Getting Honest About Social Security

Social security: a big post-election issue. True to form, politicians just want to tweak the system without really changing anything, especially if that change gives back control of the purse strings to the people. Many Americans still love their country, but they are distrustful of their government, and for good reason.

Social security is a mandatory federal program. This conflicts with the belief that it’s a pension plan. What type of pension plan gives you no say in how the funds are invested, and allows government officials to dip into the till for other purposes? What kind of pension plan doesn’t allow you to pass on benefits to your heirs? We know that money is pulled from the current working population to support not only retirees, but folks who are collecting SSI or disability benefits. The general public knows it can do much better through 401k’s and other pre-tax plans offered by employers.

Social security is a failed welfare plan; in harsh reality, it’s a Ponzi scheme. It functioned during a much different time when the ratio of working people far outnumbered those who were collecting benefits. Things have changed drastically since then: the war, the longer life spans of baby boomers, the outsourcing of jobs, crumbling infrastructure, school board budget scandals, and increased pressures on social services from citizens and illegal immigrants alike. America is coming apart at the seams economically due to mismanagement at home. We were on this collision course even before 9/11 became a reality.

One solution to social security could be this. All workers who wish to opt-out of the system should be allowed to do so. There’s one catch. They will have to forfeit any money they paid into the system, but they will no longer be subject to withholding either. This would be a true pay raise for every citizen: from the highest paid consultant to the kid working at McDonald’s. The extra cash can fund a disability plan from a private company of their own choosing. For those affluent Americans who fall into the Bill Gates category, simply ask them if they would forfeit collecting any benefits. Quite a few of them might surprise us by agreeing to do just that. This would free up money to continue paying the current recipients. No it’s not fair, but the system wasn’t fair to begin with. Yet this is the only way to phase out social security without hurting those who still rely on it. As more people opt-out of this ill-planned government program - changing their savings and investing habits - the ratio of people in the system will decrease. When the last few people collecting benefits pass away, that will be the end of social security.

One can only hope that the beltway boys will start discussing this and other issues in a way that will offer citizens some real choice in the matter.