I was excited when I saw that Professor Martin Feldstein of Harvard University had a column in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal entitled, “Private Accounts Can Save Social Security.” This is great, I thought, another person advocating the kind of pro-growth, pro-freedom reform which has taken hold in about 30 nations all over the world.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when I read the column and discovered that Feldstein had unfurled the white flag. Instead of genuine reform, which would allow workers to shift their payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts, he wants everyone to remain trapped in the current system and then require individuals to pay extra into some sort of retirement account.
Social Security taxes are not to be invested in the stock market… Here’s how such a system might work. Each individual would designate a broad-based mutual fund from a large list of funds approved by the government. The designation could be done on the individual’s annual tax return and could be changed once a year. Employers and the self-employed would send an additional few percent of wages to the Social Security Administration each month in addition to the current payroll tax. The Social Security Administration would then forward those dollars to the mutual fund chosen by the individual. …The automatic extra payroll deduction could start with a less disruptive 1% or 2% and grow as high as 5%. Since every individual would have the option of requesting a refund of that payroll deduction on the following year’s income-tax form, the extra saving is strictly voluntary.
The only good news is that Feldstein would allow workers to recapture the money they are forced to put in these new accounts, so technically this is not an Obamacare-style mandate. Or, perhaps the right description is that it is a mandate, but with an escape hatch.
The right approach is to let workers shift their payroll taxes into a personal account. This video describes why this type of reform is the right approach.