I owe the pack of wolves that rescued me from a runaway dogsled when I was a baby a great deal. Not only did they take me into their wolf-family and help finance my college education, but they also instilled in me two important core values: do unto others as you would have them do unto you and hate Pat Buchanan.
If only. The boring truth is that I was brought up by humans, and it was my mom and dad who taught me those two core values, not wolves. The main reason for disliking Buchanan was that he stood in direct opposition to so many things my family believed in, such as helping the poor and disadvantaged, the unlucky and the mistreated – not that it's very exciting. To cut a long discussion about the merits of Keynesian economic principles, progressive ideology and the betterment of mankind short, we just didn't like the guy.
Imagine my shock and horror, when, shortly after the war in Iraq began, I was watching "The McLaughlin Group" – I suddenly agreed with Buchanan. It was something about Saddam and weapons of mass destruction or perhaps an assertion of his favorite color, but either way I found myself disagreeing with the less-conservative, but still conservative representative on the show and shouting "Right on, Pat!" at the television. It was an odd feeling to say the least. Was I a conservative? I still felt cool. Fortunately there were no handguns lying around and I didn't feel like fixing the chainsaw, so I'm still here today.
For several months after the incident I completely ceased and desisted the watching of any material that might further exacerbate this agreeing with Buchanan nonsense. I got all my news from "SportsCenter" and kept driving my Volvo, and everything went back to normal.
Then something even worse happened a few weeks ago – I agreed with George W. Bush. I tried not to. I couldn't help it, honest. He had a good idea. And just because someone you don't like has a good idea, it doesn't mean you have to take the idea, beat the crap out of it, toss it from a moving car in the middle of Wyoming and leave it for dead.
The idea was the creation of personal saving accounts within the Social Security system. Now I know what you are thinking. Please don't talk about Social Security. It is so exciting and I have to sit in this class and reading about Social Security is just going to make me want to go outside and play with Social Security. Don't worry. I'll try to be brief.
At first I was worried that the president was proposing getting rid of Social Security as we know it, with current workers paying into a large fund that is divided out among retirees to help finance their final years on this planet. I've always felt that Social Security is a contract between the young and old, as each generation helps support the elderly and thank them for such little things as say, going to the moon, defeating communism, keeping Hitler from running the world and of course, Pogs.
The personal saving accounts Bush is proposing won't take away a huge amount of the Social Security payments away from current and near-future retirees. They are quite limited, as a maximum of 4 percent of payroll taxes may be contributed to them, with the money being invested by the government acting on your account into a mix of conservative stocks and bonds.
There is one more important aspect to all this, which is less quantifiable. Personal retirement accounts may get people thinking more about their retirement and about preserving Social Security in general. With the future financial solvency of Social Security looking about as solid as the Rockies' upcoming World Series hopes, that's a good thing.
See, for anyone who plans on getting old – not me, I live life to the extreme so extremely that I don't expect to make it past 27 – Social Security should be a more pressing issue than it is. One-third of all Americans older than 65 receive 90 percent of their income from Social Security.
Ideally, Social Security is a supplement to your retirement income, as opposed to the bulk of it. Since it is hard to afford 120-foot yachts full of blonde bimbos – my personal retirement goal – on Social Security alone, it's probably a good idea to start thinking about the future sometime in the near future.
And since us young people think about retirement about as often as we think about fur trading, a little prodding from the government in the form of personal saving accounts can't be that bad of an idea, even if it came from someone I dislike more than coconut.
Gavin McMeeking is a graduate atmospheric science major. His column runs every Friday in the Collegian.