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Of course, there's always the argument that it's
(in theory at least) MY money and I should be free
to do with as I please, even if what I please
turns out badly.
Ix-nay, I say, to the nanny state.

Investing your money in the market would be voluntary. No one will have to do it if they don't want to. I invest my money in the market now.

We know SS will be upside down in X number of years. We know it will be completely broke in an X number more.

Is there a worse investment?

So, the fix without private acocunts is raise the retirement age. I find that obscene. People who can't afford 401k's -- our working poor -- will only have SS. This forces them to wait until 70 to retire because the government says so? It's an indentured slavery: "You will work until you're 70 because we need and therefore took your money."

Critics say private accounts won't fix that. Well, maybe it will. It's my money. And if the accounts work like 401k's have since inception -- I will be able to retire sooner than 70. With SS there's no chance at all.

(I'm using 70 -- it could be 68 -- it's not really the point)

And what about the sad but true difference in life expectancy among black and white Americans? Certainly we should fix the medical reasons, but in the meantime...? Black's pay into the system just as long as whites and yet don't benefit near as much because they die sooner.

And what about those who pay in and die young, say the year before they're entitled to benefits, and because they have grown children and their spouse is already on SS -- it leaves them nothing. Zero. Nada. 50 years of giving away nearly 7% of their income -- their employer matching it -- and it's gone. Nothing to leave the widow. Nothing to leave the children.The government keeps every penny.

The SS system is worse than risky. It's unjust, immoral, and racist.

Good commments. I don't doubt that Social Security needs fixing, but there may be other, better ways to do it. One approach, which I realize would be highly controversial, is to means-test the benefits. Does it really make sense to take 13% of a waitress's income and redistribute it to a retired millionaire? People say they paid in to the system, so the money they get out of it is their own. Actually, their own payments don't begin to cover what they get back (which is why the system is in trouble).

Another option is to eliminate the cap on Social Security taxes - painful for high-bracket earners, I admit, but perhaps a less dangerous economic prescription than privatization. Remember, the NASDAQ was up around 5000 before it collapsed back to the 1500 range. Stocks are volatile, and a huge infusion of new, untested investors could make them more volatile than ever.

And yes, we could argue that it's our money and we have a right to do as we please with it - but in that case we might as well eliminate Social Security entirely, as well as any other governmental safety nets. The resulting libertarian paradise might not be so great for people who, in the vicissitudes of life, lose everything and have no options except to throw themselves on the mercy of private charity.

There is a lot to be said, in theory, for an ownership society of the sort that privatizers favor. I just wonder if they aren't underestimating the difficulties and risks entailed in getting there.

I think using Nasdaq is using an extreme example to prove your point. The gov't would opt for much more conservative and reliable mutual funds or some such thing. I have a CD that pays 5%. I just went to my bank to get it. That's better than SS.

I also think your point about the Libertarian views is well taken but unlikely. There does need to be a forced retirement savings or else people will play grasshopper all their lives and us ants will foot the bill. And of course we'll foot the bill because we are a compassionate society.

Asking the rich to pay more or means testing is terribly unfair. 13% of their gross income for nothing?! And hey, I clear $500.00 a week. I'm not even close to rich.

We can say it's our money without going to the extreme of saying we might as well just end SS. Private accounts are worth the risk and worth a try. Start with 2% and see what happens. Maybe another pilot program? But in the immortal words of that grand speaker, John Kerry, "More of the same is not a solution." Has he signed his 180 yet?

You may be right that private accounts are worth a try. But I suspect that the Bush proposal is too ambitious. As you say, we could try 2% to start with, rather than the 4% advocated by the president. And yes, the government would have to limit investments to certain fairly safe areas - large-cap equity mutual funds, AAA-rated bond funds, Treasuries, etc. There may be ways to make it work. I does make me nervous, but you know, I'm the cautious type. (And we haven't even mentioned the transition costs ...)

I don't worry about transition costs. Is there a bigger canard in politics than the defecit? We've had defecits, huge defecits, in all but a few of the last tweny-odd years and our economy had gone through 2 record growths that lasted years and only 2 slight recessions. Except for a barometer of an out of control federal gov't (that Repubs are no better at than dems) the defecit's a non-issue.

It's interesting that the AARP invests it's money in the market.

See, Bush says 4& -- you say 0% -- I say 2% -- we can compromise! Met right in the middle!

I respect your concern about those who,
through no fault of their own, have difficulty
surviving, particularly later in life.

But I would argue (at greater length than space permits here), that private charity (like private enterprise in general) is more efficient, more humane, and ultimately more just than a Federal Government mandated insurance policy. At most, it should be handled by individual states.

I don't agree with your suggestion that this is some kind of libertarian utopia, but recognize that getting through the transition requires making some difficult choices.

When the government has essentially scammed everyone for 70 years it creates a very big hole to climb out of.
Jeff

I really can't agree that the government has "scammed everybody for 70 years." Social Security, whatever its faults, has allowed millions of seniors to live much better lives. As far as my "libertarian utopia" comment is concerned, I'm referring to the libertarian goal of eliminating all governmnental social welfare programs, including Social Security. It's utopian because it will never happen, and because (in my opinion) it wouldn't work even if it were to happen. It reminds me a little of Ayn Rand's contention that taxation should be eliminated, and the government should rely instead on "voluntary contributions." (She says this somewhere in her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, as I recall.) Like second marriages, this sort of ideology is a triumph of hope over experience! : )

MP, I'm with you. I think there would be a lot of people left out in the cold. And contrary to what someone above said, it's not just people choosing to invest their own money. That money has already been paid forward by the people before them--and they're the ones who'll lose out.

I'm all for means testing, unless I get rich, of course.

Margaret Falk is better known as the bestselling suspense novelist J. Carson Black, whose excellent debut novel, Darkness on the Edge of Town, is now in stores. For details see www.jcarsonblack.com.

And guess what? Pres. Bush just proposed means testing of future Social Security benefits in his news conference tonight!

Anyone who names a book after the greatest song ever written is okay with me.

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