25 June 2007

A Modest Proposal On Reforming Social Security Preceding the Boomer Flood

[an earlier version of this post, now lost to posterity, properly noted that Bill at So Quoted inspired what I had wroted, now fixted]

The Boomers will be flooding on to the Social Security rolls over the next few decades. Despite the drugs, the sex, and the rock and roll, quite a few of them look poised to make it into their 80s, if not their 100s.

They've benefited from government programs most every step of the way, and politicians love to cater to voters over 60 since people over 60 are much more likely proportionately to bother to go out (or at least mail in an absentee ballot) and vote. But despite the demographic bulge they represent, and the fat swallowed rat like bulge they've appeared to be within the snake of population age distribution charts, they aren't, nor never will again be in the majority. They tried for a long time not to have any kids, my generation is the smallest bulge in that snake. When boomers were in their twenties, they were very busy not having kids, but eventually they all decided that 30 was the new 20, and later 40 was the new 30, and later still 50 was the new 35, now they've convinced themselves that 60 is the new 39, by the time they start hitting 70, they'll grudgingly admit to being like the 40 year olds of yesteryear. Rather than never dying before they get old, they'll just read Newsweek articles declaring that whatever age they are isn't really old at all. But that phenom means they didn't stop having kids, they just delayed it, so the 80s into the early 90s were a baby boom, wrongly derided as an echo-boom, larger than the original baby boom as you had multiple generations getting busy generating.

Most of the kids born in that 'echo' will be eligible to vote in '08, most won't choose to vote, but give them an incentive to hit the polls, and they'll find a way to get involved. Oddly, AARP are the ones running ads about fixing social security, but they're most interested in using the definition of "fix" that means to keep something from changing, not in the sense of repairing something broken. The AARP represents a greedy lobby for the elderly that want to see no reforms whatsoever to the current system, even though it's obvious that unless the boomers start dying in surprisingly large numbers in the 2010s and 2020s, they'll burden the system to the breaking point.

I wouldn't be pointing out the problem unless I had a modest proposal for the reform of the system that would satisfy all parties however, and in this case, requires none of the usual bloodshed or using of a too numerous human population as comestibles as some great thinkers have modestly proposed in the past.

How to solve the fat rat in the snake problem without bloodshed? Simple, it will take an Amendment, but this amending of the Constitution won't be too radical, it's merely a small measure to ensure that any expenditures considered owed by society to those beyond their generative years still finds a way to enrich the lives of those still contributing to the tax base. My proposed amendment would have three parts as illustrated by the following bullet points

  • FIRST, the franchise shall no longer be open ended, a reasonable cut-off age for the ability to vote (and by extension, vote in Congress) would be applied. 85 would be a reasonable age at which someone can be expected to enjoy the fruit of their own labors and be forcibly withdrawn from the onerous task of voting. It wouldn't be fair to allow folks in Congress, or in the Judiciary beyond that age if voters are forced to retire from their civic obligations, but I think plenty of those in Congress would have no problem not seeing any more Stevens, Byrds and Thurmonds in their body.

  • SECOND, our society is built on family. Money to dependents isn't paid directly to the dependent, it's paid to their parents. If that makes sense for people under 18, I say it makes even more sense for people over 70. People in their sunset years have had most of a lifetime to develop their relationships and make sure that they maintain good firm relationships with those in other generations. Put the incentive to maintain those good relations into law. People over the age of 70 who choose dependency on the government in the form of Social Security payments must also choose a person under the age of 50 with whom they'll entrust with receiving their Social Security payment. People who have children would most likely have an easy choice in the matter, people who never had children, or are estranged from their own offspring, could use services like Craigslist to find somebody trustworthy with which to receive a payment for them. Opting out all together would be an option, and as an incentive to opt out, a lump sum payment equal to 20% of the total funds they paid in to the system during their productive years would be a tasty carrot which to dangle, but by taking that lump sum, they'd be ineligible for any more money beyond that.

  • THIRD, those that choose the path of dependence, forgo their right to sue the government or the person who collects their checks, for fraud. Without this simple legal protection, the court systems would be clogged with the petty squabbles of the elderly claiming their assigned guardian was feeding them cat food (which, really makes no sense at all, you can eat at McDonalds every day of the week for far less money on a per calorie basis than you could live off cat food), or maltreating them in some other way. It may seem harsh, and but for being part of a clearly written amendment would be counter to many of the philosophies behind the rest of the constitution. Criminal behavior against the elderly, would still be criminal, but taking a check for an old person and then giving them care in return with which the elderly in question wasn't satisfied wouldn't be criminal (any one who thinks all little old ladies are sweet, hasn't been around many little old ladies, some would happily sue the pants off their own children if they thought they were getting cheated out of the level of care they felt they deserved on the government's dime). Another aspect that would need to be addressed would be to ensure that the checks only go to people caring for people still alive. To keep the checks going, every six months the continued health of the dependent would have to be confirmed. Checkups are good idea anyway, so just have a combination, proof of still kicking and hospital visit rolled into one.

I believe this modest proposal would have many positive side effects. Of course some unscrupulous people would take advantage of the elderly in their care, just as some people collect checks for children and then chain them to a bed, but I think that kind of fraud would be fairly rare. If anything this would reduce the number of elderly taken in by various predators who attack the elderly on a regular basis. On the positive side, by cutting off the age of the person receiving the check at 50, you'd force the elderly as they get older to maintain relationships with progressively younger generations. As a son or daughter approaches their own retirement, it's not fair for them to have to care for their own parents, but hopefully there's a grandkid willing to take on the responsibility and accept the government's assistance in that project. Living independently would remain an option, but choosing dependence on the government would mean choosing dependence on someone from later generation as well.

Seems like the only fair and equitable way to ensure that the monies spent on Social Security are spent on securing a solid quality of life for those that age, and not get deposited directly into slot machines at various casinos across the nation (as anyone who has been to a casino knows those places often resemble AARP conventions). I believe this system would encourage people to live multi-generationally as they used to, pool their resources more effectively, and maintain excellent relations with their relations as they approach the age where they have to decide if accepting Social Security and the limits imposed on those that take the money is a good path for them personally.

The Boomers were the 'trust nobody over 30' crowd. I wouldn't go that far (given that I'll be 38 in a day or so, I still find myself fairly trustworthy), but I think 'trust nobody over 50 with a government check' would be prudent policy. Sell this the right way, emphasize how this is the ultimate in not only 'family values' but 'equitable redistribution' policies, and you ought to be able to court support from the left, right and center for this most modest, most reasonable, and most sensible of all possible Social Security reforms.

1 comment:

Martin said...

I think we just need to convince them that accepting SS payments = being old. That will allow us to keep raising the age.