March 14, 2007


The Ends Will Justify the Means-Testing: Personal accounts for Social Security are the second step in the reform process. (John Santoliquido, 3/14/07, National Review)

Policies and principles are the legislative equivalents of tactics and strategy. With Social Security, conservatives should not fear a tactical concession if it helps advance a strategic victory for the low-tax cause. However, they need not contemplate a tax increase in the process.

Suppose Republicans reached across the aisle with a proposal that might appeal to the Democrats' rhetoric about the so-called "wealthy" making out "too well" in our society. Establishing means-testing, or an income test, for receiving Social Security benefits would fulfill such a goal.

For Republicans who hope to repeal the income tax on Social Security benefits, means-testing -- which in essence is an income test whereby premiums would be adjusted based on the ability of recipient's to pay -- makes sense. Instead of a tax that collects general revenues to be squandered on the entire government, this alternative method would directly reduce Social Security's outlays.

Those who say this would turn Social Security into a welfare program instead of the "social insurance" it is supposed to be need to be honest with themselves: Social Security has never had the force of any kind of insurance that is offered in the private sector. It is instead a transfer program wherein the government gives to one group of Americans with the left hand that which it has taken from another group of Americans with the right hand. [...]

Means-testing Social Security to control the growth of the program's outlays is a good first step towards reform. The introduction of personal accounts to confer ownership instead of entitlement is the complimentary second step.

Of course, if conservatives believe their own rhetoric on personal accounts and are willing to fund them for the poor, then they'll recognize that very nearly everyone will fail the means-test eventually.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2007 7:55 AM
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