#9 - You Have NO Right to Social Security


Social Security advocates defend this massive program as an inalienable entitlement.  The checks will be in the mail, they say, come Hell or high water.

* In his response to President Bush's 2005 State of the Union address, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada called Social Security "the guaranteed benefit that Americans have earned."1

* Franklin Delano Roosevelt said Social Security revenues "are collected in the form of taxes... held by the government solely for the benefit of the worker in his old age." Roosevelt added: "We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral and political right to collect their pensions."2

* The government reinforces this belief by calling Social Security taxes "contributions" to FICA, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act.3 Americans actually have no property rights to their Social Security "contributions." Unlike private pension funds, which actually belong to workers, Americans have no legal claim on the money Uncle Sam theoretically salts away for their golden years.

* The U.S. Supreme Court decided this in 1960 in the case of Fleming v. Nestor. Bulgarian immigrant Ephram Nestor was deported in 1956 for being a Communist in the 1930s. After Congress prohibited Social Security benefits for deportees in 1954, Nestor sued. He claimed title to his FICA tax payments between 1936 and 1955, the year he retired. The Supreme Court disagreed: "To engraft upon the Social Security system a concept of 'accrued property rights' would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands."4

* The Court added: "It is apparent that the non-contractual interest of an employee covered by the [Social Security] Act cannot be soundly analogized to that of the holder of an annuity, whose right to benefits is bottomed on his contractual premium payments."5

* This decision reflected the Court's precedent in Helvering v. Davis. In 1937, it ruled: "The proceeds of both the employee and employer [Social Security] taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like any other internal revenue generally, and are not earmarked in any way."6

* Various congresses and presidents have raised Social Security taxes at least 40 times since the program commenced in 1935. Also, the retirement age currently is creeping toward 67. Such steps deprive Americans of their retirement assets. None of this should be surprising. Social Security funds do not belong to individual workers and entrepreneurs. This money is the property of Washington politicians and they may do with it whatever they please.

by Deroy Murdock, Distinguished Fellow



1 State of the Union & Democratic Response, Fox News Network, February 2, 2005. Nexis transcript.

2 Deroy Murdock, "It's Not Your Money: There is No 'Right' to Social Security," The American Enterprise, July/August 1999, p. 76.

3 Michael Tanner, "Social Security," Cato Handbook on Policy, The Cato Institute, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 53.

4 Peter Ferrara and Michael Tanner, Common Cents, Common Dreams: A Layman's Guide to Social Security Privatization, The Cato Institute, Washington, D.C., pp. 18-19.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.


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