By Chic Hollis – Philosophical Musings
As the English government takes a minor step to rein in their Welfare Program and the French government endeavors to increase the retirement age for Frenchmen to begin to receive benefits, it has become more evident each year that expensive entitlement programs are unsustainable in socialist countries. Taxes collected in Europe are much higher than those collected in the U.S., but they are insufficient to finance a generous welfare state in Europe.
Tax revenue paid to the federal government from all sources in the U.S. does not begin to cover all federal expenses and commitments. Sooner or later, the general public, spoiled by deficit spending in America, will be required to pay more taxes or accept further reductions in entitlement benefits granted to individuals deemed to be “qualified.”
The federal government in 1996 “reformed” its Welfare Program by changing the criteria of eligibility, thus cutting costs. In 2007, the compassionate decision-makers in the District of Corruption facing the projected need for a major bail-out of the Social Security Program, changed the retirement age of recipients eligible for full retirement benefits from 65 years of age to 66. (If a citizen of the U.S. was born after 1960, he or she won’t be eligible for full retirement benefits until they are 67 years of age.) In France the present crisis is all about increasing the retirement age from 60 years of age to 62.
Such piecemeal reductions in government sponsored social programs prove once again that legislatures lack the courage to solve long term financing problems. Local elections in California demonstrate time and again that voters do not want their taxes and fees increased. However, the legislators resident in D.C. and Sacramento want to help the desperate poor, the handicapped, the miscellaneous unfortunate, the unemployed, and the homeless.
In those countries where a democratic system for passing laws has been in place for years, little progress can be made in solving the stand-off between the two opposing positions: 1.) “Don’t increase my taxes,” and 2.) “Don’t reduce my benefits!” Once a law is passed, it is very difficult to change it significantly. Once a benefit is approved, it is extremely difficult to withdraw it. Once immigrants are invited to live in a country, it is nearly impossible to send them away or take away their financial assistance.
Over the years the leaders of the Western World have failed to understand how many new jobs must be created each year to employ both the new immigrants and the children of native born citizens. Those who can’t find work locally beg for some kind of government financial assistance. The greater the size of the population, the larger is the class of unemployed and unemployable workers. And the greater the cost of keeping this class satisfied with not-so-meager hand-outs.
Legal and illegal immigrants usually come to the U.S. looking for work and a better standard of living. Americans are living longer, more women are working outside of their homes, and the cost of living here demands that both young parents work because wages are increasing slower than inflation. The dilemma in balancing their budgets for all governments here and abroad will always be determining which commitments to citizens must be honored and which curtailed if the necessary revenue can’t be raised.
Arbitrariness underlies all legislation. Consequently, polarization of political forces is the natural outcome of the democratic process. The back room “give and take” negotiations are prevalent in resolving most economic and political dilemmas. Midnight amendments and last minute earmarks to accommodate friends and political supporters are added to bills just before they are signed.
Notwithstanding the acerbic rhetoric and outright lies used in the process, laws eventually are passed. Then implementing regulations are written based on someone’s legal interpretations of the verbiage in the laws that are signed. Legislative work is far from simple and seldom open to the public!
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics recently proved to the world that a tipping point is reached where the healthy, wealthy, industrious, and provident can no longer subsidize the unproductive, the handicapped, those too young to work, those too old to work, a huge military force, and a bloated bureaucracy.
Of course no one expects politicians to learn from history. Their job is to make history, promises, and feeble excuses for their decisions to wage wars, increase taxes, take bribes, and rule with impunity for their mistakes and incompetence in balancing a budget.
Pragmatists rarely are elected in a democracy. It’s very difficult to please spoiled adults, as anyone can observe from the ruckus in France over extending the retirement age. Does anyone ever listen to the modern Cassandras who predict that government profligacy will end sadly for the third and fourth generations of those who spend tomorrow’s income today?
Do Americans want more entitlements? Listen: There’s a resounding, “YES!” Does anyone in America know who will pay for them? Cock your ear so you can hear a stuttered, muttered, barely uttered, “no.”