Thursday, September 6, 2007

Social Security Reform

At work, this evening, a group of us were discussing Fred Thompson's recent announcement to run for POTUS. His announcement, from his website, can be found here:

Somewhere in there, and while long, I found it a worthwhile clip to view, Mr. Thompson talks about the necessity of reforming Social Security. Now, we all know that this has been nearly a taboo subject for most politicians for many years. Even suggesting that Social Security be done away with or changed has been tantamount to political suicide.

Mr. Thompson doesn't say in this clip how he would change Social Security, though I hope details are forthcoming. At work, however, we definitely discussed it, and at some points the discussion got quite heated.

The view one of my coworkers put forth was that we should just keep paying Social Security to the people already receiving benefits, and everyone else would just be out of luck. He said just consider the amount of money you have already paid in as a tax. He went on to explain that since the Social Security pool was essentially a miscellaneous government petty cash fund these days, we couldn't live without the revenue. He went on to suggest that the country would go bankrupt if it had to continue to pay Social Security.

I agree with him that Social Security need to be ended. Now, that's in a large part because I think that it is a system that even at its inception was designed to tax our children for our prosperity (talk about taxation without representation!), and that it exceeds the federal government's mandate, as described in the constitution--I do not believe that it is the government's responsibility to provide for you in your old age. I think that's your job, or hey, maybe we should foster a culture in our country that values older family members instead of shipping them off to some "retirement" home (reminiscent of a Soilent Green processing facility)-but I digress.

I didn't like what I was hearing from him. I, for instance, have already been paying into Social Security for the past 18 or 19 years. Now, when the government began taking that money out of my checks, it was on the clear understanding that if I became permanently disabled, or if I managed to make it to retirement age without climbing a bell tower and taking out some hippies--only to go out in a hail of gunfire (beats those old folks homes!), I would be rewarded for my lifetime of hard work with a guaranteed return on my investment in my government.

I think that the government does have an obligation to continue its payments to people already receiving SS benefits. I think the government has an obligation to people within, say, 10 years of retirement, who have been counting on SS as part of their retirement plans. I think that they too should receive their promised benefits.

Now, people who aren't yet putting into the debacle known as Social Security, won't be required to start paying into it, under my plan. Nor would the be able to if they wanted. And people like myself, who have contributed for years, would be the only ones to take any kind of loss on this. I would have people in my situation get their money back. That simple. I know it would essentially have been an interest free loan to the government, but hey, I do that every year when I receive an income tax return.

This would be expensive. I understand this. Perhaps it could be broken down by age, with cash rewards being made to people who are of a certain age, and issuing younger taxpayers some kind of government bond for the money. As my generation represents roughly a 15% decline in the population, that may work fairly well, while the Boomers who were counting on it for retirement would still be either fully or partially compensated. It would help defer the cost over many years.

That being said, I think the other way to ensure we can pay for it would be for Mr. Government Man to tighten his belt and curb his voracious appetite for spending Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public's hard earned dollars. Social programs are the realm of states and municipalities, not the federal government. Read the operating manual.

Anyhow, that's pretty much what I propose. How would you change Social Security. Or would you?

1 comment:

Sean said...

to further explain the obligation I view the government has towards us: I understand that Flemming v. Nestor (1960)established that Social Security Benefits are not a contractual right, but the obligation I am speaking of is more along the lines of a moral vice legal obligation.