Sensible solution necessary

Michael McLaughlin

One of the first ways the federal government directly interacted with the American people outside of defense and the Post Office, Social Security is probably the most successful government program in the history of the United States, if not the entire world. For many, it remains the only source of retirement income. Yet, despite its pedigree, this vaunted institution is under attack from those in Washington, who in the typical double-speak of that city, claim to desire to save it.

The lynch pin of President Bush’s domestic policy for his second term is pushing through the “reform” of this program with the implied claim that the program will soon be bankrupt unless something is done to rescue it from this horrible crisis. However, the question that should come to mind is whether such a crisis truly exists.

Incoming revenue from taxes is supposed to be able to fully fund the program until 2018, and then the savings of the trust fund will be able to keep the program solvent until some indeterminable time in the 2040s. While this problem certainly must eventually be solved, the labeling of such funding gaps as “crises,” especially in a culture notorious for finances not adding up without any real effect, seems to smack of trying to panic the public into pushing for a quick solution — to be more exact, the solution Bush desires, the partial (at least at the moment) privatization of the granddaddy of federal programs.

Regardless of the viability of such a plan — or lack thereof — there are other solutions which could be implemented today. They could come at no additional cost to the vast majority of the American people, instead of the $2 trillion price tag, and could come without cutting the benefits of those under 55.

The first one (and to be fair, this is something my side has been pushing since 2001) is the partial repeal of the 2001 tax cuts for the top 1 percent of the population. This would help to cauterize the $200 billion wound that those who support the president’s plan claim is needed to solve the “crisis.”

The second solution is, in my opinion, the most sensible one possible: removing the $90,000 exemption on the payroll tax. Only the first $90,000 of income is subject to payroll taxes, making it the most regressive tax, percentage-wise, in the country. Fixing this inequity would not only properly rebalance the tax burden but would also go a long way to solving present and future funding problems.

The charge du jour among many is that Bush is purposefully attempting to de-fund Social Security as part of some sort of sinister plan to return us to the 1890s. However, I believe that Bush is sincerely trying to fix what he believes to be a major problem, although I’m probably giving him too much credit given his track record on other issues.

Regardless of his reasoning, Bush’s plan will not work and will only hurt Social Security. Hopefully the Democrats in Congress, with some help from moderate Republicans, will ensure that it dies the death it deserves.

Mike McLaughlin is a senior history major, secretary of the College Democrats and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].