Social Security Works

Being a computer nerd, I subscribe to Slash Dot News for Nerds.

Once each morning, I receive a digest of discussions on topics that are of interest to, well, to nerds. This mornings headlines included the topic: “How Bad is the Gulf Coast Oil Spill”. The ensuing overkill exchange of comments somehow managed to morph into a discussion of social security and included this tid bit:

You mention Social Security and health care. If I could, I would opt out of Social Security entirely. I’m in my mid-20s. If I cannot figure out on my own, without assistance, that I will one day grow old and wish to retire, and that the time to start saving up and preparing for that is right now, why should somebody else be forced to pay for my lack of foresight? Morally speaking, I don’t know how to justify that one. Blah blah blah….

Dear young Libertarian Fundamentalist:

You are in your mid-twenties and you have it all figured out.

You think that 200,000,000 workers all making individual investment decisions would result in a retirement system better than social security.

So, you like the crap shoot that the market provides and are OK with a large chunk of those 200,000,000 investors getting screwed every 20 or 30 years?

Social Security is one of the best most successful government programs in U.S. history yet Libertarian Fundamentalists have been complaining about it since I was your age.

My 92 year old mom worked her entire life and saved and the market screwed her. Her social security is the one safety net she has. Her social security makes it less on hard on me to help provide for her, which I do to augment her social security. That is family helping family – the oldest kind of socialism on the planet.

I’ll be curious to see what your opinions are when you are 55. I heard your exact same arguments from the Silicon Valley crowd 30 years ago. I was at Berkeley, they were at Stanford. That’s funny, public vs private. Social Security was supposed to be broke by now. It isn’t. And the only reason it will be is if the illogic of the Libertarian Fundamentalists remain in control and the Goldman Sachs and other (overpaid) investment bankers of the world and the U.S. Oligarchy continues to transfer wealth to themselves as they have so ably done done over the past 30 years.

The facts are that since the mid 1970s, the amount of GDP (income) going to the most wealthy in our society has increased dramatically while the income going to the normal people has stayed flat or nearly flat. Does that mean that the wealthy “earned” all that extra wealth? Should only the most wealthy citizens accrue almost all of the increase in wealth in the country? Is it only the wealthy who “earned” the increase in overall wealth over the past 30 plus years? I think not. I think it is because they are in power and have kept wages low for the normal worker while increasing their own wages and ownership of property and the means of production.

There has been a redistribution of wealth by the private sector. The private sector has redistributed the new wealth of the overall economy upwards and left little of that increase in overall wealth for the hard working middle class. This has made the wealthy even more wealthy and has let the middle class stagnate and in some cases, drop in net income level. This in spite of the fact that most of the work that actually creates the wealth to start out with is done by the middle class and lower classes. This has been going on for over thirty years.

Things have gotten out of whack. Social Security is a system that allows normal working people to be assured that the upper strata of our society cannot take an undo proportion of the wealth and assures that the overall welfare of the society has a level of protection for the elderly. We, as a democratic society, should remove the cap on income level contributing to social security. That alone would more than fix the system and take back a small part of the wealth that the wealthy have accrued to themselves from via the private system of capitalism they have commandeered.

I imagine the Kings and princesses during the days of feudalism believed that they too deserved all their wealth. Marie Antionette, when informed that the peasants did not have enough bread to eat, responded: “Then let them eat cake”. She ended up having her head chopped off during the French Revolution.

This transfer of more wealth to the wealthy is well documented in Les Leopold’s well written and entertaining book:

“The Looting of America, How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity and What We Can Do About It”


Dennis Allard