It used to be investments and retirement plans were proportional: if you put in more, you get more out. Now, I find a new paradigm edging into traditional programs like Social Security. Nothing is changing about the program except the words. Why change the words?
The new social framework is that if you don’t have enough money, you should be awarded money from someone else via a government program. If you have the “means” to take care of yourself, you don’t get a government handout.
This “means testing” that is part of most government programs. But there’s a problem. If you did too well in life, saved too much, and have too much, you get penalized to support others. You still have to give your tax money to the government. This system ignores contribution and effort. There may be a reason someone has more and someone has less. But government means testing is blind to this idea.
Social security was designed in an older era. The concept grew around the idea of you put some money in, then later in life you get some money out. If you put in more, then you get out more. Hard work works. Kind of like government-mandated investment – which is what it was sold as.
But what if you want to redistribute wealth, and you don’t like returns proportional to contributions? You like means testing. But “proportional returns” sounds too acceptable. You need a word that makes proportional returns sound bad. So, just like “pro-life” became “anti-abortion”, now the attractive phrase “proportional returns” has been relabeled a disparaging term “reverse-means testing”.
I dislike re-creating vocabulary that gives away technical precision in order to politically manipulate the audience. Hey, I have a proposal. Instead of saying “Means Testing”, how about “Anti-Proportional Rewards” ?