Now that social security is in the news and being scrutinized, the Washington Post and the NY Times are outdoing each other to either intentionally or through shabby reporting to mislead the public. As in The Washington Post. What the Post and "government official" they interviewed are saying is that Social Security acts as sort of a savings account and you get back what you put in.
That is NOT true. Social security is not and never has been an account you pay into, then receive all the money you invested later like a savings account. When you retire you are given a proportionate amount in return. That money comes from the money the present generation is contributing to the system, just as the money you put in went to the generation before you.
What President Bush wants to do is make it possible for you to actually get some of your own money back, by investing it in savings of some sort. The little bit you put into those savings you'll get back. It's yours; you can leave it to your heirs, you can spend it -- whatever. That's not true with social security.
I was amazed to see an article in our local newspaper by our congressman, who spoke of social security as if it were a savings account. Even HE doesn't know the difference!
The money young people pay into social security today pays for benefits given to the older generation today. That's the way social security has always worked. It has never been a savings account for old age and no one has ever gotten as much out as they put in.
To earn social security benefits, you earn "credits." Let's get this information "from the horse's mouth." The Social Security Office explains it this way:
The credits are based on the amount of your earnings. We use your work history to determine your eligibility for retirement or disability benefits or your family’s eligibility for survivors benefits when you die.Special jobs earn certain credits so that's not necessarily true for all. What IS true, however, is that you're not getting as much money back as you would from a savings account BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT GIVEN CREDIT FOR ALL THE MONEY YOU CONTRIBUTE.
In 2005, you receive one credit for each $920 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year.
Not only that -- you have to work for a while before you can even get benefits:
Anyone born in 1929 or later needs 10 years of work (40 credits) to be eligible for retirement benefits. People born before 1929 need fewer years of work. (Again, from the Social Security Adminstration website)
Now, with the President's plan you keep a tiny percentage to invest or save. It slows up your qualification for points a little (not much) but that money is yours and is earning more money for you while you're working up to the points you need for retirement benefits. Also, that money is yours -- you get it all back, not just money based on "points" -- a proportion -- of what you earned.
There's a rundown on the hatchet job the Washington Post and the New York Times have been running against the President's plan here, with dates and links to the articles. The article that is on the site now is a retraction of what they originally posted. That, however, makes my point!
Okay, so social security isn't in trouble for twenty or so years -- that's plenty of time to fix it. Maybe. But if I were a young person I'd love the idea of having the choice to be able to keep some of my money. As an older person I sure want them to keep contributing because I need my benefits -- and I earned them by paying for my parents' generation.
Then here comes the NY Times with a poll.
Americans say President Bush does not share the priorities of most of the country on either domestic or foreign issues, are increasingly resistant to his proposal to revamp Social Security and say they are uneasy with Mr. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the retirement program, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The poll underscores just how little headway Mr. Bush has made in his effort to build popular support as his proposal for overhauling Social Security struggles to gain footing in Congress.
But look what they don't say until way down deep in the piece:
The poll was conducted by telephone with 1,111 adults from Thursday through Monday. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.AND it was taken just after the election, before the President even defined his plan for social security.
I take issue with 1,000 "adults" speaking for 200 million in the first place but claiming that a poll taken at the time this was -- and held until now -- speaks to me of political and intellectual dishonesty.
What we all need now is some truth from media. Reporters either need to do their research or they need to quit lying -- one or the other. Or both.