Who's Smarter When it Comes to Social Security Reform? College Grads or Holders of Grad Degrees?

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:

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  • {||

    Am I the only one who reads "Reason-Rupe" as "Reason-Rape"? (besides Mr. Smith, I mean)

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Yes. That's weird.



  • Anonotits||

    Seriously. What does RUPE stand for?

  • ||

    Non high-school and post-graduate folks agree (as do "some college")? What could that mean?

    Those who didn't complete what they or society set out to complete -- i.e., high school or college diploma -- are more likely to want to rely on welfare.

    Those who are comfortable in the peer-judged halls of academia as opposed to the competitive market -- i.e., those who have post-graduate education -- are more likely to want to rely on government.

  • Doc S.||

    "Those who are comfortable in the peer-judged halls of academia as opposed to the competitive market -- i.e., those who have post-graduate education -- are more likely to want to rely on government."

    So all people with post graduate degrees stick in academia? Weird, I always thought those MBA programs focused on a different group of clients.

    I think that overall the survey lumping the groups how it did was flawed. Lump them by specialization. I would guess that engineers with PhD's would have different opinions than people with PhD's in philosophy or art history

  • ||

    "More likely" so does not equal "all".

  • Doc S.||

    Reread how you wrote your sentence and what portion the more likely applies to.

  • ||

    I read it. I still find it clear. If the issue is the "i.e.", I used that rather than "e.g." because that constitutes the complete set of cohorts we were given that qualify for my description.

    Pull a random person out of grad school or from the ranks of MSs, PhDs, JDs, MDs, etc., and they are more likely to (a) be more comfortable with academia, (b) be more comfortable with peer-evaluation, and (c) be in the humanities or social sciences than a random person pulled from the general population. Each of those metrics yields someone more likely to trust government than the competitive market.

    The result? Someone with a post-graduate education is more likely to want to rely on government than someone pulled from the general population.

  • The Derider||

    Viewing everything through your minimalist libertarian lens is not always illuminating. This is one of those times.

  • ||

    Good one. HURR DURR!

  • The Derider||

    Thanks for your contribution to the thread.

  • ||

    I think you are just being sarcastic and aren't thankful for my contributions whatsoever.

  • The Derider||


  • The Gobbler||

    Shit Facktory?

  • LanceH||

    Seniors vote more.

  • High School Almanian||

    Seniors RULE! YAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

  • ||

    Non high-school and post-graduate folks agree (as do "some college")? What could that mean?

    That the majority of post-grads are school teachers?

  • ||

    Sorry MikeP, I hadn't read your post yet.

  • ||

    This varies by state. In some states, a Masters is required. In others, it's a Bachelors plus a certificate. I'd be very interested to see that factored in...

  • #||

    This group includes college professors and lawyers... i want to bet if you split them away from people with masters, MBAs and MDs youd end up with two different results.

  • ||

    A break-down by degree type would be more meaningful. I bet the business, accounting, and engineering types would favor keeping their money. The "Humanities" (college professors teaching nonsense) would prefer the government run their lives.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Could be. When I was in graduate school in physics, my classmates took it for granted that they'd never see a dime from Social Security.

  • Doc S.||

    I was thinking about this as i wrote my response above and I was going to lump the physical sciences with engineers. However the more I thought about it I decided to take that out because I think the physical sciences are too theoretical and not as practical in their means of thinking - not really a professional degree. Thus I think that physical science majors would on average tend to have a different opinion than engineers on average.

  • BigT||

    PhD chemists and biologists work largely in the oil, chemicals, ag and pharma industries. Hardly 'too theoretical'.

  • ||

    I would think the place to draw the line would be between people studying subjects that require math, and those that aren't.

    The former will realize that SocSec ain't agonna be there. The latter, well . . .

  • ||

    The "Humanities" (college professors teaching nonsense) would prefer the government run their lives.

    I agree with your point. However, are there really enough humanities professors throughout the country to result in anything but statistical noise? The countrywide population of public school teachers is not insignificant. It is a rare county that the single biggest employer is not the public school system.

  • Doc S.||

    shoot you beat me to it. Distracted by work cost me the prize.

  • Almanian||

    Work - see, it's THE MAN keeping you down!

    Oops - gotta get back to work!!

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The "Humanities" (college professors teaching nonsense)

    Indeed, God forbid someone would want to learn about a subject that you deem to have no use or interest in.

  • Almanian||

    Yeah, as a grad with the dreaded "liberal arts" major, I resemble that remark.

    So how the hell did I become so libertarian?! And I'm a manager! AND I SHOOT GUNS! I've messed it all up!

  • Mensan||

    So, a liberal arts degree qualifies you to manage what, a Taco Bell? Burger King, maybe?

