In 1935, Americans drove the Model T, enjoyed Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing “cheek to cheek,” watched the Chicago Cubs in a rare World Series appearance and were mostly unaware of an experimental technology known as “television.” For today’s Generation Xers, the 1930s are a world away, as contemporary American society bears little resemblance to these distant days. But not so fast, we still maintain one undisturbed link to this decade: Social Security. Yes, the Social Security system devised by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 inexplicably lives on into the new millennium. There’s just one problem: It’s facing certain insolvency and, thus, threatens the financial security of our entire generation. We are all at risk. Not your grandmother or even your father – we are the ones who will pay the price for inaction today.
Unfortunately, all that stands in the way of significant reform that would guarantee our generation a financially secure future is the Democratic Party. The so-called “Party of Choice” has now decidedly staked itself against “choosing” an immensely better, private sector alternative to government-run social security. Why? For liberal Democrats, expanding government is an end in itself. Bequeathing young Americans a system that actually works – that actually provides “social security” – is not nearly as important as perpetuating the socialistic centerpiece of the New Deal. Never mind liberalism’s disastrous track record.
As we saw with the failures of the Great Society welfare state, government programs encourage dependency and dysfunctional behavior; they destroy the natural human drive for self-advancement. In the idealistic pursuit of social welfare for all, the Great Society trapped three generations of recipients in poverty and stagnation.
But past failures are of little concern to big government ideologues in the Democratic Party. Remember the debate over the 1996 Welfare Reform Act? The Democrats inundated the airwaves with apocalyptic predictions: they told us that thousands of children would fall into poverty and unemployment would skyrocket. As usual, they were wrong. The reform was widely hailed as an immediate success. The welfare rolls and the unemployment rates dropped dramatically, and thousands were finally allowed to enjoy the dignity of self-sufficiency.
Today we are engaged in a similar debate over Social Security, and, again, there is no shortage of deceitful Democratic opposition – complete with the dire, demagogic rhetoric that is rooted in a reflexive hostility to the private free-market economy. The scare campaign began immediately after the president’s State of the Union address, with Sen. Harry Reid labeling the partial privatization plan, an idea he supported as recently as 1999, as “dangerous” and “Social Security roulette.” How amazing that Reid and his self-proclaimed “progressive” cohorts stubbornly cling to a governmental relic of a bygone era. Conservatives are supposed to be the traditionalists.
If the Democrats are allowed to obstruct President Bush’s necessary and legitimate Social Security reforms, our generation will bear a steep and devastating financial price. Dramatic demographic changes over the past 50 years have made this inevitable. Quite simply, the amount of workers paying into the system cannot support tomorrow’s massive number of retirees, for today there are only 3.3 workers supporting each beneficiary, compared to 16 workers in 1950. Just 13 years from now in 2018, Social Security will dispense more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes. The debt will dangerously worsen every year, until the system is totally bankrupt in 2042 – a steep price indeed that must be paid by our generation in excruciatingly higher taxes or a severe cut in benefits. Pick your poison, everyone. We can avoid this disaster by heeding President Bush’s call to action and enacting a voluntary, private account option for all workers. While his predecessor was content to conveniently overlook the impending crisis, President Bush is boldly traversing this political minefield, before it is too late.
Regardless of the outcome, history will forever note that it was the Republicans who fought to modernize this broken, antiquated system; it was the Republicans who challenged the dogmas of New Deal socialism and attempted to save Social Security for America’s posterity. We must stand on the right side of history and support President Bush’s plan to protect our generation. We must close the book on the 1930s, and write the final chapter on a grand program whose time is long since past.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.