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Social Security as Realpolitik

At least the Boston Globe — in this warning against serious reform of Social Security — is (unintentionally?) honest about why it fears reform.  The Globe likes Social Security pretty much just the way it is precisely because the middle-class currently have a huge stake in it.  The Globe fears that if the middle-class stake in Social Security is taken away, the middle-class will find it easier to oppose government welfare for the truly needy.

Here’s a letter that I sent to the Globe in response.

Editor, The Boston Globe

To the Editor:

You note that the middle-class supports Social Security because of the perceived personal benefits they get from it ("An Insecure System," April 30). Thus, you oppose reform that reduces the middle-class stake in Social Security because you fear that such reform will make it too easy for Americans to stop helping the truly needy. In short, you endorse a massive middle-class entitlement program as a bribe to quiet the bulk of Americans who might otherwise resist being taxed to pay for a safety net for the poor.

Whatever are Social Security’s merits or faults, let’s hear no more about it being a product of a nobler time when Americans, inspired by enlightened statesmen, were persuaded to rise above their narrow self-interests for the benefit of the less fortunate.


Donald J. Boudreaux


Relatedly, see also this excellent op-ed on Social Security by the New York Times‘ John Tierney.