NYC’s Social Security Privatization

We spent the last week wading through the details of Social Security history and New York City’s pension system, and report in today’s paper on the astonishing — to those of us who don’t work for city government, at least — fact that some city employees can opt out of Social Security and into a private plan, a form of privatization more complete than imagined by President Bush.

This choice is available to a class of roughly 20,000 people in New York City, and scattered pockets of state and local workers around the country. Here, they include elected officials and political staff. And four City Council Democrats have opted out. The two who copped to it, Oliver Koppell and David Yassky, didn’t much want their personal choices to be taken as endorsements of President Bush’s lobbying for…personal choice, wasn’t it?

(If you happen to know who the other two Democrats are, we’d love to know.)

Now there are a million caveats to be attached, flaws in the Bush plan related to debt, and flaws in the city plan around disability insurance, for example. Still, this does look a bit like a functioning, fully private retirement system.

Anyway, when we were initially told about this option, we couldn’t quite believe it, and if you still don’t believe us, here’s the city website that lays it out.

Also in the Observer today: Fred Siegel doesn’t think much of Howard Dean, his fellow academics, and the alliance of the two; and the Dean of Columbia Law School ignites a spam war.