More and more people seem to be coming to the realization that Our Betters in Washington are selling us a bill of goods regarding the viability of various social programs, specifically Social Security ("if we don't do something right now, now, now! we're all gonna die!"), that is plenty familiar -- and wrong.
Of course it will still be a while before many of those who are opposed to -- say -- pilfering Social Security revenues for -- say -- yet more tax cuts for the rich, but even they'll come around after many more years of pounding.
Social Security is not really off-budget like Our Glorious Wars, not at all. As I understand it, until the recent payroll tax "holiday," it was paying out about as much as it brought in, so it was at least revenue neutral. Prior to The Permanent Recession (which happened simultaneously with the start of Baby Boomer retirements, isn'tthatinterestingthough) Social Security was collecting a substantial surplus, all of which was secured by (I wouldn't say "invested in...") special Treasury bonds.
Since the payroll tax "holiday," however, and even now with full payroll taxes being collected in incomes once again (which amounts to a 2% tax hike on working people) Social Security has been paying out somewhat less than (or quite a bit less than, depending on your point of view) it has been receiving in revenues.
This has meant "tapping the Trust Fund" -- except it doesn't really. The people who say the Trust Fund isn't real are right in that sense. There is no special place where the Trust Fund Trillions are stored for safekeeping. Payments from the Trust Fund come out of the government's General Fund -- which means they are either taxed or borrowed into being.
Because of the incessant jiggering that's been done to the Fund and the budgets and such, it ultimately means that all the money that's being paid out to Social Security beneficiaries comes from the General Fund, though SS continues to maintain nominal independence, what with its dedicated revenue stream and so on and so forth (the law, as it were).
Social Security is no more "going broke" than the Government itself is "going broke" or the Imperial Storm Troopers are "going broke." The Federal Government has a highly creative ability to keep itself from "going broke," as well as the ability to determine who will actually go broke in the Casino of Life.
Thus all the yakking and yabbering about Social Security being unsustainable or what have you is really little more than rhetoric for the yobs and entertainment for the Higher Ups as they decide (on Our Behalf, of course) who will and will not benefit from this or that decision or action they take and implement.
In the case of Social Security, the High and the Mighty have decided they want to cut Social Security payments to beneficiaries "going forward." And they have decided they will do it, no matter what the People think about it, though they will sell it as a "strengthening" or "improvement" or what have you, "to ensure that Social Security is there for the next generations, yadda yadda," as if they actually care one way or another about you and yours. (For the record, they don't.)
They have decided in their Wisdom to re-prioritize Government spending; they don't want to spend so much on the old, the halt, the blind, and the lame as they would otherwise be spending given the priorities set a generation or so ago. They aren't seeking to reduce the amount of Government spending in the aggregate -- no, they'll increase it into the dim mists of the Future Unknown. They just don't want to spend as much on you for the well being of you and yours.
This is still somewhat abstract for Americans, because it's not altogether obvious how this re-prioritization is supposed to work. A lot of people seem not to realize that many benefit payments have been severely cut as it is, that eligibility for benefits has been restricted, and that millions and millions of people have been cut off from benefits altogether. This has come at the cost of a stunning increase in poverty, hunger and homelessness in this country -- yet it's largely invisible or goes unrecognized.
It's happening not because of any "lack of money" -- there's plenty of money. It's happening because Our Betters see their opportunity and they are taking their opportunity to ensure their perpetual happiness while incrementally enmiserating everyone else. What could be better -- for them.
If they are not actually going to reduce aggregate government spending (don't be silly, they won't) but they are insistent on reducing the amount spent for "benefits" -- or anything else that doesn't provide an immediate bottom line enhancement to them and their cronies -- what do they want to spend the money on?
Well, wars, for one thing. Another one -- could get nasty -- brewing on the Pacific horizon involving Korea. Oh, that's the ticket. Let's blow things up Over There, and let's use some Nukes, too, eh? But see, that's how Our Betters think. If you take a moment to ponder what's going on Over There, it's hard to escape the notion that L'il Kim the Bad Boy got his ideas about How To Deal with the Rest of the World not from Mao or Stalin or his Old Man but from Gee Dubya and the ilk he surrounded himself with -- whose ideas and ideals still infest the Government. (Of course, my theory has long been that the Busheviks were the very subversives we, as little ones, were incessantly warned about in the routine Anti-Communist Propaganda lectures we were exposed to. But that's another topic for another day...)
