If you’d like to do your part without getting rich, that’s possible, too. Don’t need no credit card to ride this train, just bad ethics. Being wealthy helps, though, especially if you want to be one of the Pareto power players, one of the twenty percent of the bad actors who wreak twenty percent of the immoral destruction, if the math is correct. The rich have more money available than the poor or the middling to divert from pension funds, after all.
It makes a certain amoral logic that the wealthy don’t give a shit about Social Security through their actions, since the program was never set up for their benefit in the first place. Its purpose was to lift the working-class elderly out of abject poverty, the idea being that it’s a national disgrace for grandma to spend her youth and middle age busting ass and then be reduced to eating dog food in a tarpaper shack because she got swindled out of her life’s savings. Family values concern trolls like to jump into the discussion at this point and wring their hands about the deleterious effect that this safety net has on the honoring of mutual kinship obligations, ignoring the prevalence in all eras of self-dealers who refuse to honor these obligations, maybe for “moral” reasons that are really just “fuck you, pops,” and the likelihood that those who would in fact try to honor these obligations to the indigent elders in their families are indigent themselves. Those who admire Social Security for freeing them from burdensome obligations to their aging relatives are usually either decent people who make efforts to reach out to their elders regardless and appreciate the help or else selfish shits who wouldn’t have done a thing for their kin who went the way of all flesh before them under any circumstances, including the righteous Randian utopia that FDR so cruelly disrupted with his modest socialism.
Social Security has become an entitlement for all vested contributors and dependents at all income levels for reasons of political exigency, basically, because the middle and upper classes throw a goddamn fit every time someone suggests that they should continue to pay into the system as a matter of civic decency but not draw on it unless they become indigent in their old age. A fair number of these same people accuse poors in the ghetto of being gimmedats, but they’re only grilling the dark meat; their own demand to receive the maximum federal retirement pension when they have stable pensions from sources other than Social Security and hundreds of thousands of dollars in other financial assets is something that the government has to give them because they paid for it. The actuaries may not agree that they’ll still be lifetime net contributors by the time they kick the bucket, but this doesn’t matter. It isn’t gimmedat when Bougie tells the gubbyment to gimmedat. These highbrow drains on the treasury could make equally equity-challenged arguments that partners at McKinsey have a right to receive food stamps because they pay taxes, but food stamps are low-class, so they don’t. Food stamps are for the gimmedats, and it’s only a gimmedat if it’s a request by a poor (being black as well merely helps piss off the Fox and Friends crowd) for benefits in amounts that Bougie would find unambitious.
This is the cost of a social safety net in a society that noisily values meritocracy, regardless of whether it practices meritocracy, and whose electorate is flooded with fuck-you-I-got-mine resentniks. They need theirs, too, and they’ll depose their Congressmen if they don’t get it. Gimmedat. This helps explain why Social Security is only a very mildly progressive pension system. That said, it does something for the poor; if the Fox and Friends gimmedats had their way, the poors would get nothing because they deserve nothing.
A quick word on the brass-tacks functioning of Social Security is in order. Contra all the shrill yelling from the Go Galts, Social Security is not a pyramid scheme. Like all money, it is a claim on future labor. Yes, all money: gold, as it is so esteemed by goldbugs, is also a claim on future labor; the freaks aren’t hoarding it for home dentistry. Social Security specifically is a claim on the future labor of generations yet unborn, or at least yet to enter the workforce. The younger generations will have to be willing to work in jobs that the elderly want done, like cashing their checks for five dollars cash back at BiMart, for the checks to be worth more than a pot of shit. (Grandma bought six cans of Santiam green beans in addition to her five-spot. Baller.) If the orchestra goes on strike, there won’t be any Tchaikovsky concert to attend this weekend. If no one is willing to work weekend nights at the record store, you’ll be stuck listening to A Prairie Home Companion, I guess. If Garrison and company go on strike? No Ole and Lina jokes Saturday night, which might be a good thing. If no one shows up to pick blueberries like I did for $2.84 an hour today, there won’t be any blueberries in the stores. The good news is that not awfully many people hate their jobs so passionately that they can’t be induced to do them. The faster pickers are sloppier than I am, for the most part, but they might start thinking that work really sucks if they were forced to be as thorough as I try to be.
Anyway, someone has to do the work, or it won’t get done. This sounds like a deep thought from Captain Obvious on the Hotels.com website, but it’s true, even if it’s daft of me to belabor the point. Except it isn’t daft of me. Many people don’t really understand this. Goldbugs, for example. Great, you have the western annex of Fort Knox in your basement, but what sourdough is going to trade you a side of deer for that shit if you’re hungry and it’s Happening? Better at least keep some of that Mormon canned goodness in stock, because Napoleon and the Liger won’t be helping you out of that pickle, cracker.
The wealthy and their scions have an easier time getting away from these realities because they have so much fucking money that they can keep paying and paying and paying for shit without having to work to replenish their savings. Entitlement can result. Trustfunders, for lack of a more precise term, are also more likely to end up being strung along for free labor by broke-ass mooches, as are retirees with secure finances, mainly because they aren’t forced to earn every cent they can to make ends meet. It’s impossible to say what the fuck work is worth when some of the most valuable kinds one has performed go completely uncompensated and one can dramatically improve one’s standard of living by just sitting around one’s parents’ house for weeks on end, but as I’ve said, the labor theory of value flew the coop decades ago. Maybe the Kardashians should be making a sorry pittance as traveling carnies in the ass ends of Twin Falls and the Quad Cities, but they’re keeping up, as the Cathedral enjoys reminding us.
Many of the wealthy saw absolutely no use for Social Security in the first place. Some of them preferred a thrifty working class, Mr. Potter. The attitude that produced so much revanchist plutocratic anger at FDR continues to affect the wealthy and their accountants. Their thinking is basically that the poor can be left to their own devices while we grow our wealth, and it won’t grow if we divert it to payroll deductions like normal people.
I should have expected my parents’ accountant to be amoral enough to say that there’s no need for me to try to vest with Social Security for the sake of vesting because it would be cheaper for my parents to just put money into trust for me. Accountants and their moneyed clients have been giving each other moral cover for this sort of chiseling since time immemorial. Who gives a shit about trying to take part in something as lame as the national pension plan? Never mind that it looks and feels really fucked up to be just over a quarter of the way vested in Social Security at the age of 32, or should to any sensible person. In rough 2015 dollars, a retirement pension can be vested with as little as $48,800 in payroll income over ten years. Being unable to accomplish this is pretty pathetic; being unwilling to do so because, shit, why would anyone want to do that, is extremely pathetic. Disreputable.
The other subtext informing my parents’ accountant, I’m quite sure, is that he’s used to preparing trust funds for clients who have grown children who are chest-deep in hard drugs. He has to be categorizing me with these marginally employable druggies. I’m not particularly offended by this, just a bit disturbed, because it’s clearly a category error. And even these druggies are probably more employable than their parents believe in many cases. There are two realistic reactions to unrealistically high parental expectations: to go into overdrive and crash through the glass ceiling, or to figure that it’s all a huge waste and crash through the floor. We’re talking about parents who will think that their precious snowflakes are fuckups if they go into management at Stewart’s instead of getting terminal degrees and contending for academic jobs.
The buffalo chicken pizza is better at Stewart’s, but only at the Chestertown location. Not that I’m looking at management track jobs there. I’m just trying to earn my next Social Security credit, with 27 days to go at my current rate.
Let’s be pals and not crash Social Security, Bougie. Good God we can be stingy motherfuckers.