Op-ed on social security and regressive taxes

by Dale Coberly

 A kind person suggested I be ready to be crucified about calling for increasing a “regressive tax” if I call for raising the payroll tax forty cents per week.

The people who say Social Security is a regressive tax are suffering from brain damage caused by parrot fever. Having been taught to say “regressive tax, regressive tax” when they were young and impressionable, they can’t stop themselves. They don’t mean anything by it, but they think they do.

They don’t know what a regressive tax is. They don’t know what a tax is. They don’t know what regressive means. And above all they have no sense of proportion.

The “tax” increase needed by Social Security is forty cents per week. This is the cost to the average worker of saving a program that will give them about twenty thousand dollars a year when they retire. But the “liberals” call that forty cents a “regressive tax, regressive tax” and would see the poor loose that twenty thousand dollars in order to save forty cents worth of “regressive tax, regressive tax.”

A regressive tax is a tax that falls more heavily on the poor than on the rich as a percent of income. The usual case is a “sales tax” as compared to a graduated “income tax.” As long as either tax is used to pay for the same government expenses, the sales tax is more “regressive” than the graduated income tax because the poor spend a larger percentage of their income than the rich on items covered by the usual sales tax schemes.

But Social Security does not pay for government expenses. It pays for the retirement of the person paying the tax. So it is not a tax in the usual sense in which a tax is a payment to the government for government expenses.

And Social Security is designed so that people who end up poor after a lifetime of work get a much higher return on their “investment” than those who end up “well off.” So the poor are paying LESS for what they get than the rich. The poor are getting MORE for what they pay than the rich. This is called “progressive.” It is the opposite of “regressive.”

But you will never convince someone who got his PhD by saying “regressive tax, regressive tax.” And that, my children, is why you won’t get Social Security when you get old. Because the professional liberals will save you from that bad old regressive tax, regressive tax.