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:
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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