Monday, May 18, 2009

Lind: your article is a crock

by Smitty
Michael Lind has an article in Salon accusing the right of "scare tactics" on the topic of Social Security. If common sense is scare tactics, then I'm too ss-sshaaakey to type.

Let's ignore FDR's non-command of Article 5, and Amendment 10 when he decided to re-jigger the direction of the country with a shiny, new Bill of Lefty Rights. As ideas go, they're actually not bad. They even have the weight of decades of implementation to back them up. Just two problems:
  • Even a casual glance at the Constitution doesn't support federal interference with individuals on this scale, modulo income tax, no thanks to Amendment 16.
  • The empirical track record of FDR's ideas could be characterized as "craptacular".
Back to Lind, whose article seems to be about what bad, handwringers people on the right are. We're told:
Any number of relatively minor changes, from lifting the cap on the Social Security payroll tax to infusing general revenues, could preserve the program in its present form into the 22nd century without insolvency or harm to the U.S. economy.
Possibly you could help, Mr. Lind, by addressing some CBO figures as served up by Mr. Perot. Perot's whole site is dedicated to showing how your apparently rose-colored glasses are, rather, tinted brown. My personal un-favorite is this specimen,

An eyeball-regression will tell you that, like rust, the mandatory federal spending is creeping over the budget, and will make it seize up in, oh, a decade or two. And the bi-partisan budgetary gymnastics parade will do what? And the wisdom of the Framers didn't forsee these kind of shenanigans, and preclude them? Listen to you pooh-pooh the argument:

Another deficit hawk pressure group that has been campaigning for cuts in Social Security for years, the Concord Coalition, chaired by Pete Peterson, issued a press release that expressed predictable alarm at the results of the trustees' report.

Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, trotted out the bogus "intergenerational equity" argument that somehow today's retirees are robbing their children and grandchildren by burdening them with crippling debts to pay: "Today's report documents a failure of generational stewardship. We should not be content that Social Security and Medicare are affordable for today's beneficiaries when they are not sustainable for future generations." Note that Bixby, like many deficit hawks, lumps Social Security together with Medicare. Given the good shape that Social Security is in for generations to come, it is hard to raise alarms about it without treating it as part of a larger "entitlement" problem.
Hard to raise alarms?
But according to the trustees, even when the trust fund runs out (in 2037 or 2041 or whenever) and Social Security becomes a pure pay-as-you-go system, in which working-age Americans finance retirees, Social Security minus other changes would pay about three-quarters of what it owes.
So, you admit that it's unsustainable, that people are paying as they go anyway, so why should they run their retirement cash through the federal pyramid scheme? Listen, Pharaoh, if the system is broke, why not just release the Israelites? Keeping them seems a trifle peevish.
In other words, the contract between elderly Americans and the rest can be honored in half a century by slightly higher taxes that would fall chiefly on much richer Americans in a much richer America.
This is a sweet lie. I'd like a copy of this famous contract, which I have never signed, for possible use in performing bodily functions. This Country Exists to Support Individual Freedom, not Bind People to the Government in this Foul Manner. I'll honor my father and mother, and love my neighbor as myself for the proper reasons, not via government proxy, thank you.
P.S. If you think all this Socialist claptrap is permissible under the Necessary and Proper Clause, your attention is drawn to this podcast.


  1. Scare tactics don't even play in to this. Any fool should recognise that whether it is social security or any other social program, more people have to pay in than take out. There is no such thing as pay as you go when payees live longer and payors aren't being born. Sooner or later, every pyramid scheme fails.

  2. C'mon, Smitty. You younger guys who make millions a year from blogging can afford to give a little more to support us older guys in our golden years.

    What's that?

    Yeah, I've resigned myself to working up until my funeral.

    You'll at least come to that, won't you? TrogloPundit will be there.

  3. That column reads as if the author is saying that Social Security is just fine... or it will be, once we make some 'minor' adjustments (increasing the payroll tax, for example) and as long as we assume that we'll enter a period of legitimate economic growth (ie, not an internet or real estate bubble) that generates increased tax revenues (from the rich, of course).

    When your argument for the financial sustainability of an institution is based around finding undesirable ways to raise cash and hoping for a period of sustained economic growth, it stands to reason that the institution in question is very likely to be unsustainable. But this is exactly the sort of reasoning we've been hearing for so long, which comes down to the assumption that it won't be a problem for a few more decades, so let someone else deal with it.

    And then criticize anyone who dares to imply that we are simply leaving the problem in the hands of future generations!