The following are 8 of the current misunderstandings that I think are plaguing a large percentage of our country’s voters. Mostly this is because of constant misrepresentation in the media, whether purposeful or not. However none of us can make good decisions when our facts are flawed, so I thought I might point out these issues and help shed some clarity on the situation. Please be sure to check the facts presented and comment.
1. Social Security is broke, and cannot continue to pay out its benefits.
This is a very strange claim for a system that will be solvent, and able to pay any and all claims for the next 26 years. After that time it is estimated that it will only be able to pay about 78% of expected claims. However, right now Social security is running a 2.3 trillion dollars surplus in the form of it’s various savings funds. This information is readily available on their website. It’s still a future problem but we have a quarter of a century to solve it.
2. Social security is a Ponzi scheme.
Who runs a Ponzi scheme and keeps their books open to public scrutiny? It’s running the way it was designed, workers pay in now for those who are retired now, and collect later from those who will be working then. Social security sends anyone who pays in a statement each year of what they will be able to collect at retirement, as a legal guarantee. I don’t believe Ponzi schemes do any of those things.
3. Congress stole money from Social Security and that’s why it’s failing.
Congress did take money from the Social Security trust funds but then replaced it with government bonds. Does anyone really think that’s stealing? Those are the same bonds we sell to finance our debt. If investors around the world are lining up to buy our bonds, even after a credit downgrade, why would we doubt their value?
4. Only the private sector can, or should create jobs.
Ok, then where are they? We’ve all been waiting two years for the private sector to step in and create lots of jobs and they have only responded with a trickle. This is the same private sector that is showing record profits for the past two years and has some 2.3 trillion in ready assets. Are they ready to invest? Not so fast.
The “Private sector” we’re talking about here is made up of large businesses which could deliver lots of jobs but probably wont. The first reason is that they just cut their workforces in the recession and made up for it in productivity. They got leaner and more efficient and that’s a good thing for the companies and the investors. The second reason is that it’s not good business to expand without a verifiable market (profit). If no one is going to buy a whole lot more, why would you expand? They are meeting the current need with the staff they have, and they are concerned about the prudence of investment in the US at this time.
5. Costly regulations are stopping businesses from creating jobs and doing business in the US.
As I mentioned these same business are making money hand over fist, and under the current regulatory structure. Although it’s important to point out that the businesses with the 2.3 trillion of ready assets are not the so called “small” businesses that make up a little more than half of the businesses in the US. It’s also important to understand that those smaller businesses also do not have lobbyists in Washington, nor are they particularly concerned with overburdening regulations. Delis, garages, motels, lawyers, doctors and gardening services are not the ones calling for the scaling back of regulators like EPA. Small businesses are much more likely to care about the health, safety and the other government protections of the communities where they live and work.
6. Raising taxes on the rich (the Jobs Creators) will stop them from creating jobs.
As baby boomers, I think we have to realize that the tax structure that led to our America, the one of massive investments in schools, the building of a world class highways system and even reaching the Moon, is very different than the one we have today. Taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals were much higher from Eisenhower through Reagan than they are now. However in the late 70s and 80s we began to become enamored with “trickle down economics” and tried to incent rich individuals and large corporations with tax cuts and other inducements. The theory was that this would drive the whole economy to new heights and everyone would benefit. However, instead the gap between the lower income earners and the wealthy became much larger and large corporations began to move their facilities out of the US. In short, it did work, just not for everyone. The money has never come down, it stayed up.
7. Shrinking government will create jobs.
Massive layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and other government workers hasn’t created any jobs so far as I can tell. Has anyone heard of private plans to fill in for government services? Can a school district who can’t afford to pay the teachers they have, pay private contractors? Have these cutbacks and budgetary moves done anything but put more people on unemployment? Are school systems and other government agencies more efficient now? Will that change? I think it’s fair to ask where these new jobs will come from, and just what is the plan after we “shrink” government. Each one of us needs to seriously ask what that shrinking directly means to us and our children after us. For that, rhetoric and ideology wont do, we need details.
8. Taxing the rich is enabling “class warfare.”
When a wealthy person is paying an effective rate of 17% to 20%, and a middle class family is paying 35% to 37% aren’t we talking about “fair dealing?” If there is or was class warfare, most of us already lost. Everyone I’ve ever met wants to reform the tax code to make it fairer, isn’t that what we’re talking about?
I think one of the most important things to do as a voter is to check the facts, it’s much easier than it used to be. Politifact is a good place to look, as is Snopes, MediaMatters is another, although that may be a bit left wing for some. Still, none of us can afford to take any political statement of consequence at face value. We have unprecedented tools to check deeply into the records and garner the facts. Please check out the links above, these tools make it easy to do quick research and we all should make the most of them.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011
Prentiss Gray is a writer and columnist and currently writes the Domesti-Tech Blog for Gannett. He can be reached through his website at www.prentissgray.com