For example, personal accounts for Social Security would provide workers with a much better deal and higher benefits than the current, old-fashioned Social Security framework can even promise, let alone what it can pay. But such accounts are also enormously powerful in reducing government spending because they shift huge portions of such spending out of the public sector altogether and into the private sector.
The very thorough and comprehensive reform bill introduced in the last Congress by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., would allow workers the freedom to choose to eventually shift their Social Security retirement benefits to private sector personal accounts. That alone would reduce future government spending by more than 5 percent of GDP, an enormous and unprecedented reduction, but in so doing would give workers a far higher rate of return for their retirement.
The accounts could then eventually be expanded at the choice of each worker to provide for private life and disability insurance to replace Social Security survivors and disability benefits. The accounts could even eventually be expanded to cover the payroll-tax-financed portion of Medicare, producing an annuity in retirement that could be used to purchase private health insurance that would be a much better deal than Medicare.
These provisions would reduce federal spending by well over 10 percent of GDP. At the same time, they would transform the payroll tax from a tax to a wealth-building asset owned and controlled within each family. What a revolution that would be for the personal prosperity of working people.
Ferrara advances a second fundamental reform concept building on the huge success of the 1996 legislation block granting the old Aid to Families With Dependent Children program back to the states. The welfare rolls from the old program were reduced by close to 60 percent nationwide as a result, a shocking success.
Ferrara argues that we could now block-grant the remaining major federal welfare programs to the states, as well, including budget-busting Medicaid, food stamps and even some housing programs. With these funds and broad discretion, we can build new welfare systems nationwide based on getting the poor into real jobs, real private health insurance with vouchers and even home ownership. This was the vision of Abraham Lincoln of a stakeholder society where everyone has a direct share of the American dream.
To pursue these reforms, Ferrara has helped establish a new Entitlement Reform Without Tax Increases Working Group. I suggest joining up with them, as I have. Maimonides, the 11th century Talmudic philosopher, wrote that "the highest form of welfare is to prevent people from needing welfare." How very true.