in response to a facebook comment decrying immigrants and potential terrorsists sneaking into the country to leech our resources like free healthcare and free education to the point where there will be no money left:
I understand what you're saying, and I don't even necessarily believe it is wrong in principle — obviously, if you pay out more than you can bring in, you're going to be in a pickle and you do not want a situation where there are more takers than givers. This way of thinking reduces things like Medicare and the cost of education to that of a really, really, fat checking account into which money stolen from the backs of rightful earners is deposited and subsequently withdrawn to give away to parasites.
I don't look at things that way, and I don't think Bernie does, either. It's ironic, in a way, that the folks bankrupting Social Security and Medicare are the boomers -- the large wave of takers, in essence, that are burdening the pyramid scheme... Regardless of the viability of the design of the program, many of the folks receiving Social Security benefits now are actually able to afford to live without it and would be able to fund their own medical care.
If I were to subscribe to the bank account model, I would be one of the folks advocating that those individuals be kicked off the rolls and forced to fund themselves... But I don't: The people reaching benefits age today paid in during their working years with the understanding that it would be available, and they have every right to expect the payments to come now.
I do not view Medicare and Social Security as welfare programs for the indigent and poor. I believe if you pay in, you should get to take out... even if some need to take more than they paid in. This is really not that different than life insurance or health insurance schemes.
As someone who grew up on welfare and food stamps, and has eaten government cheese, for example, and who went to college on a combination of Pell grants, scholarships, and Stafford loans, I completely understand the value of these programs and what a difference they can make for struggling families. My parents were both Reagan republicans, yet my mother bought my brother and I food week after week (somehow) on the pittance of food stamps she received. Despite my father's protest (he was deathly ill and could not work or safely drive), she also cleaned people's toilets, washed their dirty laundry, and cleaned their entire house for $40 (which they paid when their husband hadn't run off with the checkbook, but that's another story for another day). All that she asked to be paid in cash so that she wouldn't cross one of the many magic thresholds and lose the food stamps. This is one of the ways that the system -- dinged and beaten and deformed by the individuals who subscribe to the "parasitic bank account" vuew traps people, which is also another topic for another day.
I did not feel like a parasite eating chipped beef gravy on bread. I felt thankful that we were able to keep a roof over our heads, and food on the table, and clothes on our back. And determined to respect those affordances - I studied, not got drunk and partied, in college. And I am not the only one — I know many who felt the same way.
And so, instead of seeing things as a checkbook, I see everything as a system of interrelated events, needs, and outcomes. Will there be leeches, sure. Will we always have the 1%? Absolutely. But we believe that America can do better than we have been - and if the market can't see fit to produce it, if the political, religious, and financial classes can't see fit to produce it on their own, then it's up to the people to make sure that we have available health care for everyone, access to good education, clean air, water, nutritious food, etc. all layered over the fabric of diversity, integrity and inclusion that makes America unique in the world.
I'll add, too, that perhaps if our leaders would spend as much time and energy thinking about how to creatively fund some of these needs as they do trying to defund a women's healthcare organization, we might actually make things better and find that we can do these things without as big of a burden to our checkbook.
We have achieved so much in this country, and yet we still have to worry about whether or not we can afford to get cancer or if our kid can get into college -- or for some, get into college only to be gunned down in the street or "lit up" for backtalking The Man. Without addressing these problems and ensuring solid support is in place for people who need it, Bernie and I believe our entire nation will go bankrupt with billions in the bank.