You are right, Lois, about the thieves in government. They have been around a lot longer than the 1800s. One of the biggest controversies of the early Republic involved the redemption of the war bonds that financed the Revolution. Well-heeled speculators bought up piles of them for pennies on the dollar from cash-strapped farmers and destitute soldiers. The speculators expected to redeem those bonds at full price and eventually did thereby getting a financial windfall. The argument in Congress was whether to pay the full price or to split the price between the original bond holders and the speculators. Congress sided with the speculators. Of course, the action was couched in terms of 'honor.' They decided that the honor of the nation was bound up in full payment even though the people who had sacrificed their financial well-being for the new nation did not get the reward for that sacrifice.
I found this article on the very hot summer we have been having and our national inaction on climate change. My mind followed a very odd path as I read the article. Our politicians are following exactly the same strategy so many of our manufacturers have for so long--doing anything to disguise cost increases. The manufacturers provide packages that look the same but actually contain one-third less product for the same or very slightly lower price. Our congress-critters would prefer to haggle over rules that mandate greater energy efficiency that then have to be clarified and enforced by individual government agencies but which hide from the ultimate consumer/citizen how costly reducing carbon emissions really would be. I wonder if honesty in politics is possible when every individual (and the group he identifies with) in this country thinks that every other individual (and his group) is getting a better deal/break/whatever and doesn't deserve it.
The New York Times has another interesting article. At the same time we are being deluged with stories about the 'crisis' in Social Security the state of Maine is considering switching its state employees over to Social Security and dumping its private pension plan. Living close to Chicago (but on the Indiana side of the line) I hear a lot about the trouble the Illinois public employee pension plan is in. Like so many private company plans it has been seriously underfunded for some time and the losses on investments have only made matters worse. Reading this article, however, I have to wonder why it has taken so long for people to start realizing that these pension plans are really scams. And I wonder how many workers have been left with neither state pensions nor social security?
Economist Mom at The Christian Science Monitor asks a very good question: Why is 'entitlement' a dirty word?" I can think of a couple of reasons. On the one hand it is often coupled with other programs which more closely fit one of her definitions of entitlement--benefits guaranteed to a particular group of people. In that sense social security is an entitlement. But there is a connotation to the word that is less appealing. Some years ago I remember trying to get that idea across to a student who questioned my questioning of her word choice in an essay. The word she used conveyed a totally different meaning than she intended but she had used a thesaurus and a dictionary which told her that the definition was exactly what she intended much like the dictionary definitions of entitlement Economist Mom used. Unfortunately, the word 'entitlement' carries a sense, a connotation, of something that has not been earned--a gift to someone who may or may not be deserving and which the gifting party could reduce or eliminate at will. I have no trouble embracing the term because I say 'Hell, yes, I am entitled. I paid for the damned thing. It is not charity.' Her comparison of the program to 'Membership Rewards' with American Express is interesting as is her conclusion that we are not paying enough to cover the rewards offered. But one of the big complaints and one of the issues the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency is supposed to address is the practice of credit card companies/banks/financial firms of changing the rules without notice. If we don't think it is ethical/moral/fair for private companies to do that why should the Government. And to change the rules for people under some arbitrary age, say 55, doesn't make the situation any more fair. By the time someone reaches 40 they have paid in for 20 years. That is more than enough time for a worker with a private pension to become vested even if they can't collect they reach retirement age (what ever age that might be).