As a septuagenarian, I have been following the national debate about Social Security benefits with considerable interest.
Is there any truth to the charge that we senior citizens are grabbing more than our share of the national treasure at the expense of our children and grandchildren?It's easy to see why the issue has been raised.
Some organizations that represent the elderly do sound greedy.
Frankly, I don't see why half my Social Security payments should be exempted from federal income taxes.
And it would be all right with me if retired people above a certain income level had their cost-of-living adjustments trimmed.
But some accusations are off the mark.
Critics sometimes like to compare the numbers of dollars that retired people contributed to Social Security with what they are getting now.
They argue that we get back as many dollars in a year or two as we contributed during the 30 or 40 years we worked.
The comparison is misleading.
The dollars put into Social Security years ago, when gasoline was 50 cents a gallon, are not the same as the inflated dollars that are being paid out now.
Some claim if the money had been invested privately, we retired people would have benefited even more than we have through Social Security.
Moreover, though we may have invested relatively small amounts in Social Security during our main career years, Social Security still hits the elderly who continue to work.
The self-employment tax for 1989 was about 14 percent.
The 1990 self-employment tax is 15.3 percent.
A 1990 provision allows us to deduct half of it, which helps a bit. But the tax is still pretty stiff.
Even worse is the situation that faces Social Security pensioners in their pre-70 retirement years.
If they continue to earn income, they soon hit the 50 percent tax bracket.
The Social Security administration takes away $1 of every $2 earned over $9,360.
Finally, is the generous treatment that we retirees have received necessarily bad news for the generations to come?
Millions of Americans must be relieved that they don't have to take financial responsibility for the old folks.
In fact, plenty of retired people are helping their children and grandchildren over the financial rough spots.