Addressing The Great Entitlements Debate Withou Crunching A Single Number

There are almost 37 million of us seniors in the US watching the great Entitlements Debate. But that’s the last number I’ll need to use. Instead, I’d simply like to honor the old rule: “Define your terms.”

* By ‘entitlements’ we generally mean Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Disability, and government pension plans. Oh, but we’re off to a bad start right away. Because the more honest descriptor would be defined-benefits-plans. Plans in which real people invested real hours, real sweat, and real talent into the community they served, and which in turn pledged them a return-on-investment. The beneficiaries are reaping only what they sowed!

* By ‘numbers’ we generally mean statistics that have been tallied, tested and deployed in various algorithmic projections. Both presidential candidates have submitted their projections to the public — well sorta. Both have started off with most of the same facts & stats — well, sorta. But then both have come up with dramatically different factual & statistical conclusions — there’s no sorta about that!

* By ‘experts’ we generally mean mathematic and demographic specialists from a cross-section of college campuses, government agencies, and private enterprises whose credentials are commonly accepted. Oscar Wilde caught their essence nicely when he added: “An expert is an ordinary man away from home giving advice!”

* By ‘solutions’ we generally mean a polysyllabic ensemble of promises designed to dazzle the ignorant and temporarily comfort the informed. For example, note how both candidates assert their solution will “save the same Medicare the other solution destroys.” A syllogistic sleight-of-hand reminiscent of the Blackjack dealer cheerily inviting the players to “stay with it!”

* By ‘beneficiaries’ we generally mean all those lives who have by now accrued a burden of needs. Mostly medical for which they would gladly give up their checks if only they didn’t bear the burden of these needs in the first place. Aging, crippled, in a miasmas of various physical and emotional failures, these beneficiaries are now confronting a life-struggle. They vote each election with the same hope the experts’ latest solutions will at least put their needs on a par with the latest missile system, farm subsidy, and corporate tax-write off!

The irony here can be a bitter one. For the experts chosen by the candidates to address these needs are themselves usually young, healthy, well-fed, and cock-sure.

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