Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Remember Social Security?

The numerous indictments and investigations, supreme court nominations, a poorly planned war and natural disaters surely deserve attention. But we shouldn't forget Bush's top domestic policy priority: Social Security. Bush and co. is still trying to privatize this safety net. Excuse me, I mean "fix it with personal savings accounts". A recent Newsweek poll has some important information for those of us 18-34:
The only age group that believes the potential returns outweigh the risk is 18- to 34-year-olds, and even they are divided (48 percent says it’s a necessary risk, 46 percent says it’s too big a risk.) More mature Americans betray no such uncertainty: Of those 55 years old and older, 65 percent say investing in the market is too risky; only 25 percent say it’s a necessary risk. Fifty-eight percent of those 35 to 44 believe the risk is too great, while 56 percent of 45- to 54-year-olds think so (can you say tech-bubble investors?). And while a majority of young people believe it’s a necessary risk, they are also the age group most likely to believe that if retirees’ investments in the proposed individual retirement accounts perform poorly, or lose money, the government should be responsible for making up the loss. A whopping 73 percent say so, vs. just 50 percent of those 55 and older.
I've highlighted two parts. First, the fact that 18-34 year olds are so worried about Social Security is interesting. The truth is, Social Security may be in jeopardy about 40 years from now, but Medicare will be a bigger problem in less than a decade. Not that we shouldn't be thinking about Social Security, but there are several more urgent and definite problems we need to be talking about (can you say debts and deficits?).

Secondly, if 18-34 year olds believe the government should "be responsible for making up the loss", why remove the safety net in the first place? Social Security has been extremely effective at reducing elderly poverty. If there is a big economic downturn, not only would we have to deal with that, but we would also have to deal with the people who are devestated by the risky endeavor of privatization. Our country will not want to leave our elderly impoverished so we will have to fix the situation all over again. To me, that's pretty bad policy.


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