Anti-social Insecurity

I haven’t blogged too much about SS reform because frankly, it bores the piss out of me. It’s a problem, and something needs to be done to solve the issue. Much of the rhetoric is absolutely full of crap from both sides. However, this is probably the best short summation of the issues involved that I have read yet. The crux of the issue is right here:
When talking about fixing Social Security there have been four main options proposed by the various sides, including the bipartisan commissions designed to study the problem:

* Reduce benefits for future retirees.
* Raise the retirement age.
* Increase payroll taxes or raise the cap on the amount of income taxed.
* Get the money from general revenue by increasing the deficit or reducing government spending in other areas.

There's also privatization, an ancillary option proposed by the last commission to study Social Security (privatization doesn't actually address the solvency of Social Security). Under privatization, a portion of each person's Social Security tax would be held in self-directed personal accounts capable of holding diversified portfolios, but not individual stocks. Upon retirement, an individual with a privatized account would have his or her Social Security benefits reduced based on the amount that was redirected to the private account.
This is what’s going on in a nutshell. I’m now going to make some general points about some arguments presented in the comments.

First off, SS is nothing more or less than a giant Ponzi scheme. It relies on a constant influx of new suckers and the money they pay in to pay out benefits to the initial suckers. If that ain’t a Ponzi, I don’t know what is. The longevity of SS is due to the inescapable fact that I know of no other Ponzi that the government forces you to be in. Unless you are a member of certain favored groups (teachers and some government employees spring to mind) you are forced to contribute. Don’t argue that it’s not a Ponzi unless you can come up with some compelling arguments that it isn’t. Federal involvement does not change the inconvenient fact of what SS is, so don’t claim that government sponsorship magically makes it not a Ponzi.

Secondly, it’s great that everyone thinks that we as a society need to take care of the elderly, disabled, handicapped, etc. You know what? The United States government is not the alpha and omega of society. I can make the argument that the government we have in this country is an outgrowth of a functioning civil society, not the cause of it. Similarly, just because the current SS system provides for some of society’s true unfortunates does not mean that SS is the only or even a good method by which to do so. As an extension of this point, there is no compelling argument that I have ever heard that caring for the unfortunate is a mission of the federal government. Break free of the boxed and blinkered mentality that says all problems must be met with a federal program. Does society need to care for the unfortunate? Yes. Is the federal government, and by extension SS, the best method by which to do so? I seriously doubt it, but since a whole bunch of vested interests refuse to accept any change from the status quo, we probably won’t find out.

Third, I find it frankly rather insulting the idea that some people will invest their private accounts irresponsibly and that this exposes them to some huge amount of risk in the financial market. It presumes, once again, that every human being other than the self-proclaimed smart people is a freaking moron that can’t put on shoes without help. There’s this well-known investment option called Treasury bonds. Guess what? You can invest in those yourself! If that option is included in personal accounts, how is that more risky than what exists now? It’s not. It’s the same damn thing that’s currently being done with the SS trust fund. There is a market in these bonds and other securities. Financial instruments do not automatically equal stocks, idiots.

Fourth, it is laughable that anyone my age (35) plans on receiving any significant benefits from SS. I take it as a given that by the time this mess is sorted out, I will get screwed. I treat the statement I get every year from the SS Administration as a sick joke because I am never going to receive any benefit worth mentioning. If I want to retire, I have to handle the financial details of how it’s going to happen. So be it. I just wish the irresponsibility brigade wasn’t hosing me in the process.

Finally, I mentioned above that society should help true unfortunates. Guess what? People who ruin their lives by poor decisions are not included in that category. If you make the conscious decision that buying cigarettes and Red Bull is more important than paying for health insurance (which someone I know has done), then I really don’t give a fuck when you get lung cancer and can’t afford treatment. Similarly, when I eventually need a new liver because I drink enough to destroy my current one, guess what? I sure as hell hope my insurance company covers it, because otherwise I fully expect to be screwed. I don’t feel a whole hell of a lot of obligation to clean up after the messes people make of their lives. Personal responsibility is kind of a bitch, isn’t it? In the final analysis, you are responsible for your own wellbeing. Asking the rest of us to take care of you because of your poor decisions is more than a little presumptuous.

Really, that’s what the issue comes down to at the core. Who is responsible for you? You, or the government? If you think the answer is “you”, push for privatization. If you think the answer is “government”, get a red star for your hat and quote Mao as you push for higher taxes and ever-increasing government control over your life. If you think the answer is “both”, quit being a vacillating weasel and pick a side. The middle of the road is a great place to get run over.


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