Sunday, January 4, 2004

Time to get real on Social Security

Your voice: Ted J. McGoron

That the federal government's giveaway programs will soon be running out of "our" money ("Analysts say federal benefit spending can't be sustained," Dec. 20) should come as a surprise to no one except those who believe in lead turning into gold - or the biggest lie of all, "If the government says it will be there, it will."

The most irritating thing about the situation is that the politicians know that the system as they have expanded it won't work, but they refuse to admit the obvious and do something about it.

And we can't blame it just on the Democrats. I sent a letter to one of our local representatives making some suggestions regarding Social Security and he didn't even read my letter. Someone in his office did, and sent me a form letter promising that the congressman and his fellow dreamers would see to it that there would always be enough money to keep the checks coming, so I shouldn't worry. It makes me shudder.

So let's try it again. The Social Security system was designed to be paid for completely with money contributed by, or on behalf of the person who was to reap the benefits. The money each taxpayer puts into the fund was meant to be his and no one else's. When it was time for retirement, the money in the person's account was to be used to initiate payments that would continue for the rest of the recipient's life. No one else's money was to be added to it. This should have worked, but someone got the brilliant idea that every year the payments should be increased to "keep up with the cost of living." This was to be paid for by current contributions, turning the entire system into a scheme known as pyramiding (which is illegal unless Congress does it). This was an even more short-sighted notion, considering that any automatic increase in the money chasing goods will automatically raise demand for the goods and therefore the prices.

So first we need to eliminate the automatic raising of benefits with someone else's contributions.

Another change should allow any person who has contributed to be eligible for benefits regardless of how long he has put money into the fund, perhaps with a minimum under which he would merely get his contribution back.

I have run this idea by many retired people who see it as the only way to keep the system around for their grandchildren. You might be surprised to learn how many reasonable voters there are. But, regardless, isn't it time for lawmakers to do something just because it is the right thing to do?

We should realize that there will be occasions when individuals can't exist on what they have earned and saved for retirement and need additional help. Just don't call it Social Security. Call it welfare.


Free-lance writer Ted J. McGoron, a Cincinnati native and graduate of Xavier University, is retired but teaches part-time at the Cincinnati Job Corps Center on Western Avenue..

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