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Monday, July 28, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 3/15/2005

If privatizing, why stop at Social Security?

A lot of us senior citizens are eager to see whether privatized Social Security accounts will get off the ground and whether they will work if they do.

One big question some of us are asking: Why didn't they come up with this bright idea in 1982, when the Dow Jones industrial average was languishing? The Dow bottomed out at 776.92 in August, 1982, and then took off, topping out in early 2000 at 11,722.98, for a gain of 1,400 percent during the greatest bull market of all time.

Now, our kids will likely be stuck with a stock market that's going to be less than exciting for some time. Yes, for sure, stocks are still a better bet than stashing your money in a tin can in the backyard, but "privatized" accounts missed out on the best of times.

But, while we're at it, why stop at just privatizing Social Security? Why not privatize government spending? Why not give each taxpayer a checklist and let him or her choose the spending priorities?

Let's see, now. Look at President Bush's proposed $2.6 trillion budget for fiscal 2006. Get out the calculator and figure the average taxpayer's fair share of the $419 billion defense budget (plus, of course, the cost of the Iraq war). OK, maybe that's fair (or, depending on your priorities, maybe it isn't).

Some taxpayers would say we need to take better care of some of our aging and needy veterans. Others would like to see more federal dollars spent on improving the environment, boosting education, and improving the quality of life for poor kids and working families.

Maybe those folks would take a harder look at pork-barrel highway and public-building projects than our elected Congress does. And many millions of Americans were thrilled by budget surpluses in the late 1990s. What a novel idea: living within your means. Many today would trade some federal expenses for the opportunity to once again pay down on the burgeoning public debt.

OK, now, the checklist for Ohio's $51 billion budget. Many taxpayers would want to put some of their checkmarks next to the boxes for education, health care for the poorest of our residents, and preservation of our precious parklands. But allocating scarce dollars makes for hard choices.

Now to Toledo's $460 million budget. Lemme see here. Out of the total population of 315,000, only about 190,000 of us are between 18 and 65. Mayor Jack Ford's salary is $136,000 a year, or about 70 cents for each of us.

Hey, that's not bad. But maybe some city residents would rather spend an extra 70 cents a year on pothole repairs.

Of course, some naysayers would contend that giving taxpayers individual, "privatized" checklists of expenditures would create a cumbersome system that would potentially divert money from the Treasury that's needed for the greater public good. They also might argue that such a privatized spending system would not be in the best interests of the nation as a whole.

And, of course, many taxpayers who oppose President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security accounts use exactly those same arguments.



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