For years, the government has been handling a savings account for me. Or so they said. It wasn’t optional. I could have gotten better rates on my own. But the IRS collected the money and gave me no choice: I had to send the money to Washington to be saved for me. Now I learn that there is a move afoot to “means test” me to determine what happens with regard to my forced savings.
I am interested in what the AP calls a “fresh focus” on Social Security. I advocate reform, if not abolition, of the current system. I suspect some of my younger colleagues at IWF have even stronger feelings. The government doesn’t even pretend to be saving their money–they know it is going to a Ponzi scheme, not their own retirement account but for those who will retire while they are still toiling. (Thanks, Hadley and Romina! I promise to have a good time!)
But I do hope they share my alarm at the sudden–ahem–interest with which Democrats are now licking their chops over Social Security. No, they don’t intend to return your savings, Hadley and Romina. It’s more devious. I suspect the Democrats want raise the Social Security issue now for three reasons: (1.) To minimize the moral distance between working people who have been paying into the system for their entire working lives and those who recieve entitlements to which they have contributed nothing. (2.) To stop the talk about reform dead in its tracks by putting Social Security on the table as a scare tactic. (3.) To make Social Security a redistributionist program.
I’ve long feared that it would turn out this way, that once the government had the money, they wouldn’t be holding it for us. They’d be holding it. Oddly enough, or maybe predictably enough, the Democrats will very likely use the spending crisis–to which this president has contributed enormously–as a pretext for means testing. Ross Kaminsky, a professional derivatives trader, a fellow at the Heartland Institute, notes:
The fact that it’s seen as a savings plan, that it has been seen as such for at least a generation despite two Supreme Court rulings that Social Security payroll taxes are not savings, not investment, not insurance, indeed not anything other than another tax levied by government, suggests that means testing in any substantial way will require jumping a substantial political hurdle.
The hurdle has been lowered by the fiscal debacle created under this president and the last one, leaving a substantial subset of both parties ready to attempt to clear it. This despite the political risk implied by AARP’s poll question asking whether respondents agree with the statement that “Everyone who pays into Social Security should receive it, no matter what other income they have.” According to AARP’s results, 83% of Americans agree and “belief in this idea is high regardless of income, age, or gender.”
I’d love to see Social Security reconfigured so that it becomes available much, much later–you can retire when you want, but you can’t get Social Security until, say, 75.
If benefits became available later, people would still have a chance to get their money back. But they would be less likely to live years and years on what Hadley and Romina are contributing.
What I don’t want is means testing–that was not part of the original deal under which I sent my money to the IRS.