Howard Rich

The Social Security debate is no different than the debate over any other government program – there are just a lot more zeroes involved. Of course the more zeroes, the less willing Washington politicians usually are to confront the problem – particularly when so-called “guaranteed” benefits are at stake.

Still, there are three simple questions that can be asked of any government program – including Social Security – which if answered honestly will point us in the direction of sensible, sustainable reforms.

First, is the outcome the program seeks to achieve consistent with the founding ideals of this country (i.e. advancing liberty and prosperity for all people)?

Second, is government’s involvement absolutely necessary in order to achieve this outcome?

And finally (assuming the answer to the first two questions is ‘yes’), should government’s role in achieving the outcome consist of directly funding or managing a particular task? Or should the private sector bear that responsibility – with government assuming a more limited oversight or regulatory role?

The men who founded this nation – who risked their lives and liberties in order to break free from a repressive government – carefully weighed similar questions. It was important for them to enumerate and prioritize government’s responsibilities – and just as importantly to spell out its limitations. Otherwise the “more perfect union” they were creating risked becoming every bit as repressive as the government it was replacing.

Today, politicians rarely take into account these considerations. Our entitlement culture has created a new definition of “core” government functions – one that goes far beyond the scope of the U.S. Constitution and which relies on trillions of borrowed dollars to sustain. In defending the creation of “Obamacare” – yet another unsustainable government entitlement – a former Democratic Majority Whip summed up the prevailing sentiment when he said “there’s nothing in the Constitution that says the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do.”

Truer words have never been spoken – of course this rare moment of entitlement honesty is buried beneath an avalanche of big government lies.

For starters, the Social Security “surplus” that politicians love to talk about is a myth. While it is true that the system has collected more in payroll taxes than it has doled out in benefits in recent years, the resulting “surplus” is nothing but a stack of government IOUs. According to the latest Trustees report, by 2015 the federal government will have borrowed $3.25 trillion against the Social Security Trust Fund.

Howard Rich

Howard Rich is the Chairman of Americans for Limited Government.