PORT HURON, Michigan / The Times Herald / Opinion / September 20, 2011
The current Republican attack would slash this pillar of our society and leave a vast hole in our nation's security of its retirees, disabled, widows and their children.
For all the years of this program's existence, its enemies have tried to eliminate it and not because it is a Ponzi scheme (which it isn't) but solely because they do not want to pay into the fund the 7.65% of payroll tax now paid by employers and also paid by employees as their premium into this retirement insurance fund.
From Barry Goldwater to today, there have been a multitude of schemes to kill this vital program: Make it voluntary; let it twist in the wind; phase it out; put it in the stock market; and more. The grandaddy of this attack is Peter Petersen, known as the Wall Street raider who specialized in buying companies, selling off their units and pocketing millions. Petersen and those who attack Social Security care not at all about retirees or someday-to-be-retirees. They simply want the billions of dollars they will capture. This happened under Margaret Thatcher in England and virtually destroyed that nation's pension program.
The current attack on Social Security argues that when America has more retirees and fewer workers the system will collapse. Not true. They claim that soon there would be one American of working age for every retiree, but in truth the number of workers supporting every retiree will decline only slightly over the next three decades. And at its low point it will still be greater than it was in the 1960s. That's because of the huge influx of women and immigrants into the work force. Social Security actuaries have determined that in the future there will be sufficient workers to support the program, just as today.
Social Security is fully solvent. In fact, by simply raising the earnings cap so the wealthy pay their fair share into the fund, the solvency will be extended into the indefinite future.
As to the trust fund, the claim is that it has been spent on "worthless IOUs." Anyone who claims this probably has some of these in his or her safety deposit box. They are called T-bills, Treasury notes and government bonds. Nothing in the world is safer. Through the Great Depression, World War II, recessions and heavy unemployment, Social Security checks have always arrived on time and in full amounts. During the many decades of Social Security, banks have failed, insurance companies have gone bankrupt, investors have been defrauded by Wall Street, pension plans have disappeared, but there has never been a single dollar lost to Social Security beneficiaries. Whether an aging baby boomer or teenager, Social Security will be there at retirement ---unless the circling sharks have their way.
It is shocking that anyone would call for the end to Social Security. Right here in Sanilac County, 17.2% of the population receives Social Security payments.
This is not a handout or "entitlement." They paid into the fund all of their working lives. If we are currently in a recession, give a thought to what life would be like for our local economy and for almost 20% of our population if Social Security disappeared.
Ray Denison worked in Congressional relations in Washington, D.C. He is retired and lives in Port Sanilac.
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