Seattle Times syndicated columnist William Raspberry likens Republicans' attempt to use private accounts to solve the impending Social Security problems to a math student who started with the answer, and is changing the numbers in the question so that the answer is right.
But what would he make of the kid who starts with the answer and keeps changing the numbers to make that preordained answer "right"?
What, in other words, would our math teacher make of the four Republican congressmen who are attempting to fix Social Security by transforming the assets of the Social Security Trust Fund into personal IOUs for the 110 million Americans who pay into the system?
The reference was to the more or less mythical nature of the trust fund that is supposed to hold the difference between what is collected in Social Security taxes and what is paid out to retirees.
The government would still spend the money for general purposes, but the IOUs would be assigned to individual accounts and invested in Treasury bonds.
"It's a gimmick, a vehicle to keep alive a plan that has fallen flat with the American public," Brad Woodhouse, of Americans United to Protect Social Security, told Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service.
"They are searching for any vehicle, any bill, anything that can keep their hopes to privatize Social Security alive."
The earnings could extend the viability of the system.
And if the administration is right, permitting the surplus to be invested in the stock market would make the system even more secure.
If the president really does believe that the market is safer than the government, let him accept the suggestion of last week's proposal and allow a carefully chosen panel of overseers to invest a portion of the Social Security surplus as a pooled investment fund.
The problem is that such an arrangement --- even assuming the near-term difficulties could be resolved --- would not logically lead to private Social Security
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