One argument for Social Security reform that's always annoyed me a bit is the (rather dubious) claim that it'll create more Republicans by encouraging a more widespread "investor class" mindset. Even if, as seems possible, the program in its current form tends to cultivate the opposite mindset, advocating a public policy because you want to induce people to vote the way you prefer is a gross act of bad faith. But as Will Wilkinson notes, and if I can channel my colleague Cathy Young for a moment, the privatizers don't have a monopoly on this particular brand of bad faith.
Whatever one thinks of the merits of privatization, the current structure of Social Security makes no sense whatever—from a policy perspective, anyway. If the point is not to have elderly people living in poverty, then we can have a means tested welfare program for the elderly financed out of general revenue and be done with it. There's no earthly reason to be cutting checks to middle class and wealthy people who already have savings of their own (and would doubtless have more if they hadn't had to pay in 12 percent of their salaries for several decades).
Corner them over a drink and Social Security boosters will readily concede as much. The problem is this: The useless "universal coverage" aspect of Social Security conceals the program's redistributive aspect. If you ditched the useless part and just kept the welfare aspect that its defenders care about, it would soon become politically unpopular and mean Republicans would get rid of it or at least scale it back radically. But this seems at least as offensive as the other sort of argument: The premise is, in effect, you need to scam people into supporting your favored program at the level you're happy with by burying it in a much bigger and more ungainly program that its own supporters will grant (in private) is rationally indefensible except as a cover for the welfare aspect. And, obviously, it's a strategy that explicitly depends on the general public not understanding what's going on. That scarcely makes it unique in politics, of course, but it's sort of perversely amusing to contemplate that Social Security may ultimately be a massive Rube Goldberg device designed for the sole purpose of building a much smaller welfare machine hidden in its bowels.