Is Social Security Bankrupt?

Is Social Security Bankrupt?

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Feb. 4 1997 3:30 AM

Is Social Security Bankrupt?

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Joe:

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       We can agree that we are at least discussing Big Thoughts. But that's about it.
       Your latest response is another paean to the wonders that government investment of our retirement dollars can bring. Redistribution. Insured benefits. Social insurance. "A totally secure base." And finally, in your words, "Social Security is a carefully balanced package, meant to ameliorate market risks without threatening economic efficiency or the values behind what is basically a market culture."
       Hmmm. It seems to me that Social Security is about as far from the market as one can get. One pays in, and one's return depends upon the decisions of the politicians in Washington. It bears no relationship to the market at all. Social Security's economics is pure statism--the state decides how much you pay in and how much you get out. There is no "economic efficiency" in it, nor any market values either.
       The point is not that social insurance is a bad thing. The point is that it no longer is fair; it is providing negative returns to many people; and it is cheating all future beneficiaries (and some present ones) of a much higher standard of retirement living.
       The practical objections to market-based retirement programs have been answered. The market can provide annuities for those who want them, thus providing security. It can provide insured accounts to the same end. And it can still require whatever amount the politicians think is appropriate to lift from our paychecks.
       What has not been answered by the statists is why we must all, by law, be in a 1930s system that is unfair to so many people. The only answer we get is that we must have "social insurance," e.g., a uniform system, in which we all pay in the same amount and get out the same amount.
       This is assembly-line thinking: that people must all work in huge factories at uniform wages to produce identical goods for a mass market. Its roots lie in the socialist thinking of the 1930s that promised us a brave new world of perfect equality.
       We have since seen the moral and financial bankruptcy of such systems. In the information age, we realize that people are not sheep to be herded this way or that and told by the state how they may or may not live.
       We have learned to respect people as individuals, with different needs, desires, abilities, and dreams. There is no reason that the market cannot provide retirement systems that reflect and serve our individual needs. The financial, communications, and market tools and technologies exist to make them possible.
       It is grossly unfair and morally repugnant, in the name of uniformity ("social insurance"), to prevent people from using them.