Monday, August 2, 2010

LA Times: “A 27-year-old's common-sense reform ideas”…are what, exactly?

The LA Times today prints an op-ed from Sam Gill, a DC-based consultant to groups working on retirement issues, discussing what the Times calls "A 27-year-old's common-sense reform ideas." None of his suggestions – better informing younger workers regarding disability and survivors benefits; increasing the age limit on students receiving survivors benefits; educating younger people about personal saving for retirement, and potentially administering savings accounts – are terrible ideas.

But there's almost no mention of – you know, what do they call it? That thing... – oh, the fact that Social Security is over $5 trillion short of what it needs to pay the benefits it promises. In other words, to the degree that "reform" implies at least some effort to fix the program we have before expanding it, there are no real reform ideas in the piece, common-sense or otherwise.

If Gill were simply a randomly-chosen 27-year old I wouldn't particularly care. But, as Gill's more politically-oriented piece in the Huffington Post shows, his views on Social Security reform are more or less on par with the rest of the left: ignore the problem, don't propose any real funding solutions, then hope to raise taxes at some point. That's fine, at least in an abstract sense, but it seems to me that if you're proposing to expand the program you should also propose how to pay for it.

Moreover, while the public may support raising taxes to increase benefits – raising others people's taxes, for the most part – when Social Security is put into the context of the overall federal budget it pretty quickly becomes clear there are limits on how much you can tax high earners. If people want to raise Social Security benefits for certain groups – which I support – they should probably fund it by reducing costs elsewhere in the system.

No comments: