Gambling Away Your Social Security

The August 17, 1998 issue of the Washington Post Weekly Edition has as the banner headline of one of its feature articles, "Re-Thinking Social Security. The system is broke - the way to fix it is to go private."

This phrase, "private", in relation to your Social Security funds always means only to invest it all in the stock market. Yes, gentle readers, the idea behind this extremely poorly devised push is to gamble your future away in order to make everyone richer but you.

Consider, the current system guarantees retirees a certain level of income as computed from their lifetime earnings. Basically, that portion of your income, currently seven and one half percent from you and matching funds from your employer for a total of fifteen percent, is held in trust by the federal government towards your retirement. You are assured that you will not be forced to live a penniless life once you either are able to quit working or are forced to quit by reasons of infirmity or disability.

Now, consider if you are forced to "invest" (the word is "gamble" to anyone who truly understands the odds against success in "investing") those funds in the market, you may well find yourself with absolutely no funds remaining should the market take another dive as it has done recently and perhaps fall to the levels last seen in 1929. Do you honestly want to see all of your hard earned retirement funds stolen from you through a fall in the market let alone through the dishonest fees you can rest assured the fund managers will charge? Do you believe yourself capable of staying in touch with the market to the extent that the professionals do? If you are not able to predict the coming depressions accurately then you can be certain that the professional will gleefully sell out long before you can become aware of the falling values of your portfolio and sell. You will be left holding worthless stock with only profit taking buyers to sell to.

The author of this little piece of fiscal propaganda was Michael Tanner who is director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute. That institute, you should know, is a Libertarian "think tank" which is strongly in favor of basically removing all powers and responsibilities from the federal government. They do not believe Americans have the right to any guarantees or services from a centralized federal government. Basically, they are on the side of the Far Right's drive to destroy all assistance coming from the government save that they are not as in love with the idea of welfare for Corporate America and the wealthiest American citizens. Either way, though, they will happily allow you to lose all possibilities of a secure retirement as long as their narrow political ploys succeed. Your best interests are most assuredly not on any of their minds, only finding a way for themselves to stop sharing the duty of supporting this nation financially.

Most independent economists predict that Social Security is most certainly not facing the crisis that the Right constantly screams about. Instead, they show that, first, Social Security will be able to fully fund its obligations until the year 2032. After that, simple tinkering will remove any danger of collapse even far beyond the baby boomer era coming in the next century. They offer the advice that either of two methods will settle all of Social Security's ills; either raise the age at which one can receive full retirement benefits over the next 10-15 years or, even more palatable to the average citizen, simple raise the deduction limit above the current level of $65,400 to include all payroll income for the year. Also, the idea that Social Security payments could be reduced to those with monthly incomes above a certain amount, and these same individuals should lose benefits according to a sliding scale, has been offered since the rich don't need Social Security, they only want it as added income. (These last suggestions faces the wrath of the wealthy who make more than the current level and, of course, deserve far more justice than those who never see the high side of minimum wage.)

The point is simple, ladies and gentlemen. The idea of using your precious retirement savings for investing in any stock market will simply not benefit you and will, in fact, put those irreplaceable funds at tremendous risk. It would make as much sense to just take the money to Las Vegas and put it all on some randomly selected number at the roulette table. This is only another glaring example of the Right trying to convince you that programs which benefit only their wealthy masters are "good for you", too. With just a little thought, all of us can see through their lies very, very easily.

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Copyright 9/5/98