Start Your Own Tax Revolt — Without Getting In Trouble

From Human Events

“A virtuous and industrious people may be cheaply governed.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Little else is required to carry a state to the highest level of opulence but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.” ~ Adam Smith

Today, on April 15 Tax Day, hundreds of thousands of citizens are protesting out of control government spending and taxes at Tea Parties across America.

Should we complain?

The good news is that marginal tax rates have gradually declined since the 1950s, when the rate on income was 90%. And taxes on long-term capital gains and dividends are now at 15%. Long live supply-side Reaganomics tax cuts.

The bad news is that prior to the 1980s, there were plenty of loopholes to escape onerous 90% tax rates. Those tax shelters are largely gone.

The good news is that Tax Freedom Day (the amount of days you have to work to pay Uncle Sam) arrived two days ago, on April 13, according to the Tax Foundation. This is eight days earlier than in 2008, and a full two weeks earlier than in 2007, due to the recession, and the large temporary tax cuts for 2009 and 2010.

The bad news is that Americans will pay more in taxes than they will spend on food, clothing and housing combined! (Source: http://mjperry.blogspot.com/)

Moreover, if you add in the federal budget deficit to total taxes collected, the real Tax Freedom Day is May 29, the worst since World War II.

But there’s more bad news: For American business, the corporate tax rate is 40% in the United States, 50% higher than the average size of other industrial countries. The average corporate tax rate in OECD countries has been falling over the past 20 years, but not in the U.S.

In addition, legislators have discovered ingenious ways to taxing its citizens — through import duties, levies, and fees of various sorts. Today the federal “excise” tax is taking its toll on gasoline, tobacco, telephone and utility bills.

And sales taxes are inevitably rising in state after state, and I know of no state that has cut sales taxes. After every recession, the governor “temporarily” raises the sales tax by a penny, but then never rescinds it. Moreover, the state legislators are always finding ways to expand the tax base. When I was in Florida recently, the state imposed its 6% sales tax on hotel parking fees!

The few sales tax exemptions left, such as out-of-state and online purchases, are gradually disappearing.

Not surprisingly, taxes at the federal, state and local level are at an all-time high as a percentage of GDP. And under President Obama’s tax increases on the wealthy and on average citizens through his “cap and trade” energy tax (which will raise substantially the price of gasoline and utility bills), the percentage is expected to reach 27%.

Now more than ever, we need a stable, sound, low tax system that individuals and businesses can depend on for long term planning. Unfortunately, we change the tax law practically every year.

Countries like Hong Kong do it right. For the past fifty years, they have not changed their tax code hardly at all. They have a flat tax of 18% on individuals and corporations, and no tax on interest, dividends and capital gains. And they live within their means. No wonder the Economic Freedom Index ranks Hong Kong #1 in the world in terms of economic freedom and economic growth. We could learn a lot from Hong Kong.

I say, it’s time for a tax revolt. I favor a flat tax like the one advocated by Steve Forbes. It’s better than the so-called “fair tax” on consumption because it will create a new bureaucracy and will inevitably result in the U.S. having both a national sales tax and income tax.

But why wait for Congress to change the rules again and again? I say, wage your own tax revolt. But remember, some methods are effective, others are downright dangerous and could land you in jail. Here’s some do’s and don’t:

1. Take advantage of all legitimate tax-advantaged strategies. The two best ones right now are (a) a Sub S corporate business, and (b) investing in real estate, including your own home. Both offer ways to minimize FICA and income taxes; both can benefit from tax credits. In fact, it’s the best “buyers” market in real estate I’ve seen in decades.

2. Do consider moving to low-tax states, including ones that don’t impose an income tax (Florida, Texas, Nevada, Tennessee, Alaska, Washington, Wyoming, and New Hampshire). You might also consider living in a border state to avoid both the income and sales tax, such as Vancouver, Washington (by living in Washington state, you are exempt from the state income tax; by shopping in Oregon, you avoid the sales tax.)

3. Do consider working abroad and taking advantage of the foreign earned income exemption for Americans. My wife and I lived and worked two years in the Bahamas in the 1980s and saved so much in taxes that we bought a second home in London.

4. Do NOT get involved in tax protest movements involving the refusal to file tax returns on Constitutional grounds, or suspicious offshore tax haven deals. You’ll end up losing money and perhaps going to jail.

