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Opt Out of Entitlement Programs

Entitlement programs are on the fast track to bankruptcy. Social Security and Medicare—the nation’s two largest entitlement programs—will run out of funds sooner than previously expected. Social Security faces a $45 billion deficit this year and Medicare’s trust fund for hospital insurance will completely run out of funds by 2024. We must face the reality that the federal government simply won’t be able to keep its grand promises to future generations without drastic changes to our entitlement system.

Some claim that our entitlement programs suffer from a demographic problem. It’s true that people are living for a much longer period of time. When the Social Security Act of 1935 passed, the average life expectancy was only 60 years. Despite the fact that the average life expectancy has soared to 77.5 years, the Social Security retirement age of 65 has never been adjusted to meet demographic changes. This means that the number of retirees is growing faster than the number of new workers. The ratio of workers to retirees has grown from 42 to 1 in 1940 to just 3.3 to 1 today. The current demographic trends are unsustainable.

Everyone paying attention knows that entitlement programs are in trouble. The numbers prove this fact but it is more than just an accounting problem. The underlying problem is a philosophical one. The role of government is not to “take care” of Americans from cradle to grave. Our Founding Fathers warned us against an “all-knowing” nanny state that would erode our personal liberties. As the late Barry Goldwater said “remember that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything that you have.” The proper role of the government as outlined in the Constitution is solely to protect life, liberty and property.

Young people have the largest stake in our broke entitlement system. These workers are forced to pay Social Security payroll taxes knowing full well that they will likely never collect Social Security benefits in their lifetime. By the time college aged people retire, there will be only two workers for each beneficiary. Even former President Clinton said that “there are polls that say that young people in their twenties think it's more likely that they will see UFOs than that they will ever collect Social Security." This is the reason that the 18 to 29 year old age group is the most receptive to making changes to Social Security.

Most in Washington have chosen to kick the can down the road. Time and time again lawmakers have denied that our entitlements programs are in trouble. Cutting benefits or raising taxes is politically unpopular. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) deserves credit for introducing bold proposals to reform Social Security and Medicare in his “Roadmap for America” plan. His Medicare plan, which also appears in his more recent "Path to Prosperity" plan, has been endorsed by a majority of his fellow House Members and would transform Medicare from a misguided “one-size-fits-all” program into a patient-centered system that allows seniors to choose from a list of competing health plans. It may not be ideal, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Let’s take it a step further. Why aren’t we allowed to opt-out of these compulsory entitlement programs? If they are so "great", why are they mandatory? Individuals should have the freedom to buy their own health insurance after the age of 65 or save for their own retirement without government assistance if they wish. It’s their hard earned money; it does not belong to the federal government. No one should have to fear that the government will ration their retirement savings. It would be morally inexcusable to force generations to pay into our broke entitlement system and ultimately get nothing in return.

Many Americans still believe in the ideas of personal liberty and self-sufficiency that our forefathers fought for. Let’s give them the freedom to opt of our nanny state entitlement system altogether. Would anyone actually stay in a terribly mismanaged government monopoly? It’s pretty clear: freedom works, government doesn’t.