Congress has voted billions of dollars more in taxes to support the Social Security system, which might be better named the anti-social insecurity system. The best testimonial to its benefits is that not one single federal government worker, not one congressman, not one senator has to dread an old age dependent on Social Security checks. No, they all enjoy the benefits of a superior retirement program which the working people, the producing people of the country must pay for but cannot participate in.
With nothing but the rotten pittance of Social Security to look forward to, those unlucky enough to have to work for a living instead of working for the government had best make provision for the tragedy of retirement. But as I. M. Rubinow, a long-time fighter for decent incomes for the honorable aged, put it in 1913, "Special saving for old age would only be possible through a persistent, systematic and obstinate disregard of the needs of the workingman's family, which would make the preaching of such special savings a decidedly immoral force."
In the ensuing 65 years little has changed. Only the smallest fraction of the population can realistically hope to provide for the kids and for their old age. Salaries and wages are too low. Most people have to decide between having kids and putting enough away for a dignified but not opulent old age. They do not make enough money for both.
Saving for one's old age presupposes that the money one sets aside at the cost of providing one's children with what a parent might reasonably wish to provide them will at least be worth something at the depressing hour of retirement. Yet the same Congress which forces people to try to save to supplement their lousy Social Security checks lacks both the guts and the sympathy for their fellow countrymen to stop this corrosive inflation. How do people save for old age when the value of their savings diminishes at a rate which fluctuates from 5 to 10 per cent per year?
The government should make contributions to Social Security payments because it is the government that has made saving for white hair and rainy days a practical impossibility. The argument against using general tax money for Social Security pensions is that it would encourage idleness and laziness among the working classes and/or that God Himself ordained Social Security to be a self-insurance program which, in actuality, it hasn't been since 1939.
Moreover, there seems to be something Bolshevistic about the government using general revenues for such suspect purposes, and never mind that Winston Churchill was advocating just that in 1906. Most of the industrial nations of the world had abandoned pure self-insurance programs without government payments before the Russian Revolution, before there were any Bolsheviks. By the 1880s the Kaiser's Germany had a health insurance program more comprehensive than the one in the United States in the 1970s.
One must stand aghast at the speed and lack of debate with which this measure was passed by Congress and signed into law. After all, it is estimated that it will involve the collection of a quarter of a trillion dollars in taxes in the next several decades, possibly more thanks to inflation.
It is hard to imagine what President Carter meant when he spoke of welfare reform and then went ahead to approve this, the largest welfare measure he will sign during his tenure in the White House. The new law carries forward the most objectionable features of the old one, the retrogressive taxation, the penalization of work, the payment of pensions to the wealthy, the insistence on a self-paid-for program. In this land in which subsidies and hidden subsidies like monopolies and tax breaks are given to steel companies, airlines, television stations and oil companies, it says something that working people must go into their old age unsubsidized and unaided.
Instead of revamping the Social Security system to make it work, the government has decided to grant tax breaks to people who put money into retirement accounts run by the banks. This is a bonanza for the banks but, given their greed and incompetence, it will be a bare-bones old age for the savers.
The complaints about how the new Social Security law may cause joblessness because of the added costs to employers have already been well ventilated to no purpose. Congress and the Carter administration couldn't stop to consider that either. This stupendous bill had to be enacted and rushed into law by heedless men and women, many of whom only a short time ago told those of us who were warning of the system's forthcoming insolvency that we were crazy.
The chances for any improvements are nil and will remain nil until presidents, members of Congress and the upper bureancracy have to depend on the Social Security pittance for their retirement living.