Taking Stock: You earned those “entitlements”

By Malcolm Berko Published: April 7, 2013
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Dear Mr. Berko: I have been a widower for four years and helped raise six children, each of whom is mostly self-sufficient. My wife and I were very active in raising our children. I began taking Social Security at 70. I really don't need this entitlement.

Starting in 1968, I had a good job for 40 years. We lived within our means. We saved money. My wife worked part time as a legal secretary for 30 years. We did well with investments.

The checks have come in handy for paying for a new air conditioner, a large-screen TV, airfare, and gifts for my children and grandchildren. And I hope to help some of them with their college costs. I could spend less and bragged about this (shouldn't have) to my pastor. Now he's nicely suggesting that I give up this entitlement so the government can give it to people who need it. And I'm almost embarrassed that I get $2,200 every month. I'm aware that Congress wants to reduce this entitlement and that there will be a means test to qualify. I would like to hear your thoughts.

SG, Oklahoma City

Dear SG: Stop referring to Social Security as an “entitlement.” SS is not an entitlement. Every time you or your spouse earned a paycheck, the employer sent Social Security 6.2 percent of it to an account under your or her name. And each time you or your spouse earned a paycheck, the employer also sent SS a matching amount to your account. That's 12.4 percent per paycheck, and your spouse never received a shilling of it. You earned it! You paid for it! It's your money! It's not an entitlement!

The word “entitlements” is government-speak for the federal programs from which lots of folks receive support that they don't pay for. However, Congress is ill-advised to call Social Security an entitlement. Calling SS an entitlement is purposefully disparaging and places it on the same common field as food stamps, job training, free cellphones, etc. And as Congress continues to call SS an entitlement, folks like you, who have 40 years of contributions, will begin to believe it's an entitlement, making it easier for Congress to take it from you.



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