Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal wrung from the trauma of the 1930s a lasting legacy of economic and social reform, including the Social Security Act, new banking and financial laws, regulatory legislation, and new opportunities for organized labor. Taken together, these reforms gave a measure of security to millions of Americans who had never had much of it, and with it, a fresh sense of having a stake in their country.
From the dust jacket description of Freedom From Fear, The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, David M. Kennedy, Oxford University Press, (1999)
When one man’s security becomes another man’s chain gang.
The above paragraph concisely sums up conclusions about the New Deal that can be found in thousands of textbooks, histories, and articles. You can guess that the tome (it’s 858 pages, SLL has not read it) reflects the reigning academic ideology, an impression furthered by its Pulitzer Prize. Pulitzers are awarded to fans of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New deal, not critics. If the latter stood a chance, Amity Shlae’s fine critical analysis, The Forgotten Man, A New History Of The Great Depression, might have received one.
Putting food on the table has a large place in human history. So too do governments. More often than not, they’ve worked at cross-purposes. Governments don’t produce, they take. Whatever they take means less food, and everything else, for those from whom they take it.
One man’s government-bestowed security is another’s government-bestowed insecurity. There weren’t enough plutocrats to fund the New Deal. It reached into the pockets of people who were only an economic rung or two above its beneficiaries. The money taken from a taxpayer might have meant deferred truck maintenance or no trip to the doctor for his sick daughter.
Someone always pays, either present taxpayers or, when the government borrows the money and doesn’t default, future ones. During the New Deal many Americans wouldn’t accept assistance from private charities, but would from the government. Voluntary charity was rejected but the proceeds of involuntary forced taking were not.
The “measure of security” created an insecurity among those who funded it that went far deeper than the knowledge that the government now had first claim on their income and wealth. Income and wealth are products of how one spends one’s time and effort, of how one lives one’s life.
Roosevelt reversed America’s fundamental premise, never fully realized, that one’s life is one’s own. It was never explicitly stated, but implicitly each American’s life became state property. That is the fundamental premise of socialism and the true price of that “measure of security.” Freedom from fear for some necessarily means fear of the government for many.
Where has the idea that we are each owned by the government, our lives to be disposed of as it pleases, taken us? President Eisenhower warned of the military-intelligence complex (MIC). What he didn’t foresee, or at least didn’t warn of, was the redistributive complex.
It’s true that Eisenhower’s complex, to which we’ll add the intelligence agencies, accounts for spending of around $1 trillion and runs a global empire. However, that’s only about one-fourth of the federal budget. The redistributive complex spends most of the other three-fourths. Also keep in mind that a substantial, but hard to quantify, portion of MIC spending is nothing more than redistribution to military and intelligence personnel and contractors that neither defends the US nor projects its power.
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the three largest programs in the federal budget and account for just under half of total spending. Perhaps because its trust funds are mislabeled, many people believe that Social Security is set up like a private pension fund (Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund) or a private insurance fund (Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund).
Nothing could be further from the truth. Private pension and insurance funds take in contributions and invest them. If their contributions and investment returns are sufficient, they can pay their obligations. The Social Security Trust Funds are strictly pay as you go: this year’s taxes fund this year’s payments. Taxes in excess of obligations go into general government funds in exchange for interest-bearing government IOUs. Without changes in existing law, payments are projected to exceed taxes in fiscal year 2020.
Taxpayers do not “earn” their Social Security benefits any more than they “earn” a refund towards the end of their life on their income taxes. Legally, Social Security taxes are indistinguishable from income taxes. They both fund the government, are not invested to earn a return, and are certainly not kept in trust for the benefit of the taxpayer.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Social Security benefits are a revocable promise from the government, not a contract like a pension or insurance policy. (Flemming v. Nestor, 363 U.S. 603 (1960)). Contracts are a hallmark of freedom. Reciprocal obligations would put a crimp in the government’s ownership of your life. Slaves don’t get contracts.
Slave might be a distasteful term for some, so they may use serf. However, medieval serfs usually only had to turn over about a quarter of what they produced. Local, state, and the federal government income, property, sales, and inheritance taxes take far more than that from many of the nation’s most well-compensated and wealthiest taxpayers.
One can quibble over actual percentages, but that obscures the most important point: the government can take 100 percent if it wants. Presumably at that point most people would call it slavery. Even with first call on the nation’s income, the government is still over $20 trillion in debt.
Nothing says state property like putting people’s health and lives at the mercy of the government. Socialized medicine gives the government life or death power. The “single payer” calls the shots. Doctors and nurses become government functionaries, practicing “medicine” in accordance with bureaucratic decree. These procedures will be followed, these vaccines administered, these treatments allowed, and these drugs prescribed. These surgeries are “necessary” and will be performed when we can schedule one of our overworked surgeons. These surgeries are “elective,” go to the back of the line. These surgeries are “cosmetic,” you’re shit out of luck. And so on…
No surprise that socialized medicine is the Holy Grail for the redistributive sect or anyone bent on bankrupting the country (there’s quite a bit of overlap). Need justifies theft, the proceeds of which are redistributed to the government and its voter beneficiaries. The producers who complain, resist, or stop producing are greedy. The politicians and bureaucrats are altruists. The beneficiaries are blameless victims. When it all falls apart, nobody saw it coming.
Here’s an eleven-word summary of the thousand-plus pages of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: collectivism and the morality of coercive altruism are destroying the world. Rejecting that morality is the necessary first step for reversing the trend. Each individual’s life is his or her own property, not the state’s. Establishing that right means intellectual and physical battles that are quintessentially self-defensive: defending the inviolable right to one’s own soul, mind, body, and productive effort—a defense of self.
Don’t fight those battles and some day there might be another class of surgery: mandatory surgery. As you’re wheeled into the operating room, just before the anesthetic kicks in, you’re told that your vital organs are being harvested for transplantation. You’re getting on in years, there’s a shortage of transplantable organs, and yours will save the life of someone who can make a greater contribution to the collective good. If you bought into the collectivists’ morality, you have no right to complain or resist. Someone else needs your organs, after all, and it’s your duty to accept your fate.