Americans talk more and know less about Social Security than about any other program that closely concerns them. They are aware that they contribute part of their wages into a fund labeled "FICA," a contribution matched by their employer, and that at age 65 or so they will receive a "benefit." Don't ask what that will amount to in dollars and cents, or how it will be determined. The Democrats are aware of this general ignorance, so in daily pronouncements to the electorate they insist that they alone stand between Social Security and the rapacious hands of greedy Republicans. From Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to the lowest Democrat gofer has come a fusillade of charges that the Republicans intend to bankrupt Social Security and put the elderly out in the street.
Social Security has had its difficulties, but in all the years since its inception decades of Democratic Congresses have siphoned Social Security funds to finance tax-and-tax and spend-and-spend boondoggles. Only the Republicans and their alleged "big-business" allies kept Social Security from being turned into another Democratic disaster.
Alas, the truth doesn't halt the propaganda and the smear of a big-enough lie. The latest of these is that Republican efforts to strengthen and reform the system really are part of a "hidden agenda" to cut benefits to the bone. Ask the Democratic National Committee what the "secret" is in that agenda--then duck, because you will be inundated by a blizzard of horseradish (see washington's week, p. 10).
The Social Security system was the product of the Franklin Roosevelt administration, so to discuss its shortcomings is like charging the pope with barratry. But when his brain trust proposed Social Security legislation to FDR during his first term he turned thumbs down, emphatically, even though welfarism already was part of the New Deal bible. FDR rejected the brain-trust argument that oldsters would quit their jobs, making openings for some of the 11 million unemployed. That condition had not changed when the 1936 elections rolled around and did not change until the draft and war production put America back to work in 1941.
But Roosevelt changed his mind about Social Security in 1935, and it is a historical fact that he did so when the brain trust whispered into his ear: "We'll give the Social Security fund 2 percent interest for its money, hand out a bunch of paper IOUs and leave you with a fistful of millions to finance New Deal programs." The lawyers and the pols promptly turned out a statute to do this, which ever since has given the country big trouble. The cutest part was the provision that the Social Security take would not give the taxpayer any title to his contributions. The fund was the government's money, and if the Democrats so decided they legally could fold the program, keep the cash and open the poorhouse for the old folks.
The 60 Plus Association has made an analysis of the Social Security statute in far greater detail than is possible here, and documents the necessity for the reforms that President George W. …