Wars can be extremely profitable for certain connected interests, as was demonstrated in breathtaking fashion in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, it was partly a matter of literally looting the people and the country of anything of value and destroying the rest, and partly it was a matter of looting the American Treasury, some of it in the form of billions of dollars (shrink-wrapped $100 bills) airlifted over on pallets, never accounted for. Endless defense spending for warriors and materiel, endless no-bid contracts, amounting to trillions more in money for nothin' -- not to pay for anything blown up or killed or conquered, not for repairs and maintenance, not for anything at all, except for the contractor's being. The closest parallel to what was happening might have been during the American Indian Wars in the 19th Century, an extraordinary period of handing out favors and payments -- often for nothing at all in concrete terms -- indeed ensuring that favored recipients would enjoy endless Government rewards for... being. All charged to War. What a racket.
The bloated National Security State has proved immensely profitable to certain connected interests -- sometimes the same ones who profit from War, sometimes others -- and they want to see those profits continue and increase until hell freezes over if they have their way. State security is a byproduct, if it occurs at all. The point, after all, is not to secure the state, it is to secure the profits of connected interests, and Americans have only the slightest glimmer of recognition that these enormous profits are actually coming at the People's expense. But that's the point.
One of the cleverest favored interests is the Medical-Industrial Complex that profits in myriad ways and seeks to ensure the perpetuation of that profit through the tender mercies of Obamacare and the forced extractions from The People that go along with it. It's not just a matter of ensuring profits for the insurance industry forever, oh no. There is more, much more, including all the many ways the Complex can profit directly from the many extractions yet to come, such as higher (and ever-higher) Medicare co-pays, premiums, and potentially the privatization of the entire program. There is no thought -- at all -- of reducing the scandalously high medical care prices in this country (another source of looting and profit). No. All the thinking among policy makers is about how to get more money out of the pockets of the old, the halt, the blind and the lame to pay for ever-growing medical costs. Clearly, the M-I Complex is one of The Most Favored Interests.
Of course the Banking Interests seem to be the most favored of all. Whereas War, the National Security State, and the Medical-Industrial interests have managed to extract trillions from the People during the last decade and a half or so, the Banking Interests managed a heist of hundreds of trillions practically overnight. Nothing like that has happened before in human history. It's a stunning achievement. Even Enron couldn't do it.
One of the little noticed factors of both the boom and the bust that has led to the current Permanent Recession (for the rest of us, not for Our Betters) was that there was an enormous amount of theft going on (much of it out in the open) and that the bulk of this theft was by the rich from the rich. That's where the money was after all, and in some ways, it was surprisingly easy for clever dicks to get.
Once that easy money was "redistributed" (among the rich) however, many of those who lost in the game wanted -- demanded -- their losses be made good from you and me. In other words, "austerity" for the rest of us, profits without end for the High and the Mighty.
The banks were the first in line, and their banditry was and is stark and stunningly successful. Not only were they made whole for their casino losses, they were apparently granted what amounts to a permanent subsidy to not only cover any future losses but to ensure an endlessly growing profit stream.
"Austerity" is perhaps the purest form of theft from the People to enhance the revenues and profits of favored interests, but in the United States, as I mentioned earlier, "austerity" is still something of an abstraction. The connections between cuts in benefits and services that have already been enacted, together with those to come, and the concomitant rise in poverty, hunger, homelessness among all sectors of the Lower Orders, along with the decimation of the middle class, aren't yet clear enough for widespread recognition.
But overseas, in Europe and Britain, those connections couldn't be clearer, as one after another, the peripheral countries and marginal population segments are quite openly looted and impoverished for the benefit of the "core" -- but more specifically for the benefit of the rising European Bankers and the Neo-Aristocracy. Parasites, in other words.
The already too meager benefits of Social Security in this country must be further reduced in order to ensure that the favored few receive the endless profits they believe they are entitled to.
But as we've seen with the banks most clearly, nothing -- at all -- need be reduced to provide the Entitled Class with endless profits. No pallets of $100 bills need be airlifted, no extractions need be taken from the pockets of workers and the elderly. All it takes is jiggering a few numbers on a screen, and Voilà: beaucoups de bucks! It's magic!
Wars and the National Security State, all the social benefits one could want, infrastructure spending out the wahzoo, all of it and more can be funded and more, with merely a jiggering of the numbers on a screen.
This tells us that the point of all the benefit cuts and austerity measures is simple: to inflict pain and suffering sadistically, because it can be done and the victims can do nothing about it.
For the sake of it.