Letter to the Editor ¦ July 21, 1997
Privatize Social Security?

By David Langer

Your May 26 editorial, ''Ruin, or reform,'' takes a dimmer view of Social Security than is warranted by its 60 years of successful operation. If the program is as bad as you claim, it would have been changed a long time ago. Even opponents realistically recognize the broad acceptance.

If the proponents of the major privatization alternative have made inroads, it is because they have mounted sustained criticisms of Social Security that have succeeded in raising concern. They have not yet, however, made the public fully aware of their proposal's high administrative costs, the $10 trillion of new national debt to be incurred, the $600 billion or so in outlay in interest alone at the peak of such debt, and the additional worker and employer contributions.

While you recommend pre-funding Social Security benefits, this is a concept appropriate for private pension plans but not for a social insurance program. One of the biggest objections, of course, is the potential for federal control of business.

The program - not surprisingly given its age and scope - needs adjusting from time to time. A fundamental change in privatization as you advocate should be looked at long and hard.

- David Langer, a consulting actuary and president of David Langer Co., Inc.
New York