What I said and thought would be the last column on Social Security must be revisited briefly. Several readers have contacted me saying they didn't understand what the long range goal is. They'd like a clearer explanation.
Quoting from a reader's letter: "I do not understand your statement that when that long range goal is reached, there would be no more Social Security taxes per se, no more tax-funded guaranteed government program, only a mandatory retirement system. Please tell me what that long range goal is and where the money to invest comes from if not taxes."
The long range goals are: 1. to wind up with no more tax per se set aside for Social Security payments. Those end when you die and heirs get nothing; and 2., the money invested until the goals are reached for your retirement will come from two sources. One is the current benefits you've earned. The other is that starting immediately workers under 40 voluntarily may divert up to 40 percent of their current Social Security tax to a fund that is managed under the Social Security umbrella but managed by an independent board, one member of which would represent Social Security.
Your Social Security number also would be used in the special account. At retirement, your benefit will based on a combination: The 60 percent still in the Social Security trust fund (which will cease when you die) plus the 40 percent you diverted and its earnings (which also will cease when you die, but the balance left in it will go to your heirs. They now get nothing).
Another benefit could be that anyone eligible could voluntarily contribute more than the mandatory amount since all would go to the survivor and heirs like any other assets anyway.
When the goal is reached, contributions from you still will be required as now. However, none of them goes into a trust fund like the current one. All contributions go into the fund managed by the independent board. The current government-paid Social Security worker payroll can be slashed significantly. The managing board will be responsible for operating expenses paid on a pro-rata basis from the new fund.
The biggest differences are taxes never again would have to be raised to fund benefits or benefits reduced to make a fund last longer. Best of all, benefits could be substantially higher than now depending upon the investment success, and all these unused retirement funds will go to heirs who now get nothing when you die.
I am appreciative of all your questions and am glad to explain in more detail. I'd love to see a bunch of concerned activists among you contact the president (who has signaled he's open to some privatization features), our members of Congress and the congressional (both house) leadership imploring them to do something, maybe like this.
The polls don't close until 7 pm, so if you haven't voted please go cast that ballot. I've read the letters opposing SPLOST. I respectfully disagree. Here's why: The systems are still paying off old bonds. Some of the SPLOST is to pay off those bonds, stopping that interest. Otherwise, property taxes might have to be raised to continue paying them off. This is NOT a new tax. You won't pay a cent more than now.
The county commission controversy has nothing to do with SPLOST. That's like comparing apples with grapefruit. Don't be pennywise and pound-foolish. When things start wearing out, the worsening accelerates. When my car starts spending too much time in the shop, I get rid of it. Why throw good money after bad?
Our schools have major maintenance problems that need fixing now. Fair Street, is so bad it must be rebuilt. Up to 30-40 percent of the receipts will be paid by shoppers from other counties. Wake up to reality, go vote, and be sure the referendum passes.
Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion editor of The Times. His column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503.