William Thien

Archive for January 2011

In order to achieve the most satisfactory solution to the problem of “Big Government,” we must first ask ourselves the question about the nature of “Big Government,” and that is, is “Big Government,” our own country’s “Big Government” a seemingly sinister entity looking to perpetuate its existence at the expense of our own, or is it a giant, overprotective, clumsy oaf pacing back and forth along our perimeter, trampling our liberty with each heavy, scraping footfall?

In either case, it is clear something must be done.

Copyright © William Thien 2010

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Is it time to re-evaluate Social Security? Is it time to privatize Social Security?

Since these questions seem to re-introduce themselves every couple of years, perhaps it is indeed time to have another look, another serious, painful look. Like the nagging, recurring pain of an injury reminding us to treat that area of our bodies with care, perhaps the recurring questions about Social Security are trying to tell us something about our economy. The mere fact that questions, serious, valid questions can be raised over and over again about Social Security may be an indication to us something is wrong with Social Security.

One of the most egregious aspects of Social Security if you are single, for example, is that you pay into it for the duration of your life and if you die at the age of 56, nobody sees a thing. No individual receives the benefit of any savings in any private retirement account. You cannot will your savings to another family member. Your savings simply vanish into a common pool of funds.

Of the various entitlements that many receive in The United States, Social Security seems to be the one that most believe needs re-evaluation. During the last ten years there have been numerous discussions about privatizing Social Security and even ending the “entitlement” altogether.

Originally designed to provide a means of retirement income for those who worked and paid taxes all of their lives but had no retirement savings, Social Security has had its scope broadened at times to cover circumstances such as payments to chronic alcoholics and drug users who are unable to work due to their addiction, a payment which many would say is an abuse of the system.

Not only is the cost of the payments to recipients burdensome given those circumstances, the cost to administer the program is enormous. Addicts must be screened and recommended for Social Security benefits, deemed unfit to work by a health care professional. And who pays for that? Whew, now things are really becoming expensive.

But even more egregious is the fact that unlike a private retirement account, Social Security evaporates upon death. You may pay hundreds of dollars a month into Social Security and if you have a heart attack at the age of sixty and you are single, for example, there is essentially nothing there. Furthermore, if you die at the age of sixty and have a spouse, he or she only receives a monthly stipend of a few hundred dollars. And the time that he or she receives that benefit may vary. So they may be left without any payments for some time.

There is no individual account anywhere holding all of your savings. It’s a common account. Your wife or husband cannot withdraw all of the money you put into it. The monthly check she receives may not be enough to survive on. But had that same amount of money been put into a private retirement account throughout the duration of your life, chances are that he or she would be well cared for the rest of their lives. But now they simply receive what inflation has made a few dollars a month, barely living expenses for many.

Another problem with Social Security is that it is the foundational time line the government uses to determine when Americans should retire. What if you work until you are fifty years old and decide you want to retire, then? Are you eligible for your Social Security? No. And because of this the government also says in many cases you cannot use your private retirement account to retire at this time, either, unless you want to pay a substantial penalty in taxes. In this case more than anything Social Security is a means of controlling your private wealth and savings. Originally intended to provide a means of retirement income, now Social Security is a life program designed to tell you when you can retire and it is also a form of tax, a particularly toxic form of tax.

Social Security has many positive benefits. But many people believe that it has outgrown its original design and become a sort of monster. With the baby boomers now beginning to retire and the population of employees contributing into the entitlement account rapidly decreasing, perhaps it is indeed time to re-evaluate Social Security.

Finally, the main problem from my perspective with Social Security is that it is a poorly performing investment because the return on the investment (ROI) is by comparison to private retirement accounts generally very low, extremely low actually. And so many new definitions of eligibility have been created since its inception that Social Security also pays out less and less per capita annually. Everyone wants a piece of the Social Security pie. And when you have a government that basically has been getting themselves re-elected by promising the various pieces of the “social pie,” you start to see a smaller and smaller slice every year.

So yes, maybe it is indeed time to re-evaluate Social Security. Some might say it is time to end it altogether.

Copyright © William Thien 2010

The other day while walking in to the public library a woman came running up to me with a frantic, raving, insinuating question, ‘did I know where I was going when I die?’ By her choice of tone I was to be afraid, very afraid.

Bible thumpers often hang out in front of our public library handing out literature trying to initiate a discussion about religion with patrons. I don’t mind it. I hand out my own literature in the same manner in the same place from time to time.

