April 7, 2005


Accounts Could Replace Soc. Sec. Checks (GLEN JOHNSON, 4/06/05, Associated Press)

Someone born next year who goes on to earn what the government considers a high-wage income could see his Social Security check replaced by the personal investment account President Bush has proposed, a congressional study says.

Democrats said Wednesday that the study, which they commissioned from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, was troublesome because it illustrated how the accounts — invested in the stock market — might eventually eliminate Social Security's guaranteed checks.

Yes, that the reform would work has to be troubling for those who oppose it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 7, 2005 12:01 AM

Note the reference to "guaranteed checks" -- not the first time the AP has used this locution.

If Mr Johnson was merely paraphrasing the Democrats, then his duty to readers would require advising them that SS benefits are not in fact guaranteed.

They may be "promised" or "provided by current rules," but there is no guarantee. The Social Security Act of 1935 and two US Supreme Court decisions explicitly note that Congress has the power to modify or terminate the program at any time. That's no guarantee. Apart from the lack of legal guarantee, a succession of SS actuaries' projections makes it clear that there is no financial guarantee, either.

If the AP writer genuinely believes that SS is guaranteed, then he should be willing to buy a Renault with a guarantee that the manufacturer could modify or revoke whenever it chose...

Posted by: Axel Kassel at April 7, 2005 8:21 AM

One of the problems with SS reform is that it is impossible to talk about SS as what it really is: a welfare program that buys political cover through a less-than-generous middle class entitlement. The only guarantee is political, but that seems to be enough.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 7, 2005 8:56 AM