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wundayatta's avatar

Why is it so hard to cut Social Security when most young people don't believe it will survive?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) February 15th, 2011

Why is there so much support for Social Security when polls say most young people don’t believe it will be there for them when they reach retirement? It seems to me that if people are fatalistic about this, and they think Social Security will be worthless, then there wouldn’t be any point in trying to keep it funded.

Everyone knows that Social Security is underfunded. I’m sure most people are very pessimistic about the chance of any realistic way to support it. Yet it seems like it is impossible to attack it, either. Fiscal conservatives talk a good line, but it seems like they don’t have to worry about putting their money where their mouths are. Legislation to make significant cuts in Social Security seems to have little chance of passage.

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41 Answers

perspicacious's avatar

Because it’s been part of our retirement system for generations. Some people have been working and paying into that system for 40 years. Of course it should not disappear for them. . That’s not really hard to grasp. Also, for people who are mid-career, they have included their SS forecast into their retirement plans. I’m glad the administration realizes that it would be wrong to change things on those folks. The last thing I read said that the changes, when they do happen, will not affect people over around 53. I think that is proper. I actually think the age should be younger.

12Oaks's avatar

I’m retiring on my 51st birthday, for 35 years working is long enough for anybody. I been ignoring SS since my first paycheck (I tried to get that eliminated, but the employer said they can’t). I’m still retiring on my own terms whether Uncle Sam likes it or not.

wundayatta's avatar

@12Oaks Are you saying you don’t plan to do the paperwork to receive your benefits?

john65pennington's avatar

First, Social Security is the law. I am not so sure the AARP will ever let this happen. AARP is a very strong voice in government.

Second, if there are other suggestions out there, then people should notify their representative.

I have paid into SS for 51 years, so I expect my benefits are safe.

12Oaks's avatar

@john65pennington What would you say if it were to be made optional? Those who want could participate, and those others of us will save for our own retirement. I hate having to pay into that system, and would be so much better off if I had gotten all that was deducted from my earned pay. I’ve been paying for over 25 years, and hated having a single dime taken from me.

john65pennington's avatar

120aks, I like this idea, BUT you know and I know that the general population would never agree to it. Somewhere down the line, a person will claim discrimination, that they did not understand its meaning from the beginning.

Its much safer to either keep it, support it or to change the mathematics of it.

Soc. Security reminds me of new state prisons. No person or politician wants one in their state. SS will be a hard nut to crack and to find a liveable replacement for the people.

CaptainHarley's avatar

It’s not “underfunded.” It has never been “underfunded.” It has, however, been raided repeatedly to insure the re-election of worthless politicians.

12Oaks's avatar

@john65pennington If it means jobs and a build to a local economy, I would happily not only accept a prison in my state, but I invite it to be built on the land across the street from my property which is now a vacant lot of nothingness. For some reason, a work commute of walking 50 feet was always a dream of mine.

sinscriven's avatar

Older people have more active voters and have powerful lobbyists in groups like AARP.

Younger people don’t vote enough, and don’t have a a lobby or political support to axe it.

Both political parties are fearful of the backlash from senior citizens should they even tinker with it. :|

tranquilsea's avatar

@CaptainHarley the same has happened in Canada. Through much of the 70s, 80s and 90s our Federal gov’t scooped money out of CPP (Canada Pension Plan) to fund some shortfall or pet project. It’s not as though the government didn’t see the baby boomers coming up to retirement!

This is one downside to elections every 4 years. There’s no real incentive to plan for the long term.

bkcunningham's avatar

I personally think the heart of the problem is people have come to believe that it is the government’s role to take care of them. Social responsibiltiy will be our government’s downfall. Many people in the past; what 50, 60 years, have grown up with an attitude that the government is their protector in all things and they’ve lost their instinct, or grounding or whatever you would call it, for personal responsibility.

Do you think the majority of people wanted Social Security when it was started in the 1930s? No. It is a ponzi scheme. This generation of working people now have known nothing but the Social Security tax coming from their paychecks with a promise, from the government that they are holding it and will give it back to you when you retire to take care of you in your old age.

The amount you put in has nothing to do with the amount you take out. You get penallized if you work past the age the government says you may draw on the money they are holding for you; you get penalized and have to pay taxes on the money you receive. It is ridiculous.

It isn’t a way to take care of you in your old age. But people have gotten so use to thinking the government is taking care of them and looking out for their best interest, I guess we’ve forgotten how to use our brains. People think, “I want my money back.”

Ladymia69's avatar

@bkcunningham I agree. I feel like it is an abstract idea to begin with, and that your money is devalued over time. My grandmother was born in 1926 and worked at Woolworths for 35 years. She paid into the system the whole time, and when she got her social security it was for $85 a month.

bkcunningham's avatar

I have a friend whose mother had worked as a cook at a public school her entire life. She drove a car and working at the school gave her the opportunity to ride the school bus for transportation. When they started doing breakfast at school, she had to be there earlier and her co-workers drove her to and from work.

