There is, perhaps, no better testament to how far this nation has drifted from the principles of individual liberty, free markets and private property than that those proponents of real reform of the Social Security system are now looked upon as radicals.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, running for his political life, accused his opponent, Sharron Angle, of wanting to “kill Social Security.” Of course, Harry Reid has a rather elastic definition of “the truth,” so his attack lacks a measure of veracity. Angle has taken the position that in order to save Social Security we must stop raiding the (non-existent) lock box and that “going forward, we need to personalize Social Security the same way that Harry Reid has a personalized account.”
Reid has routinely characterized Angle as an extremist. Alas, Reid also suffers from the political malady known as “Venetian memory,” recalling that which is advantageous and forgetting everything else. You see, in 1999 Harry Reid was all for “putting a small amount of Social Security dollars into the private sector.”
What is also interesting is how fast Angle changed the subject. And who can blame her? Democrat warnings that Republicans want to roll the dice with the retirements of the elderly have been extremely effective. Republicans running for office must distance themselves from the topic of Social Security reform, lest they commit political suicide.
Unfortunately, such scare tactics have also scuttled any hope for finding a real solution to the very real problem of securing the financial future of the Social Security system.
This year, Social Security went into deficit; the program is paying out more than it is taking in. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this deficit will continue for the next four years, “with small surpluses reappearing briefly in 2014 and 2015.” The report continues: “After that, demographic forces are expected to overtake the fund, as more and more baby boomers leave the workforce, stop paying into the program and start collecting their benefits. At that point, outlays will exceed revenue every year, no matter how well the economy performs.”
To this happy news, progressives shout that privatization, which really means giving private citizens ownership and control of their Social Security dollars, will lead to disaster. Such pronouncements are really an example of the old political game of saying one thing while doing another. In neighborhoods outside of Washington, D.C., this is also known as lying.
In order to stave off the impending collapse of the system, Congress must either raise taxes, raise the age of retirement, cut services, implement means testing for recipients, or some combination thereof.
In other words, in order to get votes, liberal politicians are convincing citizens that conservatives want to take away their retirement savings. Once in office, those same Democratic politicians will pass laws that will take Social Security away from large swaths of the American public.
As it happens, there is also another way to save Social Security: import workers. In addition to the potential of providing Democrats with several million new voters, “comprehensive immigration reform,” (or amnesty), would also add millions of new workers to pay into the Social Security system. The idea of importing workers to sustain entitlement programs is not new. France buoyed its social welfare programs by importing millions of North Africans; Americans can sustain its entitlement programs by looking south of the border. And like France, we might also look forward to millions of citizens rioting in the streets when the financial rubber finally hits the road. But I digress.
The great irony is that what conservatives are really saying is that workers should be allowed to own the fruits of their labor. What a radical concept!
Actually, it turns out that it’s not all that radical. You see, there are approximately six million state and municipal employees, including policemen, firemen and school teachers that have been able to opt out of the Social Security system. In fact, prior to 1984, federal employees did not participate in the system. In an effort to shore up the system, federal employees were brought into the fold. That process was vehemently opposed by none other than that old radical, then-congressman, Harry Reid.
My, how times have changed!
(Joseph C. Phillips is author of “He Talk Like a White Boy.”)