You look like a star but you're still on the dole

There's always a lot of noise about changing Social Security. I wasn't around when the system was sold to the public. Nearly everyone who was an adult then is dead. You'd be 88 years old today if you were born the year Social Security was invented.

They messed around with it quite a bit under Reagan in 1983. I was around then, but it seemed like an old people's problem at the time. My parents weren't even on it yet.

Time marches on, and funny thing, interests change. Yesterday I saw this brief history of the program, and it was essential reading all of a sudden. Not to mention fairly even-handed and informative. In this era, that's unusual. And so some of you might find it worth a read and a bookmark. You know who you are.


  1. I’ve been on the “dole” for several years. My monthly SS allotment covers the water bill, the other utilities and some groceries. The accumulation of property taxes and the deductible portion of my SS heath care expenses come out of savings.

    I’ve lived longer than expected.

  2. Interesting read. Ends ~2010 but nice bullet point summary of last events with some cautious statements about future trends, though since 2010, doubtful things have gotten better?

    Life expectancy increased until ~2010 & people basically quit having kids ~then. We wonder why?

    Social security is basically a pyramid scheme as it’s funded in payroll tax & makes the income taxable & cost of living with property tax (unless you live in a low fire risk area and bought your place before 1970 in CA and basically have no property taxes & live in a mild climate like SF & don’t really need heat or A/c or to buy electricity much at absurd PG&E rates & the municipal water source is pretty reliable & not connected to /subject to agribusiness or private ownership ).

    It has low administrative costs and has yet to get hollowed out for the copper wiring by wall st. (much as they’d surely like to), but as it is now, it covers much more than it did originally, people live longer than they did when it was conceived (despite our best efforts/nose dive in life expectancy since covid (tho a lot of deaths <age 50-55 is really dragging the avg. down) & costs of housing/# of economically and environmentally viable places on a poisoned planet has shrunken.

    People have also come to rely on it more as guaranteed benefit pensions have largely disappeared (that even aside from corporate raiding are increasingly costly in times of shrinkage compared to 1955-1975, anyway?).

    FDR kinda gets trotted out as a show horse, but he kinda did the bare minimum without touching the major players money & class position, especially to fund things like SS.
    I take the contrarian position that Huey Longism is still bad/corrupt, but probably would have been better haha?

    Regardless, SS may survive & stabilize & provide *some* meaningful benefits or minimal safety net going forward to keep people from completely slipping thru the cracks , but likely some bumps & turbulence ahead?

  3. Even many critics of social security ignore the fact that the system is insolvent today. When baby boomers were fully employed, the system collected more revenue than it paid out. Congress borrowed the surplus to "invest" in things like light rail and hundred-dollar toilet seats. Now the system is paying out more than it collects so Congress is "paying back" the money it borrowed. But where does that pay back come from? Taxpayers, because light rail and Amtrak and things like that sure aren't paying any returns.

    The United States and Canada are fortunate that we have large numbers of immigrants who can help pay the taxes that fund social security. Countries like Japan don't have those immigrants and they face serious demographic problems. Ours are real, just not as serious.

    1. ^True-enough in some ways, I guess?
      2097 sounds optimistic, turbulence / likely to be bumps in the road long before then, environmental (natural) disasters, notwithstanding.

      People are living longer & having fewer kids than when SS started & relying on SS more, but we’re also not really distributing the automation/robot productivity increase bounty to allow people to work fewer hours/week & years of their lives since 1935, and, especially since 1975 while also reducing snd reusing more with lower environmental footprint.

      Japan is (publicly at least) grinning & bearing it and playing for time with whatever island ingenuity (lacking much in the way of resources, immigrant labor or colonial/imperial holdings these days?) better than avg. Americans would more likely than not?

      Such as news from there is knowable or anyone at the layman’s level can have access to or make sense of it from far away?

      It’s a good preview if the trends continue for trying anything & everything possible apart from ceasing to be a corporatist class-society I guess &/or taking immigrants?

      Old lonely people committing crimes to be less lonely/counts as a social interaction as well as dying & not being found for weeks to months is pretty wild there, from what I’ve read?
      Idk what suicide rates are but there’s also death by overwork and the young people are super depressed, work umpteen bajillion hours & don’t have sex?

      Not exactly a pretty picture or a utopia by any means (or if that’s your picture of a utopia, you’re a total sicko?), but if I could pick and had the resources to own a place in semi rural Japan & spoke the language/was integrated there Vs. Here, I’d pick Japan in a lot of ways?
      Drinkable snow pack sourced public water utilities oftentimes, public transit that *basically* works, ???nuclear power???? & refined technological advancement?

      The better side(s) of that potential dice-roll doesn’t sound *horrible,* given some of the choices?
      Sort of the steady-state no-growth corporatist capitalist model ‘best case scenario’ (end state to-date?) in many ways, probably?

  4. Ending the exclusion of income above $140K or whatever it is this year from the SS tax solves most of the solvency problem.

  5. My understanding is that most of the draining of SS money is from disability payouts. Once Welfare was eliminated by Clinton, a ton of people started disability claims. And now that America is one of the most unhealthy populations in the world, that has also added to the number of recipients.


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