IWF’s Carrie Lukas has written extensively about the problems facing the Social Security system – and a new Gallup poll out today shows that the American people have started to finally understand her point!

The poll reveals that 6 out of 10 Americans believe they will get no Social Security benefits when they retire. Obviously, young people are more pessimistic about benefits than their older counterparts – fully 76% of 18 to 34 year olds don’t think they’ll get a payout.

The poll also highlights another problem: 56% of current retirees their benefits will be cut in the future. That’s depressing – but it gets worse. Writes Gallup:

Gallup research earlier this year found that nonretirees have become slightly more likely since 2007 to project Social Security as a major income source in their retirement, concomitant with a drop in projected reliance on pensions, 401(k) plans, and other investments. Americans thus appear to be in a bind, perceiving an increased need for Social Security while at the same being less sure it will be there when they need it.

Much like in Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step to remedy the situation is to acknowledge the problem, which the government seems loath to do. In fact, Social Security’s problems are so monumental that we didn’t even get an annual report from the program’s trustees this year (which, in case you were curious, is required by law.)

The only way to guarantee that Americans receive the retirement benefits they set aside is to allow them to save them privately – out of the grasping hands of bureaucrats. A number of countries around the world have started moving towards personal retirement accounts, which keep citizens’ money in their own possession and not in a government-run (and government-raided) program. Not only do personal retirement accounts empower citizens to control the money they earned, but they tend to pay higher rates of return than the government. And the best part? They encourage responsible, self-reliant behavior, rather than reliance on the government.

Cynicism about Social Security may be at a high point – but that’s a good thing. With the program facing crushing shortfalls, it’s time for some serious reforms.