The Crime of the Century
Or how one generation found a way to maintain its lifestyle and pass the bill on to the next
I have just participated in the greatest embezzlement in history. In my 60 years, I have never seen such a perfect crime.Skip to next paragraph
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Like most other master criminals, I am heady with success and feel a need to brag. I kid you not - never before has one group appropriated as much money that belonged to another group in the history of crime. The victims, while they are increasingly suspicious, still do not know they have been had. It was literally and figuratively as easy as taking candy out of the mouths of babies.
Here is how we did it. The first rule of embezzlement is to find some naive patsy. We sensed 30 years ago that the younger generation was not paying enough attention to public policy, so we quietly found ways to maintain our lifestyle and charge it to the next generation. While those of you under 45 were preoccupied with other things, my generation dumped the largest load of debt on you that history has ever seen - and found ways to maintain our lifestyles on your credit cards.
A good scam needs a compassionate come-on. In our case, we developed a new word: "poorelderly." To this day, most Americans do not understand this is actually two words, and that "poor" no longer describes the elderly as a class. There are, of course, poor elderly; but as a class the elderly have the most discretionary income of any group in America (except those in my age bracket of 55 to 65).
Next, we devised a number of systems that allowed us to charge our retirement to the next generation of Americans, who will wake up to find they are on the losing side of a Ponzi scheme. Like all good con artists, we relied on "trust." We told them there was a "trust" fund for both Social Security and Medicare. Of course, this was a lie. There is no "trust" fund, in the normal sense of the word, because we take this month's Social Security taxes from today's workers and pay them to today's elderly.
Then, we tell today's workers not to worry - the money is being held "in trust." In actual fact - as Sen. Ernest Hollings (D) of South Carolina has observed - they would be better off if the fund was invested in Confederate war bonds. The trust fund is a sham because it contains only IOUs that tomorrow's generation of workers will have to (mostly) pay off themselves. They will have to pay for both our retirement and their own. Not bad. We succeeded in taking money from poor workers in St. Paul and sending it to wealthy retirees in St. Petersburg and no one was the wiser. But I have hardly begun.
The perfect embezzlement maximizes its take. We soon found there was money left over after paying the Social Security funds to today's elderly, and we did not want to stop halfway. What self-respecting crook would leave money lying in the bank vault after a robbery? No, we completed the job by something called the "consolidated budget." This allowed us to quietly take the Social Security funds left over to reduce our taxes by spending the money on current government services. Under the "consolidated budget," we could legally "borrow" the money in the "trust fund" left over every year and spend it on current government services, thereby reducing our yearly taxes.
Virtually every year for the last 35 years we thus understated the yearly deficit and understated the total federal debt. Even though the official federal debt is $4.9 trillion, the amount actually passed on to the next generation is closer to $14 trillion to $17 trillion. No dummies in my generation. The entire scheme was done with clever accounting gimmicks that allowed us to minimize our taxes and maximize our spending while we passed the bill on to the next generation. As often happens with such scams, by the time they figure it out I will be long gone.