Ignorant People with Positions of Power
"Positions of Power" may be a little strong, so let me explain.
My wife's clock radio tuning was bumped from the lame easy-listening radio station that used to wake her to a lame country station that now wakes her. What can I say -- she likes country music, so she's not that motivated to change it back. And am I really going to be controlling enough to change her clock radio? Besides, it gets me out of bed if for no other reason than to avoid hearing any more "hit country" than I have to. (If I had a music blog I'd explain how I don't inherently hate country music -- just most of what people are calling country music these days. But that's too far off topic for this blog...)
Anyway, we awoke this morning to the DJ talking about the recent news that United Airlines parent company, UAL Corp, was allowed to drop four pension plans. Potentially bad news for the thousands of retired UAL workers who depend on those pensions to live, but the DJ decided to go off on a completely ignorant rant explaining that's why we should have private Social Security accounts. After all, he reasoned: if we had private Social Security accounts, the money would be ours and no one could decide to take it away.
Okay, genius. Here's where you're misguided. First of all, what was taken away were pensions from a private company. This has nothing to do with Social Security. UAL is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and they are trying to trim down liabilities on their balance sheet to keep the company alive. I'm not going to comment on whether their decision is wise. It certainly seems like a horrible thing to do -- back out of commitments you made to people whose hard work built you -- but hey, the current employees will certainly be better off having a job to go to tomorrow. Anyway, these were pension accounts, not Social Security. And guess what? The accounts are being transferred to a government body, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, where they will be paid (albeit at probably a lower level).
So, no one has lost their Social Security by this action. And, if every one of these employees had private Social Security accounts, THIS STILL WOULD HAVE HAPPENED! How can you go on a Rush Limbaugh-ish rant about how important private accounts are when the case you're using as an example isn't even related to Social Security? That's not an apples to apples comparison. In fact, it's not even an apples to oranges comparison. It's more like an apples to monkeys comparison.
When I have more time I may add an entry to this blog explaining why I do indeed think that private Social Security accounts aren't needed at this time. (Short answer: they do absolutely nothing to help the financial solvency of the Social Security program, and they introduce unnecessary risk into a program that's supposed to be a safety net, not a retirement program.) But that's not my beef with this DJ. My beef is that he used his position (at the controls of a radio station) to spread his beliefs -- when they were misguided and irrelevant to the topic he started out discussing.
So there. I feel a little better now. But I do feel more explanation of my beliefs about Social Security will be warranted in the near future.