Patch Test


A story in today's New York Times correctly notes that Social Security can be "fixed" without private investment accounts: by raising payroll taxes, cutting benefits, raising the retirement age, or some combination of those. To counter this argument, advocates of privatization will have to do a better job of explaining its unique advantages. The Times gives short shrift to one of them, saying "letting people invest some of their payroll taxes in private accounts…would do nothing in itself to eliminate the long-term gap." This is literally true, but has anyone proposed a privatization plan that does not include cuts in guaranteed benefits for those who choose to put their tax money in private accounts? Moving toward a system in which benefits are financed out of private investments instead of transfers from current workers would make it possible to cut government payments even while increasing returns. That's a long-term financial advantage that you can't get simply by patching the existing system.