AMERICA spends more than 33 percent of its annual federal budget on its elderly. The federal deficit must be reduced, but the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is wary of reduction in benefits to seniors. But AARP doesn't speak for me and many others like me. I'm getting too much from the government already in so-called "entitlements."
Many friends earning similarly have admitted that to me also. For example, I received back all I paid into Social Security when I was 68 years old - a little over three years after my beginning to collect it.
In the ensuing seven years I've been receiving money put into the trust fund by younger workers. I net twice as much in Social Security as a welfare mother gets from Aid to Families with Dependent Children - even after I pay tax on half of that source of unneeded income. Who needs the money more?
I am well enough off not to require any handouts from the government; but it insists on giving me free benefits such as Medicare. I'd need it over a certain level perhaps, but not for minor medical costs.
There's a host of "tax expenditures" also: a round-about way of telling me not to pay my fair share of taxes because I can deduct mortgage interest for a second home, enjoy private pension benefits, and so on.
Were the budget balanced, of course, I'd like the extra money. But as long as any funds given me, as well as tax breaks allowed, may ultimately be taken from youngsters in one way or another, it's immoral.
But AARP wants more, ever more, like George Bernard Shaw's saying: "All I want out of life is to have everything my own way."
Of course, needy elders should continue to receive those forms of welfare, and the Supreme Court three times has insisted Social Security is a form of welfare and is not "insurance." (Helvering v. Davis, 1937; Fleming v. Nestor, 1960; and United States Railroad Retirement Board v. Fritz, 1980). But people like us don't need welfare or deserve it, and there are millions of us, too.
Congress fears AARP's 32 million membership; the lawmakers seem to think all of us agree with its spokesmen.
Many of us joined the organization because of its low-cost health insurance, prescription service, mutual funds, or travel advice; but we don't necessarily agree with its official "positions" published in its annual agenda.
AARP could easily ask us how we feel about senior entitlements versus helping younger generations via questionnaires in their monthly Bulletin or bimonthly magazine, Modern Maturity. (They could omit their usual travel articles encouraging already rich elders to luxuriate abroad, or that page of advertising telling about expensive cruises, and use the space to ask what we think.)
They could see how many of us are ready to forego more overspending so that youngsters grow up in a better America.
Now they take "random samplings" from 6,000 members to ask such questions. But AARP officials phrase those questions however they please so they can tell Congress: "Of course elders won't stand for any diminution of benefits."
Why not ask us if we are in favor of more entitlements at the expense of children?
Some people may ask why I am so concerned about future generations. If someone like me gets too much from the government, why not simply will the money over to my children and grandchildren?
Certainly mine will be taken care of. But there's an ever-widening gap between rich and poor.
I would rather have my descendants get less from me and make more on their own, than to know they could grow up in an even more unsettled America because deprived children could someday realize what's happening and begin a class war. Then all youngsters - rich and poor - would be able to thank policies like those supported by AARP.