The Social Security Inversion

Everyone seems to agree that in reforming social security we should not cut benefits to the already or soon-to-be retired.  The political reasons for this are obvious but economically and morally the idea is as bankrupt as the program itself.  It’s the current (and past) retirees who have gotten the best deal from social security – many of them did better than they could have done in any other investment.

Ida May Fuller was the first social security recipient.  She paid in a total of $24.75, retired in 1939, lived to be 100 years old in 1975, and in the process collected $22,888.92 in benefits.  Ida May is an extreme example but it is true that for current and past retirees benefit increases, a growing economy and longer life expectancy made social security a real deal.  It’s today’s workers and children for whom social security is a raw deal.  Even if the system does not go bankrupt, current workers will receive a very poor return on their "investment."

In refusing to cut benefits to current and soon-to-be retirees the costs of any reform are forced onto those people for whom the system is already a poor return.  It would be fairer to spread the costs to all recipients especially to those who have benefited from social security the most. 


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