Saturday, May 7, 2011

Unequally Yoked | Social Security and the Working Class

Liberty?

Public vs. Private Sector Inequities

~ By: Larry Walker, Jr. ~

Did you know that most state and local government employees are exempt from Social Security taxes? Millions of Americans who are covered by state or local retirement plans do not pay into the Social Security system. If Social Security is such a great plan, then why are 17,738,156 [1] state and local government workers exempt? Why does the federal government continue to legally bind the rest of us to a sinking ship? This isn’t 1933 anymore. The time for change is now. Social Security is the biggest fraud in American history.

There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! ~ Patrick Henry

Teachers Retirement System of Georgia vs. Social Security

For example, teachers in the state of Georgia are covered by the Teachers Retirement System (TRS). Following are some of the differences between teachers covered by TRS and private sector workers covered by Social Security.

  1. Although Georgia teachers are required to contribute 5.0% of their pay into the TRS, the contribution is considered a pre-tax deduction. Workers covered by Social Security must contribute 6.2% of their pay on an after-tax basis.

  2. Georgia public employers pay a matching contribution of 9.24% into the TRS. Private sector employers pay a 6.2% match to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

  3. TRS contributions are invested in stocks, bonds and other liquid investments earning interest, dividends and the chance for appreciation in value. Social Security contributions are used to pay the benefits of current recipients. Any surplus is borrowed and spent by the federal government which is currently $14.3 trillion in debt.

  4. The normal retirement age for Georgia teachers is 60 years of age. Normal retirement for Social Security recipients is age 65, 66, 67 or greater.

  5. Georgia teachers may retire at any age after 25 years of service. Social Security recipients may not retire until they reach the age of 62 (with reduced benefits).

  6. The amount of benefits received by Georgia teachers is based on the two highest years of compensation. The benefits paid by Social Security are based on the average amount of earnings over a 35 year period.

  7. Georgia teachers become vested in their retirement benefits after 10 years of service. Upon separation from service they may either take a lump-sum distribution or rollover their contributions into an IRA. After the vesting period, Georgia Teachers may also take a lump-sum distribution or rollover the employer contributions into an IRA. Social Security recipients are vested after working 40 quarters, or 10 years, but have no rights to lump-sum distributions or rollovers.

  8. Upon separation of service or retirement, Georgia teachers may either take a lump-sum distribution or rollover their benefits into an IRA account. Georgia teachers may also elect to have their remaining benefits paid to their beneficiaries. Social Security recipients do not have any contractual right to take lump-sum distributions, make rollovers, or to pass benefits on to their heirs.

  9. The maximum amount of annual retirement benefits paid to Georgia teachers is determined by multiplying the average of their top two years’ salary by the number of years of service, and then by 2%. Thus an employee who earned $50,000 in their top two years, with 30 years of service, would receive an annual pension of $30,000 per year, or $2,500 per month [50,000 * (.02 * 30)]. The average amount of benefits paid to Social Security recipients is $14,088 per year, or $1,174 per month. The maximum Social Security benefit for a worker retiring in 2011 is $28,392 or $2,366 per month based on earnings at the maximum taxable amount for every year after the age of 21. The maximum taxable amount of Social Security wages in 2009/2010 is $106,800. [2,3]

Wisconsin Retirement System vs. Social Security

As a second example, teachers in the state of Wisconsin are covered by the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). Following are some of the differences between teachers covered by WRS and private sector workers covered by Social Security.

  1. Although Wisconsin teachers are supposed to contribute 5.0% of their pay into the WRS, the contribution is actually paid by their employer (i.e. amounts designated as employee contributions for accounting purposes are actually paid by the employer). [1 (pages 15-17)] WRS employees may also make additional tax deferred contributions to their WRS accounts. Workers covered by Social Security must contribute 6.2% of their pay on an after-tax basis.

  2. Wisconsin public employers pay a matching contribution of 4.5% into the WRS, but since they also pay the employees portion, their total contribution is 9.5%. Private sector employers pay a 6.2% match to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

  3. WRS contributions are invested in stocks, bonds and other liquid investments earning interest, dividends and the chance for appreciation in value. Social Security contributions are used to pay the benefits of current recipients. Any surplus is borrowed and spent by the federal government which is currently $14.3 trillion in debt.