5. Do NOT renounce your citizenship and move abroad. Recent tax legislation forces ex-patriates to pay taxes on the next 10 years of income. It also limits severely how much time you can spend in the United States.

Finally, do NOT make business or investment decisions solely on the basis of avoiding taxes. There’s more to life than avoiding the tax man. Protest all your want today, but don’t make foolish financial decisions.

A Painless Way to Triple Your Savings

From The President’s Desk
Published in Ideas on Liberty
June 2002

by Mark Skousen

“The human mind is charming in its unreasonableness, its inveterate prejudices, and its waywardness and unpredictability.”

—LIN YUTANG1

“Behavioral” finance is the hot new field in the rapidly growing “imperial” science of economics. Consider the titles of recent books on the subject: Irrational Exuberance by Robert Shiller of Yale University, who correctly warned investors that the bull market on Wall Street in 2000 was not sustainable, and Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich.

Essentially, these writers take issue with a fundamental principle of economics—the concept of “rational” predictable behavior. They argue that investors, consumers, and business people don’t always act according to the “rational economic man” standard, but instead suffer from overconfidence, overreaction, fear, greed, herding instincts, and other “animal spirits,” to use John Maynard Keynes’s term.2

Their basic thesis is that people make mistakes all the time. Too many individuals overspend and get into trouble with credit; they don’t save enough for retirement; they buy stocks at the top and sell at the bottom; they fail to prepare a will. Economic failure, stupidity, and incompetence are common to human nature. As Ludwig von Mises notes, “To make mistakes in pursuing one’s ends is a widespread human weakness.”3

Fortunately, the market has a built-in mechanism to minimize mistakes and entrepreneurial error. The market penalizes mistakes and rewards correct behavior (witness how well business responded to the Y2K threat in the late 1990s). As Israel Kirzner states, “Pure profit opportunities exist whenever error occurs.”4

But the new behavioral economists go beyond the standard market approach. They argue that new institutional measures can be introduced to minimize error and misjudgments, without involving the government.

At the American Economic Association meetings in Atlanta in January 2002, Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago presented a paper on his “SMART” savings plan, which is being tested by five corporations in the Chicago area. Thaler, author of The Winner’s Curse and a pioneer in behavioral economics, has developed a new institutional method to increase workers’ savings rates. Thaler noted that the average workers’ savings rates are painfully low. I blame the low rate on high withholding taxes, but Thaler suggested that part of the problem is the way retirement programs are administered. He convinced these corporations to adopt his plan to have their employees enroll in an “automatic” investment 401(k) plan. Most corporations treat 401(k) plans as a voluntary program and, as a result, only half choose to sign up. In Thaler’s plan, employees are automatically invested in 401(k) plans unless they choose to opt out.

Result? Instead of 49 percent signing up (as they do in a typical corporate investment plan), 86 percent participate.

Raises Invested

In addition, Thaler has participating employees automatically invest most of any pay increase in higher contributions to their 401(k) plans, so they never see their paychecks decline, even though their 401(k) plans are increasing. Consequently, employees under this SMART plan have seen their average savings rate increase from 3 to 11 percent.

Robert Shiller was a discussant at the session and rightly called Thaler’s plan “brilliant.” I agree. Having authored several investment books advocating “automatic investing” and dollar-cost-averaging plans,5 I applaud Professor Thaler for taking the concept of automatic investing to a new level. If companies everywhere adopt his plan, it could indeed revolutionize the world and lead not only to a much more secure retirement for workers but to a higher saving and investment rate. The result could be a higher economic growth and standard of living throughout the world.

Most important, Thaler’s plan is a private-sector initiative and does not require government intervention. In short, through innovative management techniques and education, individuals can solve their own financial and business problems without the help of the state.

1. Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living (New York: John Day Company, 1937), p. 57.
2. References to “animal spirits” and “waves of irrational psychology” can be found in John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (New York: Macmillan, 1973 [1936]), pp. 161–62.
3. Ludwig von Mises, Theory and History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), p. 268. However, Mises refuses to call bad decisions “irrational.” He states, “Error, inefficiency, and failure must not be confused with irrationality. He who shoots wants, as a rule, to hit the mark. If he misses it, he is not ‘irrational’ he is a poor marksman.”
4. Israel M. Kirzner, “Economics and Error” in Perception, Opportunity, and Profit (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 135.
5. Mark and Jo Ann Skousen, High Finance on a Low Budget (Chicago: Dearborn, 1993) and Mark Skousen’s 30-Day Plan for Financial Independence (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1995).

