Don't privatize Social Security.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
March 2 2005 4:27 PM

The Hassle Factor

But I don't want to manage my own Social Security account!

(Continued from Page 1)

They look down on the rest of us. They think of us as slugs. We aren't living authentically until we worry as much as they do.

It's not so bad when privatization flops in places like Chile or the United Kingdom. At least in those countries there is a strong social bond. In Chile, the government has stepped in to make sure people get a little. In the Bush era, we're too atomized to do anything like that. In the United Kingdom, people have more time and freedom, since they don't have to think about their health care. They have single payer. Everything is free. In the United States, even when it's free, we have paperwork. As another friend says, "It's a full-time job for a lot of people to manage their health bills." Now we have to manage our Social Security, too?

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And these extra tasks are being heaped on us as we work longer and longer hours, with longer commutes. I'm exhausted. Please: no more privatization. Unless it's something I can take care of while I drive.

But what if the existing system is doomed? Of course, being a liberal, I don't believe it. Raise the amount of payroll tax that Bill DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds have to pay, and the crisis goes away. At any rate, at this point no one knows the extent to which we may or may not be in trouble in the future. That's also the glory of Social Security: not to know.

But if Bush has his way, you and I will know, early on, whether we are in trouble. Our accounts may tank. Indeed, the full-blown libertarian version of Bush's plan would create winners and losers. For some of us there will be a sickening feeling, at age 42 or 45 or 48, that we already have blown it. We picked the wrong stock. We didn't put enough in bonds. The worst part will be that we'll know.

This is the pleasure that the winners will take: to bring home to the losers what a bunch of bunglers we are. In a life in which you or I may have failed over and over, here's another way we get to learn that yes, we've failed again.

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