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Providing for the vulnerable

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, March 14, 2005

I was dismayed to read about President George W. Bush’s speech to the Notre Dame community about his efforts to undermine Social Security, more properly known as Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (you may have seen OASDI deduction on a pay stub).He is turning the focus away from our social compact for the protection of the elderly, orphans and the disabled by encouraging everyone to ask, “what’s in it for me?” Insurance plans are judged not on individual outcomes but instead on the greater good they provide.In my case, 37 years old and unmarried, if I die tomorrow, I will “lose” the tens of thousands I have paid into OASDI. However, my 25-year-old brother-in-law has only paid in a small amount. My sister and little niece and nephew would “win” economic security far greater than his contributions if he were to die soon. My 89-year-old grandmother has already “won” much more than her contributions by far outliving her life expectancy. There will always be winners and losers in an insurance plan and no one can know in advance to which group they will belong. According to Bush, your parents should go to their insurance agent and demand back their premiums since they have had no claims in 20 years; after all, it was “their” money. Everyone must pay OASDI premiums to fund benefits for the elderly, orphans and the disabled. Siphoning contributions off for personal retirement accounts will undermine the system, just as your parents seeking return of their premiums would bankrupt their insurance company.But in a broader sense, Bush is trying to kill Social Security by trying to shift the focus to individuals and appealing to individual selfishness, “what’s in it for me?”Social Security is exactly that, a social program to ensure some degree of economic security for the most vulnerable among us. It is one of the strongest embodiments of Christian values in our government, everyone working together to help keep our most vulnerable out of poverty. Social Security may have problems with premiums or benefits and those should be addressed, but we should not lose our focus on the safety net it provides for our most vulnerable. Say no to President Bush’s plan.

Jim Schilderalumnus Class of 1990Mar.ch 8