Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 12.08.13
Just Outside Washington



An entitlement is a guarantee of access to something based on a contract. This contract may be associated with a moral or social principle made in accordance with a legal framework of a society, such as the Constitution.

Or, this contract may be between two legal entities recognized under the legal framework of society, such as the agreement between us and our mobile phone company.

This contract -- with our mobile phone company -- gives us the right to be able to talk or text to anyone we want any time we want and all we have to do is pay money.

We are "entitled" to this service. Of course, the contract was written by the company and has conditions that we must adhere to.

Social Security is an entitlement. There is a contract between us and the federal government that as soon as we start to work (for most jobs) our employer will take part of our wages and put it in a federal trust for us. This is combined with the health care insurance premium into the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) tax.

The 2014 FICA tax rate is 6.2 percent for social security taxes and 1.45 percent for Medicare taxes. In addition, our employer puts in that much again for a total of 12.4 percent and 2.9 percent respectively that goes to the IRS on behalf of each employee. This is an insurance program and works like an insurance program.

Our contract with the federal government says that when we reach "retirement age," we will get a monthly payment and we will get part of our medical bills paid. We are entitled. We paid and we have a contract.

Now, some of the people in Congress who run this program for the federal government have decided that they do not like our contract. These people -- we elected them to their management positions -- have decided that our contract is too expensive and the fund is going to go broke sometime in the future (2033 is the current estimate).

That is not our problem; that is their problem. One solution would be to apply the tax to all earned income. Currently only income up to $113,700 is subject to the Social Security tax.

George Bush proposed turning this insurance program over to private companies. That is not a solution but a punt. Other solutions have been proposed and most of them involve screwing people out of their entitlement.

The management -- Congress and the President -=- need to keep their contractual obligations. We are entitled; we paid our money, as agreed.

We are partially at fault here. We elected managers who are not trained as managers and do not think of themselves as managers. For example, the House of Representatives has 169 members who are lawyers out of 435 total and the Senate has 54 lawyers out of 100 members.

Remember, Thomas Jefferson said "If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?"