“Stupid People” and Social Security
According to Duncan AKA Atrios Black I’m one of those “stupid people” or “morons” who have the audacity to suggest I and others be allowed to invest our Social Security contributions in something other than the word of politicians. Black writes, “Social Security is a lovely program which works just fine and really needs no changes other than extraordinarily nonurgent tweaks to the tax formula at some point.” It’s a “lovely program” unless you actually think it will 1.) be there for your retirement; and 2.) add to the comfort of your retirement besides paying for a few rounds of golf a year.
Social Security defenders aren’t honest with how they describe the program. It’s consider “social insurance” or part of one’s retirement fund. In reality it’s a pay-as-you-go system. There’s no account at Social Security headquarters with my name on it that contains any asset. The money I “contribute” to Social Security comes out of my paycheck and straight into grandma’s and grandpa’s wallets. If I’m lucky enough to retire theoretically my Social Security would come from current workers. That’s not a social insurance program it’s a redistribution program, a welfare program. But since most beneficiaries are middle class retirees we don’t admit they’re all welfare beneficiaries. My grandparents and myself would both be better off if I just wrote out a check every month. They’d get their cash without politicians and bureaucrats getting in the way.
Also, since Social Security is simply welfare for old people instead of something of tangible value when the retiree dies that’s the end of the money coming in. If Social Security were an actual investment account upon death the remaining value of the account would go to whoever is in the retiree’s will.
Years ago, I took part in a Pew Charitable Trusts–more “stupid people”–day-long discussion on fixing Social Security. The large group heard speakers–obviously more “morons”–talk about the problems with the system. We then broke down into small groups. Being young, precocious, and just out of college I offered my little bargain. I offered to give up any claims on Social Security, even the little bit of money I had already paid in, if I could be allowed to invest my portion how I saw fit. No one took me up on the offer. Someone told me that if I invested badly I’d come to the government for help anyway. Others didn’t want me to opt out of the current system because they needed my money. It wasn’t enough for me to obey the law and be a productive member of society. I had to also be a serf to the welfare state.
That moment was eye-opening. Despite the rise of conservative ideas the American public is trapped in a mindset where individualism and real autonomy is to be feared and opposed. Many talk about having the right to be left alone, but when it comes down to it they fear the repercussions of a nation abiding by those politics. Ultimately I can’t be left alone to invest in my own retirement. Either I’m incapable to stupid to pull it off, or I’ll come crying to the government for help.
Too many lack the imagination to see beyond the welfare state status quo. They fear a possible future where they and their neighbors have to take responsibility for their retirements like they do to put food on their tables, put clothes on their back, or put gas in their cars.
The Right wing movement has come far from the days of Barry Goldwater’s landslide Presidential defeat to the electoral successes of Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and George W. Bush. Stagflation and the fall of the Berlin Wall just about killed any serious idea of moving toward greater central economic planning in the United States. For now, that battle has been won. However, the Right still has much to do to convince the populace that most government programs aren’t as effective, efficient, or moral as letting people be free. A few big questions have been answered but the battle for liberty has just begun.