One of the sticky wickets Rick Perry walked into was the sacrosanct Social Security program. For decades this particular program has been a quicksand for politicians. Try to walk into it and make course corrections and you will assuredly sink. It’s also been described as the “Third Rail” of American politics—touch it and you die.
Perry had the audacity to refer to it as unconstitutional. He also gave it another label that caused outrage:
On both counts, though, he is correct. There is absolutely no constitutional authority for the federal government to have set up this program in the first place, and false premises abound: there is no trust fund being set aside for you; all the money that comes into it goes out again immediately to pay benefits to those receiving their Social Security checks. When there was some extra going in, it was siphoned off to pay some of the interest on the national debt.
So what really remains in this misnamed trust fund? Figuratively, just a big IOU. And one of the proposals for trying to save this system is to eliminate from its rolls people who don’t really need it. Yet didn’t they pay into it their whole lives?
Even though I believe Social Security never should have been enacted, on both constitutional and pragmatic grounds [it was doomed to fail], promises have been made. The government needs to keep its promises. We must keep faith with those on the receiving end. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t move forward with plans to change course, especially for the younger generations. They should be allowed to switch to a private plan if they so choose. If we continue to avoid taking this problem seriously, we will be in for a rude awakening:
Governor Perry was correct in his diagnosis of the problem. Now, will he step up and propose a plan to deal with it? We watch and wait.