Mark Skousen is president of FEE.

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Personal Snapshots
Forecasts & Strategies
April 2002

“I’m tired of Love: I’m still more tired of Rhyme. But Money gives me pleasure all the time.” —Hilaire Belloc

I came across a very interesting book the other day called Happiness and Economics: How the Economy and Institutions Affect Human Well-Being (Princeton University Press, 2002), by Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer. It’s a very academic book, with lots of graphs and mathematical regressions, but the conclusions are pretty clear: “The general result seems to be that happiness and income are indeed positively related.” In other words, money can provide many benefits—more opportunities, higher status in society, the ability to travel, enjoy better food, housing, health care and entertainment, etc.

I remember the day I discovered that I would be financially independent. It was a summer day in the 1970s when I came home and presented my wife with more than a dozen checks from a mail-order business I had started. Within a year, we had bought our first home, with 20% down, and by 1984, we had become successful enough that we could move our entire family (with four children) to the Bahamas to “retire.” The experience of becoming financially secure gave Jo Ann and me an incredible feeling of satisfaction.

The graph shows the relationship between income and happiness across nations. In general, people in poor countries are less satisfied than people in rich countries. One reason is that poor nations are often more subject to violence and uncertainty. “Countries with higher per capita incomes tend to have more stable democracies than poor countries have…. The higher the income, then the more secure human rights are, the better average health is, and the more equal the distribution of income is. Thus, human rights, health and distributional equality may seemingly make happiness rise with income.”

But the graph also indicates that more money provides diminishing returns in happiness. Subjective well-being rises with income, but once beyond a certain threshold, income has little or no effect on happiness. That’s why many wealthy people are not any happier than middle-class people. In fact, some wealthy people are downright unhappy.

Four Elements of Happiness

I once read a sermon by a church leader on the “Four Sources of Happiness.” He spoke of work, recreation, love and worship. I think he’s right. You have to find rewarding and honest employment to be happy. Unemployed people, not contributing to society or themselves, are generally unhappy. At the same time, people who spend too much time at the office and can’t relax with their family or friends at home need to learn the joy of recreation with a hobby, sports, travel or other avocation. Some of my most memorable times have been at a county softball game or a pick-up game of basketball with my kids or friends.

Love and friendship are also key elements of happiness. Everyone needs someone to confide in, to spend time with, to learn from, to reminisce with, to love and be loved. For most people, love and friendship take time and effort. You have to work at developing friendships, but the rewards are never-ending.

Finally, worship. Developing one’s spiritual side is essential to happiness. Some of my friends say they don’t need religion, but they are missing out on one of the joys of life—listening to a great sermon, singing hymns, meditating on the word of God and praying for God’s help.

In short, there’s more to life than doubling your money on a hot stock (although that, too, gives a lot of pleasure).

Are You A Company Man or An Entrepreneur?

Forecasts & Strategies
Personal Snapshots
May 2001

By Mark Skousen

The most dangerous advice you can give a child is “Go to school, get good grades, and look for a safe, secure job.” —Robert T. Kiyosaki, author Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I don’t normally write about the same book twice, but I received so many complaint letters about my attack on Rich Dad, Poor Dad last month that a follow-up is necessary. “I was stunned by your review,” wrote one subscriber. “My impression is very different from yours. Robert Kiyosaki comes off as someone who loves life and still has time for his two young boys fascinated by the world of business. Robert says it is the Rich Dad that has time for him, not the Poor Dad who is too busy climbing the job ladder and the rat race. Robert notes that in today’s volatile world there is no financial security—not by employers or government. You have to fill the void yourself through financial education and business entrepreneurship.”

My response: I have a mixed attitude about the philosophy behind Rich Dad, Poor Dad. In many places, he makes a lot of sense. I agree 100% that too many good people earn too little, spend too much and use their credit cards excessively, causing undue financial hardship and unpaid bills. I agree 100% that not enough time is spent in school educating young people on the virtues of self-discipline, budgeting, thrift, business acumen and entrepreneurship. I agree 100% that too many Americans have adopted a “bash the rich” and an “entitlement” mentality, believing that their company or government owes them a guaranteed life of benefits and security.

