People are finally recognizing that the Social Security is a pyramid scheme, in which those who entered the system early are paid out of the contributions of those who entered later. The system can only work if the number of people in the system continually increases.
The problem is that the birth rate is falling and the life expectancy increasing. Therefore, the number of workers per retiree is dropping precipitously. Soon two workers will be expected to support one retiree. If things continue on the present course, the money is simply not going to be there. We need to plan ahead. I offer the following simple suggestions for solving this problem.
1. Have more babies. If the problem is too few people paying in, one solution is to increase the number of people. Since it takes 25 years or so for a baby to become a reliable taxpayer, we need to start immediately. A couple with two children is only replacing themselves. We need more large families. Families who supply these additional children are supplying future taxpayers and they should be compensated accordingly. We can encourage those who want more children by increasing tax deductions and other benefits to parents with large families. For example, we could double the tax deduction for the third child, triple for the fourth, and so on.
2. Encourage immigration of productive workers age 21 to 30. They will pay into the system for years and new immigrants tend to have larger families. We should discourage immigration of older persons, who will expect benefits without paying into the system.
3. Continue to increase the age at which full benefits are received.
4. Dramatically decrease the cost of education — we can't sustain a bloated educational system and an exploding elderly population. High educational costs, particularly the cost of higher education and the increasing demand for post graduate degrees, affect the birth rate. Potential parents saddled with loans they took out to pay for college and graduate school delay having children. Parents who would otherwise have an additional child look into the future and say to themselves, “Given the current cost of a college education how can we afford to have another child.” Parents concerned with providing a quality education in a safe environment buy houses in communities with a school system with excellent reputation — houses whose prices are inflated because of their location. Saddled with high mortgages and high property taxes, the mother goes to work, instead of having an additional child.
Individual decisions prudent as they may be for the family have a cumulative effect on society; fewer babies mean the fewer future tax payers.
It is time to rethink the educational system. The best place to start is by challenging the idea that to succeed in life a person must attend a residential four-year college with all the amenities. The cost of higher education has outpaced inflation. Residential colleges are a very poor investment. Middle class parents are paying for things their children don't really need, like massive sports programs, fancy facilities, food and custodial services, and scholarship programs for other students.
The students already have homes, complete with kitchen and laundry facilities. While they may want to be out from under parental supervision, there is substantial evidence that many use their freedom imprudently. Most students are within driving distance of institutions that could provide an adequate education.
In fact, there is no compelling reason why we need to gather large numbers of students together in lecture halls to be collectively bored by second rate teachers when the very best professors are available on audio or video tape. The Internet makes the information once available only in a first rate library literally a click away.
Small discussion groups could be organized near where the students live. Papers could be submitted over the internet. Twice a semester students could be assembled in central locations for monitored exams.
Yes, this would change everything. Once parents understood that a first rate education was available for a fraction of the cost many would take advantage of this option. The whole university system would be transformed.
All that is necessary to make this radical change is for employers to recognize that it is in their best interest to hire people who come out of such a system.
When parents started home schooling, everyone said that colleges would never accept home schooled students. But when the colleges saw the quality of these students, they were eager to enroll them. Likewise, when businesses recognize that locally educated students are as well, if not better, prepared than residential college students, they will embrace them. And these students come without something that should make them even more attractive to employers: They will not be burdened with debt.
Parents, who once felt compelled to use up their saving and go into debt to finance expensive educations, could put the money aside for retirement. Students could receive four years of quality education without accumulating debt.
Best of all, the academics' power base would be undermined and parents could provide their children with a true liberal arts education.
All that is needed is for a few courageous parents to begin the revolution.