Social Security - 1

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I want one, and only one, modification to the Social Security "system".

I want out. The rest of you can do whatever you want with it.

Please don't laugh (or cry). This post is not about sensible policy; it is about being tied to a system that makes me worse off. It's a vain plea to all of you who support SS: please let me go my own way.

I know that my release from SS is not going to happen; too many of my fellow Americans -- current beneficiaries, politicians, and those ideologically committed to national collectivism -- really want me to stay.

For several years, I have been a fine source of free money; I know I'll be an even better source with a Ph.D. But you have no right to determine which, if any, elderly, widowed, orhpaned, or disabled person deserves my financial support.

The system, as it is currently set up, doesn't care about my welfare, because if it did, I would already be estranged from it. In this world, here and now, I would prefer to support my Russian mother-in-law, somebody who will never receive a dime from SS, and a few other Russian relatives who live in far worse conditions than many on the SS dole.

You Americans don't care about my mother-in-law, but I do. Your laws tell me that through SS, I must support my own mother, who lives in a McMansion. I must also support my mother's boyfriend, who just bought a Lexus. To hell with you. My world, my preferences, my horizon extend beyond political borders.

How many others are there, immigrants and nonimmigrants alike, who struggle to send remittances to loved-ones outside the U.S., and are forced to support people in the U.S. who are much better off?

I would have liked to have opted out when I graduated college, but this was not an option. As a result, I would have owned a much larger portolio of assets that I would have sold to support my family while I earned a Ph.D. in economics. Instead I did save some, but the sum I "gave" in social security taxes over the term I worked would have made life a lot easier.

Do I sound crass to you? Well, maybe that's because you haven't looked at SS from my perspective. So, here's a crash course on my views of the SS program: I've worked and have given money to the government, which has spent it on a potpurri of beneficiaries (some "needier" than others), and through a gimmicky transfer of funds cooked up to look like investment, the general Federal budget. The benefits of this income redistribution are real, and I recognize the beneficiaries were former "donors" to your involuntary retirement program, but this investment of funds into an asset trust fund is a pretense.

From the SS perspective, that transfer is a huge fund of assets, short and long-term interest-bearing U.S. Government securities. But from the view of the rest of the government, those securities are debt. From the view of the taxpayer, the assets and debt cancel, and the transfer of funds is simply an accounting entry indicating accrued spending--the amount of money taken from SS taxes and spent on non-SS activities.

I know that the SS deduction is an income tax with a funny label, that's all. If there were no SS taxes to pay for SS benefits, the SSA would have to take money from the federal government. Instead, the federal government takes the SS tax surplus.

Notice I use the word "take" -- some would use the loaded term "raid" -- not the word "borrow". The federal government may use Treasury Bonds (a debt instrument) to complete these transactions legally, and those T-Bonds may accrue interest, but the government is no more borrowing from itself than my pants are when I remove my wallet from my left pocket and put it into my right.

The government spends every damn dime you and I send in through SS taxes, much of it on non-SS matters. Granted some of the government's expenditures on non-SS matters are investments that will yield returns. In 2003, the OASI "Trust Fund" increased its "assets" by $138 billion, all of which was "invested" in government securities. How much of that $138billion was actually invested, and not spent on paper clips or bureaucracy? I don't know, and there's nothing I can do about it. The SSA promises to give me benefits when I'm old or disabled, but I need them now. When I'm old, I'll have my own nestegg.

Thanks for nothing, folks.

I think it's clear that I feel absolutely no larger committment whatsoever to this program. In fact, I'm owed an apology by the government for being shady and dishonest with me. All those pathetic statements from the SS telling me how much I've put into the system... and what I'm "entitled" to later on. I know what this means, and it is not a philosophically principled, glorious future. Since you insist on keeping me in the system involuntarily, somewhere down the line, I'll be collecting benefits, while some other schmuck will be supporting me. Whatever. This wage slavery is patently dishonest, and I want no part of it. I don't like it, and want out. If the government can pretend that there really is a separate Social Security system, I can want out of that system.

But I know moral pleas won't convince you to free me. So what would you say to the following exchange?

I relinquish your "obligation" to pay me in the future; in exchange, I give you no more "contributions". You may keep all the money I've already "given" you.

This modest proposal is extraordinarily fair. You've taken my money; I don't want any back. Sounds good, right? In fact, I'll do one better. I'll work for X more years, giving you all the SS contributions you currently require, and then I'll relinquish your obligations, if you'll relinquish mine! More free money for you! No strings attached!

You don't want it? Why not? How about if I get my mother to let you relinquish her benefits too? What can I offer you guys to let me out of the system today?