But I try not to insult anyone with such obvious questions as to where they are going when they die? I had heard that same question before and simply answered, you don’t have the right to ask me that question. This time I was more prepared and I responded with a couple of questions of my own. A church, a synagogue, and a temple are all on the same street within a block of each other, all with their own system of beliefs, which one is right? And should they all be tax-free?

She looked at me with disbelief and then turned to her bible thumping partner who commented beneath his breath something that was derogatory about where I was going after I died and not worth repeating here.

So, since someone I’ve never met who had no angelic qualities whatsoever and clearly was of no divine origin, in other words “a mortal,” can supposedly decide my eternal fate with such callousness without even knowing me, I am compelled to ask the question, should all of these religious systems and all of the other more esoteric and bizarre religions be tax-free? I ask should they still be tax-free for the simple reason that since they are all in absolute, or since they all believe their system is the best system or most accurate or truthful system, or that they are the “chosen people,” I ask the question because it would seem that since they are all in such close proximity to each other and all believe they are the rightful owners of heaven, that they seem to cancel each other out. How can so many religious systems be in such close proximity to each other yet be so different and still be valid? And tax-free? I ask this question at a time when our country is starved of revenue to pay its debts when here we have an entire industry based only on faith and nothing more, which takes on new, unevidenced shapes almost every day, many of which I am certain the country’s founding fathers would not approve of, almost as if religion were a racket gambling with the ignorant souls of the country, a gambling racket which often runs willy nilly with strange ritualistic suicides and sacrifices and all of it tax-free to boot.

The bible thumper had been thinking and turned back to me raising her hand, pointing her finger upwards. I winked at her, turned, and went into the library.

Really only one religion can be the true one, the true faith. Yet, we have no empirical evidence which proves one is more true, more accurate than the other. In fact, all of the empirical evidence we have indicates we are the result of evolution and not of some religious origin. So the religious fear that mankind is the result of evolution begets the question, does not the irrational superstition of so many religions mark man as the result of evolution in the first place, anyway? If you believe in something that is false, something for which no empirical evidence exists and in fact has been disproved by fact, then you are by definition, irrational, superstitious, and it is an indication that you may have not evolved quite as far as perhaps another who taking into consideration all of the evidence indicating otherwise, does not believe.

It is safer to simply say one believes in a god or gods yet one has no proof they exist. Though, in other words, it may be that to believe in a religion for which there is no empirical evidence actually makes you the ape and the unbeliever the true angel, the rational one, that which is more evolved, that which sees through the veil of superstition called religion.

Furthermore, we merely choose the religious system, the religion that we feel best serves our religious needs or perspectives. In reality and given that religion is based on a system of “pure faith,” only one religious system can then be the “true faith.”

A philosopher or a mathematician might conclude that because all of the thousands of religious systems are based on faith, pure faith as their primary motivation, that means religions seek purity in faith, which perhaps can be represented by a theoretical or a theological absolute. And what that means is that there is then a “most pure religion.” So then why are they all tax-free, you could ask, if only one is the most valid?

I was going to pose this more direct question to the bible thumpers when I exited the library. But they were gone, gone to heaven I’m sure they would have us all believe.

Copyright © William Thien 2010

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Socialism as a political system has some extremely positive aspects. In particular, when you have a society comprised basically of working, two-parent families, socialism makes for a nice safety net when a family needs something to fall back on in hard economic times.

The problem with implementing any and all socialistic government programs in a country such as The United States though for the most part is that those that draw from social programs are frequently single-parent families that do not contribute back in to the system either through income taxes or any substantial sales taxes.

Offspring of those single parent families often fail in school and life and become themselves wards of the “socialist state.” That is the life they know. Since they are not the offspring of working families, they know no other lifestyle.

Exponentially the costs of the socialist system expand as those that draw from the system increase in number becoming an ever growing income and sales tax burden upon the two-parent families. The two-parent families then often must seek financial shelter in the socialist system as their real income becomes less and less due to the demands of the single-parent families.

Socialism is then a self-fulfilling prophecy that becomes increasingly expensive due to what some might say are abuses of the system. In other words, the social safety net which was designed to help people in times of need becomes a form of employment in perpetuity for abusers of the system who have no desire to seek gainful employment and contribute back in to the system but want the government check, so to speak, anyway.

Whether they are abuses or not, eventually the costs to society of the massive government safety net are too great. That is where many believe we are as a country today. One only needs to listen to the rhetoric and the see results of the most recent mid-term elections to understand that.

Socialism is no longer a viable political system in “the social context” of The United States. Unless we can administrate the massive abuses of the socialist system out of the system itself, socialism is a nice idea that has run its course in America and should be abolished.

Copyright © William Thien 2010

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January 2011
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