Entitlements and the concept of a social safety net

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I don’t remember where I found this image, but it has haunted me.  Something about the passive entreaty in the younger woman’s face.  Something about the stranglehold of caressing succubus imaging that the older woman has on the younger woman’s youth or lifeblood.

As I’m listening to the Republican debate on entitlements, and the lumping in of social security / disability payments with our bonds or national debt repayments, I’m conflicted.  Truly, the social safety net that social security represents is not (and should not) be in the same class as debt repayment (i.e., loans we’ve taken out as a mortgage we owe to our investors).

I explained my love of the political debates to another friend as my version of sports since I think watching sports (vs. playing) is about as useful as watching paint dry.  She was complaining about the next 16 months of arguments as aggravating, and while I agreed that it could be, I noted that I feel the same way about “deflate gate” or any other weekend quarterbacking and crowing about who deserved to win.  We just take the good with the bad, and move along on fb or at the local watercooler.  Fb is our way to bring the world into our home, and we are all free to opt out of anything we don’t want to know or see.

… My pet peeves are suffering children or abused pets.  I’m all for getting them help, but hide the stories as the pictures used are often heartbreaking.

I have a similar challenge with the rantings on the blessings of God’s power, or welfare queens, or many other hot button topics.  I take the good with the bad, and tune out anything too depressing.  (Self-care is important, and mine includes controlling access to those images or stories that bring me down.  I can’t help anyone if my spirit is crushed by depression because I didn’t stem the flow of bad news stories into my life).

So, I sat here with tears running down my face, as someone else is being brave enough to help a homeless person by seeing the PERSON and not just the desperation.  Under different circumstances, that homeless person could be any one of us.

https://copdtravails.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/a-fb-posting-from-principal-john-brantley/

It’s nice to know that others use the fast food meal card as a way to help someone without worrying what they’ll do with the cash.  While they claim God moved them, I really don’t care.  I’m just glad they reached out and helped.  I truly believe WE are the solution we need to see in the world.

So, a cousin posted this on her newsfeed today, and the inaccuracy set me off.  The author was born in 1931, and posted this in 1984 – the height of the Regan tax slashing years that began the errosion and destruction of our infrastructure and social safety net.  Not in 1931, as it claims.

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The thing that incented me so much was the presumption that this was issued during the great depression, when Roosevelt was launching his “New Deal” and we were actually putting in place so much of the nation-wide infrastructure projects and the safety nets that we’ve been systematically destroying during the last 30 years.

If we don’t take care of each other, why are we even here?

I have had this debate a lot with one of my good friends, R.  She is never satisfied with the amount of money she makes, and wants me to tell her my secret.  She doesn’t understand that there isn’t a secret.  I was just lucky (as my social security tax report history illustrates), and some years are better than others.  My decisions are not always the best, and I have spent my 401k down numerous times in order to deal with immediate concerns.

When I’m working in my field, though, I am paid well and my tax rate is 55%.

As an example, when I use the system to my benefit, I am taxed at 56%, but 19% of that money goes directly into my 401k.  Over $2,000 a month directly into savings that I cannot touch without some financial penalty.  Like everyone else, I’m a paycheck away from financial difficulty, and I have about a years’ worth of cash socked away in my 401k to use to keep afloat, or put toward purchasing a residence, should I need to cash it out prematurely.

I didn’t do anything except land on my feet to be able to save that money.  I’m not smarter than anyone else, or thriftier, I just make a higher weekly wage which leaves me with options to (hopefully) protect my financial stability based on the career path I chose, and my ability to deliver results. The work was prized, so I lucked out.

Reading the John Brantly story about the homeless guy’s situation, I know that could be me.  That could be any of us, forced to make the best of their reality, and ill.

As I’ve been struggling to give up my paycheck and claim the benefits I’ve paid into for the last 42 years, I’m worried I’m exhausted / quitting too early, and that I will outlive my estimate of 3-5 years that are likely my reality.  Should that happen, I’ll have to find a way at 60 or older to locate new streams of revenue if the money stream runs dry or is cut off.  I’ll have to find a way to reinvent myself.

Should I be determined ‘not ill enough’ to go on disability, my income option for early collection of social security will be about $800 a month.  If that happens, it will be me and the cat living out of my car ($251 a month for two more years) as a way to stretch my funds.  Scary.

So, it was very alarming to listen to the Republican debate this evening and hear Christie’s forecast that Social Security only has 7-8 more years until insolvency.  Seriously?  I saved and invested $17,000 to $24,000 per year for the last 3 years to rebuild my savings, and with market fluctuations and conservative accounts, I managed to keep my money growing vs. declining.  It’s hard to get over the fact that social security is a “shell” game, with my money raided by the Federal government on a whim for its discretionary use since the laws about use of that fund’s assets changed when Regan was in power.  It’s been scary to see the powers that be keeping their own monies in a different program and that there may not be money left in the regular people’s social security account to meet its obligations to me.

But, rather than sit here reeling, I went and looked up Christie’s info and he’s right.

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2017 is when the decline begins.  Very scary.

I really don’t want to take more from the plan than I’m “entitled” to (that awful word again), but I also understand that my payments aren’t invested and that I’ll be adding to the cash churn or burn for being a drag on the system as a tail end baby boomer, applying for disability much sooner than the system anticipated.

