“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

There May Be Hope For Truth On Social Security!

I was watching Fox News last night to see post-debate coverage of CNN's almost-unnoticed 'Tea Party' debate on Monday evening. I actually stumbled across it as it ran live, but mistakenly thought I'd found a rerun of MSNBC's GOP presidential debate of last week, so skipped on to other channels.

Never the less, the general sense of the pundits was that there are now too many fringe candidates in these debates, i.e., Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and probably Newt Gingrich, too. That the debates have evolved/degenerated into everyone beating up on Perry because he became the front-runner within a week of entering the race.

But something very interesting occurred on Sean Hannity's program last night.

Hannity often has pollster Frank Luntz air live focus group reactions to speeches or debates, then does Q&A with the group to ascertain their motivations and reasoning.

Last night, Luntz polled the group on their reaction to the Romney vs. Perry exchange concerning Social Security. Perry came out and bluntly called the program a Ponzi scheme. But, more tellingly, and a first, as far as I can tell, Perry described the program as, to paraphrase as closely as I can recall,

'An eighty-year old federal program that was badly designed.'

Now, Perry's allusion to SS becoming a state program makes no sense. It's not supposed to be a temporary social welfare service like unemployment or medicare. If you're going to have some national minimum pension assistance, it should be nationally-funded.

That said, Perry is the first candidate to my knowledge to begin to label it an old idea that should be scrapped because it was badly conceived and implemented. He said the purpose was necessary, but not this program.

Here's where it got interesting. Almost all of Luntz' focus group backed Perry and derided Romney as a phony. One guy actually aped Bill O'Reilly's body language lady, Tanya Reiman, noting how often Romney blinked, moves his hands on the podium and looked away when uttering Social Security-related platitudes which the audience said sounded like pandering to Democrats.

In general, they liked and applauded Perry's blunt and honest depiction of SS, while they loathed Romney's sucking up to Democrats and conventional wisdom, lying about the program's integrity.

Maybe there's hope yet for a total restructuring of SS from a general defined-benefit scheme with no limits, to an individual, account-based defined contribution program with payments from the federal government based on a one-year lagged fixed percentage of Treasury receipts. No COLAs or anything like that. The recipients share economic pain or rewards along with employed Americans who fund the program.

I know I'd never be elected on my views. Because, if it were up to me, the transition would be sudden and abrupt. Basically, anyone now drawing SS payments could continue on the program they entered. Everyone else, no matter how close they are to collecting payments, would be put into the new fixed-percentage, defined contribution account scheme.


The entire program was never a solvent concept. Time to just scrap it quickly and totally.

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