Monday, April 17, 2006

Readers question philosophy of social security

I see search arguments on my server logs (for my other domains) that suggest concern about when people can draw social security if they have other income. Generally, before full retirement age, social security applies earnings tests based on income earned from other actual "work." I've tried to present the links and bibliographic references below. Generally, SSA will follow its own regulations in POMS to the letter, but of course we always know from English 101 that any sentence or rule can be interpreted, it seems.

There is a lot of ideological uncertainty as to whether Social Security should be looked at as an individual annuity that one saves up for during working years, or it if is "welfare" or "insurance" against actual inability to work because of advancing age. The president obviously wants to see the former view implemented. We do hear social policy debate about "means testing," and about whether those who don't "need" it should be able to collect it, especially given future and demographic solvency questions. The practical consequence of policies emanating from such a debate could be, whether someone like me can afford to make much less money doing what he wants for a few years and building a new livelihood, or whether he or she must defend (through "involuntary" political solidarity with family or with others who are displaced) a way of living that could become obsolete anyway because of technology and globalization.

Nevertheless, we should not mix up political debate with the rules as they are written now.