Just The Facts

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We libertarians are always looking for a thread we could pull to unravel a bit of the statist mess we’re in. One possibility would be to attack popular fictions that obfuscate important public issues. My first nominee of a fiction that ought to be exposed is the idea that we all have some kind of personal Social Security account. (Wasn’t it Al Gore who went on and on about the “lock box” of Social Security funds?)

I get things in the mail describing my account and projections of my future retirement income from this account based on information from my previous earnings. Now, it is one thing for government bureaucrats to spout some soothing if not rigorously honest platitudes when I’m face to face with them. They’ve been trained to make these placating statements so as not to enrage the people with whom they deal. It is quite another level of mendacity to go to the trouble of creating and mailing to me, unsolicited, a document providing details of this nonexistent account.

Without arguing for or against any reform policies, wouldn’t it be refreshing for libertarians to call for an end to this fiction? Just call it what it is. We take money from people who are working now and give it to people who are retired, so they don’t have to work. It is an income transfer, plain and simple. People who collect Social Security checks are taking that money out of the paychecks of people who are currently working. Retired people are not collecting the money that they put into Social Security, because their money was not “saved” anywhere. When they put in money while they were working, their payroll taxes were simply being sent to the people who were retired back then.

My guess is that a couple of years of honest talk about what we are really doing, exposing FDR’s initial lie about Social Security, would make a big difference. People would be able to see that it makes no sense for able-bodied older folks making top-of-their-game salaries to be taking money from younger workers who make much less than they do.

My other nominees for fictions to be exposed include notions such as these: calling any lowering of taxes”a cost to the government,” calling tax-funded subsidies “government investment,” calling expensive government-run schools “free public education,” calling expensive government-run healthcare “free patient services,” calling the occupation and control of foreign countries “wars of liberation,” calling nearly unused trains and buses “mass transit.”

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