the facts.

Last Comment – ok, so I put one opinion in here:

If we did OK after WW II, and if we found the resolve to fix the problem in the 1980’s, I say we can do it again in order to pay future generations 100% of obligations promised.

That is what we Americans do. We fix problems.

************************************************************

Source [1] Social Security Trust Fund.

Source [2] JustFacts.com A resource for independent thinkers.

Featured Recipe           German Hot Potato Salad

I love German hot potato salad. I added a bit of Hungarian in my version of this popular dish by adding a bit of paprika. I like the smoky flavor and the color it gives this side dish. Makes it look like a lovely sunny fall day.

If you do not like paprika substitute sugar for the paprika and you will have more of a sweet-sour taste. Or just leave it out all together.

This potato salad is made to serve hot, or at least warm. If you cannot serve it hot fresh from the pan, at least warm it up a bit before serving. The full flavor of this dish cannot be enjoyed unless it is hot. You can serve cold, but it falls flat in my opinion. That is why I only make as much of it as I think I can use up in one meal. You can double, even triple this recipe.

Most recipes call for boiling the potatoes whole and then slicing. Being a lazy cook I slice the potatoes and cook. It saves a lot of time.

I also use very little dressing since I don’t like soggy potatoes. If you like or want more dressing double the recipe.

These potatoes would be wonderful with Dawn’s Our Favorite Chicken Wings that I shared on Monday.

This is what you will need for 3-4 people:

1 pound potatoes .

3 slices bacon

3 tablespoons bacon drippings

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon onions

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoons paprika

Optional: 2-3 green onions

Here is what you do:

NOTE: You will need to work fast here as you do not want the potatoes to get cold.

Peel the potatoes and cut into slices.

Add potato slices to a pan large enough to hold them.

When all the potatoes are sliced and in the pan add cold water until they are just covered.

Over high heat bring the water to a boil; in other words to the point when you first see bubbles rising to the top.

Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium high and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 5-10 minutes. Do not over cook or they will be soggy.

Cook the bacon in a skillet (not microwave, you will need the drippings) until crisp.

Place on paper towels and let cool slightly. Crumble the bacon.

While the bacon is cooking dice the onion.  Also, if using,  thinly slice the green onions too.

As you can see, I have also measured out the vinegar, salt, and paprika so it wil be ready, lickety split,  to go into the hot bacon drippings.

The lovely and tasty bacon drippings. I think a poet ought to write an ode to bacon drippings.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and add to a serving bowl.

To the lovely and delicious bacon drippings add the vinegar, and onion, salt, and paprika.

Mix well and cook a minute or two over medium high heat until the onions are translucent.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes.

Swirl the bowl around to get the dressing to all layers of the potatoes, or gently stir with a spatula to coat lower levels of the potatoes.

Garnish the hot potato salad with the bacon and if using the green onions.

Serve immediately. Goes well with sausage, pork chops, chciken or beef.

Bon appétit!!!

Cost

1 pound potatoes                               $2.02

3 slices bacon                                    $0.87

3 tblspns bacon drippings                    ——

2 tblspns cider vinegar                       $0.07

1 tablespoon  onions                          $0.12

¼ teaspoon salt                                 ——

¼ teaspoons paprika                          $0.04

Optional: 2-3 green onions                  $0.20

Total cost = $3.22
Cost per person = $1.07

Quote of the Day

Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable. 

Theodore N. Vail

rrrrr

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