Social Security has two long-term problems: First of all, due to our steadily increasing life spans, the ratio of payers to recipients will eventually become unworkable. Second, when the system starts redeeming the government bonds in its portfolio, the feds won't have the money to pay off the bonds without a huge tax increase. Diverting Social Security taxes into private accounts won't solve either of these problems. I suggest we consider the following:
- Tie increases in the Social Security retirement age to longevity increases so we will never drop below a three-to-one payer-to-recipient ratio;
- Increase the Social Security tax base by including unearned income and raising the taxable amount from $90,000 to $100,000. Tie increases in this amount to the same inflation index used to calculate benefits;
- Change to a pay-as-you-go system where income and outgo are matched as nearly as possible. This will guarantee permanent solvency and prevent the feds from spending the money on other things.
At the current Social Security tax rates, these steps should produce a substantial surplus. While I disagree with President Bush's private accounts plan as currently envisioned, I'm glad he has the guts to address a problem that will almost certainly become a disaster if not fixed. Hopefully, some good will come out of his efforts.
Focus on First Impressions
I always enjoy reading Robert Herold's commentaries, because they usually provide some very thoughtful insights for the issues addressed. But on this issue, "Top Priority," (2/03/05), about the restoration of the Fox, Herold is putting the cart way before the horse.
On the subject of economic development, the top priority of the city should be the streets and less trash, bar none. Remember the old adage about first impressions.
It was not too long ago that some longtime friends of mine were looking to relocate their business away from Puget Sound area. After contacting the local Chamber of Commerce, they contacted me, asking if I would chauffeur them about during a visit. At the time, they employed 195 people with an average hourly wage of $15.50. They anticipated only about half of their employees would move with them, leaving approximately 100 positions to be filled locally. Additionally, they anticipated needing another 100 positions over two years.
The drive down the Sunset Hill was the first eye-opener. They had difficulty understanding why we would allow the gateway to Spokane to look so trashy.
As I was returning them to the airport, their last comment was about how an area like ours could expect to attract any businesses, let alone "high tech," with the streets in the condition they were in and all the trash. With all the unpaved streets, one would think Spokane wants to remain in the horse and buggy era. They relocated to Boise!
Good Times Without Booze
If I had just moved to Spokane and picked up your paper, I would have thought my only options for having a good time would be to go to an establishment that serves alcohol. On the cover page of the 2/10/05 issue is a sudsy mug with the caption "Places To Party." Of the 80 establishments you feature, all but four are listed as serving beer, wine or hard drinks. I count 10 photos with alcohol displayed.
I might consider my options even more limited if I were a youth who had just moved to Spokane having no legal way to "party" in these establishments, except for the four coffeehouses. And believing that this is the way to have a good time, I might find a way to obtain the alcohol. I might become one among the 44.3 percent of 12th graders in Spokane County who has had at least one drink of alcohol in the past 30 days, or I might become one among the 26.2 percent of 12th graders in Spokane County who binge-drink (five or more drinks in a row) at least once every two weeks. (Healthy Youth Survey 2002.)
From your article, it appears that "Places To Party" will be an annual feature. Next time, please include many places that do not serve alcohol. If we as a community truly lack such places, I believe we have responsibility to create and sustain them.