Trust Fund Fantasies

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Young people watching a large chunk of their paychecks going to pay social security taxes may question why anyone would defend a program that, in an age of IRAs and 401 (k)s, seems to be such an anachronism. They might ask their professors, or just wait to hear them defend the status quo.

“Social Security is a tried and true system, popular, successful and highly efficient,” University of Missouri political scientist Max J. Skidmore writes in The Montana Professor. “It would be foolish to revise it radically based upon tenuous long-term projections that some critics charge have been influenced by political ideology.”

Incidentally, Skidmore takes much of his information from the left-wing Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Nonetheless, he makes a good point about journalists who rely too heavily on economic projections.

He is on shakier ground when asserting that the system is currently in good health. “The trust funds hold U. S. bonds with equally valid claims on the U. S. Treasury,” Skidmore claims. “It is ignorant and irresponsible to claim otherwise.”

Actually, unlike bonds, you cannot cash in the notes in the Social Security Trust Fund. They are non-interest bearing and non-redeemable.

What do you call such certificates? “How about worthless?,” Washington columnist Robert Novak has suggested.

“One may genuinely prefer a completely private system and accept its risk and variable results, but this is a value judgment, an ideological position, not one dictated by economic principles,” Skidmore concludes. Nevertheless, he makes ideological assertions of his own about the program’s critics.

“They take the gnat-straining position that Social Security, health care, and similar programs constitute government threats to liberty,” Skidmore notes. “Swallowing the camel, many of them ignore the very real violations from such things as warrantless wiretapping, security requirements at airports that range from inconvenient to humiliating, asset forfeiture under the ‘drug war’ and other programs, the suspension of habeas corpus (which assumes guilt and denies the arrested person even the opportunity to demonstrate proof of citizenship, let alone to present evidence of innocence), and issuance of ‘National Security Letters’ that can lead to jail for recipients if they even reveal that they have received the letters.”

“They also ignore genuine economic threats to liberty from unemployment, low wages, high health care costs, and the like.” What he does not mention is that when someone other than you is paying for a good or service, such as health care, you have considerably little to say about how much of it you get.

Finally, the liberty he focuses on is freedom from want rather than of movement.
Canaries and prisoners have the former but they are caged.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.