Don't Privatize Plunder
by Anthony Gregory
by Anthony Gregory
George W. Bush wants to "reform" and "fix" Social Security, and "privatize" aspects of it. Certain "free market" groups seem to like this idea, while admitting that "these reforms are costly" and may entail "transition costs… from $7 trillion to $8 trillion total before the transition is completed in mid-century."
How benevolent of the president to begin reforms that will only take fifty more years to complete! If something goes wrong by the time I retire, I wonder how many of today's Republican lawmakers will still be around to hold accountable.
Social Security is among the most tyrannical government programs under which the average wage earner must suffer. And I don't know who is more pitiable, the average employee who pays about fourteen percent — half of which is hidden because his employer must fork it over, and therefore deduct it from what the employee could otherwise earn — or the self-employed worker, who has to cut the check for that much himself.
Fourteen percent. And we all know it won't be there upon retirement, maybe not even for my parents' generation, and almost certainly not for mine.
Fourteen percent. That's three fourths of every typical worker's Monday, spent working for a fraudulent system inherited from Otto von Bismarck. This is time that parents could spend with their children, teaching them good values and academics or playing ball with them, or time that could be spent working to build up wealth to save or invest in a way that actually produces good for the economy, rather than be thrown down the drain of the largest government agency in the world.
For the American struggling just to make ends meet, who buys groceries only when they are on sale and goes to Wal-Mart for its heroically inexpensive quality goods, it is maddening to have to surrender fourteen percent of every dollar earned to just one of FDR's many enduring legacies. Social Security is "regressive," in that the poor pay proportionately more, or, at least, more than the super rich, whose payroll taxes are capped at a certain amount. I don't like "progressive" taxes, but I might even hate "regressive" ones more. Maybe I'm a bleeding-heart libertarian?
For all the talk about how my generation is uncouth, impatient and unappreciative, it's the older generations that must answer for allowing this harrowing institution — one of the most immoral in America — to continue and grow. My generation didn't saddle anyone with debt and condemn millions to involuntary servitude! I apologize if my fellow young Americans are rude at times (or if I am), but it's quite stressful having fourteen percent of our money stolen just so the government can maintain this corrupt program of intergenerational plunder.
Do I blame my elders? No. Do I wish them ill and suffering? Of course not. I am not a sadist. They, too, would be better off without the socialist retirement system. But they're the ones lobbying to keep it afloat! If economic collapse comes, we all must face the reality that Social Security might fall with it. And good riddance. The sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned.
Social Security could be a great issue for libertarians. Nothing better demonstrates the pure evil of the welfare state, as it attacks the poorest and youngest Americans and distributes money to the wealthiest demographic in the country. Instead of pointing this out, too many "free market" thinkers devise ways to keep the system afloat.
Ask many people my age and they'll tell you they understand the system stinks. Bring it up to older generations, and they seem to want to keep the rotten racket going, at least until they're done "benefiting" from it. When I talk to my elders about politics, my stand on Social Security often upsets them more than anything else I have to say.
What's the solution? Scrap the whole system! Let's not "privatize" plunder, the way so many free market socialists want to. I don't want an opportunity to give fourteen percent, or some small fraction of it, to whatever corporations the Bush administration thinks can be trusted with my money better than the government can.
Instead of the privatization schemes we usually hear about, I think the best "gradualist" reform would be to reduce the payroll taxes, by whatever amount we can. Just cut them down, and keep cutting until there's nothing left to cut. The older people perhaps deserve something for all they've put into the system, and may indeed have a claim on government assets. The only trouble with this is that if you took all the victims of the US government — people unjustly imprisoned, people who have had their homes and businesses confiscated through the totalitarian asset forfeiture laws, people who have been regulated into poverty, people killed accidentally by federal cops, not to mention those who have lost property and loved ones to US wars of aggression — I would expect the liabilities would far exceed the assets. Even just counting Americans who have had to pay taxes all their lives, certainly the government can't pay them all back what has been stolen. Even the entire US economy couldn't handle it. Maybe Americans who have paid all their lives into the corrupt Social Security system should get close to first dibs on government property to be liquidated, but there's a long line of victims of the US government, and there's no totally fair way to compensate them for even a fraction of what they deserve.
What's most important is to stop the stealing. Isn't it? Can any champion of liberty or free markets really justify continuing this Bismarckian mass theft of working people's meager wealth? The first Social Security victims didn't even have to pay fourteen percent, and if the miserable pyramid scam continues my generation will be paying twenty or thirty percent before we know it.
I was listening to Rush Limbaugh one day when Bush's tax cut was in the news. I always find it quite annoying when liberals whine about the "top one percent" of all Americans getting the biggest income tax cuts. Why shouldn't they, when they pay the most in income taxes?
This time, the caller actually had a good question, one worth serious consideration. He asked why the administration cut income taxes instead of payroll taxes. He wasn't complaining about the rich getting tax cuts, as much as he was arguing that the poor should get tax cuts. This is a reasonable matter to discuss, isn't it? Libertarians and fiscal conservatives should give it serious thought, shouldn't they?
Limbaugh mumbled something about why payroll taxes couldn't be reasonably cut and how people shouldn't demonize the rich, blah, blah, blah.
I'm starting to see why some people think Republicans care more about cutting taxes for the rich than for the rest of us. Maybe they do.
Some Republicans even think the poor are "under-taxed." Maybe these are the same folks who think that Iraq has been under-bombed. How could anyone be under-taxed?
If they are under-taxed, let us not blame the great individualist Ronald Reagan, who raised the payroll tax. Without him, the poor would be way under-taxed.
Social Security has got to go. If I could push that magical button that Murray Rothbard used to talk about, and get rid of the system immediately, you couldn't keep my finger from it without a fight.
Do you think the Republicans would push that button? Would the "free-market" conservative organizations? Would the beltway libertarians, even?
I say the Ponzi scheme should go, as soon as possible. It's racked up enough unfunded liabilities for a hundred governments, and it's at the top of the list of America's worst welfare state programs.
Down with Socialist Security!
Am I selfish? Perhaps. But only because I think we should cut taxes for the rich and for everybody, maybe even starting with the tax that attacks the wage earner who has to work almost all of Monday just so Bismarck's and FDR's vile progeny can feel like they're being compassionate.
September 22, 2004
Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He earned his bachelor's degree in history at UC Berkeley, where he was president of the Cal Libertarians. He is an intern at the Independent Institute and has written for Rational Review, Strike the Root, the Libertarian Enterprise, and Antiwar.com. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.
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