Monday, January 03, 2005

Social Security

I have been thinking a lot about social security. Though I blithely say I'm not counting on it for retirement, the truth is, I am. I'm not rich. I just began a 403(b) plan after years of part-time employment that did not offer benefits. I have no other investments. I am probably going to need social security. Granted, I could reduce my cost of living and I might. But I'm hoping to travel, visit my children and grandchildren, visit places I never got to. In yesterday's New York Times, an editorial confirms my feelings about Social Security. According to the author, it's not really in crisis and privatization is a bad idea--all the experts say so. Of course, the Bush administration is ignoring the experts.

I think all this talk about privatizing Social Security is part of the Bush administration's American Dream mentality. They have a death grip on this idea that America is the place where people pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become successful. Look at what Bush said about Carlos Gutierrez, his new Commerce Secretary. For every Gutierrez out there, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of others who don't make it, through no fault of their own. They are hindered by not only current circumstances, but often by history, by generations of their family who have been unable to earn enough to send their kids to college so that they could do better, by things like discrimination.

I read somewhere that those of us who are against privatization are against it because we think the American public is too stupid to invest wisely. Well, yeah. I'm too stupid to invest wisely and can't afford someone to help me, so I think those people out there without even a college education may also have some difficulty. But putting that argument aside, the stock market is not a perfectly stable place to put your money. It has crashed once and plummetted eerily low several times just in my lifetime. What happens, as happened in the tech bust a few years ago if the market crashes just a few years before your retirement and you end up having to work until you're eighty? It has happened and it could likely happen again.

It's not that I think Social Security shouldn't be touched. I'm there are adjustments that need to be made, given that the population is increasing in a top-heavy manner. But I'm frustrated by the idea that the solution to everything for the Bush administration is to give the people the power. The problem is, so many people will be left out, won't have the power and won't survive.

It's time for another letter to the Senators.