Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has lately been positioning himself as the defender of Social Security, the thin grey line between helpless old folks and the heartless Republicans who would tear the fixed income from their trembling hands, and replace it with cans of cat food and Soylent Green.
At a “Back Off Social Security” rally the other day, Reid denied there was any problem with Social Security. The usual manure about overflowing trust funds was shoveled, the actuarial reality of Social Security bankruptcy was wished away, and Reid finished up by saying “two decades from now, I’m willing to take a look at it.” Two decades from now, he’ll be 91 years old, comfortably retired on a fabulous government pension, and enjoying health care benefits he’ll fight to the death to keep you from having. I don’t think anyone will be much interested in his opinion about Social Security, which will have long since ceased to exist.
Pitching in on Reid’s behalf, another tired old socialist, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, called for raising the cap on earnings that can be taxed for Social Security. “Why is it that someone who makes $50,000 a year pays on every last dollar they make into Social Security and somebody who makes $500,000 a year only pays 20 cents on the dollar?” he asked. That’s a novel way to interpret the concept of a cap on taxable earnings. Let me take a stab at answering Harkin’s question: Because they both get the same return from the program?
The most common tactic used to stave off the collapse of Social Security is raising the retirement age. The deficit reduction commission President Obama put together last year, and then resolutely ignored, recommended raising it to 69. The idea behind increasing the retirement age is that more people will die of old age before they can collect benefits.
Would you voluntarily sign up for a retirement plan that cost over 10% of your earnings (counting both the deduction and employer match components, which are both coming out of your earnings, no matter how hard the advocates of Big Government pretend otherwise) but was deliberately designed not to pay most of the benefits you had earned, because it doesn’t kick in until you’re close to the end of the average human lifespan? Would the financial institution selling such a retirement plan float the idea of charging more for the exact same service to people with higher incomes? Would they be able to get away with addressing a shortage of funds by cranking up the minimum age for customers to collect benefits?
Leave aside the pros and cons of Social Security, and consider the philosophy of governance advanced by Reid. He’s explicitly saying there is no reason to even think about the problem until it explodes into a full-blown crisis. The concept of taking preventive measures now, to forestall inevitable catastrophe later, is utterly foreign to him.
We pay an awful lot of money for a government that openly boasts of dealing with problems like deer caught in the headlights of a rapidly approaching car.