Thank you to everyone for your support of S4 over the years. Since our founding in 2005, we made substantial progress on the issue of Social Security reform. What started as a project of two impassioned college students -- our founders, Jonathan Swanson and Patrick Wetherille -- quickly grew into a grassroots movement that swept across the country. By 2009, we had over 11,000 members.
It would be impossible to list all of S4's successes since 2005, but we are grateful for all of the recognition and support that we received. Perhaps most important, S4 proved the conventional wisdom wrong. Young people do care about the future of this country, and by banding together, we can make a difference. And when all else fails, it helps to have an ostrich costume or two.
Here is a quick update of what S4 leaders are doing today:
Conveniently, part of the answer came just one week later in the June 8 edition of Newsweek. I can't find the graphic online, but if you'll turn to page 6 of the magazine, you can see that 57% of all letters to the editor received in the week prior to publication were regarding Samuelson's article. An article about Iran generated the second-highest number of letters, at 19%.
Of the seven letters that Newsweek printed, how many of them were about Samuelson's article? Four of the seven, which equates almost exactly to 57%? Three of the seven, which would underrepresent the Samuelson letters by almost 15%? Two of the seven letters? One?
The answer: zero. That's right, not a single reader response to the Samuelson article appears in the Newsweek dated June 8.
Not only does this shed some light on the stumbling blocks to a serious conversation about reform, but it may also provide a clue as to why publications such as Newsweek are having trouble connecting with their readers.
In case you missed it, the trustees of Medicare and Social Security released their annual report yesterday. The news was not good:
Social Security and Medicare are fading even faster under the weight of the recession, heading for insolvency years sooner than previously expected, the government warned Tuesday.
Medicare already is paying out more money than it receives, something that happened for the first time last year. And Social Security will be by 2016, a year sooner than had been projected, the trustees' annual report said.
Obama has said that he will oppose benefit cuts and personal accounts in Social Security, which leads one to assume that young workers will soon be asked to pay even more money into the system. But why should we agree to higher taxes, especially when Congress will continue to waste the Social Security surplus on pork projects totally unrelated to retirement?
For many older baby boomers who once felt comfortable but have seen their 401(k)s and other accounts eviscerated the past two years, the magic words are no longer "stock market" -- they're "Social Security." That program, which is going to need to cut growth in benefits or get a huge bailout in a few years, is assuming a more important role in retirement planning than it has in decades.
The only problem with arguing that Social Security is becoming more important? It's not true. Yesterday, U.S. News & World Report highlighted this finding from a recent Gallup poll:
Given the decline in other investments, you might expect Americans to say they will increasingly rely on Social Security to finance retirement. But that didn’t happen. About 30 percent of Americans expect Social Security to be a major source of retirement income. This is roughly the same as last year and has remained fairly steady throughout the past decade.
It's okay to disagree with personal accounts, but let's have a fair fight. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."
From the article "Social Security: young voters worry about toll of taxes":
At a recent panel discussion on entitlement reform at the Heritage Foundation, Ryan Lynch, national director of Students for Saving Social Security, pointed out that young Americans will only receive 75 percent of the retirement benefits that they are promised. Young Americans are putting money into a system that they may never benefit from.
“One out of every eight dollars that we make is going into Social Security,” Lynch said. “This is money that we could be saving.”
Thus Lynch and Students for Saving Social Security advocate for personal retirement accounts.
The S4 Web site explains that with PRAs, young Americans could set aside a portion of their Social Security taxes, investing them in stocks, bonds and equities throughout their working life. By doing this they would gradually grow funds to prepare for a comfortable living once they leave the workforce.
S4 has 324 chapters in schools across the United States. Jo Jensen, executive director of S4, explained that college students are supporting the cause of S4 by writing letters and talking to their representatives in Congress. This, she said, affects the way legislators think about the issue. It also affects the young people involved in the process.
“Social Security is a stepping stone to other political issues for young voters,” she said. “Our first goal is to talk about the issue.”
"To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the
growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health
care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come.
And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social
Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all
President Obama has pledged to cut the deficit and has recognized that he cannot do that without addressing Medicare and Social Security.