In a free society, government exists to serve its people. In one that is not free, people are a tool of government. By this standard, anyone following the current debate on Social Security reform would have to conclude that we are living in a society that is increasingly less free.
Earlier this year I wrote a column about Social Security reform. I urged then that perspective not be lost that the central issue for reform is evaluating whether the Social Security system properly serves individual citizens. This, sadly, is not happening. The debate has focused entirely on how to prop up the system.
Social Security is our nation's largest government program. Eighty percent of taxpayers pay more in Social Security taxes than income taxes. Yet, despite the size and scope of this program, there is not a single political leader, including those discussing introducing some element of private accounts, who is questioning the fundamental merits of the system and whether we should have it at all.
I have been involved with Social Security reform for almost 10 years, as an advisory-committee member of the Cato Institute's project dealing with reforming Social Security and, more recently, with Jack Kemp's efforts to advance the idea of enacting private retirement accounts.
In my view, there is only one honest approach to Social Security: fulfill obligations to pay benefits to those who have already paid in and allow the rest of us as quick and expeditious an exit out as possible. Then shut the doors forever.
If this seems radical, I'll ask one question. If Social Security did not exist, and we attempted to enact today a system like we currently have, would it pass? The answer is unquestionably no. There is no way that any working American would agree to turn over to the government 12.4 percent of his or her paycheck in exchange for a benefit that has no guarantee, on which ownership has been relinquished and that is less than what could be obtained by buying risk-free government bonds. No way. Zero chance.