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Published:April 16th, 2006 14:48 EST
Cinderella and Social Security

Cinderella and Social Security

By Bruce H.G. Calder

 

Once upon a time, there was a poor girl named Cinderella who, through a series of tragic, yet predictable, events, worked long hours at barely more than minimum wage for Stepmother & Associatestm. Her ex-boyfriend, the bum formerly known as Prince, had left her several years before with their two small children and every day before the sun, Cinderella was already dropping them off at daycare. During her lunch hour, Cinderella would chat with her co-workers, most of whom had it about as tough as she. And when Cinderella wondered aloud if this was all life had in store, they would reply "This is the way it has always been, and this is the way it will always be."

Every two weeks, Cinderella would receive an envelope that included her paycheck as well as an itemized list of government deductions... 6.2% of which went to something called Social Security. What a wonderful thing that must be, she thought. All Cinderella ever wanted was to be secure, and she was always very social. Social Security, decreed long ago by King Roosevelt, was to help provide for the people when they were too old to work. Cinderella`s mother received Social Security, as well as Cinderella`s ancestors going back many generations. This is the way it has always been, and as far as Cinderella knew, this is the way it would always be.

Cinderella heard that an equal amount of her employer`s money also went to Social Security, and when she was no longer able to work, Social Security would give her money every month for as long as she lived.  Cinderella saw that her mother wasn`t starving, but she continued to live a life of struggle. Cinderella did not like to think about it, because an old age in poverty and struggle after a lifetime of poverty and struggle was way too depressing. But what choice did she have? This is the way it has always been, and this is the way it will always be.

King George, who now ruled the land, realized that Social Security was soon going to be in trouble. The people were aging faster than ever and soon enough taxes would have to be raised, or the money given to the aged would have to be reduced; two things the King was not prepared to do. He told his people that a lifetime of hardship should not be rewarded solely with continued hardship in one`s golden years in the form of an annual stipend of $16,000. Or maybe not even $16,000. For, you see, any future King would be able to reduce this amount, and most probably would as more people received Social Security and fewer people continued to contribute, as was predicted by the royal actuarial analysts.

King George proposed that for the first time, working people should be able to actually own the money they give to Social Security, which would return to them many fold when they were no longer able to work. And this money could be passed on to their children, so that maybe their families will have a better opportunity to escape from the evil "Vicious Cycle Of Poverty" that held too many in its grip. Even if this is the way it had always been, King George was determined that this is not the way it would always be.

The King`s enemies, who believed only they could protect the people, attacked, saying, Social Security is wonderful! It may need a few adjustments, but there is no need to change it much at all. "This is the way it has always been, and this is the way it should always be!"

Cinderella had never considered King George to be the sharpest sword in the armory. His fighting of wars for freedom in faraway lands didn`t seem to be going all that well, and the fact that everybody she knew didn`t really like him very much caused her to distrust his plans for Social Security.

One day, Cinderella encountered the King and asked him why Social Security needed to be changed. King George explained that without change, Cinderella would receive only a small monthly check that would only help her meet her basic living expenses. With his new program, Cinderella could become part of the "ownership society." Her hard work could grow over the years to provide her with more money than she had ever dreamed. And when she was gone, any money left over could be passed on to her children to help them.

"But how will this money grow?", asked Cinderella of the King. The King explained in detail how Cinderella would be able to choose from a number of investment funds that would be able to accommodate both her expectations of growth and her particular tolerance of risk. Cinderella`s eyes glazed over as she looked at the King and said, "I think I`d rather just get the check." And the King cried.