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Social Security: There Will Be Consequences

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As a libertarian, I generally warn people against dependence upon big government because politicians are elected based upon their ability to promise more than they can deliver. So, no one can be completely shocked when the public programs created by Congress fail you as an individual.

Social Security provides an excellent example of big government failing the public as a whole. For every $1 the program has ever collected, it has generated $3 of promises that it does not expect to keep. Voters, I hope, understand that robbing Peter to pay Paul cannot last forever.

By all accounts, the public embraces the idea of Social Security. That is fine, provided that voters realize that they have a responsibility to monitor the programs that they create through their votes, and they accept the consequences of allowing a government program to spin out of control.

Social Security has spun out of control. Over the past decade alone, the program has generated more than $10 trillion in promises that it has no material prospect of keeping. Over this period of time, the gap between what the program promises and what the program will likely be able to pay has grown at more than double the rate of growth of the national economy as a whole. Basically, the hole in the program’s finances is growing faster than our ability to fill it.

All the while, Congress has talked about the problem without doing anything to address the long-term prospects of the program.

This subject should be on the radar of every candidate running for national office. However, it appears to be on the priority list of none. At this point, the politics of Social Security are simple. Promise the voter that you will protect Social Security, and the voter will hear whatever he or she wishes. Any voter who takes that promise to heart at the ballot box deserves whatever consequences when the checks are supposed to arrive.

Yes, the voters are at fault, and there will be consequences for their electoral indifference. Americans have a vote every two years, and the last time we reformed Social Security was in 1983. At this point, you can’t blame the program’s architect, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for the perilous state of the program. In fact, FDR opposed the pay-as-you-go system that we have in place today. 


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