I read a post by Digby regarding the impact that misinformation has had on the public’s perceptions of Social Security, leading them to believe that “it is broke” and that “benefits must be cut to save the program,” and really didn’t think much about it until I read reaction to it several other places. Consensus seems to be that if people really believe, as these three women in the grocery store seem to do, that people in Congress have stolen the money and run with it then the situation is fairly hopeless.
What seems to have gotten lost is an even deeper degree of ignorance. These middle-aged women think that they are supposed to be able to collect a parent’s Social Security benefits when that parent dies! When told that is not the case, they insist that it “used to be” that they were able to do that which is, of course, not even remotely the case. They then go on to maintain that the reason they cannot do so now is that “the money is all gone, stolen.”
How do we expect that the people of this country are going to defend a program from predatory legislators, when it is clear that they do not even have any understanding whatever of the fundamental nature of that program? The premises of Social Security are not hard to understand, but one has to be willing to listen to something other than “we will give you some money,” which is the only thing that American voters seem able to hear.
When that promise, real or imagined, is not kept, when the money does not appear in the voter’s hand, then it cannot be that the voter wasn't listening, perhaps heard something that was not said; oh no, it must be that “the money was stolen” or “we were lied to.”
Case in point: as a fully grown adult you have never been entitled to a dead parent’s Social Security funds, but the fact that they will not give it to you now is because the money has been stolen. These people are actually voting in our elections.