Monday, December 20, 2004

Scrap It Rather Than Privatize It

Right now, all Americans* are compelled by the government to put money into Social Security, the payoff being a guaranteed benefit from the government when we retire. I'm not sure that it is necessarily right for the government to force people to pay into a system even for their own benefit, especially since those who die before retirement pay in and get nothing.

But, I especially think it is wrong to force people to put money into an account that will be invested in the market to either grow or vanish. If the benefit isn't guaranteed, then I don't think I should have to put my money into it. I should not be compelled to invest in the markets by the government if I don't want to. (I think this is a plus for Bush, though: It puts more of the peoples' money into the pockets of corporations who Bush is beholden to). I should not have to become a market expert because the government is compelling me to. I should not have to risk my retirement by gambling on the market if I don't want to. I should be able to put the money in a savings account or a mattress if I want to. Investing is a risk, and I think it is wrong for the government to force everyone to take this risk.

The Social Security system is solvent, according to Government Accounting Office estimates, for another seventy-five years. Only then does it run into trouble. But who the hell knows what is going to happen in the next seventy-five years? The Clinton and Bush administrations both tried to project budgets out ten years and were utterly, totally wrong because the surplus disappeared after Bush decided to crusade across the Islamic world. Social Security hasn't even been in existence for seventy-five years.

Medicare is in much worse shape. But the regime says nothing about that. It's not sexy.

The environment, which has been around more than seventy-five years, is degrading, but that's too far off for Bush to worry about. But Social Security needs to be fixed now? How much does that have to do with a real desire to fix it and how much is a desire to put more of the public's money into the hands of Bush's business cronies?

And, of course, Social Security is in the black now and would be in even better shape if administrations didn't keep taking money out of it all the time.

I don't think the government has the right to take my money and force me to put it in the market. Privatization of Social Security will be a complete disaster and I want no part of it. The only advantage to a government-run program over just investing by yourself is if the government-run program is a guaranteed benefit. Otherwise, we'll all just be compulsorily paying huge overhead for people to manage these accounts, and those people will be the only ones guaranteed to benefit from Social Security.

Give me my freakin' money back. If you aren't going to guarantee me a benefit, I'd just as soon go it alone. If you're going to "fix" Social Security by privatizing it, just do what you really want to do, Mr. Bush, and get rid of it entirely. Don't pay off your cronies with our money first and then leave us high and dry when it comes time for us to retire.

*except employees of the various States, including me, who pay into State retirement plans rather than Social Security because the Federal Government can't force the States to participate. So, at the moment, when I say "me" and "my money," I really mean, "you" and "your money"


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