The trouble with means testing Social Security. Which Bush was right on Iraq? Plus more.
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To Ms. Camilla Berger: I’m very sorry for the sudden loss of your husband. Your point about various government “offsets” and claw-backs of Social Security or other government-provided “retirement” income reminds me of an article I wrote several years ago entitled “Why liberals (and Democrats) should support Social Security reform.” In particular, I note that Social Security keeps poor people poor because its benefits are not inheritable, or at least not without the inheriting spouse having to sacrifice his or her own benefits. I made the specific point that the system effectively discriminates against women: “Since women tend to work fewer years and often at lower salaries, they tend to earn lower Social Security benefits than their husbands. Then women tend to live longer. This means that the surviving wife has to take her husband’s Social Security benefits (which are higher than hers) but must give up her own to do so. Thus, the 12.4% of her wages which she paid for all those years are simply kept by the government!”
If you and your husband had been able to put even a modest portion of your Social Security taxes into personal accounts — and I emphasize these would not have to be invested in the stock market, but could be in “safer” investments in the fixed income space — the value of your retirement savings or your retirement income would likely be three to ten times greater than the results of your 1% “return” on your Social Security payments. (For young men, the return is likely to be negative!)
One example from a 2004 Heritage Foundation study of Social Security myths: “On average, a 21-year-old African-American single mother earning approximately $20,000 per year (the current average income for African-American females) can expect to receive a rate of return from Social Security of only 1.2 percent. If the amount that she and her employer paid in Social Security taxes had instead been invested in U.S. government bonds, she would have received a return of approximately 3 percent ($93,000 more than from Social Security) to fund her retirement. If the money she paid in Social Security taxes had been invested in a portfolio composed of 50 percent government bonds and 50 percent stock index funds, she would have earned nearly $383,000 (before taxes) for retirement ($192,000 more than from Social Security).”
You are right that “there are many other ways in which these offsets are unfair,” but the answer is not to make an even more complex web of regulation. Instead, the answer is to encourage and allow people to save for their own retirements. (I could even live with mandatory savings for a time, in the sense of some portion of a person’s Social Security tax being required to go into a personal account as long as this is used as a way to raise the FICA tax rate.) Capital markets, despite their volatility and even occasional fraud, are a fairer, safer, and smarter place for people to keep and grow their retirement savings than in a non-existent “lock box” filled with IOUs from one part of government to another, designed to be paid by picking the pockets of future working Americans.
Finally, you are also right on target to say that “If they can deny us, they can deny you too.” I would simply point out that this is not new information. In the 1937 Supreme Court case of Helvering v. Davis, a 7-2 majority of the Court, ruling (in my view) out of fear of President Roosevelt’s threats to “pack” the court with Progressive lackeys if the Court didn’t cooperate, ruled that Social Security is not an insurance program and that the money collected by a payroll tax can be spent in any way the federal government believes to be in pursuit of “the general welfare,” meaning that there is no constitutional claim to any Social Security benefit regardless of whether a worker has paid into the system. Certainly political realities make it unlikely that Social Security will be scuttled in the next century, but the fact that “they can deny us” has always and ever been true.
Re: Lisa Fabrizio’s Chariots of Sportsmanship:
I am writing from the Institute for International Sport to correct some facts in the Chariots of Sportsmanship article.
1) While both the World Youth Peace Summit and National Sportsmanship Day are housed under one organization, they are independent and distinct programs.
2) The World Youth Peace Summit is not an annual event. The first event is occurring this summer.
3) The “Peace Marches” were not held on National Sportsmanship Day as referenced and are completely unrelated to the program.
It would be greatly appreciated if these facts could be
corrected in the article.
— Kim Kennedy
Director of National Sportsmanship Day
Institute for International Sport
1) I never said that they weren’t; I only said they “sponsor” the Peace Summit. Although this appears on the IIS website: “Welcome to the official site of the 2011 World Scholar-Athlete Games (WSAG), which includes participation in the 2011 World Youth Peace Summit.”
2) Okay, my mistake. But there have been around 15 WSAGs. Also, the official title is “2011 World Youth Peace Summit,” which seems to indicate that there have/will be more.
3) I never actually said that the IIS holds the peace marches on Sportsmanship Day, only inferred it. If they are unrelated, why are the two featured prominently on their homepage?
Re: Paul Kengor’s On Bush’s ‘March of Freedom’: Answering My Critics:
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?