Social Security is a lousy retirement plan for those of us under 55 or so, promising long-term negative returns on 12.4 percent of our work compensation.
The Reason-Rupe Poll reports interesting and ambivalent feelings about Social Secuirty among various sub-groups. The poll was administed earlier this spring to 1,200 adults nationwide. One of the questions asked:
"For the following proposal, please tell me whether you would strongly support, somewhat support, neither support nor oppose, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal: “Reducing Social Security taxes and allowing individuals to invest in their own retirement instead?”
The overall response was 45 percent opposing such a program, 41 percent supporting it, and the rest having no opinion. Reason's polling director has broken down respondents along many lines (age, gender, political affiliation, you name it). Here's the breakdown for level of education:
Strange and wonderful findings, ain't they? Non high-school and post-graduate folks agree (as do "some college")? What could that mean?
Here's a chart I find easier to understand. This cuts the data via income level:
Middle-class folks, defined here as being in the $50,000 to $100,000 range, doubtless feel they're getting the worst of the deal. Unlike wealthier earners, they probably don't have much excess income to invest in retirement. And unlike lower earners, they probably figure they're not going to reap the redistributive elements of the program.
My two cents on Social Security: Like all entitlements, I'd prefer to see it be means-tested and directed only at the truly needy. By focusing on that relatively small portion of the elderly, the government would be able to cut payroll taxes for all (thus freeing up more income for all of us at every income level) while being more responsive to people who actually need help. I realize that such a shift entails a lot of technical issues but the idea that the government should operate an inefficient redistributive program that basically takes from relatively poor and young people to give to relatively wealthy seniors strikes me as plain awful.
I interviewed poll director Emily Ekins about the Reason-Rupe Poll, which will be conducted on a quarterly basis and is designed to explore attitudes about government. Take a look: