I hesitated to join my brother, Dooby, on a long road trip to visit an aging relative, knowing Dooby would bring up politics—not for discussion—but to prove he is right. Dooby is not interested in my opinions. I successfully changed the subject for a few hours, but when he railed against Obama as a socialist, I asked what he meant. “Redistribution of wealth!” “What do you mean by that?” “Social Security!” “So, you don’t accept your Social Security check?” “No, I earned it, but I’d be a lot better off if I’d had the freedom to invest in my own retirement.”
Since we were trapped in the same car for a couple more hours, I changed the subject although I chuckled inside. Dooby’s 401k is a disaster. He pulled his money out during the brief stock market downturn of the ‘90s and missed benefitting from the rebound. He then started reading stock market advice columns and reinvested on their hot tips. During the years of bull markets, while my own untouched 401k recovered nicely, Dooby’s investment growth was nil. He told me that he finally realized that following tips meant he was buying high and selling low. It’s hard to believe that Dooby thinks he’d be better off today if the money he’d contributed to Social Security had been invested and managed by himself.
When I started working, I was a bit pessimistic about Social Security being solvent by the time I applied for it. Still, I didn’t object to paying the tax that kept my parents and other elderly people comfortable. At this time, I have reached the seven-year mark for collecting benefits—the time period when actuaries say the average person has received all she’s paid in. Unlike Dooby, I don’t believe my contributions were making astronomical interest for all those years and that I’m being gypped from the benefits of phenomenal, totally upward stock market profits. I’m grateful that current workers are keeping my check coming—and I’m well aware that if they’re allowed to pull out of the system, my benefits are jeopardized.
I’m also grateful for Medicare—but have to admit I think the system is backward. The people with jobs and families to support should be the ones covered by government health insurance, not us expendables.
Medicaid is a favorite target for budget cutters. A Utah legislator has introduced a bill to force recipients to perform community service for their benefits. This legislator probably doesn’t realize that Medicaid is primarily restricted to the elderly, the disabled, and children. My two elderly aunts—one with severe dementia, the other with a body too weak to allow her to move from bed to wheel chair without assistance—wouldn’t be in a nursing home if they had the ability to perform community service. Both have outlived their own resources and their family’s ability to care for them.
Cousin La La regards Obamacare as un-American. La La has a granddaughter with serious medical conditions and no health insurance. La La told me she heard of a man whose mother needed expensive surgery which she couldn’t afford. On a flight across the country, the man told the woman sitting next to him about his mother. The woman opened her checkbook and wrote him out a check for the amount of the surgery. La La just knows there are people out there who would pay for her granddaughter’s treatment if only she could find them.
I really don’t have a problem with the haves sharing with the have-nots. To me that’s not redistribution of wealth. It’s common decency. And while government is not always efficient, it’s probably more cost-effective than buying first class airline tickets in hopes of finding a rich donor to cover medical costs for a needy relative.