House Republicans on Friday introduced legislation that would allow workers to partially opt out of Social Security immediately, and fully opt out after 15 years.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, and several other Republicans introduced the Savings Account for Every American (SAFE) Act. Under the bill, workers would immediately have 6.2 percent of their wages sent to a "SAFE" account each year.
That would take the place of the 6.2 percent the workers now contributed to Social Security.
Another 6.2% is sent to Social Security by employers. Under the Sessions bill, employers would continue to make this matching contribution to Social Security, but after 15 years, employers could also send that amount to the employee's SAFE account.
"Seniors who have paid into Social Security through a lifetime of hard work shouldn't end up in a risky privatization scheme to gamble their retirement on Wall Street," [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve] Israel said. "The public has rejected this kind of Social Security privatization in the past and will again."
Has "the public" really rejected this? Or is it just seniors who will reject it because they are, predictably, protecting their own interests?
The recent Reason-Rupe poll found Americans under the age of 55 support lowering Social Security taxes so that they can invest that money in their own retirements. Democrats will be counting on young people to vote in big numbers in 2012. But even Obama-voting young people know Social Security probably won't be around for them: 52 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 support lowering Social Security taxes to invest in their own retirements, just 31 oppose.
Forty-five percent of voters between the ages of 30 and 44, and 47 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 54 support lowering Social Security taxes and investing in their own accounts. Unsurprisingly, opposition to the proposal spikes dramatically with the people already collecting Social Security checks and those nearing retirement.
Here's what the Reason-Rupe poll asked:
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?"
Strongly Support 25%
Somewhat Support 16%
Somewhat Oppose 13%
Strongly Oppose 32%
Don't Know 4%
Overall, the old-young divide results in 41 percent of the public supporting lower Social Security taxes and individual retirement investment, and 45 percent opposing it.
If Americans are lucky, debate over the future of Social Security may even take place as the Republican presidential primaries unfold. In an effort to differentiate himself, GOP candidate Rick Santorum is tooting his own horn and talking up Social Security reform:
"In an election year, I went out to the floor of the United States Senate with [South Carolina GOP Sen.] Jim DeMint and started arguing for reforming Social Security. Not even Paul Ryan and his budget now, in the face of trillions of dollars in deficits currently, had the temerity to step forward and say we have to do Social Security."