  4. The normal retirement age for Wisconsin teachers is 65 years of age, or 57 with 30 years of service. Normal retirement for Social Security recipients is age 65, 66, 67 or greater.

  5. Wisconsin teachers may retire as early as the age of 55 (with reduced benefits). Social Security recipients may not retire until they reach the age of 62 (with reduced benefits).

  6. The amount of benefits received by Wisconsin teachers is based on an average of the three highest years of compensation. The benefits paid by Social Security are based on the average amount of earnings over a 35 year period.

  7. Wisconsin teachers become vested in their retirement benefits immediately and may either take a lump-sum distribution or rollover the employer contributions into an IRA upon separation. Social Security recipients are vested after working 40 quarters, or 10 years, but have no rights to lump-sum distributions or rollovers.

  8. Upon separation of service or retirement, Wisconsin teachers may either take a lump-sum distribution or rollover their benefits into an IRA account. Wisconsin teachers may also elect to have their remaining benefits paid to their beneficiaries. Social Security recipients do not have any contractual right to take lump-sum distributions, make rollovers, or to pass benefits on to their heirs.

  9. The maximum amount of annual retirement benefits paid to Wisconsin teachers is determined by multiplying the average of their top three years’ salary by the number of years of service, and then by 1.6%. Thus an employee who earned $50,000 in their top three years, with 30 years of service, would receive an annual pension of $24,000 per year, or $2,000 per month [50,000 * (.016 * 30)]. The average amount of benefits paid to Social Security recipients is $14,088 per year, or $1,174 per month. The maximum Social Security benefit for a worker retiring in 2011 is $28,392 or $2,366 per month, based on earnings at the maximum taxable amount for every year after the age of 21. The maximum taxable amount of Social Security wages in 2009/2010 is $106,800. [2,3]

Unequally Yoked

When it comes to retirement, not all Americans are treated equally. State and local government workers have great advantages over private sector employees. Not only does the private sector pay the salaries of state and local government workers through income and property taxes, and not only do we contribute towards their retirement, but we allow them to have better retirement plans than ourselves. As most of us sit, chained to the broken and antiquated Social Security system, state and local government employees continually bargain for more and more. Here are the major inequities in a nutshell.

  • Most state and local government employees contribute less towards their retirement plans than those covered by Social Security but receive back more in benefits. Wisconsin public employees contribute nothing towards their retirement yet receive back more in benefits than comparable working class peons.

  • State and local government employees have portable retirement accounts which actually exist. Americans who are covered by Social Security don’t have any portability of savings, nor have their funds been set aside or invested in any manner.

  • State and local workers have greater options for early retirement based on age and the number of years of service, while Social Security patrons must wait until the age of 62 to receive a reduced amount of benefits.

  • The age of full retirement for those covered by Social Security continues to be pushed back due to the lack of funds, while state and local employees are allowed to quit their jobs and take their savings with them at any time.

  • State and local employees are paid retirement benefits based on an average of their top 2 or 3 years of earnings, while Social Security benefits are calculated using an average of 35 years of earnings.

  • Social Security benefits are limited to $28,392 per year, in 2011, no matter how much is earned in a lifetime. The benefits paid to most state and local plan recipients are for the most part unlimited.

Not all workers in the United States are covered by Social Security, so why don't the rest of us have a choice? Since state and local retirement plans are required to invest contributions in a fiduciary capacity, why doesn’t Social Security? What makes state and local government employees better than the average American? Wouldn’t privately owned and managed retirement accounts be an improvement for all Americans? It’s time to end Social Security. It’s time for all American workers to be treated equally. The ‘Nanny State’ has failed. The era of big government is over. Give me liberty, or give me death!

Sources:

[1] WISCONSIN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL - 2006 COMPARATIVE STUDY OF MAJOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT SYSTEMS

[2] Social Security Administration - Answers

[3] Your Retirement Benefit: How It Is Figured

Other References:

Teachers Retirement System of Georgia – 2010 Annual Financial Report

Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds – 2009 Annual Financial Report

Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) Benefit Summary

Related:

Obsolete Government Programs, Part 2 : Medicare

Obsolete Government Programs, Part 1 : FICA

Social Security - A Breach of Trust

The Social Security Bust Fund

Links:

Chile's Private Accounts Turn 30 - Investors.com

Bill Baar's West Side: NBC LA: A New Party Within a Party? Labor-Skeptic Democrats

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