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An Argument For Social Security?

Posted By Don Boudreaux On October 24, 2006 @ 1:51 pm In Social Security | Comments Disabled

Today on Marketplace Morning Report, Jim Carrier (a free-lance writer) argued [1] that Uncle Sam should increase the amounts taken from Americans’ paychecks for Social Security.

I disagree with much of what Mr. Carrier says.  But what struck me most forcibly — actually, what caused me to wonder if he wasn’t commenting with his tongue drilled deeply into his cheek — was this line:

But my total social security tax for four decades was only $63,000. I
didn’t even miss it. And in 16 of those years my income hit the
government ceiling. I wish they’d taken more.
But what if Social Security hadn’t existed? Would I have set aside hundreds of thousands to provide for myself? 

Not likely. I proved that 10 years ago when I cashed an annuity
and bought a sailboat. I sailed to Spain and had lots of fun. But as an
investment it was worse than Enron.

So this idea of privatizing, of letting me own my retirement, would have been another Katrina.

Now I have no wish to prevent the Mr. Carriers of the world from spending their money as they see fit.  Who am I to say that a private sailing expedition to Spain wasn’t just the thing that Mr. Carrier needed ten years ago?  But on what basis does Mr. Carrier rest his presumption that most Americans are as irresponsible as he is with his savings?  Indeed, can Mr. Carrier even be sure that he himself would have been so irresponsible if Uncle Sam not been at the ready to pick the pockets of others and to transfer part of this booty to Mr. Carrier in his golden years?

Mr. Carrier’s tongue, I believe, was not in his cheek.  He’s serious.

But why should the rest of us take advice about public policy from someone who is so personally irresponsible?

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