The Destruction of “Social Security”

by | Jul 16, 2005 | Welfare

It is time Americans stop fearing self-reliance and start taking personal responsibility for their finances. It is also time the government stops patronizingly telling them they won't survive on their own.

Politicians, academics and citizens are crying out that Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security will be the death of the program. Assume for a moment that they’re correct. So what?

Did it ever occur to those who complain about the fall of Social Security that they just not might have a right to it? More than that, did it ever occur to them that they might not have a need for it either?

The earliest age that one can receive retirement benefits is sixty-two years old. These benefits are paid to grown adults, not children. If a person is sixty-two years old, and has not managed to save money for his or her own retirement, then it is hardly the government’s fault.

In most parts of America, citizens are eligible to enter the work force at 16 years of age. Let’s assume for a moment that one works straight from when they’re sixteen years old to when they’re sixty-two years old.

This gives that person forty-six years to save up for his retirement.

Alternatively, let’s assume that one goes to college and doesn’t truly enter the work force until the age of twenty-two. That still gives him forty years to save up for retirement. He’ll also have a college degree, which gives him a greater value in the marketplace.

Also, it is important to remember that sixty two years of age is the earliest one can receive benefits. 2,451,000 Americans aged sixty-five to seventy-five are still in the work force full time.(1) That is nearly one third of the population in that particular age group.(2) So, in many instances, we’re dealing with people who have even more work experience and even greater a time-frame to save money.

People save for big screen TVs, cars, and houses. Are we to assume that they can’t also save for something that should be intrinsically important to them – their own retirement? Social Security assumes this.

It forcibly extracts funds from American citizen’s paychecks, then diverts them to some large pool of money, which they only get a small chunk of when the government deems they’ve have reached the appropriate age to retire.

Contrast this with no Social Security. Citizens save the money that would otherwise be stolen from their paychecks. They can put a certain percentage of money, based on their own calculations of what is necessary for their retirment, away in a bank account. Or they can invest it, hoping to make a profit. Or they can put it into private, but stable investment programs (mutual funds are generally safe investments with good returns). Really, they can do whatever they’d like; it is their money.

Moreover, they are in control of when they retire. Rather than be told that a certain age (decided upon without their consent) is the appropriate time to retire, the individual decides for him or herself when is appropriate, based on amount of money saved, desired standard of retired living, and a host of other factors the government would have no voice in.

The destruction of Social Security is about more than just increased personal profits; it is about freedom. In 2004, $493,263,000,000 was paid out in Social Security.(3) That money has to come from somewhere.

And where does government money usually come from? That’s right. Taxes.

It is stolen straight from our paychecks. Ending Social Security is ending that condescending theft that hampers our freedom.

Truly, there is nothing more paternalistic than the modern Social Security program. It tells grown adults – those who surely have earned a right to dignity – that they need the government support in their retirement because somehow they were incapable of saving for it over the course of their entire lives.

Social Security doesn’t exist as a typical welfare program, and it doesn’t pretend to either. While welfare programs traditionally come at a specific time of need, Social Security predicts and forces a time of need. It tells people that they are incapable of handling their own futures, but it is okay because when (as opposed to if) they fail, the government will be there to rescue them.

Statistics about the successes or failures of the program are irrelevant, though anyone can tell from opening up papers from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal that it is failing. It should also be noted that 92% of Americans consider the system to be in trouble, with only 5% saying it isn’t.(4) Still, even if Social Security was able to continue providing for the next two thousand years and we never heard about this so-called “crisis” again, the program would be inherently flawed. This is because it rests on the notion that the individual is incapable of governing his or her own finances.

It may surprise some Social Security advocates to know this, but people were able to handle their finances pre-Social Security. Upon further research, it was also concluded that people did retire before 1935 (the year of Social Security’s birth). In fact, the United States has enjoyed a long history in which the standard of living grew – especially and most famously towards the end of the 19th century, before Social Security existed.

It is time Americans stop fearing self-reliance and start taking personal responsibility for their finances. It is also time the government stops patronizingly telling them they won’t survive on their own.

Unfortunately, nothing will change when 80%(5) of Americans think the government has a responsibility to provide a decent standard of living for the elderly simply because of their age and nearly 100% of politicians talk as if that is the case. If people would stop to take a long examination of the Social Security program, they might realize that on top of its failure to sustain itself, it is encroaching upon their freedom and dignity too.

Footnotes:

1Annual Demographic Survey. Accessed 06/28/05.

http://pubdb3.census.gov/macro/032004/perinc/new01_028.htm

2National Sex and Age Population Estimates. Accessed 06/28/05.

http://www.census.gov/popest/national/asrh/NC-EST2004/NC-EST2004-01.xls

3OASDI Expenditures. Accessed 06/28/05.

http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/STATS/t4a3Outgo.html

4Polling Report: Social Security. Accessed 06/28/05.

http://www.pollingreport.com/social.htm

5Polling Report: Social Security. Accessed 06/28/05.

http://www.pollingreport.com/social.htm

Matt Lawton is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Knox College.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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