Of course, when talking about America and Social Security, you’ve got to begin by defining your terms.
In the rest of the world “social security” (capitalized or not) refers to all government programs for the common welfare, from medical care to free public education, to unemployment insurance and retirement pension and all the way through to death benefits.
In the United States, “Social Security” means the self- and employer-funded retirement fund that pays money for Grandma and Gramps to live on, and funds Medicare so they can have at least basic medical care as they age and need it more.
While privatizing using the American definition would undoubtedly please the libertarians no end, I can’t help but think that going with the world definition would send them into (quiet, restrained, lady- and gentleman-like) orgasms of delight.
I say let’s make their wildest dreams come true and privatize the whole thing and make it all optional.
Let’s spin off not just Social Security/Medicare, but also health, education, and welfare into private, not-for-profit cooperatives, governed by a board of directors elected by and responsible to the membership at large and prohibited from making any speculative use of funds. Then let’s make participation optional.
For the time being, the IRS will serve as the the collecting agency for the voluntary taxes paid by those who opt in. We’ll see how that goes. But that will be the only role of any Federal agency in the operation of the coop(s).
Rather than Congress dictating the budget and how the money is spent, those decisions will be made cooperatively, with Anything Really Important (including the “tax” rate) determined by a vote of the membership.
Lots of details to work out, but as I said, on the face of it, it looks damned good to me.
As for those who opt out? Give them a check for what they’ve paid into Social Security to date, minus any benefits they’ve received. Let them make their own decisions regarding providing for themselves and their families. And to remove any punitive aspects from the decision making process, allow anyone outside a coop to buy (back) into it for the equivalent of back taxes. I’m sure that some libertarian entrepreneur will set up a private insurance company to protect against that eventuality.
This plan achieves two very desirable goals: 1) It takes control of essential human services away from a Congress which over the last two years has demonstrated that it’s incapable even of tying its own shoes, and 2) It takes the money to run those services out of the U.S. Treasury, so that when our government ceases to function, there’s at least a chance that those services might continue.
Feel free to discuss. I say we go for it.