Social Security Cannot — And Should Not — Be Saved

by | Feb 23, 2011

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “Here’s the truth that nobody’s talking about. You’re gonna have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Whoa, I just said it, and I’m still standing here. I did not vaporize.” Actually, the problems with Social Security are greater than raising the retirement age will solve. The program is, […]

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “Here’s the truth that nobody’s talking about. You’re gonna have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Whoa, I just said it, and I’m still standing here. I did not vaporize.”

Actually, the problems with Social Security are greater than raising the retirement age will solve. The program is, by its very nature, unsustainable — because it’s unjust. It’s unjust because it forces people to pay into a government fund what they’re entitled to spend or keep as they see fit. The real reason for Social Security is, and always was, to transfer wealth from those who have it to those whom government deems more politically fit to have it.

I know this isn’t what most people assume. Most people assume that government takes your money from you when you’re younger only to give it back to you, with interest, when you’re older. Now why would government go to all this trouble? You can do this yourself. And if the motive were merely paternalistic, government would simply pass a law requiring you to save for your old age.

That’s not what Social Security is about; it’s about wealth distribution on a massive scale. In order to convince Americans, especially back in the 1930s (before the Entitlement Era had fully taken hold in the United States) to agree to such a transfer of wealth, government had to rationalize, “It’s for your future savings — that’s all.” Americans at that time were either too stupid or too weak to question this, or fight back. Americans today are not merely stupid or weak against their government. They’re righteous and angry, demanding that they get what’s coming to them. Hence the current budget crisis in Washington D.C., where government spends trillions of dollars more than Americans collectively make — or will even make generations from now, at the rate the national debt is going.

The proof for what I’m saying will come soon enough. It starts with one of the rarer and more decent of today’s politicians, Chris Christie, taking a courageous stand but still missing the point: That Social Security cannot be saved. The proof will come when Social Security actually becomes so insolvent that it cannot make payments to current or near-term retirees. (Opinions on this vary, but it could happen within the decade, especially as the economy continues not to improve, or even worsen.) What will happen when Social Security becomes blatantly insolvent? There will be two camps. One will be like Chris Christie, saying we have to reform the program by raising the retirement age and what have you. They’ll concede the faulty premise that Social Security is both moral and practical, when it never was nor ever will be any such thing. Then the liberals and socialists, who have usually carried the day since the 1930s, will counter argue: “No. We’re not tampering with the program. The rich should stop getting benefits. Everyone else will get them.” Who is everyone else? The smallest number possible while still getting enough voters to support them. This is how Democratic/liberal/socialist power politics has always worked, and how it will continue to work as long as enough people feel entitled to this money.

What about the “rich,” who will actually include much of the remaining middle class as well, who produce the Social Security benefits for millions of retirees and others the government (in rapidly growing numbers) deems disabled? They will continue to pay into the system without getting anything out. Will they go on strike and stop working?

In my dreams, perhaps, but not in reality if history is any guide. But history also suggests that they’ll gradually stop working, or sheltering/hiding their money from government any way they can. It will be a strike of passive-aggressive proportions, more than an openly aggressive one. The effects will be similar, and Social Security will reach the dead end of bankruptcy just the same. The socialists who support Social Security will ultimately run out of other people’s money, because people aren’t going to pay massive payroll taxes for nothing in return … nor should they!

That’s when it will really get interesting. The better sorts of politicians (and they are damn few) such as Chris Christie will take the bullets for speaking the truth about the coming insolvency of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. But in the end, people like Obama and Nancy Pelosi will simply shift full responsibility for paying these benefits to one class — “the rich” (meaning: the middle class and the rich ) — and full enjoyment of these benefits to their political constituents (those who cannot or will not work, retired or not.) Opponents of Social Security, as long ago as the 1930s, knew the program was the opening shot for full-fledged socialism in the United States. Its own inevitable bankruptcy is the very thing that socialism rode to power. It took them about a century, but I’m sure to them it’s worth it.

By the time socialists totally run out of other people’s money, it will likely be too late for the private economy and the American style-of-life as we’ve known it. The only way to reverse this disaster, assuming there still is time, is to begin privatization now. It’s not likely, because even misguided voices such as Chris Christie are voices in the wilderness. Those refusing to listen now are the ones who deserve what happens. Like it or not Social Security is going to die someday, and privatization is nothing more than acceptance of this fact.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at:

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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