Kiyosaki favors the Rich Dad who sets his own hours and takes his chances in construction, chain stores and restaurants while he dabbles in real estate and penny stocks. He opposes the Poor Dad whose advice is, “Go to school, get good grades and look for a safe secure job.” He calls it “the most dangerous advice you can give a child” because in today’s global world, there’s no such thing as a safe, secure job. “That may be, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t work for several companies during your lifetime. Going out on your own as a capitalist/entrepreneur isn’t your only choice, and frankly, for most people it may not be the best choice.

Not everyone is cut out to be a capitalist/entrepreneur willing to go out on their own and invest in high-risk ventures. Most people prefer to work for a company. That’s fine—there’s no reason to be guilty about being an employee or executive of a big corporation. My advice is to work hard at that job, get up-to-date training, earn those raises, stay out of debt—and save and invest as much as possible. Many of my subscribers fit in this category.

Kiyosaki belittles his real father who had advanced degrees from Stanford and the University of Chicago but never could make ends meet as a school administrator in Hawaii. He was the Poor Dad who had little interest in “making money.” But Kiyosaki’s criticisms are misplaced. His dad’s troubles were not due to his non-pecuniary interests or in his working for the state of Hawaii. Poor Dad simply didn’t live by George Clason’s basic rules of The Richest Man in Babylon: Always save at least 10%, no matter how much you earn. That way you get richer every year, no matter what your lifestyle. Poor Dad could have been Rich Dad without taking any big risk in high-flying businesses or penny stocks. He could simply invest his 10% in index funds or even money market funds.

Who Gets Caught Up in the Rat Race?

I had to laugh when Kiyosaki accused his Poor Dad of getting caught up in the “rat race” of life with bigger homes and higher credit card bills. Believe me, the Rich Dad is also involved in the rat race. When you start your own business, that’s all you can think about. You will work 14 hours a day or more. Time for the kids and spouse? Forget it! Sure, you may show up to see your son play Little League, but more than likely you’ll be on your cell phone talking business. It’s the nature of the beast.

Rich Don’t Pay Taxes? Get Real!

One final comment. Kiyosaki boastfully declares, “The real reality is that rich are not taxed.” They use corporations and other tax breaks to beat the taxman. “It’s the middle class who pays.” That may have been the case a few years back, but not anymore. The rich are paying through the nose these days. Today the top 1% are paying over 30% of the federal income taxes. I know-I’m one of them. Sure, you may reduce your tax burden through corporations, but it’s harder and harder to escape taxes entirely.

In sum: Kiyosaki’s books are fine for self-employed risk-takers (and I’m one of them!). But for those who like working for others, don’t panic. You, too, can be a Rich Dad by following George Clason’s prudent formula, “A part of all you earn is yours to keep.”

Rich Investor, Poor Investor

Forecasts & Strategies
Personal Snapshots
April 2001

by Mark Skousen

“The poor and middle class work for money…. The rich have money work for them.”
—Robert T. Kiyosaki, author, Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Many of you may have read the best-seller, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The author, Hawaiian-born Robert Kiyosaki, criticizes his own father, a high school teacher, for pursuing a traditional low-risk lifestyle. His “poor” dad advises his son to get a formal education, become a professional, get married and have kids, buy a nice middle-class home, and invest regularly in safe mutual funds and blue-chip stocks for long-term financial security. At one point, he refers to his father as “my socialist dad.”

But Robert is attracted more to his best friend’s dad, a seat-of-the-pants entrepreneur who runs a series of businesses out of his rundown home. His adopted “rich” dad takes a riskier approach—forget about a traditional education and profession. Be a risktaker and a dealmaker! Drop out of school and start your own business. His “rich” dad even advises that a house is a liability that ties up seed capital that could be used in a new business opportunity. This “rich” dad has no time for leisure or sports; his passion is all business and making another deal.

Robert rejects his “poor” dad’s conservative approach in favor of the high-risk adventures of the “rich” dad. He describes the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat going this route. Robert invests in income-producing real estate, business ventures and penny stocks. At one point in his mid-40s, he’s broke and sleeping in his car. But in the end, he reports, it pays off, and now he’s a multi-millionaire and a motivational speaker.

I admire hardworking, self-made entrepreneurs who honestly provide a better product and become rich. But it’s a big mistake to recommend this high-risk approach to everyone. Not everyone is suited to be a swashbuckling adventurer; most in fact are better off working for others and investing in free enterprise through the stock market.

