Monday, December 26, 2011

The Entitlement That Is Social Security

For its history, Democrats have been able to point to Social Security as something other than an entitlement, a program in which people essentially "pay for their own benefit".  They realized (FDR first among them), that for Social Security to be protected and popular--it could not be seen as a giveaway to the poor.  No, it must be equally available to all, funded of course, by the contributions of workers themselves.

Something happened on the way to Utopia though, and that is, the birth control pill.  That's right, the birth control pill (and the equal rights evolution) conspired to drive birthrates down in the United states to the point where there are only a few workers actually paying for every retiree (while there were over 50 when the program started in the '30's).  In less than 15 years, it will be two workers for every retiree.  The bottom line is that the program can no longer pay for itself, and its continuation is a function of co-mingling payroll taxes with transfers from the general treasury.  In effect, Social Security is now an entitlement, something that has come into sharp relief with the recent payroll tax fight on the Hill. 

We simply don't have enough workers to fund the program anymore, unless taxes are raised in dangerously non-productive ways.  It is time to means test Social Security and see it for what it is--an insurance policy to keep people from slipping into poverty when they stop working.  The fiction of "I paid in, I'm entitled to the benefit" is undercut by longer lives and earlier retirements. 

Note to liberals and their echoes:  I am not saying get rid of social security.  I'm saying we should end the fiction that it is anything other than an entitlement.  Doing so opens the way for the kinds of reforms necessary to protect the plan's ability to do good for those who actually need it.


Tom de Plume said...

I'm all for means testing in theory, until I realize that I will be "penalized" for saving for my retirement while those who riot in order to spend $180 for a pair of sneakers will be rewarded for their foolishness.

"The Hammer" said...

Since the sixties, 100 million abortions, 100 million immigrants.

Sally said...

I'm with TdP. Why should the ant be punished when the grasshopper is the one who failed to prepare? There needs to a better job done on educating people from a young age on what SS is, a system intended to AUGMENT people's retirement savings.

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