Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's not your money

Discussion of adding 'private' accounts to Social Security invariably result in people complaining about how any privatization, no matter how small, will spell doom for Social Security. There is a fear that benefits will be cut, benefits that people 'earned' by paying into the system.

I'm sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but the money you pay in FICA is a tax plain and simple. Once you pay it, it no longer belongs to you, it is property of the U.S. Government to be spent as Congress sees fit. As was made clear in the Flemming vs. Nestor court case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, no person who has paid into the Social Security system has any entitlement to receive anything back on their 'investment'.

Social Security is a Congressional 'social' program and Congress can decide who gets benefits and how much. There is no 'guaranteed' benefit at all. Those little statements you receive annually from the Social Security Administration are nothing more than government propaganda designed to continue the illusion that there is some sort of guaranteed benefit.

It's clear that many people believe that they are entitled to some return on the taxes they've paid over their working careers. What people don't realize is that the only way to make that a certainty is if they actually own the investment. The best way to accomplish this would be to fold Social Security into the general fund and means test benefit payments. Workers would then be free to take the money which would have been taxed away and invest it as they see fit. Certainly there are concerns about whether people would save enough, or whether people would invest wisely. This is where private organizations should step in to help. Unions, Churches and other private institutions could easily offer investment advice to their members. AARP, instead of spending money lobbying for the status quo, could provide real value to their members in the form of investment advice.

It's time to stop the myths and lies about Social Security. Your tax money is gone. There are no guaranteed benefits. Let's end the charade and let people make their own decisions about retirement.