Robert is wrong to criticize his father and his conservative investment strategies. There are many paths to the top of a mountain. Read George Clason’s Richest Man in Babylon.

I also dislike the arrogance and know-it-all attitude of the author. Sometimes he comes across as a jerk. It is simply wrong to suggest that owning a home without a mortgage is a “liability.” Businessmen who always have to make a deal, who can’t relax or enjoy spending time with the family, who can’t go out to dinner without talking business, who don’t enjoy reading, hobbies, or intellectual or spiritual pursuits, are not to be admired, but pitied. Robert Kiyosaki needs to read Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living (available from Laissez Faire Books, 800/326-0996 or click www.lfb.com). “Those who are too busy can’t be wise.”

What If Social Security Was Like a 401(k)?

Forecasts & Strategies
Personal Snapshots
December 2000

by Mark Skousen

“Of all social institutions, business is the only one created for the express purpose of making and managing change…. Government is a poor manager.” -Peter F. Drucker, “The Sickness of Government,” The Age of Discontinuity (1969)

In the ongoing debate over the privatization of Social Security, one story has been overlooked: The private sector in the United States has already solved its own pension fund crisis by converting their old “defined benefit” plans into individualized 401(k)s.

Here’s the story: After World War II, major U.S. companies added generous pension plans to their employee benefit programs. These “defined benefit” plans largely imitated the federal government’s Social Security plan. Companies placed funds into a large investment pool based on employees’ salaries, the trust fund was managed by company officials, and a monthly retirement income was projected for all employees when they retired at age 65.

The Old Pension Plan System Fails

But over the years, corporate executives recognized serious difficulties with their traditional pension plans, similar to the problems Social Security faces today. Corporations confronted huge unfunded liabilities as retirees lived longer and managers invested too conservatively in government bonds and blue-chip “old economy” stocks. Newer employees were also angered when they changed jobs or were laid off and didn’t have the required “vested” years to receive benefits from the company pension plan. Unlike Social Security, most corporate plans were not transferable. The Employment Retirement Income Security ACT (ERISA), passed in 1974, imposed regulations on the industry in an attempt to protect pension rights, but the headaches, red tape and lawsuits grew during an era of downsizing, job mobility and longer life expectancies.

The New Individualized Solution

The new corporate solution was a spin-off of another legislative invention-the Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The 401(k) rapidly became the business pension of choice, and there is no turning back. These “defined contribution” plans solve all the headaches facing traditional corporate “defined benefit” plans. Under 401(k) plans, employees, not company officials, control their own investments (by choosing among a variety of no-load mutual funds). Corporations no longer face unfunded liabilities because there is no guaranteed projected benefit. And workers and executives have complete mobility; they can move that, 401k savings to a new employer or roll it over into an IRA.

According to recent Labor Department statistics, there are about nine times more defined-contribution plans than defined-benefit plans. Almost all of the major Fortune 500 companies have switched to 401(k) plans or hybrid “cashbalance” plans. Companies that still operate old plans include General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Delta Airlines and The New York Times Company. IBM, a company that once guaranteed lifetime employment, switched to a “cashbalance” plan two years ago, giving its 100,000 employees an individual retirement account that they can take with them in a lump sum if they leave the company before retirement (long-service workers are still eligible for IBM’s old defined-benefit plan). But virtually all “new economy” companies, such as Microsoft, AOL and Home Depot, offer 401(k) plans only.

Congress could learn a great deal studying the changes corporate America has made in pension fund reform. Converting Social Security into personal investment accounts is a step in the right direction, a policy change already achieved in Chile and other nations. Unfortunately, government – unlike business – is not prone to innovation. As Peter Drucker notes, “Government can gain greater girth and more weight, but it cannot gain strength or intelligence.” Hopefully, Bush will prove me wrong.

UPDATES

Death of Leader, Communist Party USA: Two months ago, Gus Hall, 90, longtime leader of the Communist Party USA died. In reading Hall’s life story in The New York Times, I was reminded of my father’s own story as an FBI agent in the 1940s, when he was an undercover agent and spied on Gus Hall in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1948, Hall was convicted of espionage under the Smith Act and spent eight years in prison. My father, Leroy Skousen, lived a fascinating life as a missionary, FBI agent, lawyer, and anticommunist speaker. His life has been written up in a book titled Thunder Broke the Heavens, available from Skousen Publishing Co., P.O. Box 2488, Winter Park, Florida 32790, $20 postpaid (checks/cash only).

