By Manifesto Joe
I do my share of lamenting these days about how the American people seem to have lost their minds. Anger is visible in the country today, but it seems focused on all the wrong things. I keep reading that in less than a month, it's likely that the voters are going to basically hand the country back over to the very people who were mainly behind the current economic debacle.
But now I read that U.S. millionaires, a lot of them, have been collecting unemployment benefits. I hope we have something here that most of us can agree is an outrage. I've noticed that even some conservative websites are unhappy about this news.
Here are the particulars, from Bloomberg News, plus a link to the entire article:
Oct. 1 (Bloomberg) -- After the economy slipped into recession in 2008, millions of Americans received unemployment benefits to make ends meet -- including almost 3,000 millionaires.
According to U.S. Internal Revenue Service data, 2,840 households reporting at least $1 million in income on their tax returns that year also collected a total of $18.6 million in jobless aid. They included 806 taxpayers with incomes over $2 million and 17 with incomes in excess of $10 million. In all, multimillionaires reported receiving $5.2 million in jobless benefits.
Not that $18.6 million amounts to all that much in the vast federal scheme of things, in which annual deficits can reach $1.3 trillion. Hell, the country could cut that deficit by two-thirds if it just forced rich people and big corporations to pay more, or in some cases any, income tax.
But there's a principle involved here. All these people are already doing quite well. If there was ever an area in which means-testing was needed, this seems to be it.
And yes, I understand the argument, as reported in the article, that unemployment benefits are insurance benefits, and therefore means-testing doesn't enter into it.
But let's consider that aspect for a moment. Don't insurance policies often come with certain rules and limitations? Term life expires at age 65, usually. Why doesn't unemployment insurance exclude those with incomes above a certain number?
Of course, this issue has come up before with regard to Social Security as well. What the hell is a multimillionaire doing collecting up to $3,000 a month, or something like that, from Social Security?
The rapid response is that Social Security is social insurance, and again, not subject to means-testing. But consider further: You can spend most of a lifetime paying into that system, but if you die just one day before you become eligible for benefits, you don't collect a cent. Insurance is no guarantee when the insured does not meet certain criteria.
As I understand it, Social Security is set up the way it is so that the better-off in U.S. society will be politically co-opted and willing to support and participate in the system. It's essentially a regressive payroll tax, with workers and employers each paying 6.2% on annual wages up to $106,800. After that cap, nothing is paid and nothing is accrued. It's designed so that everybody who accrues benefits will at least get something if they live long enough to collect.
Unemployment insurance was probably set up with the same considerations in mind among those who wrote the legislation. Everybody gets something, so it's more likely that the well-to-do will take part and offer at least tacit support for the program.
But, it is precisely this "what's in it for me" kind of thinking that will eventually sink this country. The paying of unemployment benefits to millionaires is just one little example of such behavior.
But, from what I've been reading, we're likely to witness a mass example of all this self-centered and misdirected rage on Nov. 2. Stay tuned.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.