Her husband fell over dead at age 65. She was too young to retire and kept working. She couldn’t make it financially on Social Security and kept working until she was 74 and the school system pretty much pushed her out.

She lost half her SS payment because she was still healthy, able and needed the money and worked. She lost $1 for every $2 she earned and still had to pay taxes!! She’s just one example of anyone who works and draws their SS.

choreplay's avatar

Think about some things.

The most powerful factor in retirement savings is Time.

Without discussions of scenarios or private and public investments the simple proposition is a one time investment at birth. Whether government or privately funded.

We spend our years paying into social security between the ages of 16 to 60 for the majority of people with the largest payments made in later years (people’s income generally grows with experience/age). Private retirement accounts can only be funded with earned income, therefore even in that arena the distribution of payments (not size) over time is similar.

Now allow the one time payment (at birth) to be plugged into a limited number of broad index funds in the private market and the benefits begin to compound. The access rules would need to be similar to social security and less like the penalty based private retirement accounts.

A $2000 investment at the average previous sixty year S&P 500 adjusted for inflation rate or 8.75% would provide a retirement, with no other periodic payments equivalent to $18,405 per year from interest at a safe rate of 6%.

Some more math:
At government rates $2,000 at birth (into the SS system) is the equivalent of $11,440 paid in even annual payments (into the SS system) between ages 16 to 60.

At private market rates compared to government rates $2,000 at birth (into the private market) is the equivalent of $76,296 paid in even annual payments (into the SS system) between ages 16 to 60.

Whether public or private, we need to start at birth. I have been trying to find the time to sell the idea to my congress representative of: adding a one time payment at birth to the IRA rules.

woodcutter's avatar

those who saw their 401k shrivel up the last few years I imagine, look at the system a bit differently now. Who wants to trust Wall St to do right?

CaptainHarley's avatar

I draw about $1,200 a month from Social Security, a system into which I paid for about 50 years. Although I don’t feel any personal guilt for drawing SS, I do feel sorrow for the young people who ( due to idiot politicians ) have to pay incredible amounts into SS with no hope of ever drawing any out. I would be willing to have my SS payments cut significantly if I thought it would lessen their burden, but I don’t trust my own government to use the funds wisely. : (

ETpro's avatar

Social Security was established in 1935 and it will remain fully solvent through 2037. In 2037, if we do nothing before then to fix the shortfall, Social Security will have to start gradually decreasing the amount they pay per month to each retiree. This is true even though Reagan and every subsequent president and Congress since his administration have been raiding the fund to help cover the deficits their lousy tax and spending policies ran up. The fact that even when being systematically looted for 30 years now, the fund will have worked for over 100 years, paying full benefits to all retirees, shows there is NOTHING wrong with the basic idea. We need to raise the cap and quit using the funds to finance deficit spending today. If we do that the system will remain solvent indefinitely and provide benefits to all our future retirees.

I have no interest in the concept of giving ever greater tax breaks to billionaires to help them make it in this tough world, and balancing the cost of that on the backs of the poor and the elderly. Young people can think what they wish. They will get old too. They may not believe that today, but they will. They might have a private pension where they work, but Congress in its wisdom has made it legal for takeover experts to raid private pension funds and use the money in them as collateral in leveraged buyouts. Many of the corporations so acquired end up with so much debt they can’t service it, and end up in bankruptcy. There are literally millions of retirees today who thought they had a great nest egg, only to end up with next to nothing except social security. All the money got siphoned off by wealthy corporate raiders.

If you want an America in the future like Charles Dickens’ England, where the unlucky end up in workhouses or freezing to death on the cold streets, where they are shoveled up with the trash and carted off to the dump unless they are lucky enough to get wealthy and stay that way, then vote for that kind of America. It’s not the America I want. It’s not what I will vote for.

bkcunningham's avatar

How did Social Security first get funded? I mean when it first started people started getting benefits and people started paying. Did the government put money in at first to get the money to start paying? I can’t find anything about it and I know I read something about it once. I just can’t locate any information now. Does anyone know?

ETpro's avatar

@bkcunningham I think pay out has always been funded by workers currently in the work force paying in. At first start, there were no workers already qualified for benefits. You only collect based on the number of years you worked and paid in.

CaptainHarley's avatar

So many stupid things have happened to SS. For starters, they said it would be paid out of the interest generated by the money paid in. They said that only those people who paid into the system would draw out of it. They said that the SS account number would never be used for anything except the SS system, and certainly never as a means of indentification.

They lied about ALL of it!

ETpro's avatar

@CaptainHarley Welcome to our collective nightmare. Government integrity. Tantamount to Free Love and Genuine Imitation… Are you going to believe our esteemed political leaders, or your own lying eyes?

