Thomas Sowell

 Would you sign a contract that enabled the other party to change the terms of that contract at will, while you could neither stop him nor make any changes of your own? Probably not. Yet that is exactly what happens when you pay money into Social Security.

 No matter what you were promised or at what age you were supposed to get it, the government can always pass a new law that changes all of that. But you still have to pay into the system.

 A private annuity plan run by an insurance company is legally required to pay you what was promised, when it was promised, and to maintain assets sufficient to redeem its promises.

 One of the few issues on which Senator John Kerry has taken a stand and not changed it (yet) is Social Security. He has said: "I will not privatize Social Security."

 This has long been the position of liberal Democrats, and John Kerry's voting record in the Senate makes him one of the very few Senators more liberal than Ted Kennedy. That is the ranking given by Americans for Democratic Action, a leading liberal organization that ought to know.

 Why are liberals against letting people put part of their Social Security payments into private investments?

 Risk is one of their arguments. Al Gore incessantly repeated the phrase "a risky scheme" during the 2000 election campaign and risk still seems to be the big objection to letting people put their own money where they want.

 Some liberals may actually believe that politicians know what is best for you better than you know yourself. That is, after all, the philosophy behind many other government programs.

 Another reason for liberal opposition to private investment of Social Security payments is that it deprives them of control of billions of dollars that they have been spending from the Social Security trust fund for years. They can buy a lot of votes with all sorts of giveaway programs, financed by money taken from Social Security.

 As for the risk of making private investments, that might be a real concern if people were putting their money into commodity speculation or other volatile markets. Most people have better sense and privatization could limit where Social Security premiums could be invested.

 Although the stock market bounces up and down from day to day, people are not investing today in order to retire next week. They begin paying Social Security premiums when they first get a job and they retire decades later.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate