Social Security does not represent an old age pension, an "insurance" program, or even
a forced savings program. Perhaps the biggest media story of 2010 was the influence of Tea Party voters on the congressional
landscape. The new congress comes to Capitol Hill with a mandate to end profligate spending and restore fiscal sanity, we
are told. But when the House and Senate convene in January, the newly elected members will face tremendous pressure to maintain
spending levels for entitlement programs. Even the most modest proposals to trim Social Security or Medicare spending will
be met with howls of indignation and threats of voter revolt. Legislators who propose any kind of means testing or increased
retirement ages can expect angry visits from senior citizen lobbyists ready to fund a candidate back home who supports the
But millions of Americans now realize that the status quo is an illusion that will not last even
another 10 or 20 years. The federal government cannot continue to spend a trillion dollars more than it collects in revenue
each year, because we are running out of creditors. Fiscal reality is setting in, and the consequences may be grim even if
Congress finds the courage to take decisive action now.
begins with a commitment to see things as they are, rather than how we wish they were. When it comes to Social Security,
we must understand that the system does not represent an old age pension, an "insurance" program, or even a forced
savings program. It simply represents an enormous transfer payment, with younger workers paying taxes to fund benefits.
There is no Social Security trust fund, and you don't have an "account." Whether you win or lose the Social Security
lottery is a function of when you happened to be born and how long you live to collect benefits. Of course young people today
have every reason to believe they will never collect those benefits.
Notice that neither political party proposes
letting people opt out of Social Security, which exposes the lie that your contributions are set aside and saved. After all,
if your contributions really are put aside for your retirement, the money is there earning interest, right? If your money
is in your "account," what difference would it make if your neighbor chooses not to participate in the program?
The truth, of course, is that your contributions are not put aside. Social Security is simply a tax. Like all taxes, the
money collected is spent immediately as general revenue to fund the federal government. But no administration will admit
that Social Security is nothing more than an accounting ledger with no money. You will collect benefits only if future tax
revenues materialize as hoped; the money you paid into the system is long gone.
My hope is that at least some
members of the new Congress will cut through the distortions and see Social Security as it really is. The best way to fix
the impending Social Security crisis is also the simplest: allow younger individuals to opt out of the program and use their
tax savings to invest privately as they see fit. This is the true private solution. Your money has never been safe in the
government's hands, and it never will be.
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This is probably the most common reply when people first wake up. Well you made the first step towards making
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