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Social Security Hostage Crisis: Day 24,570

Just give us your votes and nobody gets hurt

In January 1937 the Federal Government began taking Social Security taxes from the paychecks of Americans. Americans have been whining and voting to get their money back ever since.

Election after election, year after year, the retirement that American workers are owed and have prepaid is held at virtual gunpoint by the same sort of politicians that 68 years ago sold the program as a new ?¢â??¬???freedom?¢â??¬  — freedom from worry in old age. Now old age is filled with worry about Social Security.

Vote for me or the other guy will steal your Social Security.

No, vote for me or the other guy will bankrupt Social Security.

Sit up and vote like a good boy and I?¢â??¬â??¢ll give you a tasty retirement snack.

Let?¢â??¬â??¢s all decide what you need again this year.

For those that are truly sick of the Social Security debate, consider just one more question: why have we had this debate for a literal lifetime? Name one other aspect of your personal finances that you have so little control over or that you have to fight over like clockwork every few years. Do you have to monitor the government to make sure you will be allowed to keep your house next year? Must you petition a politician at every election to ask if you can have a car? No. But you would — if the government were in charge of providing our housing and transportation as we have placed it in charge of providing our basic retirement. You own your house. You own your car. You beg for ?¢â??¬???your?¢â??¬  Social Security.

The reason this debate never ends is that you do not own your Social Security retirement. There is not one dollar in the system with anybody?¢â??¬â??¢s name on it. It is all a common fund that is owned by everybody in general — and therefore owned by nobody in particular. You could get less than you pay or your could get more than you pay. You pay, but only the politicians decide who gets paid back and when.

Effectively, you send little dollar hostages to Washington every week. Once in possession of your beloved dollars, Washington can then ransom them back to you in exchange for votes and support. As Ross Perot commented during his last known moment of lucidity in this world, they?¢â??¬â??¢re buying your votes with what used to be your money. Any time calls for reform or smaller government get too loud, the response always includes a few rounds of ?¢â??¬???Don?¢â??¬â??¢t change things too much or your Social Security might get hurt!?¢â??¬ 

Social Security has been a good friend to business-as-usual in American politics. It?¢â??¬â??¢s just one more piece of evidence that there is nothing more expensive than the stuff we get for free from the government. From the day every worker first pays into the system, he begins to wonder — and worry — if he will ever receive a penny of his money back in the future. This worry is one more form of payment, an emotional tax that is raised sky high during election years until people can no longer afford to think of change.

The Social Security debate will continue until we decide to end the financial hostage-taking. When your retirement funds sit in an individual account in your name, you will no longer have to worry about whether or not you will receive them. They will already be yours. You will not have to beg. You will not have to lobby.

Placing all our money into one huge common pile and putting the U.S. Congress in charge of it is a tremendous risk. Private individual accounts, by contrast, are not nearly so risky. We deal with them everyday in the form of bank accounts, 401k accounts, individual retirement accounts, medical savings accounts, etc. Imagine how safe your savings would be if, instead of having an individual bank account, you deposited your money into a government program, the ?¢â??¬???Savings Security?¢â??¬  program. You would receive no balance statement, have no ability to change banks, and not one dollar would be truly yours to withdraw. At every election we would be debating who should get what out of our common Savings Security funds. Want to make a withdrawal?

Do you really need it?

Shouldn?¢â??¬â??¢t we ?¢â??¬???means test?¢â??¬  withdrawals?

Have you filled out the proper forms?

Are you eligible?

Sorry, the money is running low; maybe Congress will add some more money after the next election.

Such a common savings system is a lunatic idea, of course. But this is exactly what we have in Social Security. If we want to end the debate, then we have to end such lunacy. Freedom is having power over your own life. Such power comes from having your own money. You cannot be free while your money is under someone else?¢â??¬â??¢s control. Private accounts are about putting you in control of your money — so you never have to ask for it back.

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Written By

Mr. Johnson, a writer and medical researcher in Cambridge, Mass., is a regular contributor to HUMAN EVENTS. His column generally appears on Tuesdays. Archives and additional material can be found at www.macjohnson.com.

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