Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Social Security--A fifty-cent problem.

So, according to George Bush, in the very worst-case scenario, we have a $3.7 trillion shortfall over the next 75 years in Social Security. That sounds ghastly. Trillion is a VERY big number. Huge, even.

But if we look at it another way, it's pretty clear that George Bush is just a big fat drama queen.

3.7 trillion dollars over 75 years, spread out over 300 million people works out to--WAIT, $0.45 dollars a day? Less than fifty cents??

So, fifty cents a day is the size of this problem. If you want the future equivalent of $925 a month in guaranteed retirement, it’s gonna cost you all of fifty cents. Drop 50 cents in the “social security” bucket on your way to work ($1.50 on Fridays!), and you’re sure to get your Social Security check when you’re an old fart, even in the worst case scenario in which there’s no population growth, there’s no scientific or technological innovations leading to higher productivity, and the economy is in the crapper. You're 100% certain to get this part of your nest egg, even if your 401k totally collapses, your house burns down, and your rich Aunt Millie leaves everything to her cat.

Or alternatively, you can give up your guaranteed retirement. And in exchange, George Bush will give you a shiny quarter today to invest in the stock market for your retirement! Because the stock market always does great, and it does especially great when the economy is in the crapper. And lord knows, it’s not like you’ve already got money in the stock market and would really prefer to have something you can count on if the market goes sour.

Speaking only for myself, I’d happily gamble my social security if I really thought I was screwed. But even in the president’s highly exaggerated doomsday scenario, we’re not looking at a huge problem. If you don't believe me, look at what economists are saying with real math. They're saying sure, there's a problem we've got to deal with, but it's just not a crisis.

It’s immoral to force people to give up a guarantee and gamble their retirement just because the President thinks the stock market is nifty and he wants to throw his friends on Wall Street a bone. And it’s irresponsible for the President to propose wasting money on some half-baked privatization scheme when we have real problems in Medicare and Iraq that need his attention and our tax dollars.

You don’t throw away your car just because it has a flat tire. We can fix social security when and if it becomes a problem.

And am I crazy, but haven't we heard this whole "we must take drastic action now or we're doomed," song and dance from this guy before? This time, I'd like to see some evidence of crisis before we all start freaking out and making hasty decisions we regret later.

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