Bill Steigerwald

In other words, without factoring for future inflation - something Washington hardly ever does anyway - the Social Security system could have saved about $70,000 in future payments to me by giving me "my" $282,000 up front.

I promised President Bush then that if he'd accede to my humble request, which he didn't do, the bum, I would never ask for another nickel from the Social Security Administration and that I wouldn't tell anyone.

But I realize today I was being a selfish, unpatriotic libertarian. With the federal government in much worse fiscal shape now than it was then, my great idea - let's call it Social Security Choice -- deserves to be widely publicized.

At 62 every aging Boomer should have the option to make a lump-sum deal with Social Security or receive their SS money in monthly dribs and drabs for the rest of their lives.

I'll leave it to Cato Institute scholars to do the real-world numbers, but surely such an option would be a win-win deal in the long run for individuals and the country.

It would help the Social Security Administration save trillions in future retirement benefits it won't be able to afford to provide anyway.

It would stimulate the heck out of the stalled economy. And it would provide overdue monetary and moral reparation to millions of middle-class Baby Boomers who for their entire working lives were forced to invest in Washington's crummy cross-generational Ponzi scheme.

My Social Security contribution numbers are bigger today, now that I've worked another five years. I and my employer have each kicked in another $25,000 or so, making the 45-year contribution to my retirement roughly $332,000 in current dollars.

But let's not quibble, President Obama. Make me a test case, a pilot program, a guinea pig, whatever you want to call it. Tell Social Security to cut me a check for a lousy $300,000 and we'll call it even. I'll promise to never ask for anything again from the federal government. If I have to, I'll even buy a new Malibu hybrid.

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..