How Many of You Are on Food Stamps?

Personal Snapshots
Forecasts & Strategies
November 2000

by Mark Skousen

“Middle of the road policy leads to socialism.” -Ludwig von Mises

At the recent San Francisco Money Show, I asked an audience of several hundred investors, “By a show of hands, how many of you are on food stamps?” Not a single hand went up. Then I asked, “How many of you are on Social Security or Medicare?” A third of the audience raised their hands.

Finally, I asked, “How many of you think you will be on the food stamp program during your lifetime?” Again, not a single hand went up. But when I asked how many would eventually go on Social Security or Medicare, almost everyone raised their hand.

My point was simple. The food stamp program is a social welfare program limited to the very poor; there’s a means test to qualify for food stamps, and most Americans attending investment conferences don’t need food stamps. On the other hand, Social Security and Medicare are universal social insurance plans. Everyone pays these taxes and at age 65 (sometimes earlier) they all participate, even though most Americans could afford their own pension program and health care insurance. Is there any wonder voters are more worried about Social Security/Medicare than they are about food stamps?

The following table shows the stark contrast between the food stamp program and Social Security/Medicare.

U.S. SOCIAL WELFARE SYSTEMS

Program Total
Coverage
Current
Recipients
Total
Annual Expenditures
Social
Security
180.0
million
44.2
million
$375
billion
Medicare 180.0
million
38.4
million
$215
billion
Food
Stamps
19.8
million
19.8
million
$17
billion

Note: Figures for Social Security and Food Stamps are for 1998, Medicare for 1997, the latest available.

Why Not “Foodcare”?

Suppose the President of the United States proposes a new welfare program called “Foodcare.” Since food is even more vital to each American citizen than health or retirement, he argues, the food stamp program should be expanded and universalized, like Social Security and Medicare, so that everyone qualifies for food stamps and pays for the program through a special “food stamp” tax. Congress agrees and passes new welfare legislation. Thus, instead of 19.8 million Americans on food stamps, suddenly 180 million or more begin paying the “food stamp” tax and collecting food stamps, representing perhaps 10% of household budgets. What effect do you think this universal “Foodcare” plan would have on the food industry? Would we not face unprecedented costs, red tape, abuse and powerful vested interests demanding a better, more comprehensive “foodcare”? And suppose “snacks” were not covered by “Foodcare”–wouldn’twouldn’t the general public start demanding that “snacks” be covered by the government because the cast of snack foods was rising too fast? Ludwig von Mises was right: “Middle of the road policies lead to socialism.”

Fortunately, there is no nightmarish “foodcare” program. Granted, there have been abuses and waste in the food stamp program, but the problems of efficiency are few compared to, say, Medicare. In fact, since 1995, the number of Americans on food stamps has declined from almost 27 million to under 20 million, and the costs have fallen from $22.8 billion to $16.9 billion. Yet has the size of Social Security or Medicare declined? Never.

Safety Net or Dragnet?

The conclusion is clear. Government welfare systems-if they should exist at allshould be limited to those who really need assistance. They should be safety nets, not dragnets that capture everyone. It was a tragic mistake to create a Social Security and a Medicare system where everyone became at some point a ward of the state. I’m convinced that if President Roosevelt had conceived Social Security in 1935 as a retirement plan for only those less fortunate to plan ahead financially, it would be a relatively inexpensive welfare program that would require taxpayers to pay at most 2%-3% of their wages/salaries to FICA, not 12.4% as they do today. If President Johnson had proposed Medicare in 1965 as a supplemental medical/ hospital plan limited to the needy, today taxpayers would be paying 0.5% of their wages/salaries to Medicare, not 2.9% as they do today. Instead, the systems were made universal, and the duplication is horrendous-and unnecessary.

Because we all pay in and we all benefit, we don’t always think straight about these “entitlements.” Example: A stockbroker recently told me about a client who called and complained bitterly about attempts by Congress to revamp Medicare. He angrily said, “They can cut spending all they want, but don’t touch my Medicare!” While the stockbroker listened patient to this man’s tirades, he pulled up the client’s account on his computer screen. He had an account worth $750,000! If anyone could afford his own medical insurance plan, it was this man. He didn’t need Medicare. Yet he saw Medicare as his right. He had paid into it all his life, and he deserved the benefits.

Imagine, what this man would be saying about Congress and food prices if we had “Foodcare.”