Brad DeLong proposes

1. Shift responsibility for maintaining actuarial balance off of the Congress and onto the Social Security Administration–have it gradually raise (and lower) the retirement age or the benefit-rule bend points in order to keep the system in projected balance.
2. Uncap FICA and apply it to all wage income in order to top-off private add-on accounts for the poor and boost benefits for widows.
3. Make enrollment in private accounts automatic (it’s done automatically on your 1040) but voluntary (you can fill in an extra form to get the money the IRS earmarks for your account back as part of your refund).
4. Use the government’s existing Thrift Savings Plan as a vehicle for managing private add-on accounts–and keep its choices restricted: churning and extra administrative costs caused by asset shuffling are not your friend.
5. Mandate that in fifteen years a commission consider and recommend whether or not two percentage points of FICA should be diverted and added to the add-on accounts as a forced savings program.

I think that point (5) is redundant and pointless. The reality is that if personal accounts are given a fair trial, then it will be up to the will of the people to decide how much, if any, of Social Security to switch over to personal accounts.

In a better world, instead of raising payroll taxes (point 2), we would finance the savings subsidies and widows’ benefits that Brad alludes to by giving me a scythe to use on the rest of the government Budget. In fact, by the time I got done, we might be talking about cutting payroll taxes. But the reality is that I am not going to get to play the grim reaper role.

Other support for something like the DeLong plan appears to come from Ramesh Ponnuru and from your truly.

For Discussion. Would the DeLong plan constitute a victory or a defeat for privatization?