Today’s WaPo carries an interesting op-ed on social security from one of the paper’s junior writers, Laura Thomas. Here’s the meat of her discussion:
It seemed as though my family (a mixture of partisan extremes, from Rush Limbaugh fans to passionate antiwar protesters) saw Social Security’s troubles as a small matter—contrary to the president’s description last week. Whether the impending collapse of Social Security is a myth or not, I shouldn’t be relying on Social Security to take care of me when I retire anyway, they said. I was taken aback by their mistaken impression that I had a sense of entitlement to Social Security, just as I was amused during the State of the Union speech to hear that Bush thought I was expecting to receive it.
I didn’t want to stir up a Christmas Eve brawl, but I nonetheless felt compelled to explain that never in my life had I assumed that Social Security was coming to me. Every time I see that somewhat shocking Social Security dollar figure subtracted on my pay stub, I choose to look at it as giving back to my older family members who’ve been known to drop random checks in the mail to their poor, desperate niece or granddaughter.
By the time we finished the antipasto, we decided that we were all more or less on the same side: Start saving now, because Social Security, if it still exists when you’re older, will only be for people on welfare or those who didn’t have the foresight or willpower to save (which will not be you, Laura).
Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy (who gets the hat-tip for the link) says none of his students “are counting on a dime from Social Security when they retire.” I haven’t polled my students on this question, but I suspect he’s right.
Meanwhile, all Kevin Drum can do is mock her stupidity for buying into Republican propaganda, although the truth—the fundamental truth—is that social security is—even today, while still “fully solvent” according to the government’s bogus accounting principles (which would land a company’s CFO and CEO in prison)—at best a safety net; anyone not on welfare who thinks they’re going to retire at the standard of living they’re accustomed to on social security alone is the “insane” one. Every penny that Drum has in his IRA, 401(k), and/or other retirement accounts puts the lie to his politically-expedient defense of the current system.
The beauty of social security is that the public was conned into having a welfare system for seniors the only way a pluralistic society can—by turning it into a handout for everyone. That social security, and its related pal Medicare (which is universal healthcare for poor seniors, packaged as a handout for everyone), are both in serious fiscal trouble is no unforseeable accident; it’s the unavoidable consequence of a system established by Democrats to ensure these two welfare schemes wouldn’t be taken away at the ballot box, like “welfare as we know it” was and Medicaid is almost certain to be.