Larry Elder

Columnist John Tierney, writing in The New York Times in 2005, calculated what his retirement benefits would be if he'd paid into the Chilean system instead of Social Security. He found he'd have three options: "(1) Retire in 10 years, at age 62, with an annual pension of $55,000. That would be more than triple the $18,000 I can expect from Social Security at that age. (2) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $70,000. That would be almost triple the $25,000 pension promised by Social Security starting a year later, at age 66. (3) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $53,000 and a one-time cash payment of $223,000."

Social Security is an especially bad deal for blacks.

CATO Institute's Michael Tanner writes: "The longer you live, the more money you get from Social Security. But African Americans have shorter life spans than whites. As a result, a black man or woman earning exactly the same lifetime wages, and paying exactly the same lifetime Social Security taxes as his or her white counterpart, will likely receive a far lower rate of return. A study by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation found that the rate of return for African-Americans was approximately one percent lower than that for whites. The result was a net lifetime transfer of wealth from blacks to whites averaging nearly $10,000 per person."

Worse, the Supreme Court ruled long ago that one does not have a proprietary interest in his Social Security contributions. In other words, when the recipient dies, the "contribution" goes "poof." With private accounts, the money can be bequeathed to a family member or to a charity.

So why not private Social Security accounts?

The late vice presidential candidate, Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, D-N.Y., opposed private accounts for Social Security. She said if one lacked the "knowledge and the wherewithal to manage your own private funds ... you're gonna be out of luck." Out of luck?

Legendary investor Warren Buffett quotes his mentor, Benjamin Graham, who said: "In the short run the stock market is a voting machine, but in the long run it is a weighing machine." For the long term, prices reflect actual value, and investors who prudently and patiently "invest" in the stock market will have a much greater net worth and therefore realize the resources to enhance their comfort in their retirement years.

Democrats think Americans too stupid, too irresponsible and too impatient to manage their own Social Security contributions. Chileans can. Australians do. Many European and Latin American citizens do. But Americans, at least the bottom 99 percent, well, they're just too stupid to join the party.

Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit