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Richard Benson

Richard Benson

Prior to founding the Specialty Finance Group in 1989, Mr. Benson acted as a trading desk economist for Chase Manhattan Bank in the early 1980's…

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Where's My Government Check

My wife and I are getting a little older, so naturally we are beginning to think about where the cash flow will come from when we truly retire. We realize we won't be able to live on Social Security benefits alone, and even though we have paid into the system our entire lives in the hopes that come retirement age we'll get something back, I'm not very optimistic about our prospects.

Reading the financial press, I recently noticed that of the 139 million workers in the Bureau of Labor Statistics household survey of workers, 47 percent don't make enough to file and pay federal taxes beyond any collected social security tax. This means that out of a population of 310 million Americans, only 74 million (about 24 percent) pay federal taxes on April 15th.

After doing some more digging, I discovered that the number of people receiving free handouts from Uncle Sam greatly exceeds the number of people giving to him. With so many big government programs (Cash for Clunkers, the $8,000 tax credit, HUD housing assistance, subsidized student loans and earned income credits, to name just a few) millions of people have received federal treats and tax deduction goodies to feast on at our expense. With five million more people collecting unemployment and another six million living in their homes not paying their mortgage on the verge of foreclosure, my wife and I and the remaining 24 percent of taxpayers, will be footing the hefty bill for the losses at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHA.

Besides the big programs above, there are the truly massive and all encompassing mind-boggling programs I haven't even mentioned. Take Food Stamps, for example. About 40 million people collect them. Next up is Social Security. America has more people on Social Security than most countries have people! As of March 2010, the total number of beneficiaries, including SSI disability, topped 58 million Americans. Medicare has 47 million people enrolled, and Medicaid has 59 million. Meanwhile, Congress just passed a new health care law designed to cover another 32 million Americans. And to top it off, 20 million children get subsidized school lunches. (The last time my wife and I got a free lunch it was a sales pitch at an investment seminar!) All of these programs are looking to Uncle Sam to pick up the tab.

Meanwhile, I've likely overestimated the percentage of the population working. Federal authorities who should know, but don't (because they don't really care about protecting our borders) estimate that the illegal population ranges from twelve to twenty million. When you examine all of the benefits and free handouts available in our country, I'd be marching to stay in America, too, and delighted to vote for the guy giving away the candy store to me!

Now, finally back to my wife's retirement worries. I just checked the federal government's finances. Tax revenues are at a 60-year record low as a percent of GDP, while expenditures are at levels that previously we have only seen in a major world war. Tax revenues only cover about half of the federal government's expenditures; the rest has to be borrowed.

Our country has been hitting up Uncle Sam for handouts and treating him like a rich uncle with no heirs and a soft heart. But Uncle Sam is in the poor house and he's passing the hat in foreign lands, like China, to fund our version of a welfare state, in exchange for selling the few remaining American workers who pay taxes into debt slavery.

If my wife and I can get a government check we'll grab it while we can because I know what could happen when the busted baby boomers start retiring in full force. We will plan our lives as if we cannot depend on Social Security or Medicare to see us through, because, of course, only a fool would think our finances in the next ten years would be any better than the Greeks! When the time comes and we finally have to ask where our government check is, I expect it won't be in the mail!


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