Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Social Security

Jerry Stratton, February 5, 2005

Part of the problem with the social security debate is that we aren’t willing to admit what it is nor come to a decision on what it should be.

If social security is an enforced pension plan to ensure that workers put money away for their non-working years, then there is nothing wrong with, and a lot in favor of, allowing them to invest that money in different ways. Nor should people who will never get social security be required to pay into it.

If social security is a form of welfare in which people working now pay benefits for people who are not working now, that’s different. Then it doesn’t make any sense for workers to gain “ownership” of the funds they put in, because those funds aren’t meant for them. And it makes sense to require those who will never receive the benefit to pay for those who currently receive the benefit.

The problem, though, is that the social security papers I get every year try very hard to correlate what I’m paying with what I’m going to receive. Even representatives who oppose social security reform still want to talk in terms of workers getting what is owed them.

That’s a losing debate because if this money is theirs, they ought to have a better say in how it is used. It certainly shouldn’t be paid for with IOUs to current unrelated projects. And it then doesn’t matter if half of current workers would not use these options. What matters is that it is their money, it’s owed them, the option is there, and half will use them.

There is nothing wrong with us, as a society, deciding that social security should be treated as a guaranteed program for sick, disabled, and the elderly. That’s pretty much what it is now; but if we want to keep workers from wanting more guarantees of where their funds go, we need to stop pretending that there are any funds which are in fact “theirs”.

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