Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Social Security Reform Shouldn't Be Partisan

I usually don't like to discuss politics in my writing because I am bound to offend somebody, however I do feel compelled to say a few things about Social Security reform and the current debate.

First, this isn't a partisan issue, this is an American issue and it is a problem. There is absolutley no way you can look at Social Security with any honesty and say there isn't a problem with it. What irks me is that the press lately seems to think that if you are a republican than you are for reform, if you are a democrat you must be against it (if only because republicans are for it). I believe that if everybody had the straight facts that they would be in favor of making changes to the system to ensure it's existence for the long term and ensure that it doesn't become an anchor that drags on the economy.

Most people don't realize that Social Security was never meant to be a retirement plan. It was designed as a safety net and as a way to get workers to retire (so that younger workers could get jobs during the depression). The first payments were lump-sum payments. The program evolved and became a monthly paycheck type system (an annuity) but the people who retired into the system at 65 usually only lived for a few years, life expectancy was 65 (meaning half of the people died before that age, thus half the people never collected a dime). The system was designed as a "pay-as-you-go" system where current workers pay for the benefits of the current retirees. This system works fine when you have lots of workers and few retirees who don't live very long. However, America has experienced the perfect storm in terms of Social Security - a baby boom leading to lots of future retirees, followed by a baby bust leading to much fewer workers supporting the future retirees. In addition, those retirees are retiring earlier and living a lot longer (a good thing for us, a bad thing for Social Security). When you combine those facts you end up with a system that will eventually collapse on itself.

The system isn't going to collapse today, or tomorrow, or even next year. But the system is not stable long term. There are many ways to fix it, including raising taxes, cutting benefits, creating private accounts, and a whole host of more complicated ideas. In the past we have raised taxes and it hasn't made the system stronger, in the future if we solely rely on increasing taxes the payroll tax will have to rise from the current 12.4% to nearly 20%. This will choke America. I recently read that more younger workers believe in UFO's than they do that they will recieve social security benefits. Younger workers have already mentally prepared themselves that benefits either won't be there or will be much smaller.

The bottomline is that Social Security is not viable long term and instead of waiting for it to become unviable, we should act now and make the changes needed to keep it strong and keep it from becoming a drag on the economy. If we wait, the choices we have will be fewer and much harder to swallow. Let's not let our politics get in the way of what is the right thing to do. Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal.....put it aside and lets all work together to make social security stronger for everyone.

Till Next Time......