Truth About Social Security
September 1, 2001
The fundamental truth about the Social Security debate is
really quite simple. It's about right and wrong - the true
test of "honor and integrity" in the White House. All the
major religions state the basic rule in some form: "Thou shalt
not steal." Why? Because it's morally wrong.
The evening news will tell you that the Social Security debate
is only about politicians posturing for the next election.
That's a bunch of hooey. This debate is about: (1) taking
money from American workers by force (ie, FICA taxes), (2)
promising those workers the FICA money will be returned in
some form in the future (ie, future SS benefits), and (3)
giving the workers' FICA money to someone else because it's
politically expedient (ie. subsidies to your best contributors
or to fund your favorite pet projects). That's stealing under
any definition I know.
In the past, politicians made countless excuses for this
practice of stealing from the worker's Social Security Trust
Fund. They said, "It's for a good cause," or "We will pay
the money back later," or "It's only a drop in the bucket,"
or "The fund is just a fiction anyway," or "SS is really
pay as you go." Then recently, Congress and the Clinton/Gore
Administration acknowledged that stealing from American workers
was just plain wrong and declared it would stop. Thus, the
infamous "lock box" was created, championed by Gore, and even
featured on SNL.
Its important to remember some history on Social Security.
Don't forget that Reagan and Greenspan raised FICA taxes dramatically
to build up the SS Trust Fund for the boomers' retirement.
So, workers were forced to pay dramatically higher FICA taxes
with the (empty) promise that the "extra" contributions would
be used to make the Social Security Fund solvent for later
Yet, from virtually the day the FICA tax rates were raised,
that extra money was not used just to secure future SS benefits,
but instead was repeatedly diverted to pay for politicians'
favorite pet projects. This practice was a direct theft from
the workers then, and it remains a theft today. These "diversions"
are the reason the Social Security Trust Fund remains insolvent
I would compare it to putting your money in a bank savings
account and the banker deciding he had a better use for your
money, and removing your money without your permission. Maybe
the banker will pay his tellers with your money, maybe he'll
do something worthwhile, or maybe he'll just take a vacation.
But it doesn't matter. It was your money, and the banker had
no business taking it. You can sue your banker for stealing
money from your savings account, but unfortunately, American
workers can't sue Congress for stealing and misusing their
Given the regressive nature of Social Security taxes, this
stealing from workers is utterly reprehensible. The Social
Security Trust Fund is not Congress' private piggy bank. Nor
is it just a fiction, as O'Neill claims, or that would mean
Reagan and Greenspan duped us from the start. The worst part
about FICA taxes is that its a hidden way of placing a very
unfair burden of taxation on the poor. In some ways, we would
almost be better off with a single tax, so at least America
could see the how the true burden of taxation fall disproportionately
on the poor in this country. (For the record, I'm not advocating
eliminating the FICA tax or SS Trust Fund.)
The time has come to stop the stealing from American working
families. Social Security actually has a net deficit of 10
Trillion Dollars when you consider the future liabilities
currently owed to workers. Given this deficit, it is unconscionable
to take a single penny out of the Trust Fund for any purpose
other than helping to fund future Social Security payments.
Frittering away American workers' hard earned retirement monies
on pet projects of any kind is simply morally wrong. And even
more disgusting is that the true reason Bush has chosen to
steal from workers is to give his rich buddies a tax cut.
So, to Bush and to Congress, again I say "Thou Shalt Not
Steal". We all need to shout that from the rooftops.