The End of Social Security

If you were born within the last forty years, chances are good that you share a healthy skepticism when it comes to claims by our government that the Social Security system can be repaired. We’ve been hearing the gloom-and-doom predictions for at least the last ten years that when the Baby Boomers begin to retire, the demand will far exceed the supply and the Social Security trust fund will become insolvent.

We always hear Social Security called the “third rail” of politics — meaning that anyone who dare touch it can count their political career as good as dead. While this may be true, just sitting around waiting for the calamitous end isn’t doing anyone any good, either. Especially when you read stories like this. The Fountain of Youth has been a quest for mankind for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, if humans could both live forever and fly, there would be little reason to get out of bed each morning.

But when you are a politician, learning that scientists have made breakthroughs in slowing (or stopping) the aging process is not welcome news. It means one of two things: you are either much closer to the end of your political career than you had hoped, or you are much closer to having to admit what an unsustainable Ponzi scheme Social Security really is. The band-aid fixes that have been proposed in recent decades would do little to stem the tide, when you are suddenly talking about a population that may live well into their 120s. When 60 becomes middle age, there is little you can do to fix such a system.

So even if no politician ever musters the courage to dismantle Social Security, requiring Americans to take full responsibility for their own retirement planning, the relentless march of technology is likely to force the issue anyway. I predict this will happen within a generation. Better open up another IRA.

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