CaptainHarley's avatar

I would trust my eyes far, far more quickly than I would trust a politician! Heh!

choreplay's avatar

My post above addresses the solvency issue not the corruption issue. Are there any bills in the works to stop the dipping into these funds or isolate these funds? Banks that conglomerate with investment firms have pretty strong barriers to not allow comingling of the two functions. How can we turn these government regulations on banks back on the government? Does anyone know of a specific congressperson or committee that cares about this issue? These are the details that need to be focused on to effect change.

wundayatta's avatar

All these critiques of Social Security are fine. Many of them seem to come from people who already receive benefits, as well. I’m still wondering why, if so many people hate the program, why is it still so hard to change it?

Is it because the problem doesn’t become a real problem until 2037? Is it because everyone who paid into it, no matter what they believe about insolvency, still wants to get their benefits that they are owed? Is it because politicians are weak-kneed hypocrites? Is it because the structure of our political system makes any major change impossible? What’s going on?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@wundayatta

One of the major reasons is that it’s hard enough to save money under any circumstances, and when the government give the ( false ) impression that it’s saving FOR you, you tend to relax your other efforts and allow them to do so. This results in the degradation of the system because the money was never placed in a “lock box,” and stupid politicians raided the funds to get re-elected.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta It’s hard to change it because the reality is that before Social Security came along, many old people died in abject poverty or had to become wards of the state to avoid starvation. Social Security doesn’t provide you a grand lifestyle in retirement. Those that want that can work for it and build savings in the stock market or a 401K, or find employment that provides a generous pension, or just get really stinking rich. But not everyone is able to do any of those things. And even some who do get screwed over through no fault of their own with all the corp0orate takeovers and leveraged buyouts and restructuring to eliminate costs. Most of us don;t want to walk streets littered with starving beggars who have worked their entire lives but got screwed in the end and are now dying in public because we’re too damn selfish to care.

wundayatta's avatar

I just heard an interview with Senator Conrad about budget cutting. He spoke of a bunch of polls that indicate people want to reduce the deficit, but when it comes to making the cuts to do it, no one wants their programs cut, and no one wants to raise taxes.

Anyway, in terms of social security, it seems to me that young people have the most at stake. More generally, those who plan to be alive after 2037 have the most to lose if the program goes belly up at the time. So I’d expect those people to be urging their politicians to do something to reform the program. Maybe make (God forbid) people who have already paid in take a hit.

But all I see is that young people think social security won’t be there when they get that old. I don’t see them trying to do anything about it. It’s just a kind of fatalism. Is that the deal? People are fatalistic about it and unwilling to do any work to save it?

Ladymia69's avatar

What the hell are we supposed to do? Have we any power? I don’t think so. Writing your congressperson and begging does not count as power. Please, @wundayatta , tell me, what do you think we should do?

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta According to Gallup, 64% of Americans oppose cutting Social Security. According to other polls, the percentages are evcn more skewed toward fixing the system, not gutting it. That’s hardly a mandate to begin dismantling it in favor of individual accounts on Wall Street where the Banksters now get to decide who wins and who looses.

ETpro's avatar

Further to the threat to Social Security, I just found this. Social Security is not broke

wundayatta's avatar

@ETpro I wonder if a fix for Social Security and a fix for the deficit go hand in hand or in opposite directions.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

If our elected reps in DC would just leave it alone and get the funding for their pet projects from other places, like Defence, there would be no problem with Social Security. Since when was it legal to raid an insurance fund? Oh, that’s right, they simply arranged for the Supreme Court to name it a tax after doing so. When will people realize that your elected representatives do not work in your interests, but for the corporations which fund their campaigns? The real question is, Why don’t they cut Defence? This is the real solution to our national debt. We can no longer afford to steal the national resources of other countries at the behest of corporations under the guise of national security. Why is this so hard to accept? It would be much cheaper to simply do business ethically instead of using Mafia tactics.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit except that it’s been being raided to try to cover up what a lousy fiscal job our elected leaders haven been doing with the budget.

choreplay's avatar

The solution lies in finding the congress people who care, identifying any laws or lack of, that permit congress to dip into these funds, developing a bill, holding it to the fire by exposing it to critics, academia, and anyone who could shore it up into something reasonable, and then selling it to enough people to get behind it. Can anyone in this forum identify members of congress that care about this issue. Anyone?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Season_of_Fall

Do some research on Congressman Ron Paul. He’s the only one I know of who is ahead of this particular curve.

wundayatta's avatar

@ETpro Do you think the government will be able to pay back the money it owes to SS when the time comes that SS needs it?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@wundayatta

Only IF government is able to control the monetary blood-letting across the board.

choreplay's avatar

The first step is to stop the hemorrhaging.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta It wouldn;t even be particularly difficult should the national will be there.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@ETpro

That’s probably pretty accurate. : )

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