berdollos: The State of Ohio retirement system has replaced SS for its teachers (The State Teachers Retirement System). I put my money in at about the same rate as social security and get back better retirment PLUS medical insurance PLUS equity if I choose to drop out.
Okay, berdollos, let’s take a look at what’s actually going on here that helps make your system (compared solely as a pension/benefits plan, as you insist on comparing it) better value than Social Security. (I’m getting my information on your system from the STRS Ohio website.)
First: I see that you people pay 9.3% of your gross earnings into the system as individual employees (with no earnings cap), while employers pay 14% of their total employee payroll. For SS payroll taxes, both employee and employer pay 6.2%, with employee’s taxable earnings capped at something over $80,000 (thanks bashere!). You may call this “about the same rate” as Social Security, and perhaps for you individually it works out to a pretty small absolute dollar difference, but there is in fact a much larger percentage of combined earnings and payroll going into your system.
By the way, who are the “employers” of most schoolteachers and university/college educators in the state of Ohio? Why, the state and municipalities of Ohio, of course! And how do the state and municipalities of Ohio make most of their income? Why, from taxes, of course! So your hefty chunk of “employer” contributions in STRS is actually coming largely out of the pockets of taxpayers (including yourself).
Second: The people who are eligible for membership in STRS Ohio are school/university/college teachers. Now I know from personal experience that there’s not a whole lot of money in teaching, but you guys ain’t scraping along on or near minimum wage either, as many SS contributors are. In addition, we teachers tend to be a highly-educated, law-abiding, non-slum-dwelling, relatively low-risk bunch of folks, so we are less likely to have lots of expensive bad stuff happening to us. (And I gather from some of your on-line forms that you guys have to get physicals too, right?) In other words, the excellent performance of your pension plan is partly due to classic “cherrypicking” techniques: enroll only comparatively high-value, low-risk members and watch your assets fatten. Social Security, being a universal social insurance plan, doesn’t have that luxury.
Third: In addition to having healthy contributions, boy, do you folks have fat assets! I see that investment income has been your system’s single largest source of income since 1977 and that it currently (1999-2000) totals almost 75% of your income, with the amount of net assets currently available for benefits being $54.6 billion. Now that says a lot in favor of the good sense of your investment advisors, and I congratulate you on having accumulated such a nice chunk of capital to take care of most of your funding. But this capital is something that you’ve been growing for many decades under the guidance of professional investment planners. Social Security, on the other hand, has always been a pay-as-you-go plan; though it does have the “boomer trust fund” that was set up in 1983, any attempts to do serious asset creation for the future would require taking money away from current benefit payments (not very popular), or else imposing new taxes (really not popular). To have a comparable distribution of funding sources to what STRS Ohio can boast, we’d have to get 75% of our SS income from asset interest—in 1999, that’s 75% of $526.6 billion. Actually, we only spent about $400 billion in 1999 (the rest kicked into the boomer trust fund), so let’s use that as the figure we want to cover 75% of with interest income, which would require yearly interest of $300 billion. Assume we could get a 10% rate of return on our capital, because I’m bad at non-round percentages, and ignore all the issues of compounding and stuff that I’m sure Collounsbury or Dinsdale will correct me on if necessary…let’s see, that would require an asset chunk on the order of $3 trillion, right? Yikes! Do you have that kind of change lying around? Me neither. SSA neither.
So to sum up: what makes your state pension plan such a sweet deal compared to what you call the “ripoff” of Social Security is that it’s paying benefits to a comparatively small number of high-value “cherrypicked” members, and derives its funding mostly from interest on very long-term capital accumulation and taxation of a much larger population base. So tell us, berdollos ol’ buddy: what scheme do you suggest to make those same conditions apply to a universal, tax-funded social insurance plan for all the long-time workers and their dependents in this nation, so Social Security won’t be a “ripoff” anymore? Hmmm?