For years, Trident claimed "4 in 5 dentists" agreed its sugarless chewing gum was the best on the market. Dentists, the advertising theory held, were the authority on the topic.
When it comes to Social Security reform, the media, at least, are taking 150 college student body presidents, who recently signed a letter opposing voluntary personal retirement accounts, as the authority. The letter received widespread attention from the Associated Press to the Washington Post.
Compare that to coverage of a letter supporting personal accounts, which was signed last month by 450 economists, including Nobel Prize laureates Milton Friedman, Vernon Smith, and ASU's Edward Prescott. A Lexis-Nexis search shows the letter received zero coverage in the major media, and only a single National Journal mention about the lack of coverage.
So who should we trust-the students or the teachers?
Back in 1999-when today's student body presidents were in high school-Milton Friedman had already addressed the students' main concern: issuing debt to finance the transition to personal accounts. "There are no real transition costs to privatizing Social Security, merely the explicit recognition of current implicit debt."
Moreover, these renowned economists recognize a fact that's escaped the 150 student body presidents-allowing younger workers to create personal retirement accounts would pay off the long-term Social Security debt faster, thanks to higher rates of return that come from actual savings and investment.
For advice on how to win a popularity contest at an American college, ask a student body president. But when it comes to reforming our country's retirement system, 450 economists are the authority.
-Students for a Secure Future
-450 Nobel Laureates Backing Social Security Choice
-Cato Institute Project on Social Security Choice
- Wall Street Journal: Pat Toomey on Social Security (subscription)