Ada Fisher: Social Security under siege
The political debates are totally dishonest in regard to Social Security. Ponzi scheme or not, the problem is the funds were moved from a private account to the general Treasury during the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration, thereby allowing them to be tapped without transparency for everything — from the Vietnam War to educational program funding to pork barrel mysteries. As such, IOUs were reportedly given the Treasury for citizen retirement supplemental monies while spend-hungry congressmen never intended repayment of this debt.
First, Social Security should be maintained in that elusive “Lock Box” discussed by then-candidate Al Gore with no access by the Treasury to its bounty except future payment of recipients. As such, 5 percent of the monies due the fund should be required as an annual repayment from the Treasury over the next 20 years minimally until the debt is repaid with interest. Current recipients should be paid from the Treasury until the Social Security fund is fully restored in a separate account. Doing this is the only way for the public to get their money as well as truly appreciate the national debt, which could then likely top a staggering $50 trillion.
Second, Social Security is the one benefit that is doubly taxed. The money owed is based on the tax value of personal income. Then it is taxed again at withdrawal. All taxes should be removed from Social Security after the initial investment. It is not the poor who pay disproportionately but Social Security investors. What we are doing, if continued, is like repeatedly robbing the bank in allowing the government to take out money which is yours whenever and for whatever it wants.
Third, many people are getting benefits for which no buy-in occurred, e.g. family members can receive benefits if they are under-aged children or widows, yet no extra monies were put in by the enrollees for them. Social Security after 2020 should require for new investors that only those who put into the system can withdraw from it. Supplemental monies are required to cover those other than the investor.
Fourth, the Totalization Agreement with Mexico allows Social Security funds collected from illegal aliens (which is over $1 billion per year) to be given to that government. These monies should be placed in the Social Security Trust Fund for appropriate use, which might include compensation to states with illegal populations exceeding 10 percent.
Fifth, progressively raising the retirement age to 67 — as advocated by Paul Ryan’s previous “Pathway to Prosperity” and other politicians on both sides of the aisle — is certain to rob the poor and give to those of modest means and the rich. Appreciating that the average age of death for black males is around 70 though their life expectancy is only 75.9 years of age, increasing the time one is required to work and delaying compensation as age advances is almost certain to see too many die before they can appreciate any savings from their money. This is not fair.
Lastly, the system of investment and withdrawal for retirement could be boosted by measures which are fairer. George W. Bush proposed letting people pay an additional amount into Social Security for their savings, e.g. 10 percent. This should also be made tax free like a Roth Account. If recipients die before monies invested are paid out, then their beneficiaries should have a right of inheritance. Pension reform is also desperately needed to insure that they are funded to the 80 percent level. Those who invest for retirement should not be penalized in having their Social Security withheld, for it is their money taken with no such requirement assumed.
The Office of Management and Budget has dire projections on entitlements, noting that by 2027 half of all federal revenue will go to paying down interest on the national debt (not touching the principle) and the other half will be allocated to entitlements. All debates should focus on where cuts should be made and why, how to right government programs such that self-sustainability rules with accountability and the need for government grants to show within three years they can operate autonomously. All this while protecting the nation’s security. Can we get real please?