Mona Charen

Chile. At the other end of the economic spectrum, Democrats must ignore Chile's remarkable success with privatizing social security. Thirty years ago, facing a pension overhang similar to our own, Chile adopted a policy that nearly all Democrats regard with horror -- they privatized their pension system. Not all at once. Those who were already retired were grandfathered into the existing system. New workers were required to participate in the private retirement account program. All other workers were offered a choice to remain with the old system or choose the new one. Ninety-three percent chose private accounts, conservatively managed.

How has it turned out? Over the course of three decades, despite ups and downs in the market as well as terrible earthquakes, these accounts have averaged returns 9.23 percent above inflation. Social Security, by contrast, averages returns of about 1 percent. In the United States, the elderly are wards of the state. Each Chilean, by contrast, has ownership of his account. He or she can pass any unused portion on to children and grandchildren. When New York Times reporter John Tierney worked out his own Social Security contributions on the Chilean model, he found that his privatized pension would have been $53,000 a year plus a one-time payout of $223,000. The same contributions paid into the American Social Security system would have paid him $18,000 a year.

Chile's free market policies have made it one of the wealthiest nations in the Western hemisphere, with the highest nominal GDP in Latin America. Their pension reform has so far been copied by 30 nations.

Perhaps Chile, so far from Washington, D.C., is too easy to ignore. But what about Galveston, Texas? It seems that 30 years ago, far-sighted leaders took advantage of an opt-out clause (since removed) in the Social Security law and put county employees into private pension accounts. Galveston's employees take home pensions with 7 percent annual return compounded over 30 years compared with Social Security's 1 percent.

Democrats must, simply must, deny that privatization provides far superior outcomes, because the truth is that independent, self-sufficient, non-needy citizens have little use for a party whose entire rationale is "Let Me Take of You" by taxing someone else.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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