Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Eminent domain and Social Security in Sunday's Orange County Register

Protectors of private property rights will definitely want to peruse today's Commentary section, as they focused on Tuesday's U.S. Supreme Court action regarding Kelo v. New London, CT (unfortunately, they printed an extra column or two that they didn't post to their website). Coming on the heels of the Michigan Supreme Court last year overturning the 1981 Poletown decision (in which the court stated that property rights would cease to exist if the government has the power to decide whether or not privately-owned land could be put to better use by another owner), the SCOTUS has the opportunity to uphold the Fifth Amendment by dealing a powerful blow to eminent domain abuse once and for all. As bad as it might be to see government condemn or take a property for legitimate public use (a road, a park, or even a government building), it's even worse when a city can take private property from a homeowner and sell it to a corporation simply because the corporation will build a megastore that will bring in more sales tax revenue than the homeowner pays in property taxes. Stay tuned here for commentary on whatever news comes out later this week.

Also in the Register (and I can only assume in other papers nationwide) was a full-page ad in the Nation/World section (essentially Part II of the front page) taken out by AARP regarding Social Security:
If you have a problem with the sink, you don't tear down the entire house. Let's not turn Social Security into Social Insecurity. Yes, the program is in need of reform, which can be done with a few moderate changes, but it is not in need of a radical overhaul. Creating private accounts that take money our of Social Security is an extreme measure that will hurt all generations and could add up to two trillion dollars in more debt. Let's not stick our kids with the bill. Call your legislators at 1-800-307-8525 and urge them to oppose private accounts that put Social Security at risk.
Interesting. Just for grins, first I'll count the falsehoods and misrepresentations, and then ask a couple of questions.

1) The program as it exists is just about as close to Social Insecurity as it can get - when Congress and the president can simply vote to raise taxes and remove benefits, and the Supreme Court has already ruled that nothing can stop them, how secure is it, really?
2) The "few moderate changes" have been made time and again over the past 70 years, each time with the only effect of pushing out the crisis just a few more years, and hitting the working low and middle classes the hardest. Even removing the payroll tax cap (currently $90,000) would only postpone annual deficits by 6 years, and would result in the highest marginal tax rates in the world!
3) Private accounts wouldn't take money out of Social Security, it would only reduce the amount going to pay current benefits. You can argue this is merely semantics, but the reduction in unfunded obligations that would come with private accounts is significant enough to demand the distinction be made.
4) Private accounts would not "hurt all generations" - those over 50 wouldn't even see any changes to their finances, those under 50 have a choice to hope the system will still be there when they retire or take responsibility themselves, and those under 20 and yet to be born will be relieved of some of the burden of supporting the retirees of their day. There would come a day when my grandkids would be wishing that more people in my kids' generation elected to create personal accounts instead of relying on them for their retirement!
5) The much-maligned "transition costs" aren't additional costs being added to the system as a result of personal accounts, they are simply time-shifted obligations that the system already has. Any increased costs we incur in the near term will be offset by drastically reduced costs in the long term. And there have been several options floated to pay those costs other than more debt - reduced federal spending being one that the AARP and other sucklings on the federal teat don't even want to consider.
6) Private accounts don't "put Social Security at risk" any more than a legislated tax reduction and benefit reduction would put it at risk - for that's what the whole gist of reform is about: people voluntarily choosing to pay less in taxes (though they'd still be forced to save that amount) and receive less in benefits later.

One can't help but wonder why in the world the AARP is so dead-set against freedom of choice and personal responsibility in their attack on Social Security reform. Don't they want the 20- to 40-year-olds to consider AARP benevolent towards them when they start turning 50 and 55? I never thought about it before, but after these shenanigans, I certainly won't be joining them when I turn 50. Don't they understand that their constituency of those over 50 won't be affected at all by these proposed changes? Don't they understand that their constituency of those over 50 have kids and grandkids that they'd love to see be able to provide for their own retirement and have a family nest egg they can pass to their heirs? I can promise you that no matter how it goes in Washington for reform, the AARP will be negatively affected in the years and decades to come. There are far fewer of the 50+ demographic who wholeheartedly support AARP's actions on this issue than there are in the 15-50 demographic who are coming to understand that the AARP stands for nothing but its own power and influence and will lie and cheat in any way it can to swell it.


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