Reform for All Retirees, Present and Future
by Ak'Bar Shabazz
Social Security is in dire
condition. Most agree that benefits for present retirees should
be protected. At the same time, it's equally important to make
sure younger generations - future retirees - see a return on
the billions of dollars withheld from their paychecks.
Many Americans are rapidly
approaching retirement age and Americans generally are living
longer, yet the income Social Security generates won't provide
sufficient benefits for future retirees. Workers nearing retirement
are understandably resistant to reform and nervous about being
left out in the cold without Social Security, but who and what
will protect tomorrow's retirees?
While some liberals believe
the government should simply raise taxes or print more money
to pay for benefits, these actions would not solve the problem.
What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a basic conflict
of ideology, a microcosm of a larger philosophical debate. The
question is, whose money is it?
Liberals think that money collected
by the government belongs to the government instead of to those
who earn it. This view may seem reasonable to those wanting to
control another's destiny, but it hardly makes sense to one who
strives to control his own.
Working Americans relinquish
enough hard-earned money in taxes. Some of it should be used
to build wealth.
to build their own wealth is an integral part of a market economy.
Economists believe that Social Security provides a disincentive
to save," writes Norbert J. Michel, a policy analyst at
The Heritage Foundation and an expert on how policy decisions
affect saving, spending and investment practices. Relieving the
tax burden and providing savings alternatives would encourage
younger workers to invest their hard-earned money.
Most taxpayers "investing"
in the current Social Security system, especially African-Americans,
will never fully realize their return. According to the Cato
Institute, the average worker will probably get a rate of return
of less that two percent. Unfortunately, some politicians choose
to ignore the facts for fear of making an enemy of the largest,
most powerful special interest organization in the country, the
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
AARP is quite clear in its
intention to fight the personalization of Social Security.
William Novelli, AARP's chief
executive officer, said his organization is "dead set against
carving out private accounts out of Social Security taxes."
The AARP has already invested millions in advertising to denounce
President Bush's plan. These members of "The Greatest Generation"
apparently believe their own retirement security is more important
than future generations.
Savvy legislators aware of
voter statistics realize seniors are the most reliable voters.
Seniors are more likely to pay attention to current affairs and
go to the polls. In contrast, many young Americans are apathetic
and unaware of important policy debates that affect them. As
video games and music videos consume their attention, they dismiss
things that directly affect their future.
Politicians may hold up a finger
to the wind and realize it's blowing harder toward AARP than
other groups. MTV seems the closest thing to a young person's
special interest group. The chances of developing a national
youth movement to combat the AARP's anti-reform campaign are
slim. Consequently, some politicians want to brush Social Security
reform under the rug, pacify AARP, maintain the status quo and
hope someone else solves the crisis.
Ignoring the need to reform
Social Security threatens the future of our youth and the entire
country. A mandate to current workers to finance the retirement
of older workers while discounting their own future is an irresponsible
one. People must have the choice to allocate at least a small
percentage of their Social Security withholdings to fruitful
and inheritable investments.
Present retirees should not
be the sole arbiters of retirement policy. Forcing today's workers
into tomorrow's bad financial plan will produce a higher retirement
age and lower retirement savings. Politicians must disregard
the AARP's pandering and help secure positive retirements for
Don't count on MTV to provide
this kind of leadership.
Ak'Bar Shabazz, an Atlanta
resident, is president of Shabazz Enterprises and a member of
the national advisory council of the black leadership network
Project 21. Comments can be sent to [email protected].
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research.
Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries
reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those
of Project 21.
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