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National Service for Social Security Recipients

September 13, 2008

With all of the (discouraging) talk of "national service" from Barack Obama and John McCain that focuses on young people, here’s another idea (from my wife): require national service from those who want to receive their full social security benefits.

If given the power of fiat I would probably do away with national service programs and replace social security with true insurance against destitution. Even so, I think requiring national service for social security recipients is better than expanding national service incentives for young people for several reasons:

  • It gives seniors something productive to do. I believe that age discrimination against people 70 and older is probably a real phenomenon. This would put those people to work. Surely there is plenty most social security recipients could be doing. Maybe even on a contract basis for other private firms to avoid make work jobs.
  • Some seniors not opt for national service would receive reduced benefits, increasing the solvency of the system and the looming threat to other taxpayers.
  • Young people can get jobs doing anything, they don’t need national service. Why rob the country of years of useful work from young people in the private sector, when we can use far less employable older people.

Given the political clout of social security recipients this plan seems far from a political winner. But I would love to see it debated nonetheless! It might have more appeal around the time when every two workers is forced to support a retired social security recipient who isn’t doing anything.

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