US Social Security – Is President Bush A Robin Hood After All?

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development issued a report Monday that pointed out that even though the US proposals will yield a system that reaches the poor in a more redistributive way than many other countries, the average pay outs of the government pensions are rather low at around 51% of a retiree’s previously earned salary as compared to over 70% in other OECD countries.

Only New Zealand and Ireland outperform the US in reaching its poorest nationals because they have simple flat-rate state pensions. The rather low proposed US pensions payouts will safeguard the wider economy from serious risks that economists have warned of for ages, yet it also shows just how serious the issue of funding pensions has become.

Some people are not quite convinced that all has been done to avert a disaster. IF nothing would be done, the system would prove insolvent by estimated dates between 2018 and 2040, and this would pose considerable dangers for the wider economy. “I believe that 2018 is in fact the time when the difficulties will begin [if nothing is done]. The reason is that the government securities held by the Social Security system are not any kind of actual asset”, says George Reisman, an economist professor who issued an article on the subject for the Mises Institute, which subscribes to the Austrian Theory of Economics (www.mises.org)

He adds that government securities as such are not the only investments held by the country’s institutional investor base, but pretty much a claim against the US Government to pay money that it does not possess. At a time that a negative gap comes into being, the US government will simply have to raise taxes taxes, borrow more from the public, or inflate the money supply to make ends meet.

“Probably, just as has been the case many times since the system was established seventy years ago, social security payroll taxes will be increased one or more times again between now and 2018, and that will provide the funds”, says Reisman.

Yet President Bush opted for as few tax increases as possible. In what is described as a rather Democrat-style move, the US leader has chosen to recast the 70-year-old retirement program under a ‘progressive indexation’ design. This means that the lowest income earners are not becoming any worse off but that the people with middle and high incomes will suffer a severe setback in income soon after they retire. Talk of the system becoming an ’empty shell’ for the better off is resultantly fashionable.

The plans make US Social Security is one of the least generous public pension systems in advanced countries, providing an employee on average earnings a pension after tax of 51 per cent of pre-retirement income, according to a comparative study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development issued this Monday.

The average employee in an advanced country can expect a government pension of 70 per cent of his or her after-tax earnings at retirement compared with 39 per cent for an equivalent US citizen.

The sustainability of pension systems is a large issue worldwide and countries around the globe are generally drawing up rather similar systems to cope putting the burden with the private sector and with the workers themselves. The OECD says there is more variety in the pay outs and distributions of the systems per country, with improving fiscal sustainability overshadowing the attention they devote to pension adequacy.

Angelique van Engelen is an international writer, specialing in content creation. If you are interested in tailor made articles, content, brochures, features or news, contact her via angeliqueve@contentclix.com

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