The Hassle Factor
But I don't want to manage my own Social Security account!
Of the Bush plan to establish individual Social Security accounts, a lawyer friend of mine complains: It's one more damned thing I'd have to manage. I've got enough to handle already.
Isn't that the real issue? Let's forget the funding problem. Or even the risk of ending up with a lower benefit for retirement. Under the Bush plan, we'd be partly responsible. We'd have to hatch our own nest eggs. It's one more job the Republicans would give to us.
This is my gripe against the Bush plan: I've already got enough to do.
Millions of Americans, I'm convinced, are against it for only that reason. We don't want to have to think about Social Security. "But people worry about it now," you might say. Oh, sure, at these presidential drop-in discussions in Fargo, N.D., a cop or cook will say, "I worry Social Security won't be there for me." But come on, they don't really worry. If they did, they'd open a damned savings account.
In real life, we ignore our Social Security. That's the glory of it. We have the freedom not to think about it. With all the time I have not to think about my "private" account, I can turn on the Cubs game. Or open up Kafka.
I can even pray, if I want.
Privatization is one more damn thing to distract and upset me. I read a bit less (as Laura Bush reads more). I volunteer a bit less (as her husband lauds us for volunteering more). In one way or another, I spend less time being responsible for other people because I'm more responsible for me.
I don't like it.
I hate to personalize things, but since Mr. Bush's reform is his personal obsession, I think I will. It galls me that a president who has never had to dig is handing us a shovel. Look at all the freedom that George W. Bush had because Bill DeWitt Jr. and Mercer Reynolds handled all his investments. Early on, they told him, "You just worry about coming up with funny nicknames, and you will never have to worry about money." And he came into the White House with his brow unlined.
Social Security is our little taste of this freedom. The world adds and adds. Social Security subtracts. It simplifies life. Social Security is "Social" and "Secure" instead of "Individual" and "At Risk." That's what is so maddening to people on the right, the Ayn Randers, the libertarians.
Thomas Geoghegan, a lawyer in Chicago, is the author of See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation and other books.