With Newt Gingrich vying for front-runner status in the Republican presidential primaries, his positions on important public policies such as Social Security and income taxes deserve scrutiny. In both cases, Gingrich adopts familiar Republican concepts — but then undermines their key objectives.
Gingrich’s “fix” for Social Security builds on a Bush-era proposal. He would allow younger workers to contribute a portion of their payroll taxes to a private account instead of to the Social Security fund. These accounts could be invested in one or more diversified mutual funds in a plan regulated by the federal government.
But Gingrich takes a radical step further by effectively telling those workers not to worry if their investments of payroll taxes do poorly. According to Gingrich, “The Treasury will send them a check to make up the difference” between their fund returns and their scheduled benefits under Social Security.
By guaranteeing the government’s scheduled benefits as the floor, Gingrich gives workers a tremendous incentive to roll the dice. After all, if their investments do well, the workers will receive higher retirement payments. If their investments crater, the workers still get the guaranteed benefits from the Treasury. Heads you win, tails (we) taxpayers lose.