My husband was listening to some presidential campaign rhetoric this weekend and after hearing an especially unsettling speech, said maybe we should put our retirement planning on hold until after the 2012 election. I don't think that's necessary, but I do think that irresponsible political blather doesn't bode well for anybody's retirement.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has emerged as the leading Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential race, said during a campaign stop at a coffee house in Iowa this weekend that Social Security "is a Ponzi scheme for these young people.
"The idea that they're working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie. ... It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can't do that to them."
In his recent book, "Fed Up!" Perry says, Social Security is "by far the best example" of a program "violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles," and as having been put in place "at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government."
If it violates the constitution, does he intend to get rid of it? And how does he propose going about it? I don't hear him offering any constructive suggestions for replacing or re-tooling.
This month, magazine publisher and multimillionaire Steve Forbes interviewed Olivia Mitchell, a professor of finance and an insurance and pension expert at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, about Social Security. Mitchell said she believes in altering the way Social Security's cost of living adjustment is calculated so the payments don't increase as quickly. She thinks that alone is enough to reign in the system enough to get it past the huge baby boomer bubble.
I doubt there are many of us who want to burden our children with a system that will bankrupt them. On the other hand, Social Security has been a godsend for at least the last two generations of retirees, reducing the level of poverty significantly. And there are millions of baby boomers counting on it for their own survival over the next 20 or 30 years. Finding a reasonable solution to this challenge makes perfect sense, but saber-rattling in service of winning votes doesn't.