Monday, January 17, 2005

NYT Magazine has an in depth review of social security

The New York Times > Magazine > A Question of Numbers
... Overall, the [Bush] plan is gentler toward lower-income seniors than wealthier ones, but all seniors would be poorer than under present law. In other words, absent a sustained roaring bull market, the private accounts would not fully make up for the benefit cuts. According to the C.B.O.'s analysis, which, like all projections of this sort should be regarded as a best guess, a low-income retiree in 2035 would receive annual benefits (including the annuity from his private account) of $9,100, down from the $9,500 forecast under the present program. A median retiree would be cut severely, from $17,700 to $13,600. On the plus side, budget deficits would be lower in the future. But, because of the lengthy transition, that ''future'' is exceedingly remote -some 50 years down the road. In the interim, deficits would rise by up to 1.5 percent of the country's G.D.P....
An in depth review. How many people know that since 1997 the insolvency date has moved back 13 years -- because lifespans have not extended as much as expected. The obesity epidemic perhaps?

This detailed article is robust evidence that this is a battle about ideology, not demographics and not economics. Social security is fundamentally "socialist" (progressive) -- those that have give to those that have not. It's easy to see why extremists, like Bush, want to eliminate it.

Among all the details and surprises in the article, one impression stands above all. The politicians who did this, and the people who worked for and with them, tower over our current leadership. It's not that America was any better; the historical context is very familiar. Bile spouting morons on the radio, whacko extremists proposing radical revisions, the dark specter of fascism off to one side -- heck, the American people were then as they are now. What puzzles me is why the politicians, and the bureaucrats who built social security, were so superior to what we now endure.

PS. Social security is mandated by law to do 75 year predictions. This is pathetically funny. We may not even be human in 75 years.

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