Social security update

President Bush has taken special care to tell us that his social security plans will involve no new "payroll taxes" [does this mean "no new taxes"?].  Nor, supposedly, will the plan to cut the deficit be derailed.  What then will happen?  The Wall Street Journal (December 10, p.A5) writes:

While Mr. Bush has been silent, some administration officials privately acknowledge his idea is that workers who open private accounts would agree to take a smaller share of Social Security benefits.

Cryptic, yes.  Does it simply mean that putting money into a private account lowers your participation in standard old age benefits?  That, taken alone, wouldn’t ease the transition costs at all, given the pay as you go nature of the system.  Or does it mean that you pay a transfer tax on the switch to private accounts?  How much could our government raise by auctioning off the right to leave the system?  [Probably not full value, but government can reap some equity-based returns up front, without having to own the equities in the longer run.]  Of course if the transfer tax is high enough, there is not much "privatization" at all but rather we stick with the status quo.  Stay tuned…


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