Emmett Tyrrell

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The other day, while visiting a sick aunt in Little Rock, Ark., I happened upon the Clinton Library and thought I might check out a book. I, in my innocence, presumed that the Clinton Library is a lender's library. How wrong I was.

 True to the Clinton tradition, it is a taker's library -- and they took my attache case, my camera and some loose change.

 Alas, this is the monument created for the former Boy President, who shimmers in the eyes of many Democrats as "one of our greatest presidents." If so, among his peers would be numbered, perhaps, Warren G. Harding and Millard Fillmore.

 While at the Clinton Library, I thought I would review what the Boy President thought of Social Security reform. He was for it. Now he is still for it, except when he is against it -- and he is usually against it when it is being propounded by a Republican.

 The most offensive Republican propounding Social Security reform is the president. That is not because his reform is so radical. It is not all that much different from reforms bandied about by moderate Democrats in the 1990s. It is because his reform envisages an entirely different view of the citizen's relation to society. His reform envisages what he calls an "Ownership Society."

 Today's Social Security was born of a different era, an era in which government gives to the citizen. In today's era of markets and growth economics, the citizen creates wealth, owns a part of the economy and gives to government -- ideally only a modest amount -- through taxes. After all, government's largess has little to do with growing a society. Peter Drucker said it best years ago: What government does best is wage war and inflate the economy.

 Social Security, bred of the collectivist 1930s, could not give Social Security recipients as handsome a return as today's private investments portfolios can because its managers had no notion of the dynamic growth economy that exists today. Moreover, Social Security was based on a funding plan that has almost completely disappeared. It was based on a population wherein 16 or more citizens were taxed to pay the benefits of but one Social Security recipient. But the post-baby boom generations that have followed have steadily produced fewer children, which is to say fewer sources of Social Security revenue.

 Today, only three citizens are available to provide the funds for the growing number of Social Security recipients. Things will soon be worse. We shall be down to a two-to-one ratio.

Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
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