Letters

Is Social Security our debt to previous generations?

What a pleasure to read Jonathan Rowe's insightful piece ("The 'we' in Social Security," March 9) endorsing Social Security as a transgenerational show of appreciation for what he calls the "previous generation."

The time has come for those who aspire to dismantle the key ingredient of Social Security, namely "security," to come clean with their real agenda: the replacement of a successful, benevolent social program with one subject to the vagaries of the market. As Mr. Rowe says, current law provides for market-based investments in individual retirement accounts while maintaining an effective safety net for those whose life savings were insufficient to support them in their mature years.

The New Deal created Social Security for one specific purpose - to ensure that older Americans would no longer be relegated to reliance on the generosity of their families or charity. For seven decades that system has proved effective. Let's hope generational and personal self-interest never supersede the magnanimity of gratitude.
Dave McFarland
Godfrey, Ill.

Mr. Rowe does a valiant job of rationalizing a Social Security system that supposedly transfers money from one generation to another. As originally established, Social Security was not to be a New Deal scheme for transferring money from one group to another; it was not to be a savings plan; Social Security was designed to be a giant insurance program, pure and simple.

Like any commercial insurance, premiums (payroll taxes) were collected and placed into a trust fund to be used later to pay the promised premiums, and to provide for survivors and the disabled. If premiums turn out to be insufficient, the company (the US Treasury) must make up the difference from other resources (general revenue).

Many years ago, Congress made Social Security a part of the budget, thus using Social Security surpluses to make deficits look a lot smaller. Having taken over the income, they acknowledged the responsibility of paying the benefits.

There should be no thought of Congress failing to pay what has been promised. Nor should there be any suggestion that younger workers should pay for anything but their own generation's retirement.
John W. Droege
Brownstown, Ind.

Thank you for Jonathan Rowe's comments on the Social Security debate. Not enough is said about the values side of this issue. I would argue that actually there is indeed a fiscal obligation along with a moral obligation between the generations. My predecessors' taxes helped put me through grammar school, high school, and via grants, even college. They continue to help finance my kids' educations. The Social Security taxes I pay are but token efforts to repay their generosity. Many conservatives wish to smash this generational trust to bits, but more good than bad comes of it. It's worth keeping.
Jim McNelis
Skokie, Ill.

Social Security is an unconstitutional activity of the federal government. Review Article One and the Ninth and 10th Amendments, and you will see that the US government is not empowered to be a bank, investment company, trust fund, or insurance firm.

Social Security at its core is not gratitude. It is not some idyllic, bygone era of small town goodness and generational "thanks." Social Security is the enslavement of a people to a federal entitlement.

Every day I try to pay back my own personal thanks. I attempt to live the Golden Rule. Mr. Rowe wants to coerce a nation to pay for his gratitude, while I and others want to be free to care for ourselves, family, and neighbors as we see fit.
Edward H. Tonkin
Erie, Pa.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to Letters.

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