Any discussions about reforming SS have to acknowledge that the current SS system is the proverbial 600 pound gorilla. It ain’t gonna be easy to make it turn around, just cause we want it to. Any changes will have to be EXTREMELY gradual, and tweaking will be much more readily accomplished, than major overhaul.
I agree with Satan - what do we do for people who invest badly, or who have to withdraw during a market downturn? For them, will reliance upon whatever welfare their state provides be an improvement?
Also, how do privatizers address transition costs? It is one thing for me to say a 25 year old should be able to privately invest some portion of his SS contribution. But at present, that 25 yr old’s contribution is needed to pay his grandma’s benefits today, and to put into the trust funds to pay his mom and dad’s tomorrow. We might object to this system, but it is the system as it exists. And it can only be changed gradually. If funds are taken out of the present pipeline for individual accounts, how does SS meet present obligations? Borrow?
SS could have been set up as an individual savings program. But it wasn’t. When SS was initiated, there was a desire to cover individuals who were retired at that time or in the near future. Those folks, our grandparents and greatgrandparents, got far more than they contributed. You may agree or disagree with the way it was set up, but that is what we have to deal with.
So, I would like to hear specific privatization recommendations, that address all of the costs that would be involved. We don’t hear much specificity from privatization advocates. George W. certainly provided no details. He has submitted no plan - simply rhetoric. Right now, SS is a pretty cheaply administered program - admin costs are less than 1% of current expenses.
I think a better plan than privatization of SS would be to increase tax benefits of IRAs, or other private savings programs. My understanding is that most investment programs recommend keeping at least some portion of your portfolio in very low risk investments, even tho they may not pay the maximum return available. And you “gamble” with the portion of your money you aren’t going to need to pay the food bills. I think of SS as that really safe portion of my retirement plan. And it doesn’t keep me up nights.
Finally, consistent with my remarks of gradual tweaking being favorable to major overhauls, the sooner we do anything, the better. Right now the trust funds are calculated at being about 2.25% short of payroll during the next 75 years. So, if revenues were increased 2.25%, or benefits reduced by 15%, the system is funded for the next 75 years. BUT, every year that reform is delayed, those numbers increase.
Really finally, my understanding is that countries including Great Britain, Australia, and Chile have recently experimented with increased privatization in their retirement systems. It would be interesting if some folks with knowledge of those countries’ systems would chime in.