A Socially Responsible Reply to Avoiding Social Security

November 16, 2007

A reader sent the following response to yesterday’s post on avoiding Social Security payments.  I asked them for permission to share it because the email reminded me that Social Security is a safety net for many people and asks some interesting questions about keeping the Social Security program viable:

Reader Response:

Why would your wife forfeit her Social Security contributions?  My wife taught for a year under the Missouri Educators’ Retirement System.  We converted her contributions and earnings to an IRA when we left the state. 

During her last six years as a teacher in South Dakota, and previous years teaching in Kansas and Iowa, she contributed to Social Security, as most public educators do.  Her annual Social Security update lists her record of contributions in these states and forecasts her benefits upon retirement, which I fully expect she will someday receive. 

Why would you have any more confidence in the survival of Missouri’s retirement system over Social Security?  Both can go bust.  One in fact might argue that a program that has been around since the late 1930s and has the backing of the Federal Treasury has a more secure future than a relatively new program from a midsized Midwestern state. 

It all comes down to political and public will.  Will we allow Social Security to fail or embrace obvious remedies toward solvency?  Why not raise the cap on payroll taxes past $96000 (maybe even tax investment income), consider raising the retirement age for full benefits, or demand politicians quit raiding the Social Security Trust Fund for other expenditures? 

For the past seventy years, Social Security has been an essential part of the safety net for millions of Americans, particularly among the lower and lower middle classes.  Its benefits not only help retirees, they assist disabled workers and their families as well as spouses and children of deceased bread winners. 

For example, my wife’s grandmother, a former housewife widowed in her mid-sixties, could not have survived into her mid-eighties without her survivor’s monthly Social Security check.  There are millions of more just like her today as there will be tomorrow. 

Frankly, the question shouldn’t be how do we avoid paying into Social Security but rather can we find the moral and political courage to protect this vital program for future generations.

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13 Responses to A Socially Responsible Reply to Avoiding Social Security

  • Charles L. Gardner

    And by the way.Does everyone realize that the government has also miss used our tax money sending it overseas through grant of corperations to so call create jobs in this country.Guess what they don’t even charge tax on what is shipped back into this country.Guess who pays the tax on what you buy.HHHMMM!!!!Guess whos’ complaining about China and foreign countries passing us up in technology.Of course China and Japan and Korea and the rest of them are using American money to defeat us.Guess whos’s winning

  • Anonymous

    Social Security has been bankrupt for many years… Of course the federal reserve stimulates it from time to time but innevidably puts us further into debt. SS needs to be shut down as soon as possible. There are many other programs to pay your retirement benefits into. You’re an idiot to believe you can recover something that has bigger debt than any other country. We pay social securtiy because it is suppose to be put aside for when we retire but obviously is so behind that OUR money that is suppose to be for OUR retirement is going to the ederly; well sorry screw you ederly because now there’s nothing besides bankruptsy when we want to retire and we’ll never be able to when were that respectable ederly like all you out there. and the ederly were the one’s that started this fucked up program and now some of us want to try and keep it going. Social Security was a debt that the ederly put on generation baby boomers and now baby boomers are pushing onto generation X. But Generation is not so ignorant and selfish to try and keep a program running; that would mean we (generation X) Is wanting to pass it off to the next; but we have balls to take a stand and say no were not doing this to our kids. Too bad none of you were’nt selfish enough to protect generation X from what some say were heading into another Great Depression but times ten. So quit the wo was me’s, yeah you had it tough, but likely it going to be times ten for us.

    • Charles L. Gardner

      The government has borrowed out of Social Security since the 1950s and has never required the different departments to repay what they’ve borrowed.No body has sense enough to bring that up to our geniuses in Washington

  • Anonymous

    Social Security is a state sponsored pyramid scheme that will have to end at some point.

  • Ben

    Good point Mark, does seem like a double standard. I imagine/hope Social Security is going to become a bigger and bigger issue during the election. The longer they put off dealing with it, the harder it will be to fix.

  • Mark Russell

    Question:
    If the government thinks we need social security, then please explain to me why government employee’s and officials have their own separate program. Are they more responsible than me, one must wonder when you see how certain government agencies are run. And why is it a members only club, should I get a part time job as a government employee in order to have control of my retirement?

  • Anon

    If you don’t think raising the cap is aggressive, think again. People assume that everyone earning above 100k is filthy rich and deserves to be taxed dry. That viewpoint overlooks the large number of careers that have one boom year and many, many bust years. That also overlooks the large number of people who take high paying jobs to pay off student loans and will then switch to a lower paying job that helps others. Or the large number of parents who are paying for rising tuition costs. Finally, I know this is controversial to say, but for those of us who studied on Friday and Saturday nights instead of partying all through high school and college and got good jobs, and those of us who now work 80 hour weeks, why should we bear the responsibility for those who didn’t/don’t?

  • Paul

    Since we’re asking moral questions, who says the Federal Gummint has the moral right to take away my money with the threat of putting me in jail?

    Sure maybe the program does good for people who have no where else to turn, but why should I be forced to give to it? I already give voluntarily to charities that I believe in, and your reader is free to give voluntarily to charities that he or she believes in, but don’t throw me in jail just because I don’t believe Social Security is a good use of my money.

  • Robert

    Social Security is a crutch as currently implemented. We should have people saving for their own needs. That safety net should be for people who couldn’t do that, not those who didn’t.

  • Fiscal Musings

    Social Security is one of those futile subjects. You have no control over the program and are at the mercy of easily influenced lawmakers who will say what they think the masses want to hear. The best advice is to exclude Social Security in your planning and treat it as “gravy” if you ever see a payment.

  • Dangerman

    See, the Reader’s Response implicitly assumes that Social Security is just another form of welfare. It was never, never, intended to be that – it was (and is) supposed to be a forced savings program.

    But since the purpose of the federal government these days is pretty much just to transfer wealth from the rich to the poor, why not let Social Security do that too. I’m sure the livelihood of “my wife’s grandmother” is much more important that the utility lost to hundreds of billions in 0% interest savings.

  • bill

    First of all, there is no social security trust fund. The annual federal budget is estimated based on next years tax receipts and divided like a pie for each government program.

    I think people should look at SS as a supplement, not as one’s sole source of income. If SS is all you have for retirement, you made bad choices early in you life.

  • Minimum Wage

    Other than taxing income not currently taxed (e.g. raising the cap or taxing investment income) and privatization, all the “reform” options currently on the table are highly regressive.

    Since the working poor and near-poor tend to die earlier than the rest of us, increasing the age for full retirement benefits would rip off millions of low earners. Similarly, raising taxes or cutting benefits would also be regressive.

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