Friday, March 04, 2005
The nation's Social Security program faces a looming financial crisis. Our population is aging. The "baby boomer" generation is nearing retirement age and more workers will be receiving S.S. benefits as fewer (younger) workers are paying into the system. More money going out, less money coming in, it's that simple.
I'm nearly 35 years old, but my generation isn't the only one affected. Since all retirees are eligible for Social Security, and all workers pay into the system, everyone should be interested in a workable solution. Though I have stated before that I do not intend to rely on S.S. come retirement time, it would be nice to have a "Plan B" in place, just in case. Add to that the fact that I'm paying a lot into the system right now, and I'd like to see that money do something more productive than just drop into a bureaucratic black hole. Someone please help me understand the following:
First, the Dems said, "There is no Social Security crisis!" "President Bush is fear-mongering" and "playing generational warfare."
If anyone is truly guilty of "fear-mongering" then it must be our friends at MoveOn.org (now effectively in charge of the Democratic party). Here's an analysis of their latest ads by FactCheck.org, a bipartisan think tank. Read the whole article and decide if groups that play so loose with the facts maintain any credibility while making other arguments. Then determine if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are saying anything different than their comrades at MoveOn.
Dems say that the Medicare situation is far worse than Social Security. That's a telling statement, and it's probably true. But besides being a tacit admission that there is indeed some sort of problem with Social Security, it's got the added bonus of being a total non-sequitur. Medicare may indeed face a crisis, but that has nothing to do with Social Security and whether or not we should repair it. There is no rule in life that says we can only deal with the biggest problems first.
We heard a similar argument from our friends on the Left before, during, and after the Iraq invasion. All of a sudden North Korea and Iran posed bigger threats, and why weren't we doing anything about those thugs? Does this mean we shouldn't repair potholes nor arrest rapists, since there are bigger problems facing this country? It is defeatist, one-dimensional thinking and I dare say it underestimates even that which Democrats could achieve (how's that for a backhanded compliment?). Forget about the fact that both programs may be in trouble, or that one program may be in worse shape than the other. That argument is weak and off-target.
Now the Democrats say that privatization isn't the answer to fixing Social Security. You remember Social Security, it's that program they just told you doesn't face a crisis, and the crisis it does face isn't as bad as the Medicare crisis---sorry, it's called "tortured logic" for a reason. Privatization, like personal IRA accounts or 401k plans, is not a workable solution? I guess that must be one of the reasons that Democrats conveniently forget to mention that personal accounts, if implemented, will be optional. In other words, if you're happy with Social Security as it is, you're free to stick with it without fear of reduced benefits. But if you prefer to put a portion of your Social Security benefits aside for your personal account, that will be your decision.
I also happen to believe that this is a strategic error by the Democrats, for two reasons. The anti-privatization argument will be lost on the millions of Americans who already own personal retirement accounts and who through their own experience know better. And it seems more than a little hypocritical that Democrats want people to have choice when it comes to, oh I don't know, abortion, but they won't trust you to make a choice with your own money.
Another reason why Democrats say privatization isn't the solution to Social Security's problems (even though S.S. still isn't in crisis-remember!) are the costs associated with implementing personal accounts. This is false. There are no higher "costs" in moving to a market system versus maintaining the current inefficient government bureaucracy.
Here's one more article to read, it's a bit lengthy, but well worth the time. It's from The American Enterprise Institute and explains that other countries like Chile and Russia of all places already have personal retirement accounts. Chile has had personal accounts since 1981, and it has been a huge success there. I mention this only because it is a great example that Social Security reform and personal accounts are not such radical ideas after all.
Lest anyone still cling to the notion that Social Security is just fine, here's what Democrat über-hero Bill Clinton said awhile back (from the Washington Times):
So enough with all their nay-saying! The only thing left to discuss is what the Democrats are proposing since they feel that none of the above proposals will work. Good question, I haven't seen one suggestion from them. Other than raising taxes, I wouldn't expect much. This key quote from the Feb. 14, 2005 Washington Post sums it up:
On Feb. 9, 1998, Mr. Clinton delivered a speech at Georgetown University devoted to "sav[ing] Social Security for the 21st century" and explaining "why it is so important" to do so.
Referring to a then-recent poll revealing that "young people in the generation of the students here felt it was far more likely that they would see a UFO than that they would draw Social Security," Mr. Clinton warned seven years ago about "the looming fiscal crisis in Social Security." He acknowledged to the students that "every one of you know that the Social Security system is not sound for the long term."
Elaborating, Mr. Clinton argued: "This fiscal crisis in Social Security affects every generation. We know that the Social Security trust fund is fine for another few decades. But if it gets in trouble and we don't deal with it, then it not only affects the generation of the baby boomers . . . when they retire; it [also] raises the question of whether they will have enough to live on by unfairly burdening their children, and, therefore, unfairly burdening their children's ability to raise their grandchildren."
What did Mr. Clinton think about this? "That would be unconscionable," he said, "especially since, if you move now, we can do less and have a bigger impact." That was seven years ago.
Democratic lawmakers intend to hold back on their ideas for now and instead hammer away at Bush's proposal.
In other words, they have nothing constructive to add, so the Democrats will just complain, twist the facts, change their story and in general, obstruct the President's plan to the best of their abilities. Not a novel approach, and not a plan to be proud of.