“They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it’s some kind of federal program.” – George W. Bush

Personal Retirement AccountsRecently, I heard from Lea Abdnor, the Executive Director at Women for a Social Security Choice in response to my post about how gays and lesbians are Denied Social Security Benefits. In case you forgot, families of gays and lesbians (upon the death of a spouse) are denied the same benefits of heterosexual Americans, even though we contribute equally to Social Security throughout our careers.

Abdnor writes, “You are SO right about Social Security penalizing gays and lesbians. I’m straight but I’ve complained about this for years! ‘Legal’ spouses who don’t work a day in their life, and pay zero in Social Security benefits are granted FREE an additional 50% on top of his/her spouse’s Social Security benefit. A relic from the old ages.”

“If the system allowed workers to put part of their 12.4% taxes in a personal Social Security IRA that the worker OWNED, then the assets in the account (which could be considerable over a working career) would be inheritable.”

“I’ve never been able to understand why the gay and lesbian community hasn’t been screaming in support of those protected accounts. It wouldn’t preclude working for legal ‘marriage’ status, but personal accounts are a whole lot more likely!”

I have to plead ignorance on Social Security reform but Abdnor’s comment gave me good reason to research and then post here on the topic. What I found is that gay liberals typically don’t like the idea of Personal Retirement Accounts (PRA) because it falls under Bush’s reform plan.

But there are two sides to every coin so hear me out. According to the libertarian Cato Institute, “Andrew Lee, an undergraduate student at Claremont McKenna College, writes that Social Security reform is an issue that the typically left-leaning gay population should consider supporting. Same sex partners stand to gain significantly from a system of personal retirement accounts since under such a plan, individuals get to choose who receives survivor or dependent benefits.” If you want to read his thoughts in entirety then click over to the San Francisco Chronicle site. He makes some valid points.

Back in 2004, Mike Hill wrote a brief but compelling piece called, Social Insecurity and why queers should push for PRAs. He writes, “A bitter cat fight has broken out between two leading gay rights organizations over whether or not to support a social security privitization initiative which would, as a part of the reform, allow same-sex couples the same access to the system’s benefits as heterosexual married couples. The left-leaning National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is against this, because they are reflexively against any social security reform, while the centrist Human Rights Campaign is likely to come out in favor of such an initiative.”

“I don’t care who proposes social security reform — whether it’s Noam Chomsky or Pat Robertson — on this issue, they would have my support. I am 32 years old, and every year thousands of dollars – money I will never see again, since social security will be long since broke by the time I retire – are sucked from my paycheck to pay for Cadillac hood-ornament polishings for wealthy seniors.”

“Social security reform cannot come too soon — it is my money, so let me save it as I wish. I should note, I am not some anti-tax zealot. I know taxes pay for a civilized society, and I even accept the need for welfare for the truly needy. But social security is not welfare, and it is not a tax which benefits society as a whole. It is a special-interest subsidy for the elderly, including many who are quite well-off. I believe the program should be rolled up…pay people back what they put into it (and no more) and phase it out over the next decade or so, to be replaced with a system where people get to choose where their retirement savings are invested, and where they money is kept in their own names, in private accounts.”

Interesting! The problem is: none of the Democrats are for PRAs. You can find out where all the candidates stand (both Democrats and Republicans) by clicking on this link.

Social Security aside, Dan Woog argues that today’s same-sex partners still fare better than preceding generations (due to changing governmental policies and the policies of private employers) in his article: Retirement Issues for Gay/Lesbian Couples.

He writes, “Until recently, private savings vehicles like 401ks varied enormously between same-sex and married couples. In August 2006, however, Congress revised the Pension Protection Act of 2006, giving same-sex couples (and nonmarried heterosexual partners) much fairer – though still not equal – treatment.” It’s a start.

So back to PRA’s – what do you think? Should we or shouldn’t we? Comments encouraged.