Bill Steigerwald

I've hated Social Security since 1964, when I made $547 that summer as a rookie stock boy in the warehouse of a Pittsburgh restaurant chain.

That's when the federal government first started swiping a portion of my paycheck under the pretense that it would put the money aside for my retirement years.

The summer of 1964 - 45 years and a dozen low-paying bartending and newspaper jobs ago -- was also when I heard Barry Goldwater boldly declare that Social Security should be voluntary.

Most people I knew then - and, sadly, most people I know now -- thought Goldwater was a kook for saying such anti-socialist things.

But I dug Barry's voluntary idea at age 17 and I still do, though I've known for a long time that my fellow Americans and I will never live to see it happen.

Now, as I near age 62, I'll finally be getting some of my Social Security money back from the crooks and fools who grabbed it, spent it as fast and stupidly as they could and didn't save a penny of it for me.

Like many other eligible Baby Boomers and more than 40 percent of all recent Social Security recipients, I recently signed up to get my retirement benefits at age 62.

Thanks to the recession -- not to mention well-founded fears of the high inflation that is coming - for many people it makes much more sense to take Social Security at 62 instead of waiting until their official retirement age, which for those in my birth year of 1947 would be 66.

Taking Social Security early means I'll get 25 percent less each month than I'd get in 2013 - or about $1,600 a month instead of about $2,100. But I'll take my chances. By 2013, I could be as dead as GM and the U.S. dollar.

Now, I realize President Obama is very busy trying to win all of America's wars, provide everyone in the USA with free health, save Earth from global warming and fix the economy of the solar system.

But I'd like to offer him and his administration the same sweet deal with my Social Security account that I offered to President Bush four years ago.

In an op-ed column in early 2005, I discreetly asked President Bush, a fellow Boomer, if he could arrange for the Social Security folks to give me back all of "my" Social Security money in one big spendable, investable, inheritable lump.

Adjusted for inflation, between 1964 and 2004 my employers and I put a total of $282,000 in payroll taxes into my Social Security and Medicare accounts. If I retired at 66 and lived another 16 years, which was my life expectancy, I would have collected a total of $352,000.

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..