FLASHBACK: Toomey Backed Mandatory Privatization, Suggested Social Security Recipients Lack "Dignity"

October 28, 2010 3:14 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Pat Toomey

As Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey tries to downplay his history of support for privatizing Social Security, several news reports have stressed that Toomey's privatization plan would be voluntary. For example, the Scranton Times Tribune reported earlier this month:

Mr. Toomey would allow younger workers to voluntarily divert a portion of their Social Security payroll tax into private savings accounts they would control and invest any way they want. A young worker who did not want to do that could stay with the current system of a guaranteed benefit.

Similarly, NPR reported on Tuesday:

Democrat Joe Sestak, who is campaigning for Senate, has made a very distinct pitch to senior voters, running an ad accusing Republican Pat Toomey of wanting to privatize Social Security.

Toomey's response is that he believes younger Americans should be given a choice of investing some Social Security funds into private accounts.

And in a recent article about Toomey's Social Security privatization, PolitiFact suggested that the (supposedly) voluntary nature of Toomey's plan means it is unfair to describe the plan as "privatization."

That's nonsense; privatization is privatization. And that isn't a term concocted by opponents: it was advocates of privatization schemes like Toomey's who used the word "privatization" — until they found out it didn't poll well.

But terminology aside, those who place weight on the supposedly optional nature of Toomey's scheme would do well to take a look at page 129 of his book The Road to Prosperity:

While current workers could choose between the old and the reformed programs, new workers would automatically be enrolled in the new system.

So Toomey's privatization of Social Security wouldn't be voluntary for new workers. It would be mandatory.

Two pages later, Toomey wrote that one benefit of privatization "is the dignity that will come from giving workers the freedom to provide for their own retirement instead of relying on the government to do it for them."

Toomey didn't explain why he thinks current retirees who worked their whole lives and paid into Social Security lack "dignity."