George Graham

The Big Lie About Social Security and Medicare

I can’t figure out why Republicans want to torpedo Social Security. I know, they say the program doesn’t pay for itself and – with Medicare and Medicaid – it’s the reason the United States is in such dire financial straits.

But to put it as simply as I can: That’s a Big Lie.

Like unemployment insurance – another of the GOP’s prime targets – Social Security is funded by contributions from wage earners and their employers. And as for Medicare, that’s not free. I notice Uncle Sam deducts money from my Social Security check each month to pay for it.

If the contributions are not adequate, the solution is obvious: Change the formula.

But so far the contributions have been more than adequate. In fact, the Social Security program has taken in more than it has paid out over the years.

Critics of the program describe it as “welfare.” But if that were true, any insurance program – private or public – would also qualify as welfare. And insurance programs are as old and ubiquitous as humankind.

It’s not my fault that the government has “borrowed” the Social Security surplus to fund other spending. I (and my various employers) paid into the program and now I’m getting paid back – as agreed. It’s not “welfare”; it’s a contractual agreement. It works just like a private pension plan.

And it’s not my fault that I go on living. Uncle Sam should have figured that out – what with all the statistics and actuarial expertise the government has at its disposal.

No doubt about it, Social Security accounts for a big chunk of the U.S. budget. But there’s no reason for it to be insufficiently funded. The government takes our money and gives it back when we get too old to work. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out how that should work.

The reason America is broke has little to do with “entitlements” or “welfare.”

The main reason is bad stewardship.

Decades of dumb decisions are coming home to roost. Grandiose military posturing, for example… Absurdly disadvantageous trade agreements… Subsidies and tax breaks to rich and powerful corporations and individuals (including such nonsense as farm subsidies to foreign millionaires who don’t even live in America)…

Generations of corrupt and inefficient politicians and bureaucrats have compounded the problem. American society has become dysfunctional.

Now, with the nation’s economy hemorrhaging from two wars and the cost of supporting military bases all over the world, with billions stolen by Wall Street and falling through the cracks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a long list of other abuses too numerous to mention, guess who gets the blame?

The old, the poor, the sick, the children and the jobless, of course. After all, what influence do they have in Washington?

But everyone has a vote. And if enough of us see through the Big Lie, we can protect our pittances at the polls.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for