In return, the Treasury gives the Social Security Administration IOUs. Eventually, though, those IOUs will have to be made good with real money. When that happens, we?ll have one of four choices:
OK, show of hands: Who wants to be president when the bills come due? Try selecting one or more of those options and then facing voters in 2020.
Fortunately, this can be avoided if we act quickly. The key to saving Social Security is to create personal retirement accounts. With these accounts, individuals would channel a portion of their Social Security taxes into investment funds they would control. It?s sort of like creating an IRA for everyone who wants one.
The rate of return wouldn?t be guaranteed, but it would almost certainly be better than what Social Security will offer. For proof, check out The Heritage Foundation?s handy on-line calculator (at heritage.org/research/features/socialsecurity/) and determine the rate of return you can expect from Social Security. As an example, Betsy, my one-year-old granddaughter, will get back a paltry 1 percent.
Maybe I?ll start giving her old-fashioned U.S. Savings Bonds. Her return on those will actually be five times greater than what she?ll get from Social Security. At least then she?ll have some hope of retiring some day.
With personal accounts, we can guarantee benefits to everyone who?s now on Social Security and make the program a good investment for today?s workers, too. But the time to act is now. If we avoid this issue, we?ll live to regret it.