Social Security Divides the Nation

By: Whitney Holmes
By: Whitney Holmes

"We must pass reforms that solve the problem of social security once and for all," proclaimed President Bush in his State of the Union address.

In his address, President Bush outlined a Social Security reform that would allow those under 55 to take a chunk out of the social security amount already extracted from their paycheck and put it into a private account.

The account is similar to an IRA, but it has one stark difference said Peter Jackson for UVA's Center for Politics.

"In a way it's not like an IRA because in the end when you go to withdraw your benefits, you don't get actually get the entire amount of money that you put into the system," said Jackson.

The money that you do put into the system comes out of the pool that funds existing retirees social security, putting the government in the red.

"One and a half to two trillion dollars is the shortfall that the social security would experience if the privatization plan is enacted. Now where would this money come from? Raising taxes, cutting benefits, or perhaps even moving money around from other programs," predicted Jackson.

This initial debt is what has AARP worried about its members. "The proposal for private accounts would weaken social security by taking money out of the current system and creating a huge debt. It is not the way to go," said AARP representative Tony Hylton.

However, others don't see this as a permanent problem. "I think it will work out eventually and I don't think younger people should settle for all that debt when they retire," said Charlottesville resident Cynthia Collier.

And others think the situation isn't as dire as Bush made it seem.

"The distortion is that there is a crisis and that was a distortion shared by other presidents, even Clinton," said local resident and professional economist Henry Peskin. "But the lie is that in fact that the system will be totally broke by 2040, 2042."

"The president is suggesting that there's not enough money for the babyboomers so that's why we need to do something about this now and the Democrats disagree. And then there are people in the middle who think that the president is being too pessimistic and the Democrats are being too optimistic and they are somewhere in between," summed up Jackson.

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