Looking at the guy on the Brantly story, he’s got cancer and is doing the best he can to survive.  While I think there should be options in our social net to help him, he’s not getting that help and there’s nothing I can do to help him so I’m choosing to cry and move on.  I’ve got all I can do to take care of myself at this point, and have to ignore his failure to be assisted in his illness or it would just drag me down, emotionally.

It’s that level of cold bloodedness I’m needing to embrace as I’m gearing up for this battle.  As the first picture illustrates, I’m becoming a succubus, and I can’t see how to avoid being a vampire if I want to have quality of life between now and the end.

Still no answers here.

4 thoughts on “Entitlements and the concept of a social safety net

  1. I’m curious how you reached the figure of $800 per month as your payment? I realize that this format (this being WordPress or any other “open” site) isn’t the place to share exact figures, but just for your peace of mind, it will be more than that. You state that you were fortunate to earn a higher income AND you’ve a degree which means you were paid more while working. That qualifies you for a higher income on SSDI. I am relatively unschooled (have an Associates’ Degree only) and did lower income scale jobs when I worked and I get more than $800. And that’s in UTAH which is known for it’s low pay scale for workers. But your concerns are valid and that business of 2017 being the start of the decline of social security freaks me out too. That’s in TWO YEARS. My chihuahua and me (or should it be “I”? ) will join you in living in a car on the street if our income is taken. This country is in serious trouble, but other countries have faced these same problems and the poor survived and continue to exist (somehow). Maybe Americans just have a higher expectation for standard of living? A movie I saw showed the difference between our standard of living and England’s and it was really startling. England isn’t a third world country. Yet the standard is pretty low. And you’re no succubus..you PAID into the system, you (excuse the use of the word) ENTITLED to some recompense for that money. You earned it after all, not some fat cat living in Washington D.C.

    And you state you are worried about reaching 60 something and having to reinvent yourself? You already have a secondary occupation … you make beautiful jewelry. I know right now it’s a ‘hobby’ and maybe there isn’t the huge financial gain from it that would make it a “job”…but there is a skill there that maybe you’ve overlooked. Working with ones’ hands is nothing to be sneered at – particularly in this age of plastic throw away everything. There are some silver linings. And I would never presume to tell you your business — only you know what’s best for YOU. But come away from the vampire/life sucking/succubus school of thought. That simply is NOT TRUE.

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  2. No, I *don’t* have a degree. I’m going to have to go back and re-read / correct that if I missed a word or two while typing. Thanks for the heads up on my error.

    As for my income likelihood for “early retirement” vs. “disability income”, that’s where the $800 per month comes from. I’ve earned all my benefits if I never work again, however, if I take it sooner than 67 years of age, when I should be able to take home ~ $2,300 to $2,500 they cut it dramatically in order to incent folks to keep on working. They really want me to work until 70, which is why the numbers are a general range vs. actual hard and fast figures.

    My mom ended up doing early retirement, back in 2002 / 2003, and her monthly income was $800. She didn’t qualify for benefits under disability (even though she was struggling mightily with COPD, which is why I know that there’s multiple tiers of coverage. And which is why I’m fighting so far for being declared “disabled” vs. getting fired (no income) or retiring early (a pittance income) due to my inability to keep up.

    So, I’m pulling the number from my SSI / SSDI statement that’s mailed out by the US Government as a potential forecast of what a non-disabled person may have available to them for early retirement benefits based on my years of earnings. I hope that makes more sense now. Happy to answer any question you ask, or say “no” if it’s a boundary issue.

    Since this is all (somewhat) public record, my likely earning are real figures based on Social Security Tables and Statements, while my personal numbers are a mix of gross and net figures, with and without 401K withholding, etc., so it’s more of a miss-mash of data to afford me some level of privacy while talking real $ figures.

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  3. Oh, and I’m working on the vampire / succubus school of thought.

    It’s a daily chore as I resign myself to being “less abled” without being completely incapacitated as of yet. Kind of a devil’s advocate for the “goldbricking” label that my mother received when she applied, so that I can be strong enough for this fight and inured to the slings and arrows of other people who will have a lot of say about me not “looking” disabled.

    I ran into this last week when I was packing boxes for 6 hours in an afternoon and got 10 whole boxes packed, stacked and labeled. I can do it if I pace myself. On a good day. And on the appropriate medicines. But, I can’t do it every day, and I can’t do it without medical help that has huge side effects.

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  4. And one more – Jewelry as a hobby income. No way could I live on that. People measure the quality of my work against the cost of materials and what’s produced in some third world country, and I’m lucky to have any kind of income from this business.

    Right now, it averages $1,000 (usually less) per year. And that doesn’t take into account the cost of doing shows ($125 to $800 per day in booth costs), transportation, food, and the actual cost of the materials made into the finished product.

    If you know how many artists died starving, you’ll see that I don’t fall far from that group of nuts, LOL.

    My jewelry is for my joy, and I love it when someone likes a piece I made. But, to be valued as art (or even jewelry) and sold at an appropriate price for my sweat equity and materials??? Can’t see that happening. Not today, at any rate.

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