Tuesday, February 07, 2023

How privatizing parts of Social Security could add to the national debt.

Some Republicans are talking about privatizing part of Social Security again. I remember that idea from early in the Bush II Presidency.

Back then, it was right after the Clinton Administration and there was actually a government surplus. A few years, under Clinton, when the government wasn't adding to it's mountain of debt. It ended the year with some surplus to pay down past debt.

Given that small surplus, it seems like reckless Republicans thought, "maybe we can cut the Social Security tax a bit and allow workers to use some of that money for private savings."

Under the Bush plan, Social Security benefits would have not been cut, for the current crop of seniors, even though the Social Security tax would have been lowered. They thought, "just borrow more money to pay the current retirees, while still giving the young workers a tax cut."

Cutting Social Security benefits is a political "third rail" so a politician, who proposes that, is committing "political suicide."

Bush proposed getting around that problem by proposing to borrow money to prop up Social Security during a temporary "transition period" so young workers could put part of their Social Security tax into more private investment accounts approved by, I think, a new branch of Social Security.

In the so called "bright Republican future," retirees would draw their benefits from both the private side of the system, plus the regular Social Security; a hybrid system.

That future would mean that the temporary borrowing, to prop up current senior citizen benefits, would be phased out as the younger workers reached retirement age.

The plan seemed reckless to me even when it was floated as a proposal. It went over like a led balloon, in Washington DC anyway.

Not long after those exuberant days, 911 happened and that, along with some other Bush tax cuts that did pass, brought back tons of red ink.

Since then, the government has just been adding to the debt, year after year under both Republicans and Democrats. Needs keep mounting; such as the outbreak of the corona virus.

Seems like we still survive so many folks do question whether we should even worry about the national debt; think "Modern Monetary Theory."

We seem to get by in spite of being in debt; like it's just a theoretical problem. It may be a problem, but somehow we muddle by; partially from new money created by the Federal Reserve.

New money can eventually lead to inflation, but the total economy keeps growing and certain prices, like home prices, have gone a lot higher than they were 30 years ago. Debt, from past years, is much smaller compared to today's economy. It's all relative.

As I often think, money is mostly just a construct and not totally real anyway.

A better solution for maintaining Social Security is to keep raising the cap on the Social Security taxes that higher income people pay.

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