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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Post Prints More Nonsense on Social Security

The Post Prints More Nonsense on Social Security

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Wednesday, 27 October 2010 05:26

If a member of Congress shows that he doesn't know the basics of the government's most important social program then this makes a good news story, with a headline like "Congressman Ignorant of Basic Facts on Social Security." However, in the Washington Post, a member of Congress can say any loon tune thing they want about Social Security and have it treated as a reasonable comment.

Hence we are given without comment a quote from Republican Representative Tom Price:

"The American people know that the current Social Security program will not survive based upon current rules."

This is a larger gaffe than almost anything the Post has written on from a politician. It would be comparable a politician insisting on his commitment to ending the war in Vietnam, thereby demonstrating his failure to recognize that the war had been over for 35 years.

Of course Social Security will survive just fine based on its current rules. According to the Congressional Budget Office the program can pay scheduled benefits for the next 29 years with no changes whatsoever. It could always pay a far higher benefit than what current retirees receive even if no changes are ever made. If changes comparable to those put in place by the 1983 Greenspan Commission are put in place it would be able to pay full scheduled benefits well in the 22nd century.

At one point the article refers to the interest of President Obama's deficit commission in "reducing benefits for wealthier retirees." It would have been worth reminding readers that "wealthier" in this sentence refers to people like school teachers and firefighters, not the sort of people who are generally viewed as wealthy.

The article also reports the view of Erskine Bowles, the co-director of the commission and a board member of Morgan Stanley, that the size of government should be limited to 21 percent of GDP. It would have been useful to point out to readers that Mr. Bowles apparently believes that we should slow growth and kill jobs to keep government to some arbitrary size cap. By contrast, most other people believe that the services that can be provided most efficiently by the government should be provided by the government.

Comments (11)Add Comment
CBO on the DI (Disability Insurance) fund.
written by AndrewDover, October 27, 2010 7:31
Don't forget that DI needs an adjustment a lot sooner:

"CBO projects that the DI trust fund will be exhausted in fiscal year 2018 and that the OASI trust fund will be exhausted in 2042. Once a trust fund's balance has fallen to zero and current revenues are insufficient to cover the benefits that are specified in law, a program will be unable to pay full benefits without changes in law."

http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=11943
"CBO's 2010 Long-Term Projections for Social Security: Additional Information, October 2010"
...
written by izzatzo, October 27, 2010 7:53
This is a larger gaffe than almost anything the Post has written on from a politician. It would be comparable a politician insisting on his commitment to ending the war in Vietnam, thereby demonstrating his failure to recognize that the war had been over for 35 years.


I am not a career politician. I am not a corporation masquerading as a person. I do not depend on nanny government to produce valuable private goods and services, nor do I depend on campaign funds from special interests.

Boy Monarch Bush was correct. His biggest failure was not privatizing SS. If breast pumps are allowed tax breaks under health saving accounts, they will just be diverted for illegal use by dairy farmers to fund Socialist Security with more Alan Simpson commie cow tits.
...
written by diesel, October 27, 2010 8:19
Incredible that Bush doesn't regret invading Iraq on false pretenses more than he regrets not privatizing SS. These are both hallmarks of a humane, civilized man. A Christian man. God bless his (ex)Excellency.
...
written by fuller schmidt, October 27, 2010 9:20
I saw the Maury Povich show yesterday, and it made apparent that the fallback position from educated is caveman. Thus the propagandists can be comfortable saying whatever they want. However, the images of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman as the sarcastic - yet afraid of their grey hair - cavewomen liars who are the soul of the neo-nerd propaganda is helpful to me.
SS Disability Claims
written by Ron Alley, October 27, 2010 9:49
AndrewDover,

Social Security Disability payments and new claims have jumped in response to the current economic crisis. Many workers, particularly those over age 55, who find themselves unemployed and reaching the end of their unemployment benefits, resort to Social Security Disability claims. There are about 2 million disability claimants now awaiting resolution of their claims.
(http://www.cbsnews.com/stories...1596.shtml). The number of new claims is up about 60% over 2008.

The large increase in disability claims is simply a part of the human toll of trade and labor policies implemented by both the Left Wing and the Right Wing of the Corporate Party of America.
...
written by Queen of Sheba, October 27, 2010 10:46
Erskine Bowles, co-director of Obama's deficit reduction commission, pulls an arbitrary percentage of government spending vs. GDP out of a personal orifice, and it's accepted as rational.

Meanwhile, "By contrast, most other people believe that the services that can be provided most efficiently by the government should be provided by the government."

Unfortunately "most other people" aren't on the deficit reduction commission, so their beliefs don't count for jack. Most other people also believe that any problems with Social Security funding should be solved by raising the salary cap subject to FICA taxes rather than cutting benefits, which belief also won't count for jack.

Democrats should learn
written by Jack, October 27, 2010 12:44
Democrats should learn
written by Jack, October 27, 2010 12:41 PM

One thing or two from the ever reliable GOPs. Democrats failed in their projections as Dean and others accurately assessed.

Meanwhile, GOPs are always conservative in making projections and never failed to UNDERESTIMATE anything including WMD, Mission Accomplished, Housing Bubble, etc.
...
written by AndrewDover, October 27, 2010 7:16
http://crr.bc.edu/images/stori...k_-_sm.pdf

has a clear description of social security's situation.
@queen of sheba
written by Way Uptown, November 01, 2010 5:17
"Most other people also believe that any problems with Social Security funding should be solved by raising the salary cap subject to FICA taxes rather than cutting benefits, which belief also won't count for jack."

I agree with the thrust of this comment, but keep this in mind: Simply raising the FICA cap would, presumably, create greate future entitlements for those subjected to greater present withholdings. This would be a zero-sum outcome in terms of the long-term balance sheet.

You'd have to either (A) reduce through some kind of sliding scale the entitlement created by withholding on earnings above $106K (or whatever the cap is now), or (B) means-test at retirement time. I prefer the former since it maintains the low-overhead elegance of SS as it currently exists and keeps benefits predictable and transparent. So it's still a simple solution, just not quite as simple as raising the FICA cap.
...
written by boxer, November 03, 2010 6:07
Tax the rich, jobs for the poor till there are no rich no more. Down with the capitalist system! Viva la revolucion!
Very simple solution
written by mesopotamia, November 28, 2010 5:28
Tax wage income for *everyone*! I just read the boston univ "fact" paper, which lists as the primary "con" against this solution that the higher-income earners would not like it. Can someone -- anyone -- give a good reason why someone with a salary of $200,000/year only pays FICA tax on the first $106,000 when someone making $75,000/year pays the tax on *all* earnings? Whatever is not covered, if anything, then should be covered by what is only a *modest* increase in the FICA tax of less than 1%, split between employers and employees just as it is now.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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