President Franklin Roosevelt began the Social Security program in 1935 and ever since, Republicans have been trying to get rid of it. Whether it’s increasing the age eligibility to receive benefits, means-testing, or privatizing the entire process, Republicans try every trick in the book to eat away at this very popular program. They claim we can’t afford it, that too few workers are supporting too many retirees, that the entire system is about to collapse. Never mind that none of this is true, it still resonates with a large sector of the electorate and erodes trust in government.
President Obama should tackle Social Security reform. He should announce a new initiative, The Super-Patriotic Social Security Squad. This would be a voluntary program designed so that those who have the means to retire without Social Security can declare their independence from the system. These people will stop receiving benefits and be rewarded with a plaque and certificate as recognition for their selfless service to their country. In this way, the government is not breaking the pledge that it made to all Americans that everyone will participate in the program and everyone will receive benefits. Individuals choose to withdraw from the system independently thus insuring Social Security’s long-term fiscal health.
Despite fervent objections about people receiving government benefits, many people don’t think twice about taking Social Security, and they shouldn’t, but wouldn’t it be nice if they had the chance to do something for their country and stand up for their principles? Many young Americans give the ultimate sacrifice, dying for their country in war, isn’t it reasonable to think that older people who have benefited financially so much from living in the country will also be willing to sacrifice something much less?
The success of this program will depend upon how many people will participate. High profile people should be enlisted in the cause. Men like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates would probably be happy get the ball rolling. It will soon become a badge of honor to withdraw from the system and peer pressure will inevitably play a role. If on the off-chance somebody doesn’t want to participate, that person will have less of a voice to holler about the program’s problems in the future.
Social Security reform can be one of President Obama’s lasting achievements. This voluntary program may be the answer to how private citizens and government can work together.