March 29, 2005

The RI Legislature and Social Security

Carroll Andrew Morse

Today, the Rhode Island legislature will officially declare (pdf format) that all generations of Rhode Islanders oppose any partial privitization as part of social security reform. The resolution endorses no plan for actually fixing social security, it simply declares no partial private accounts, not now, not ever.

The resolution is very Orwellian in talking about paying “full benefits for all generations of Americans – today and tommorrow”. For future generations, “full benefits” will be a full piece of a shrinking pie. If you oppose all privatization, the only options are to continually raise taxes and cut benefits into the future. All proposals floated so far impose higher tax-burdens and bigger benefit cuts on younger Americans. Since the resolution goes out of its way to say that it is speaking for all generations, it begs the question of upon what basis the government feels justified in placing disproportionate burdens on younger citizens.

Here are a few of the possible rationales…
1. The government owns all income, therefore there is no issue of fairness involved. The government can do with its money what it wants.
2. It is the norm in our society that the younger generation eventually helps care for the older. Higher taxes and reduced benefits for younger people are simply the bureaucratization of an already existing norm.

A final irony: In the RI Senate, this particular piece of legislation comes out of the “Committee on Constitutional and Gaming issues”. Apparently, the RI legislature doesn’t want people betting their future on those risky private accounts, when they could be betting it at a casino instead!