In her commentary "Political games and gains" in the OBSERVER on March 13, Vicki Westling defines an entitlement as "(...) Something that one has worked for, paid into and given something in which a reasonable return can be expected according to the rules that were established at the time the contributions were made."
While she denies that Medicaid, welfare and food stamps meet this definition (arguable) she does not deny that Social Security and Medicare do meet her definition. Yet in the next paragraph she insists that Social Security and Medicare should be "means tested," thus changing the rules under which current recipients made their contributions. I hasten to point out that Social Security and Medicare are already "means tested" since those with sufficiently high income pay taxes on some of their Social Security benefits and may also incur the Income Related Medicare Adjustment Amount (IRMAA) which increases substantially the Medicare Part B and Part D premiums.
Not that long ago, retirement planning was compared to a "three legged stool" with the legs representing retirement income derived from Social Security, employer pension plans and personal savings and investment. Employers have mostly abandoned private pension plans in favor of 401(k) accounts funded jointly by employees and employers (if you are lucky). As for personal savings and investment, for more than a decade worker earnings have not kept pace with inflation (except for CEOs) for those lucky enough to stay employed. The great recession and low interest rates have made savings and investment not very rewarding for many and virtually impossible for others. Now Westling and many politicians want to use a chain saw on the third leg of that stool. At this rate the stool will be unstable at best or too close to the ground to provide for one's needs or worse.
The proposals to "means test" Social Security by decreasing or eliminating payments to those who have income beyond Social Security punishes those who were able to save for their retirement. Do we really want to be in the business of punishing savers and investors? Wouldn't this proposal change Social Security from an "earned benefit" (a better description than "entitlement") to another income redistribution scheme?
Another way to protect farms
After reading the commentary "A way to bring dairy back to life" (OBSERVER, March 21), I have observations of my own.
Why invest $2 million through NYSERDA so a farmer can have free electricity as long as the farm exists? In some cases, if there is an excess, it could be sold to the power company and the farmer could pocket that. The author makes a very sound proposition in suggesting funds for the multitude of decommissioned dairy farms.
Personally, I am not advocating $2 million per farm in those cases. This is my point of view: make a $5,000 grant so that a farm financial adviser could provide aid for financial analysis, strategic planning, executing business expansion plans and best management practices. I believe if this were done, some farms might be qualified to receive low interest loans and would pay back the loans.
The reason I am thinking these thoughts is that I have three sons, two of whom are farmers. One is a 200-cow farmer, and the other one does not have the facilities to house 100 cows and have 80 milking year-round - but is closing in on that total. With the land he owns and rents he does have adequate acreage.
I personally have a problem with educating migrant workers to milk cows on these large farms. Why not hire young people who like farming, teach them the proper milking methods and offer an opportunity for profit-sharing? I know it's possible to hire people to milk cows - my daughter milked cows on three different farms before marrying a city boy.