LZ Granderson: I'm not counting on collecting Social Security
He says relying on government to protect you is a mistake
His generation is upset that politicians keep kicking can down the road, he says
Granderson: Presidential candidates except for Jon Huntsman are ducking the issue
Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com and a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs. Watch him on CNN Newsroom Tuesdays at 9 a.m. ET.
I think I stopped trusting the U.S. government right after learning that for 40 years, instead of treating a small group of poor, uneducated people officials had identified as having syphilis, officials not only withheld the diagnosis from them, but the cure as well, just to see what would happen if the disease went untreated.
This was done even if what would happen was eventually death, which is why burial insurance was given to the unsuspecting victims as if the government was doing them a favor.
And this didn’t happen a very long time ago either.
In fact, the first wave of Gen Xers were out of diapers while the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment was still going on.
Once you see how hard Uncle Sam sucker punches people he identifies as expendable, you learn to keep your guard up whenever he comes around.
It is for this reason that Social Security is nowhere in my retirement plans.
Call me crazy, but the idea of trusting the government to take care of me, to provide me with “security” when I’m old and frail is far more frightening than the thought of me trying to make it on my own.
I’m not yet 40, so theoretically I still have plenty of time to have my own plan in place. Yes, I’ve paid into Social Security. No, I don’t expect to benefit from it, at least not at the level those who are currently collecting are benefiting. And I don’t know anyone in any line of work my age or younger who does.
We are not as mad about this switcheroo as much as we are mad that the reform can keeps getting kicked down a road that’s getting shorter and shorter by a bunch of politicians who know better but are too afraid of losing voters who won’t be around when the money’s all gone anyway.
Anybody with a high school diploma and a calculator can see how entitlement programs are damaging the economy and that some sort of reform is necessary to ensure their long-term solvency. And yet during budget and debt ceiling talks, Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid responded as if the Republicans wanted to sell voters’ first-born babies into slavery.
On Monday, President Barack Obama introduced another plan without touching Social Security. The Democrats won’t even support the modest changes recommended by the president’s own debt commission, including phasing in a two-year increase in the retirement age over the next 65 years and raising the ceiling on payroll taxes. They keep mocking us with talk of protecting the middle class when in reality protecting the middle class would have been passing a budget and introducing entitlement reforms before the extras from “King of the Hill” got into Congress.
But just as GOP presidential candidates are saying whatever they can to appease their base (except for Jon Huntsman, which is why he is in last place), the Democrats are just as guilty of pandering to the home crowd, even if the desires of that crowd aren’t nearly as much to blame for the economic trouble the country finds itself in as the Bush tax cuts and relaxed Wall Street regulations.
It’s all a game, and election after election, we keep getting played.
Remember Obama didn’t say he and the members of Congress might not get paid if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised, but that Social Security and military checks may not go out. And he’s the one being accused of being a socialist. Can you imagine what the rhetoric of a good ol’ fashion free-market capitalist would sound like?
Here’s a hint: Rewatch the video from the CNN/Tea Party Republican Debate last week in which Wolf Blitzer asked if society should let an injured 30-year-old man without health insurance die. Much was made about the cheers that could be heard coming from some of the crowd, but I was far more disturbed by the lack of chastising that came from the stage immediately after the cheers. You mean to tell me the possible next leader of the free world doesn’t have an instant rebuke to people who cheer at the mention of uninsured Americans dying?
And I’m supposed to trust that person to have my best interest at heart when I’m at my most vulnerable?
The Great Depression gave birth to Social Security.
The Greatest Generation fed it and made it strong.
Today the sheer number of the baby boomers is slowly strangling it to death.
And because politicians continue to use Social Security as one of its many chess pieces to manipulate people to vote a certain way, one day we’ll speak of it much in the same way we speak of dial-up Internet access. Only instead of laughing at how long it used to take to log on, we’ll be shaking our heads, reminiscing back to the time when government actually cared.
Except for me.
As I hinted earlier, my faith in government went out the door the moment I found out it was controlled by people.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.