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Oglesby: Texas has the right idea on retirement accounts
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The GOP presidential candidate poll rankings are changing. After Rick Perry's lead right after he jumped into the race, he's been shooting himself in the foot and given the lead back to Mitt Romney.

Herman Cain surprised all when he tied with Mitt Romney for the lead at 17 percent in one poll and only a point or two behind in a couple more. Perry is third and Newt Gingrich pulled out of his 5 percent and under ratings and vaulted into fourth place.

The big loser appears to be Michelle Bachmann, who dropped under 5 percent. Cain and Gingrich appeared the bigger winners.

All ganged up on Perry's stumbles. Cain and Gingrich put out specific ideas for specific problems. The others stuck to what they had been saying. With Chris Christie and Sarah Palin saying no, the polls indicate voters still are dissatisfied with their choices. What we now have is the 2012 GOP field..

Other candidates disputed Perry's description of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme but he is right. In 1981- 82, three Texas counties (Galveston, Matagorda and Brazoria) opted out of Social Security in favor of county retirement programs and operated their own. Results have been ultra successful. Employees must contribute the same 6.2 percent required by Social Security. The counties match it as our employers do, though Galveston's match is even higher. The counties' liability ends when they match the contributions. No unfunded liabilities exist.

The firm managing the plans pools the funds and puts them out to top-rated financial institutions for bids. It has averaged about 5 percent since its inception, some years well over 6 percent. Not all goes in plain retirement accounts. I recently wrote Social Security has a $255 death benefit. These Texas counties' death benefit pays four times the employee's salary up to $215,000. Compare that to Social Security's $255.

A worker under Social Security dying before retirement loses accrued benefits though a spouse or dependent children may get benefits. The Texans' alternate account belongs to the worker's estate. Under Social Security, a disabled worker must wait six months for disability benefits. In the Texas plan, the money is his and benefits start immediately.

Here are some calculations. A lower income worker making $26,000 a year gets monthly disability benefits of $1,007 under Social Security after 6 months but $1,826 immediately under the Texas plan. A middle income worker earning $51,200 a year would get monthly disability benefits after 6 months of $1,540 under Social Security, compared to $3,600 immediately under the Texas plan. A worker in higher income levels whose earnings subject to Social Security exceeded the maximum would get $2,500 a month from Social Security but up to $6,000 under the Texas plan.

Perry didn't conceive this plan. It started 40 years ago.

I've long advocated and outlined a private plan to replace Social Security. This is the first time I've been able to relate my plan to one actually working over a long time even more successfully.

Whoever wins from either party should take this idea and run. Entitlements are in the top taxpayer costs constantly increasing our debt, especially Social Security's race to bankruptcy.

Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion editor of The times. His column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com.. You can contact him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503.

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