Social Security issue needs action, not talk
Rumblings from Washington suggest that the Social Security system once again is due for an overhaul. Business owners would be best advised to watch their wallets.
It's not that we don't believe the 63-year-old Social Security program needs work. Demographics alone dictate that it cannot go on forever at its current pace.
By now the reasons are familiar: Soon, retiring baby boomers will far outnumber young people entering the work force. Experts say the boomers' Social Security benefits will outpace younger workers' payroll deductions, creating an enormous deficit.
Politicians are more than happy to talk about the problem, but many are afraid to deal with the issue. For too long, any legislator bold enough to propose changes to the system has had to face attacks come the next election. In political circles, messing with Social Security has a way of becoming career suicide.
If Congress heeds President Clinton's recent call to move Social Security revamping to the legislative front burner, we can expect the usual list of suggested solutions: Raise the retirement age. Curb cost-of-living benefit increases. Increase payroll taxes. Anything more than tinkering will be a tough sell to the system's 43 million beneficiaries, plus millions of other soon-to-retire workers.
Still, it would be worthwhile to give serious consideration to some of the more radical solutions. Don't expect politicians to embrace Steve Forbes' plan to replace the system with private individual retirement accounts. But there certainly is merit to investing at least a portion of Social Security funds in the stock market, instead of interest-bearing government securities.
There is one solution that, under current circumstances, is simply unacceptable — raising payroll taxes, either on the backs of workers or employers. With all the talk about a looming federal budget surplus, it doesn't make sense now to raise taxes to bail out Social Security.
R.I.'s former governor forks out some humility
Readers outside Rhode Island probably missed an amusing story from East Greenwich, where former Gov. Bruce Sundlun got into trouble when he unsuccessfully tried to buy plastic forks from a local pharmacy.
On Dec. 13, police were called to a CVS store when Sundlun allegedly lost his temper with store workers. Sundlun just wouldn't believe the store had run out of plastic forks. He was not arrested.
Within days, several local stores posted signs with messages such as ``Plastic Forks In Stock'' and ``Plastic Forks For Sale.'' Sundlun himself got into the spirit, wearing a white plastic fork in the breast pocket of his suit jacket at an AFL-CIO Christmas party, according to a report in the Providence Journal-Bulletin.
It's a rare day when the public has an opportunity to ``stick it'' to a politician, and a rare politician who happily takes the ribbing. We're glad it was a plastic fork, and not something more ... painful.