    (I'm just busting your balls; it's not a serious insult)

  • ||

    I was a History Major / Anthropology Minor and had to suffer many fools in the process. I also had to go back for an MBA to make a decent living.

  • ||

    I believe, with some temporary exceptions, that Bachelors and a certificate is required in all states. However, the incentive to get a masters, usually part or wholly paid by the state/school district, is significant.

    I know my now ex-girlfriend, a 1st grade teacher in PG county, MD, was pushed not only by the school district, but primarily by being to move over to the right on the pay chart to get her masters. She still teaches 1st grade. She was already a good teacher before she had her masters. Now PG County just pays her more now and in retirement for doing the same job. (Though I would not want her to teach anything past 3rd grade, division mystifies her)

  • ||

    That was supposed to be @ Legate Damar|6.1.11 @ 12:25PM|#

  • Doc S.||

    You need a masters in PA. And it disgusts me that teachers in Illinois get an automatic $10,000 pay raise upon completion of a masters (any masters) even though numerous studies show there is no improvement in the students education.

    One of the teachers at a school my Girlfriend works with got her masters in leadership in a 1 year online program.
    the masters portion of my grad work took 2+ years of full time research. wtf.

  • Doc S.||

    Unfortunately the way the system is set up teachers would be stupid not to get a masters with how incredibly easy it is, so I can't blame them as much as I loathe it.

  • The Other Kevin||

    I am supporting 6 people with my paycheck. My mom and dad live by themselves in a bigger house, have 2 nicer cars, and travel to Europe once or twice a year. Yet they complain like hell when they don't get a cost of living increase in their Social Security check.

    That's what we're up against. And it's just going to get worse now that the Baby Boomers are retiring.

  • GH||

    Maybe it's not such a bad idea for the government to underestimate inflation.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    But Kevin, your parents defeated the Japanese and Nazis!

  • ||

    So let them pay for SocSec.

  • proegg antichicken||

    the Nazis?

  • ||

    And the Japanese.

  • creech||

    Maybe you'll start to get your revenge in about 25 years when half the boomers are dead? Finally, you youngsters will be able to outvote the pig in the python. Course, by then, you'll be wanting to have your kids and grandkids pay for whatever smaller but still nonsustainable entitlement program still exists.

  • ||

    Stupid to ask a compound question. Reducing the tax and letting people invest privately are two separate things, with no strong logical relationship to one another. Paired together they just mean "SS-minus." Take an already under-funded program and sap it of more funding, thus exacerbating the pre-existing problem and offsetting the benefit of the proposed reform.

    Better would be SS-plus. Keep the revenues the same (possibly by popping the cap while reducing the rate in a revenue-neutral manner), but let people invest their own money, Roth-IRA-style, on top of their SS contributions. This reform would lay the groundwork for scaling back the COLA adjustments in the future.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Doesn't matter. A government with a massive deficit will raid EVERY retirement plan no matter how it is administered. With SS, they'll means-test or find some other way of cutting back payments; with 401(k) and IRA they'll inflate and tax if not directly confiscate.

  • ||

    The problem is that people are under the illusion that the government is "wisely" saving their money on their behalf.

    They think this is like any other nanny state device where the state saves you from your own stupidity, by forcing you to save money via Social Security.

    What they don't realize, yet, is that the government has been even stupider and more short sighted with their money than they would have been.The social security "trust fund" has been spent to fund stupid jobs programs and subsidies for favored industries. Nobody has been woken up to the fact that the money isn't being saved at all. It is being spend to fund general expenditures.

  • ||

    I don't think many people are still confused about this, but they think of SS as a binding promise that the government is still obliged to fulfill. They are not ready to just cut their losses and write SS off like it's a "bad debt." And they probably shouldn't be. This government isn't actually bankrupt or anything close to it. Retrenchment on a lot of wasteful military and non-military discretionary spending, coupled with some tough but manageable entitlement reforms, would allow it to uphold the core of its SS and Medicare commitments with plenty of room to spare.

    Randian Moocher-phobes are eager to latch onto a narrative of catastrophic downfall (the fiscal equivalent of global-warming alarmism) in order to advance their own agenda, but the narrative isn't true. It's convenient, but not true. Not yet. Maybe soon, though.

  • ||

    Oh, I do think the government has every moral obligation to repay those treasury bonds. But that doesn't really put a dent in the fact that the money has not been saved. The government has been, in actuality, no wiser about saving it for your retirement than you would have been.

    And that is the gist of the entire argument for social security as a universal program, instead of as a support only for the elderly poor. The thought people have is that if they are left to their own devices, they'll be too weak and prolifigate to save their own money, so the government should force them too. And the flaw in that logic is that the government has been just as weak and prolifigate. The money isn't there. It is gone. it will have to be borrowed or raised from taxes.

