Green Room

A Simple Proposal

posted at 11:56 am on August 10, 2011 by

Four days have passed since the S & P downgrade.  No serious conversation over how to deal with our structural (or short-term) debt has taken place since then (except for one glaring exception), despite the fact that this was the main reason cited by S & P for issuing the downgrade…that, and Washington’s sclerosis in dealing with this existential matter.

What separates the United States from the rest of the world, and what affirms this Republic in its role as what President Reagan deemed “the greatest experiment in Man’s relation to Man” was (and still is) our ability to face an uncertain future with a great sense of optimism and individual responsibility, with a unique creativity born of the liberties endowed to us by our Creator, which we have enjoyed for generations. 

Out of this love of our fundamental freedoms, as well as the desire to preserve these freedoms for future generations, is born a desire to submit a simple proposal.

I propose that Congress pass, and the President sign, legislation which would allow all Americans to choose whether to delay (or opt out of) their eligibility to receive transfer payments from such entitlement programs as Social Security and Medicare.  Furthermore, I submit that individual citizens be allowed to voluntarily accept changes in their Medicare coverage as set forth in the Ryan plan.

We are fully capable of deciding, on our own, whether to delay individual entitlement eligibility to the age of 73, 78, or even 83.  We are also capable of deciding whether to voluntarily submit to means testing, or to opt out of eligibility altogether.  With the click of a mouse, we can bypass our dysfunctional Congress, and make individual contributions towards the elimination of our deep structural debt. 

If enacted, such an initiative would allow these agencies to price these voluntary reductions and opt-outs into their forecasts, and could well wipe trillions from our structural balance sheets at a pace and scope far greater than Congress could ever achieve on its own.Furthermore, we could further the process of restoring the proper relationship between our government and its citizens, back to the balance intended by our Founders (as a matter of fact, it is clear that the dysfunction of this relationship is at the core of our debt and deficit woes).

There are those will pretend to see no daylight between this proposal, and progressive millionaires and billionaires’ repeated bleating in favor of tax increases.  The main distinction is that those phonies can cut a check at any time, whereas the proposals outlined here require Congressional action.

Clearly, the time has come to make serious decisions regarding the future of entitlement spending.  It is also clear that there is a fundamental lack of political will to make these tough decisions and execute the required changes.  Very well, then.  All I ask is that Congress and our bureaucracy get out of the way, and allow this dillema to be resolved by those best equipped to handle their own affairs:  We, The People.


 A Spanish-language version of this post is available at El Tercer Riel (The Third Rail).

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How many people do you think would opt out? I doubt any would. Pay all the taxes (insurance premiums) and get none of the benefits? Everyone opting out is just guaranteeing more of the same for eternity, letting the dysfunction continue.

Pretty sloppy work.

astonerii on August 10, 2011 at 12:16 PM

“Optimism” doesn’t pay the bills, Jorge. We’ll be smiling as we watch our republic flushed down the toilet of debt into the sewer of historical tyrannies.

gryphon202 on August 10, 2011 at 12:17 PM

I share some skepticism of whether this proposal would ever pass and be signed into law, and if it did, would it have enough of an impact to really make a big difference.

Still, this shows that your mind and heart are in the right place, and you recognize there is more to this problem than just big scary numbers.

A noble effort.

I salute you.

Brian1972 on August 10, 2011 at 2:13 PM

“Opt-out” assumes that one doesn’t have to pay into, or? If so, I’m all for it. Then those that are banking on “cashing” in on the SS will have to reassess their retirement strategy when they realize 1/2 the people have opted out.

astonerii on August 10, 2011 at 12:16 PM

In a sense, what difference does it make if the ponzi totally crashes 75 years from now or 20 years. It’s going to happen no matter what. At least this way, our kids and grandkids will be free of this millstone. The ones to be caught by it will be from the in between band.

Maybe, instead of Ryan’s 55 year old cut-off, make it 50 years, but add in the opt-out. We the people will guarantee those now 50 or older with SS payments, however, they will have to go to 70 to retire, while those 60 and older retire at 67.

As for all the rest, you will have to figure out your strategy, either opt-in and hope there’s enough willing to support you or opt out and swing it on your own. Hand in hand with that, there has to be some provision regarding taxation of the elderly, i.e. locked in lowered property taxes for life starting at retirement etc. More than others, the retired have been taxed enough thru-out their working lives.

In any case, it needs to be comprehensive to include adjusting for other issues that eat into a retiree’s financial planning for the golden years. But it seems to me Jorge’s proposal is a good starting point.

AH_C on August 10, 2011 at 3:34 PM

I like the basic “opt out” idea, and urge others to give it serious consideration rather than dismissing it out of hand.

It’s not that different from the concept that was being bruited in the 2005 timeframe, by which people could choose to invest part of what they were already contributing to Social Security every month, instead of having the whole amount go into the SSA fund (which it technically does, even though every cent is promptly used to back current-day borrowing).

Of course it’s a hard sell politically — or at least it has been. People are seeing things differently these days, though. It isn’t 2005, or 1985, or 1965 any more. People can see “the end” if we don’t change course.

The political “rules” we’ve been living by for decades are collapsing of their unrealistic absurdity. The mantra that “Social Security is untouchable/everyone is too stupid to think intelligently about it” is increasingly being seen as the death sentence it is for liberty and honest self-government. More and more people are willing to consider reform plans, just as if they were thinking human beings, rather than shrieking in horror and shutting down in a puff of smoke.

People are waking up to the fact that we can’t afford those unrealistic, self-imposed political “rules” any more. But that only gets us part of the way back to sanity. The other essential element is an alternative to navigate by: some principles for action, a basic plan. “OMG, we’re all going over the cliff!” isn’t a political platform. I say we don’t shut anyone down, but listen to all sensible ideas.

J.E. Dyer on August 10, 2011 at 3:56 PM

I say it should just be ended cold turkey. I am so sick and tired of the, but they have paid in, but they have planned, but they, but they, but they. In the end it is unconstitutional, regardless of the supreme court decisions, and it is high time we stop the charades with the constitution.

astonerii on August 10, 2011 at 11:08 PM

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