Mudcat Café message #1387146 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62901   Message #1387146
Posted By: Amos
24-Jan-05 - 01:06 PM
Thread Name: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Subject: RE: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
EDITORIAL (Los Angeles Times)

Transition to Nowhere



President Bush's notion it is not yet a plan of partly privatizing Social Security has three large flaws. First, it is a cure in search of a disease. Second, it is a cure that won't work. And third, it is a cure that requires the disease to be gone before the cure can start.

This editorial concerns the third flaw. But to recap the others: The Bush administration calculates that Social Security will run out of cash in the year 2042. That's the crisis. It might seem refreshingly farsighted for the president to be dealing with this crisis 37 years in advance if a prediction about the economy 37 years from now was dependable, and if there was nothing else worth worrying about between now and then. To be sure, the gap between Social Security income and outgo is a problem. But to call it a crisis, to pencil it in for the year 2042 and to make this the major domestic focus of a presidency in 2005 is absurd. That's the first flaw.

The core argument for privatization is that investment in the private economy pays better than the Social Security trust fund's investment in government bonds. But even if this were true for sure and for everybody, privatization won't actually increase total private investment. Unless the government cuts spending which has nothing to do with Social Security privatization it will have to raise its dollars from the private economy. Every time privatization denies the government a dollar and puts that dollar into the private investment pool, the government will have to replace it by borrowing a dollar from that same pool. (For the full argument, go to http://www.latimes.com/proof .) This is the second flaw.

The third flaw involves the "transition." Right now, most of the money that comes in from current workers is paid out to current retirees. But privatization assumes that the money you put in will be available for your own retirement. In order to get from here to there, the cost of paying current retirees will have to come from somewhere else for a while. How much are we talking? Well, the administration acknowledges that this number is somewhere in the trillions. The Bush people say that they can borrow these trillions, and that they don't have to count it in the budget or the national debt because it is money the government implicitly owes already to future retirees.

This is a wonderful recipe for what might be called "bootstrap irresponsibility": a government program (Social Security in this case) costs far more than the government is willing to acknowledge. Instead of fixing it, it acknowledges the cost after all, borrows it and says that this doesn't count because we actually owed the money all along.