Monday, July 12, 2010

An interesting comparison with a frustrating result...

I recently saw that a foundering yet wildly popular and informative commercial social bookmarking website owned by a large publishing house ( owned by Conde Nast) was seeking support from its many users in order to continue as an ongoing interest. Though many derided this action as nothing more than a corporation trying to squeeze dollars from their fans, I think the response from the community stands for something else. As a result of a self-effacing and honest appeal, thousands of users rallied to the aid of the site, and some of the pressure is gone, at least for now (see The ultimate lesson? People will back an idea that should not need support if the communications are honest, and the product is of high quality.

I would draw a parallel between the situation faced by and that faced by Social Security. Social Security is a high quality idea, whose future is quite uncertain. Though reasonable minds disagree on when a benefits design change will occur, all projections state that within the first half of this century, serious changes must be made to allow Social Security to continue. Many serious bipartisan efforts are beginning to move the retirement age to 70 for those workers born in the 1960s and beyond.

As everyone knows, the backer of Social Security is the U.S. Government. A Pew Research Center survey whose results were released in April of 2010 demonstrated that a staggering 78% of Americans don't trust the federal government. Furthermore, retirement ages have already being extended, and those who are slated to receive benefits face ever increasing delays in receiving back benefits, all while those awaiting hearings face delays of a year or more before their cases may be heard. All of these factors combine to form a frustrating confluence of circumstances that do not have a positive outcome, unless the culture of the Social Security Administration, and the U.S. Government at large can change quickly, establish accountability, and ensure that younger Americans may be guaranteed that their non-optional contributions to this program will accrue not only to the benefit of others but to their benefit as well.

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