2000-06-17 / Letters

Social Security Reform?

Dear Editor;

A few days ago an entire page of the News, titled "Kiss Social Security Goodbye" was dedicated to Social Security.

The writer, Mr. Erik Nelson, reported the various aspects of the Social Security as stands now. Some were assuring, some with no merits, others are frightening. As reported by Nelson, according to Mr. Dean Baker, an economist, the health of the Social Security is in far better shape than Wall Street claims it to be. That is for the good news.

Others depict the system not as well. Lately the system has been the bouncing ball of many economists, politicians and especially aspiring politicians. It looks like everybody has a solution to save the system from extinction. Various ways have been suggested. One of them is to couple the system with stock market. This is the frightening one -- the one we hope is not taken seriously. We know life is a gamble. But gambling with our retirement nest? No, never. Retirement should bring a peace of mind. Coupled with Wall Street it would bring us excitements, palpitations or, as of lately, "acido", and that is exactly what we do not need at a retirement stage. Many of us had plenty of it in life.

The most common one is to raise the retirement age or increase the contribution. Both suggestions come with "a string attached" that says, without any doubt "an increase to age to 70 is like telling most of the black people to kiss goodbye to social security" even though they paid in to the system and it will create a tremendous and different impacts on people with different jobs. To substantiate it, here are the statistics of life expectancy of some people: the white woman: 79.9; the black woman: 74.7; white man: 74.3 and the black man: 67.2.

And how do we tell a miner, a fisherman, a ditcher or waitress to work to 70? It is easy for people working a computer, sitting on their butts with a cup of coffee or lemonade, to suggest the increases as a cure for the system. George (mommy’s boy) Bush suggests a partial privatization of the system with an hint to an increases of retirement age, even though he has not spelled out yet what he has in mind. This remedy could spell a disaster. It is an idea coming from a man who knows three things about money; how to inherit it, how to lose it in failing business, and how to raise more from friends who steer him to insider deals.

How many people are inclined to willingly save for retirement? No. Retirement benefits have to be mandatory and federally controlled to be really effective.

Then we have the unknown running, and, if elected to Washington, he/she would save the system. How? It is never said. We know that some great ideas or discoveries have come from small or unknown people so we have to listen to all. I am small and unknown, so I would like to have a kick at the ball too. Who knows some good may come out of it. I say leave the system as it is now with one change. Forget about increasing the retirement age, or increasing the contribution, or couple the system with Wall Street or privatizing it. They have been tried in other countries and have been a disaster. They have no merits and deserve no consideration. My idea is not common. At first it may sound a little weird, but I think it deserves a chance. Give the benefits only to those people in need of it for the betterment of their existence. Cut them for people with an income well above their needs, an income that enables them, even without the retirement benefit, to still live a "life of Riley." Could you image Mr. Gates yelling, "Honey check the mail box, we need milk to day" or Forbes and thousands of others waiting for the check to go shopping? I do not have any ideas of how many would fall in that category and what the income threshold should be. It would take a little effort to check the potentialities and the workability of the idea. If there, it might save the system for the future and perhaps even improving it by lowering the retirement age to 65 years and perhaps even increasing the benefits. It would be a sacrifice of a few for the betterment of many.

This would really be a total assistance to all the needy people as it was intended to be when enacted in 1941.

Not long ago a car company was sinking. The owner gathered all the employees and the powerful union and said we are sinking at a risk of closing up. There are two options to save the company. One is to cut the salaries of you all and the other is to cut some jobs. They opted for the cut of salaries and the company is still there, stronger than ever. The similarity is not even there. With the car company it was a sacrifice of all for the benefit of some of them. The change here is the sacrifice of few for the benefit of all. Some people will say they paid into the system and they are entitled to the benefit. I say yes. If at retirement age or at any time in their life they need it, the benefit is there without any question asked. We already have one or more systems that work on that principle. We have the car insurance, health insurance and the term insurance. Even though you pay through the nose, you do not get any benefit unless you need it (through a car accident, sickness or death). I have been paying car insurance for the last 50 years and never get a penny and I am thankfully glad, especially for not getting any big compensation.

Think about it. Until next time.

ANGELO J. GUARINO


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