Perry got in trouble with commentators, including conservative ones, for denigrating a retirement system on which many Americans profoundly rely. When you get down to it, the rhetorical immunity Social Security enjoys in political debates is evidence that the wealth transfer system, as expounded by Obama, has a place, if a controversial one, in many hearts. Obama can get by -- to an extent -- with enjoining "the rich" to fork over to "the poor" because the idea of so acting has a pedigree going back at least to the Depression. That the idea might be inefficient rarely enters the minds of its advocates.
Take Social Security, once more, again identified as a Ponzi scheme by the Keynesian economist Paul Samuelson and other non-conservatives (Stanley Kurtz at National Review Online obliges us with the chronology.) Under Social Security, you take from those who have -- present-day workers -- and give to those who don't have because the government took from (set ital) them (end ital) 30 and 40 years earlier.
Today, the system, we shouldn't be greatly surprised to hear, is running out of money. Too few new Americans are coming on the scene, thanks to life choices such as abortion. Nor conspicuously, can the economy support as many workers as we need to pay all those now retired, or soon to retire. At such a juncture, the authorities caught up with Bernie Madoff. Which is no problem when it comes to Social Security, in that the authorities themselves are running this snatch-and-hand-over scheme. Who's going to stop the authorities? The voters? Not until enough of them understand what's gone wrong here.
Perry's description of Social Security may not have been artful, politically speaking, but it does get us talking, which is what, we as a nation, are reluctant to do when it comes to the economic principles that we live by. That's what we need now -- talk and more talk.