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« Reform Thursday: Bonus Graphic- The Undeniability Of Social Security's Problems. | WILLisms.com | Rock The Vote Strikes Again. »

Social Security: A Sacred Intergenerational Pact?

David Hogberg of Social Security Choice calls the notion of an "intergenerational compact" nonsense:

...when did I, or anyone else, get to enter into the so-called “Social Security compact” freely? Last time I checked, I had no say in the matter—the money was forcibly drawn out of my very first paycheck. Call it an intergenerational government program. Call it an intergenerational forced payment. But don’t call it a compact....

When it comes down to it, Social Security is just another government program subject to the same democratic procedures that all government programs are. That means we can change it, reform it, or even get rid of it.

We agree with Mr. Hogberg that the WILLisms.com generation never had the option of opting in or out of Social Security (as a program), therefore we should never be tied to any kind of poorly performing program designed by people who mostly already passed away long ago.

However, we have a slightly different way of looking at whether or not such a pact is good; Social Security as a program is a terrible, scandalous fiasco. As an idea, however, it represents an important part of a healthy civilization.

In the end, we come to essentially the same conclusion: Social Security must be reformed. We believe the principles behind Social Security are so important that the tangible manifestation of those principles (the earthly program called Social Security) must change dramatically. Without reform, the principle of Social Security is destroyed because of stubborn adherence to a fatally flawed program.

Ideally, there would not be much of a need for Social Security, because children would take care of their elderly parents. Families would provide Social Security for their own parents. This is how human societies have operated for millenia.

However, Social Security has provided hundreds of millions of grandmothers and grandfathers with enough money to live comfortably in their waning years, but it is an unsustainable mess that cannot feasibly continue on its present course. Because the sacred pact was intruded on by government bureaucracies, the intergenerational promise lost much of its significance. It lost its sacred nature.

The government providing Social Security inexorably led to conversations like this one:

"Shouldn't you look out for your mother, make sure she's okay? She's very old, you know."

"Naw, she's got Social Security coming in, she's all right."

But just because the government tampered with something that families have done for ages does not mean the underlying concept is entirely destroyed. Everyone who lives in a family, in a civilized society, enters the pact automatically. Parents raising and providing for their children is the most important part of the pact, more important, even, than retirement security. But a child's repayment to his parents for bringing him successfully to adulthood is the second part of the pact.

The intergenerational promise is indeed a sacred pact, just not in the way socialist-leaning Robert Reich views it.

The older generations of Americans, with their harsh resistance to Social Security reform, are on the verge of breaking their end of the deal. If they plan to leave a broken system in which the WILLisms.com generation takes the biggest hit in terms of both paying the benefits of the current retirees and inheriting an unsustainable mess that lowers our own benefits, the intergenerational contract is null and void.

But it doesn't have to be that way. There need not be this kind of age-based warfare. Shame on the Democrats for playing to the worst fears and vulnerabilities of our grandparents on the Social Security issue, scaring seniors into staunch opposition to necessary reforms.

Under nearly every Social Security reform plan, older Americans would not be affected by the changes whatsoever. Younger Americans, meanwhile, would have a choice whether to experience the changes.

Ultimately, when the government makes decisions that its citizens should naturally make on their own, the citizens lose an important part of themselves, of their very nature. The same idea applies to government-run health care, government-run child care, and so on.

Imagine if the government determined that parents were not meeting their end of the sacred pact and therefore implemented a mandatory government parenting scheme, found in the imagination of the distopian visions of Orwell and Huxley, and to a lesser degree in places like modern North Korea. It's a recipe for certain disaster.

We have a very real chance to reform Social Security, keeping the essential principles of the sacred pact together, while removing its Ponzi-like character and fixing the material program.

Thus, when liberals like Robert Reich talk about a sacred pact they are really talking about unnatural, centralized social engineering with unintended negative consequences, not the instinctive and truly sacred pact parents and children have with one another.

Just skimming over the President's comments in Kentucky (via PoliPundit), and it appears that WILLisms.com was "on message," as they say, very much by accident:

It's a very important system. It made a lot of sense to have a safety net for people when they retired. But the dynamics of Social Security have changed....

There's a safety net for retirees. There's a hole in the safety net for a younger generation coming up. And that's why I've asked Congress to discuss the issue. I guess it's just my nature. I believe when you see a problem, you've got to deal with it and not pass it on to future Presidents and future Congresses.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 March 2005 04:41 PM