This dickering process is similar in principle (though definitely not extent) to how most nations freed slaves: compensating slave-owners. Hamilton did it in New York, 80 years before the rest of the country, and Lincoln wanted to end the civil war by compensating slave-owners around $400 a head. This what I would like to do--emancipate myself from your system by buying my way out.

Just think of it in those terms for one minute.

UPDATE 1-21-05: I forgot to mention that when a slave was freed, so were his decendants. I guess that stream of future contributions would slightly increase my net present value to the SS system, and raise the current spot price of liberation from SS.

2 TrackBacks

Social Security reform from Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey on January 20, 2005 4:24 PM

Lots of debate these days about how to reform Social Security. Read More

SS: other reflections from the fabulous mint 400 on February 11, 2005 1:59 AM

I want to continue the discussion on this some more. As of late, I haven�t had the time to do more than point in the direction of relevant topics. My jury is still out on this debate, others are more... Read More

9 Comments

Me too. Keep the change.

Me five!

Kevin, Brilliant!

I am forwarding your comments to my congressmen.

Hear, hear! I'm also on board. The debate about Social Security reform is happening *now*, so it's essential to spread this idea at every opportunity, to inject it into the public discourse. I already wrote my congressmen. We need to do more.

Kevin, If you want out of social security, get rid of the ss number. There is no law that requires you to have a ss number, it's voluntary. You can't get back what you put in, but if you are under 45, you haven't really put anything in yet. Pete

Pete,

Do you really think I'm an idiot? Have you actually tried to return your number to the SSA? What happened? Are you commenting from prison?

There may be no legislation explicitly requiring me to have a SS number, but SS is about jobs, not people. The rules require me to pay FICA taxable income for having a job, not for having a SS number. In other words, FICA is a tax on the income from a specific job, and is not optional under IRS rules.

The actual law--that is, the rules actually followed by the government--do require me to have a SS number.

I wish the tax were voluntary, but wishing doesn't make it so!

Ah, yes, here's a court proving my point:

A California businessman who had refused to withhold and transfer to the government income and Social Security taxes on his employees was convicted Friday of 13 criminal tax charges, the Internal Revenue Service said.

Walter A. Thompson, 58, owner of Cencal Sales, an aviation flight bag manufacturer, who removed his employees from taxpayer rolls in 2000 by no longer withholding employment taxes from wages and salaries, was also convicted of filing false tax returns and refund claims of his own, the IRS said. His actions allegedly cost the government $256,000 in revenue. He faces a possible 63 years in prison and fines of more than $3 million, the agency said. Sentencing is set for April 13.

I agree, and Kevin's Social Security proposal is identical to mine for the past 15 years, identical. Keep the change, just let me out. Years ago I read a book about either getting a new identity or taking yourself off all the records held by the gummint that you can, don't remember which. In the book they had a photocopy of the actual request form to submit to relinquish your obligation to pay and also to have a number assigned to you. I think the form had a "235" number in it. It was a Social Security form which was supposed to be required by original SS laws to exist. The book said in comment "good luck getting anywhere with getting them to actually act on the grounds of the form".
So I stopped at a SS office near my home town about 5 years ago on a whim after passing it on an errand and thinking to myself "I'll just drive back over there and ask them". The clerk at the desk had no knowledge of such a form, and stated quite plainly that giving up your SS# just could not be done--after many questions as to why. I explained simply that I did not want the benefits when I got older and I wanted to stop paying into something that would amount to peanuts by the time I was old, compared to what I would be worth then.
Given the clerk behind the desk was someone who had only to work with 10-20 forms total in the scope of her job, and of course had never heard of anything else, or was familiar with anything else, but I was frustrated. Her job did not in any way constitute more than basic monkey intelligence, but isn't it always that way--when you actually want to DO something of value and significance with regard to government issues, the fisrt line of defense for the government is to put in position someone to deal with you who has very limited intelligence, mindlessly follows procedure and protocal, and refuses to comprehend anything beyond what they have been told is their job to do.
Nothing against the pissed off fat lady behind the desk, but when I politely waited 35 minutes in line, spoke ever so graciously--even to the point of complimenting her, took my time explaining something she had never heard of, still I got nowhere because I did not have one of the 10-20 forms she was familiar with in her hand so that she could drop it in the correct basket and sit down and answer the phone again (I watched the 12 people before me and that's the only thing she did). Some of the people she sent to the back of the line becuase their forms were not filled in completely.

It was like I walked in and asked for a do-it-yourself suicide kit. I was met with "Why would you want that?" and "Nope, can't get that HERE".

Anyone who might have any information pertinent to my intentions would be welcome to share it with me, please post here, I have bookmarked, and will check back frequently.--B Klunkit

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This page contains a single entry by Kevin published on January 20, 2005 12:10 PM.

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