Social Security, Or: Parable of the three servants
I’m watching Bill Maher’s latest incarnation, whatever it’s called, and they have this wonderful democratic congressman from Massachusetts saying that Bush’s plan to reform social security would take away benefits for disabled people. I wanted to start a holy war. I’ll try to be rational here.
The administrator of social security testified on C-SPAN about SSI (Supplemental Security Income). This is different from the SSA (Social Security Administration). The SSI is a separate system with a separate account. So as of now, it’s leaving this debate. Bye bye, disabled people. Don’t let the door hit you in the wheelchair on your way out.
Now for the SSA. The administrator also said that the funds from social security are procured seperately from the general tax fund. However, these funds enter the general accounting pool. They are earmarked to satisfy social security’s needs for that year, then are taken by the treasury which issues an IOU to the SSA. Currently social security taxes bring in more money than the SSA needs, so these taxes generate a surplus which goes into the general federal budget. At some indetermined point in the future, the SSA will bring in less than it needs. The guesses for this deficiency range from billions to trillions. They’re just guesses though. Let’s define the problem more thoroughly.
When the SSA was formed by FDR he said it was to ensure that no one suffers through poverty-ridden old age. Back then, 19 workers paid for 1 retired worker. Now, it’s about 3. Back then, the retirement age was 65. Most people didn’t make it to 65. Now people live well into their 70’s, and Clinton lowered the retirement age in the late 90s. Add in the damn baby-boomers, and we’ve got WAY too many people retired. Of course another problem is that people are working until they are older and some of those who have “retired” have simply taken new jobs, reducing the number of jobs available to younger people. Why? Too much damn stuff to buy.
I’m sure some of you have heard of the new bankruptcy laws which will make it so that if you can pay back some of your debts, you have to. I hear a lot of tears being shed about this one and I don’t have a lot of sympathy. We all control our spending. With credit cards, it gets easier to get into debt. It’s still us getting ourselves into that debt, though. In the 1930’s they didn’t have too much to buy. You buy a coke, a broom, one of those new big-city fancy-pants refrigeration machines, and you’re living the high life. We’ve been getting addicted to that high life by consuming more and more. We’re spending our money on shit we don’t need because it’s there. And then we cry that we don’t have enough to pay our credit cards or retire. The real answer is we don’t have enough to retire in the fashion we want to.
So we’ve got too many people to support, and retirement is getting harder to do because people are getting addicted to a more expensive lifestyle. It’s become the new norm. Therefore society “must” provide for this retirement, because it is a “right”. This bugs the living hell out of me. I had an argument with a friend over medical rights and I argued that just because a medical technology, pill, or machine exists, that doesn’t mean people have a right to it. Every year we have new technologies available, that shouldn’t mean I have to pay for their application to those who need it. They could’ve dealt without it a year ago when it didn’t exist, they can deal without it now. And I don’t like the notion of wealth redistribution. You can imagine what I see social security as. It’s a forced federal retirement plan, and I have to pay into it because of the people who don’t plan for their retirement. It’s not that I don’t get money back. It’s just not enough for me. I’ve heard that the return for social security is about 2%. I could almost certainly do better by investing in a few different mutual funds. So why can’t I have a personal investment account instead of social security? Because there’s risk. We need to be safe. We need the federal government to take our money away to protect us from ourselves. If I invest unwisely there would be risk. Or worse, some corporate fatcats could take advantage of me! We must avoid risk. We do not like risk. Obey Big Brother.
There’s no payoff without risk. Jesus told the parable of the three servants as follows: A master wanted his servants to invest some of his money for him. He gave them each an equal amount and sent them forth. A year later the three servants return. The first servant tells his master that he tripled his money. The master smiles and invites the servant inside for a party. A lovely little tea party. The second servant tells the master that he doubled his money. The master smiles and invites the second servant inside for a party. The third servant says that to avoid losing the money he buried it in a hole in the ground. Do you know what the master did to him? Hint: it involves wailing and knashing of teeth, whatever the hell that is.
So to protect me from myself I can’t invest my money. It’s not really about me, it’s the fool who’d invest his money unwisely and not have anything for retirement. This is why the investments would be a portion of your social security taxes. Nope, still way too much risk. Some people would invest poorly. It’s not fair to them. So the federal government takes my money away and invests it in government bonds to get a 2% return and I’m forced into this program because it helps my foolish neighbor. I’m not allowed to use my own money or attempt to get ahead because it’s not fair to the person who falls behind.
This is why we should eliminate spelling bees in schools. It’s not fair to the students who don’t do well. Competition is wrong. Competition is evil. No one should get ahead. We should all be equal. ARGH!!!
Sometimes I feel like society is a giant mass of mindless arms trying to keep me down.
Oh, and I love the AARP’s ads about how Bush wants to steal money from currently retired persons.
This is essentially a war between personal freedom and safety. None of us like those damn airports making us safe. Why is this ok?