  • ||


  • ||

    As for the college degree breakdown... it probably has something to do with the fact that after several years of graduate school, you start thinking about all the money that you haven't been putting into a retirement account.

  • Almanian||

    My two cents on Social Security: Like all entitlements, I'd prefer to see it eliminated be means-tested and directed only at the truly needy.

    And you can keep what I've already contributed, which is a fuck of a lot. But that's just me, Nick.

  • BigT||

    My two cents on Social Security: Like all entitlements, I'd prefer to see it ** Phased out**, after I've gotten my 40 years of forced 'contributions' back...with interest.

  • Dr. K.||

    You do realize those are directly contradictory goals, right? The idea that you're owed your money back is exactly what keeps SS politically untouchable, forever.

  • prolefeed||

    My two cents: make participation in SS entirely voluntary. Liberals and retirees can stay in (and pay much higher premiums). Everyone else can opt out, and "lose" whatever money has been confiscated from them so far for this Ponzi scheme.

    The notion that you are owed anything from the government because of their prior theft is just wrong, because you're advocating for perpetuating the theft upon some new victims.

  • GH||

    That's how it is done now. The ceiling on wages subject to FICA keeps going up.

    Notice that the limit on IRA contributions stays about the same though.

    A minor reform would be that if FICA wage limits go up x%, IRA/Roth IRA contribution limits go up x% also.

  • GH||

    Oops that was for Danny.

  • ||

    got it!

  • ||

    got it!

  • ¢||

    Middle-class folks, defined here as being in the $50,000 to $100,000 range

    For a middle, that's not very close to the middle. Americans' median income is under $30,000/year—if you throw out all the people who have no income—and the top quintile starts under $60,000/year.

    Motherfuckers be broke, yo.

  • Gibby||

    Why does no one ask why the cut-off for who will get Medicare is anyone younger than 55? I'll tell you why. If the reason came out, people would be pissed.

    I am 54-years-old. I was born in 1957. Coincidentally, 1957 was the peak of the baby boom. More people were born that year than in any other year during the entire post-WWII poulation explosion.

    So basically (and for the record I am opposed to SS) the government is saying, "The baby-boom 'peaker' and all who follow can just go fuck themselves. They'll still have to pay for the people one year older than them for the rest of their lives, but we can placate them with coupons."

    Ratfucking bastards.

  • Gibby||

    I'll have worked for 42 years when I turn 68 and will have paid in a good six figures (2025 dollars, adjusted for inflation) and all I'll get is a fucking coupon.

  • Yup||

    Who needs philosophy? We have polls!

  • ||

    Troll narrative:

    No polls: You think your position are way more popular than they are!

    Polls Showing Support for Libertarianism: Polls don't matter!

  • The Derider||

    This poll only shows support for libertarianism if you do mental gymnastics and redefine the most educated part of the population as the least.

  • ||

    No, dipshit. It's showing that educated and able to grasp simple mathematics aren't the same thing. Just like trolling a comment board with snide irrelevancies is not the same as being a worthwhile human being.

  • The Derider||

    Or, it's showing that the "simple mathematics" that you think proves the need to radically change social security doesn't prove anything.

  • prolefeed||

    The point he's making is that people who are good at math are likely to be much less in favor of SS than people who are bad at math, regardless of overall level of formal education attained.

    You may doubt that, but then you may be bad at logic. And, I'm guessing, probably no math whiz either.

  • A Serious Man||

    You needed a poll to determine that people in my age group would rather NOT have to subsidize old peoples' retirement by having our wages garnished? It's not like we have student loans, rent, food, and other things to pay for at this point in our lives.

  • ||

    I would guess no - until you survey just people with advanced degrees - then yes.

  • CE||

    You're missing the obvious cross-correlation between educational levels and political leanings. In general:

    High school dropout = democrat

    High school grad = blue collar republican

    Some college = liberal college dropout

    College grad = republican suburban type

    Post grad = lawyers, professors, doctors, etc., i.e. mostly democrats

  • prolefeed||

    Lawyers tend to be strongly Democratic. They are a huge source of campaign funding for Democratic politicians.

    Doctors tend to trend more Republican, because getting sued for malpractice when you didn't commit malpractice gives one a jaundiced view of the policies of lawyer-hugging Democratic politicians. The younger doctors trend more Democratic, but tend to switch political allegiance over time as they start listening to politicians talk about medicine.

    John Edwards was a real wake-up call to a lot of younger doctors.

    And I know a buttload of doctors, being married to one.

  • Fred||

    The sound isn't working on my computer, but I thought the video was a great scene about a beautiful woman being interrogated by a paramilitary leader in an underground prison.

    The prison set is especially well done. I could practically smell the mildew on that rotting brick wall, and the sun shining through the iron bars behind the interrogator was visual poetry.


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