Friday, December 30, 2011

Social Security knocked away from being an annuity to another political entitlement

Today (Dec. 30, 2011), on p. A19, the Washington Post offers an op-ed by Robert J. Samuelson, “My argument with the elderly.”  Online, he calls it “Why we need to fix Social Security, and other year-end reflections”, link here.   

Samuelson says he is 66 (one of "them" or one of "us"), and maintains it would be progressive to ask better-off seniors to forgo their Social Security right now (at least some of it) and pay more for Medicare, to help the next generation, especially given the economy.  Means testing now, you bet.

Remember, last summer’s debt ceiling debate, when we could have stopped Social Security cold – depending on which lawyer you asked.  Michele Bachman didn’t seem to care.  John Boehner and Rand Paul were bellowing, “we can’t afford it; we don’t have the money.”

Yup, you can take someone like me, at 68, and say, “why won’t you go out and hucksterize for a few years, like everybody else.  You spent 12 years in life insurance IT, why don’t you think enough of it that you want to sell it?”  Bye to movies and blogs.

But I thought the benefits were promised, even contractually owed, based on “annuity premium” contributions.  If you want to moralize, all right, but don’t play Robin Hood with what is already mine. Oh, nothing is mine – I get it.  “It isn’t about you” Rick Warren says.

The Post has a detailed news analysis today, front page, by Jia Lynn Yang, “New fear for Social Security’s future: Payroll tax cut could take program off its political pedestal”, and eventually make promised benefits be perceived as political fodder. (Online the article is called simply "Tax cut shakes a premise of Social Security".)  We’ve stopped making current workers  pay their own full premiums.  (Some want parents to be absolved of all FICA “taxes”).  That’s why privatization, proposed during the Bush years – was so appealing – turn it into something you own, forced savings mandated by law, albeit, and regulated away from risk – but keep it out of the hands of Robin Hoods. Fight your battles of “deservedness” elsewhere.

(See Dec. 22 posting about related Post editorial.)

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