April 25, 2005


Reform Social Security:
Latinos have a big stake in the outcome of this policy fight
(Ruben Navarrette, Hispanic Magazine)

[T]his debate isn’t really so complicated. What you have is a casita with a leaky roof. On one side, there are those who want to put in the effort to fix it before the storm clouds gather. On the other side, you have those who don’t want to do anything because, they insist, doing so would be costly and painful and, besides, it may never rain.

The first group includes President Bush, who insists that, unless something is done, young people (let’s say, anyone born after 1970) won’t see a dime of the money they’re contributing to the system. At present, workers contribute about 6.2 percent of earnings into the system. Employers match that. Bush wants to let workers siphon off part of their contribution and invest it in personal accounts that would offer a higher return that the government does.

The do-nothing defenders of the status quo insist that Social Security is in fine shape and that there is no crisis. And, they charge, what the Republicans really want to do is dismantle the nation’s most beloved entitlement program, provide a windfall for Wall Street and the rest of the private sector, and push senior citizens onto the streets and into soup kitchens.

Don’t laugh. That’s pretty much the line they’re pitching. Further, they want to come off like all they really care about is giving voice to the voiceless.

That’s where Hispanics come in. Consider the bilingual press release sent out earlier this year by Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. In it, Reid insists, “Bush’s plan to cut benefits will be particularly damaging for the Hispanic community, which relies on Social Security … more than other Americans.”

It's an interesting argument. But it’s also disingenuous. What matters in all this isn’t dependence but demographics. Hispanics are above all a young population, especially when compared to the rest of the country. The average age of a Hispanic person in the United States is 25 years old. That’s almost 15 years younger than the white population. That means anything that hurts young people can be expected to take an especially high toll on the Hispanic population. And, make no mistake: The current system hurts young people.

Democrats are playing with demographic fire in attempting to freeze the status quo in place. They can prevail in the very short term, but only at their own expense down the road, as the Greatest Generation dies off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2005 8:47 AM

[U]nless something is done, young people (lets say, anyone born after 1970) wont see a dime of the money theyre contributing to the system.

Not quite, but they will get back only about half of what they're currently being promised, assuming of course that there isn't a huge boom in productivity during the next thirty years, in which case they'll be fine under the current system.

Posted by: Rip Van Winkle at April 26, 2005 1:55 AM