"[M]onopoly profits exist over the long run only when the government guarantees them, as in utilities and cable. And for concentration of market power, no robber baron can hold a candle to the U.S. government.... The hugest concentration of market power in this country does not lie with the likes of Rupert Murdoch or Bill Gates, but with government itself.... No private company, no matter how huge or wealthy, could possibly have as much widespread power over the function of American markets as government does." ~ Brian Doherty
How to Grasp the Third Rail
First off, I must declare an interest in "Social Security": I'd starve without it. That aside, all my opinions on it are strictly impartial and objective. Good, now that's out of the way.
On January 11th, President Bush announced his panel to recommend needed changes in Social Security, and since for at least a quarter century anyone able to think straight and do math has been well aware that the system is irreparably broken, it would be amazing if at least some of his advisors have not made that fact clear to him. Indeed, it may be that that's why he formed the panel. Nonetheless, the huge camera-catching banner behind him read, "Strengthening Social Security"; never mind what he and they do, what he says is, he wants to "strengthen" it. Not to scrap it, not to wind it down or phase it out, but to pour even more stolen money down the same bottomless rat-hole.
A quite splendid example, I thought, of the great disconnect between what is said politically, and what is done--or what may be hoped is done.
The dilemma these politicians face is that the financial chickens are coming home to roost; like it or not, what is paid in to the alleged Social Security Trust Fund is not enough to meet what they have promised will be paid out. Somehow, they have to renege on all those promises that helped get them re-elected, while making it look as if they are solemnly honoring their words. Hence that banner, for starters. If Social Security is preserved, they will for certain have to raise taxes, cut benefits, or both. Such brutal reality seldom intrudes so harshly on their make-believe world, and they all know that votes will be lost whatever mix of those unpalatable dishes they pick.
The Bushies are choosing to resolve the dilemma by tinkering with that word "if"--that is, they are daring to speak of the non-preservation of the Social Security system. They may well propose to unwind it, to take the dreadful step of allowing younger workers at least to invest some of their own savings the way they want, instead of in the way the government wants. It's very puzzling that if that's the right thing to do (it is), why don't they do it fully, and "allow" all workers of any age to invest all their own savings any way they choose?
Okay, maybe it's not all that puzzling. Any reduction in the extent of the Social Security system represents a retreat for government, a reduction in its power--so they are desperate to make the reduction as small as may be consistent with mathematical reality.
So much for politics as usual. But what shall we anarchist libertarians say about this, when our neighbors beat a path to our doors and plead for our opinions?
When they insist on having mine, I first direct their attention to what the Social Security system actually is: a wickedly immoral scheme for transferring wealth from the people to the government, which simultaneously sets the older generation off against the younger, thereby disrupting the very fabric of society. This isn't quite what they may have expected, and it may need to be spelled out a bit, so with the aid of a web page (click on "Hurt the Old"), I've done just that.
Once that reality sinks in, the mind is ready to consider what ought to be done, and with that preparation the answer is entirely obvious: it must go. Zap it, scrap it, terminate it absolutely and as fast as feasible. The only remaining question is: How?
If we achieve a Zero Government Society then Social Security will be merely one program that gets trashed along with all the rest, so that question is relevant only if somehow Social Security is to disappear before that happy day arrives; and the method is not too hard to see. Right now, the politicians are tinkering with it only because they have to, because as it stands, it's blatantly insolvent; very well, to get it scrapped altogether, it must be made even more insolvent. How? Obviously, by encouraging our neighbors (who vote) to vote for more and more Social Security benefits and less and less Social Security taxes! Easy!
Now I can refer to my opening paragraph, and do remember, won't you, that my opinion here is strictly impartial. I'd like the Social Security pension to be tripled. That would bring it up to the level I'd be receiving now if I'd been allowed to invest the same part of my earnings in the stock market as was stolen for the Social Security system--so that's only fair, right? And while they are at it, I'd like to see full coverage of all medications, prescribed or not. And did I say a "tripling" of the pension? Well, no, surely it would be more generous to the golden generation to multiply it by ten. I'm worth it, after all. And the harsh New Hampshire winters really reach the bones of old geezers like me, so I'd like Social Security to provide accommodation in Florida , as preventive medicine, of course. Just for the coldest four months of the year, you understand.
Younger Root Strikers will celebrate Social Security's demise with wild parties going on long after my bedtime, for you well know you will in due course enjoy a highly prosperous retirement; and while my equally grizzled fellow Root Strikers will see the good sense of all this too, I'd offer just one word of caution: If this method were to be applied, it will, as planned, bring the system crashing to the ground with wonderful speed, so we'd better salt away some of that increased pension to permit survival when it's gone.