Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Case for the Common Good

From the National Catholic Reporter:

"Concern for the common good, a concept that seems to recede further and further each year from our political conversation, is as much in need of rescue as Social Security.

The matter of saving Social Security is invariably cast in the context of whether or not to enact tax increases. Just a few years ago, the budget surplus would have secured the fund indefinitely. The essential concern, it seems, should be not so much about new levels of taxation as about where, in this era of endless wars and a defense budget that requires more than $1 billion a day, we choose to spend what we already have."


At a time when the nation seems to want to focus on "moral values", instead of talking about homosexual cartoon characters, the idea of the "common good" should get a lot more attention.

In their opposition to Social Security Privatization, the editors write:

We have nothing against wealth. We are all engaged, no matter what the work, in some manner of pursuing wealth, even if it is only to fund the most altruistic of nonprofit ventures.

Our objection to “privatizing” Social Security has to do with what we’ll be losing besides money.

We’ll lose the agreement that we’ve maintained for the past half-century that we’re all somehow in this together.

We’ll lose faith with the understanding that all workers, poorest to richest, contribute to something in common and that everyone gets something in return.

We’ll lose the sense that despite differences in political outlook and social standing we all believe that it is good for a society to guarantee a minimum standard of economic security for its eldest citizens."


My criticism of the Social Security Privatization Plan as it has been reported in the media is that it does nothing to fix the structural deficit problem with Social Security, which can only be fixed through revenue increase or benefit reduction. My other criticism stems from what I characterize as an attempt to generate a fear and panic condition, under which citizens and possibly politicians as citizen-agents, will make rash and ill-informed decisions. If it's a good idea, people will flock to it, even you don't hold a gun to their head.

With that said, I don't oppose the idea of private accounts, but I think the government already provides a number of great options for private retirement savings. The idea of a collective public insurance fund to help people that can't benefit from the current private tools is appealing to me, exactly for the reasons described here.

My colleague will attack my use of this editorial as a disingenous and false display of some sort of religious showmanship. While I was raised Catholic in a fairly devout family, I might be a big phony today, but it doesn't change the fact that these values - we're all in it together and we all have something to contribute - are things I believe in, independent of religious affiliation or political identification.

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