· To me, a key aspect of Republican philosophy is supporting self-sufficiency in individuals. This is not because of anti-societal or selfish leanings. It is namely because self-sufficiency breeds confidence and self-esteem, and leaning on government is inefficient.
· By inefficient, I refer to the inevitable overhead associated with any organized program to do something for others. Even the most efficient charity has some overhead, and unfortunately that overhead grows by multiples with government programs. Government programs not only have employee salaries, they also include the cost of health care and pensions for those civil servants, building costs, the electricity, heating and cooling costs of those buildings, janitorial services, security for those properties, and so on.
· There is of course a place for charity and social services, both private and public, in our society. People will have problems and needs not of their own making that we as a society should respond to. But we need to always strive to make that assistance efficient, and as temporary as possible. The end goal should be to not only respond to the needs of the moment, but to help the recipient to eventually develop the ability to care for themselves.
· With that philosophy in mind, we need to reevaluate some of our key social program frameworks, especially the entitlement programs that are increasingly driving our federal deficits. In the depths of the Depression, when many large-scale government programs were envisioned, the core idea was the creation of “insurance” against extreme hardships, especially those faced by the elderly.
· As late as my high school years and my first jobs, my paychecks had a deduction for Social Security Insurance (SSI), a term we don’t hear anymore. Over the decades, many programs have morphed from being insurance geared to help an unfortunate few, to streams of money that go to the fortunate and unfortunate alike. Those with ample resources will receive Social Security, just as those who struggle. Medicare pays benefits to not only the elderly who lack the resources to pay for medical care, as once designed, but also pays benefits to those who may already have the most generous of private medical insurance.
· We face trust funds for Medicare and Social Security which will soon be drained. While most Americans believe the payroll taxes they pay in their working years fund their future benefits, in truth, those payroll taxes only cover a fraction of the benefits, with the remaining amount funded through debt which will have to be paid by our grandchildren.
· Major overhauls are needed to avoid fiscal disaster. Social programs need to be made actuarially sound, meaning that the spending outlays need to match in the long term with the payroll taxes collected. We can no longer make up the difference with debt.
· Making spending and revenue meet will require some combination of lower benefits, decreased overheads, means testing of recipients, or increased payroll taxes. In Congress, I will push for means testing and cutting of overhead costs, rather than higher payroll taxes, but in the end, the amounts must balance. While I do not favor the tripling of payroll taxes that could be needed to make ends meet, at least such a drastic action would carry the silver lining of demonstrating to the American public just how expensive these programs have become.
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