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January 29, 2005

A Lame Defense For The Current Social Security Program [Say Anything]

Last week the President made the claim that the current Social Security program is unfair to America's blacks because, on average, blacks don't live as long as other demographics. Now some economists are saying that claim is untrue, but in trying to prove the President wrong they just uncovered more inequalities.

AP - The way Bush explained it to a group of black supporters last week, blacks are short-changed because they are more likely than whites to die before receiving their fair share of retirement benefits.

It is true that blacks, on average, have shorter lifespans than whites. But that is not the only factor that needs to be considered, say economists who study the government's retirement program.

Social Security pays lower-income workers more, relative to what they pay into the program, than higher-income workers. Blacks are paid less than whites on average, so the distribution of benefits favors them. That evens out the discrepancy caused by the difference in death rates, said economist Jeffrey Liebman, a former Clinton administration official whose research is often cited by the Bush administration in support of its own policies.

So their defense against Bush's comments is that blacks are poorer than whites, therefore they get more benefits. That's...not very convincing. Basically, they are arguing against a plan that would allow Social Security account holders to bequeath their account balance to their inheritors in favor of a plan that allows only the spouse of a deceased citizen to collect half benefits, if those benefits are even still in existence. The way Social Security is being run now, the existence of benefits even a few decades down the line is very much in doubt.

The second line of defense against the President's comments from these "experts" is even sillier:

Furthermore, the program pays not just retirement benefits but disability benefits to those too sick or injured to work. Blacks, 13 percent of the population, comprise 17 percent of the disability beneficiaries.

On balance, the program may actually benefit blacks more than whites, according to analyses by the AARP, scholars such as Liebman and the Social Security Administration's actuaries. Only the conservative Heritage Foundation has concluded otherwise.

That's great. A lot of blacks receive Social Security because they're sick or injured, so lets not put them in charge of their own accounts or allow them to bequeath said accounts to their survivors. So says the old-person's lobby (the AARP a/k/a the people already on Social Security who don't have to worry about lost benefits in 30 years) and Democrats who don't want their pet social project fixed by a Republican administration.

And this reporter's assertion that the "conservative Heritage Foundation" is the entity to conclude that the current Social Security program short-changes blacks is patently false. The Cato Institute has said much the same thing, to name just one organization.

Bottom line: Social Security has major problems. The only people who won't admit there are problems are either committed to opposing any policy the Bush administration wishes to push or are part of the minority benefiting from the current system.

[Cross-posted at Say Anything]

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posted by Ace at 11:59 PM

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