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April 29, 2005

Bush Details Social Security Plans

Shockingly enough, Democrats attacked his plans, and yet offered no clear alternatives.

Basically, Bush wants to cut the rate of growth in benefits for the top 70% of wage earners, while allowing the bottom 30%'s benefits to grow faster.

Democrats have been clamoring for months for Bush to address the fundamental problem of the system's solvency... well, he did address it, and it turns out they weren't quite so enthused about "making hard choices" as they had previously suggested.

On Matthews' recap of the show, Democrats vaguely referred to their own plans to address the solvency issue, but refused to actually offer their details-- details, you will be shocked to learn, which include large increases in the payroll taxes.

Howard Fineman's take, I think, will be paradigmatic. Rather than praise Bush for having the guts to propose controversial solutions that we all know are necessary to fix a problem that gets worse by the day, he chose to only speak in terms of how unpopular all of this would be -- the "horserace" aspect of it, rather than the substantive policy aspect -- and chided Bush for offering America a chance to "eat their vegetables" (i.e., do something financially healthful but distasteful).

I had one hope for Clinton during his final term... I thought that, unshackled by the need to run for office again, he might actually grow a pair of balls and do the thing he'd been promising since he began campaigning for President (and do the thing that actually made me vote for him): frankly deal with the Social Security crisis, and fix the damn thing, once and for all.

He didn't, of course. As his term was running out, I remember arguing with a liberal (perhaps VonKreedon, actually), about whether Clinton would actually expend some political capital and address this growing financial crisis. The liberal maintained that in the final months of his lame-duck Presidency he would finally get around to it; I, having gotten a better idea of Clinton's priorities, said he wouldn't. I turned out to be right.

Of course.

The goo-goos ("good goverment" types) and the media generally have been whining about the need for some politician to make a brave stand and address this problem -- whatever the political fallout -- for, like, going on 20 years now.

Bush did.

And he'll get no credit for it whatsoever.

Yes... I know you're all terribly surprised about that.

On Gas Prices: The aptly nicknamed Richard "Dick" Durbin, a real partisan hack and .45 caliber pezzanovante as they might say in The Godfather, insists that Bush can lower gas prices simply by "jawboning" the Saudis, and explaining to them that it's really in their interest to make less money and exert less leverage on the West.

When Matthews suggested that Bush really can't do anything about gas prices, Durbin just asserted: "He can't only because he won't."

The Democrats are big on claiming that "diplomacy" can solve every dispute between nations. They seem to forget that there's a perfect defense to diplomacy and "jawboning": that perfect defense is the word "No," or Non, as the French say.

And that's all you have to do: say No.

But the Democrats insist that on this issue, as they insisted all through the buildup to the Iraq War, that all a President needs to do to get people on our side is "talk to them."

Have any of these guys ever been in a relationship, ever? Or are they all virgins and/or frequenters of brothels? Oprah can talk about "communication" all the live-long day, but if a girl doesn't want to do something, she ain't doin' it. And there's no sense in even arguing about it.

More on Social Security... From Meep.


I think I'm one of the few people who knows how Social Security benefits are actually calculated now. There is nothing sacrosanct about that benefit formula. It has been changed =lots= of times throughout history -- and Congress just made the benefit formula richer and richer each time because the payroll tax was more than funding the total SocSec benefits being paid out that year. Not for much longer, though.

To the Treasury, taxes are taxes. It doesn't matter if it's income tax, tariffs, or Medicare payroll tax. It all goes into the same pot. That pot has nobody's name on it. You, the taxpayer, are guaranteed =nothing=, even if you're already collecting checks. It used to be that Congress had to explicitly declare cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). Now they're built into the benefit formula. But Congress next year could pass a law that made everybody's monthly checks $5.

Changing the benefit formula is actually enough to make the problem not so bad. But people think that benefit formula is a promise. Well, there won't be enough money to pay that particular promise in 40 years' time, when I retire - only a few stupid and/or dishonest people have been making that claim. They wouldn't be able to raise taxes high enough to fulfill that claim. Ask the French people about how sustainable government "guaranteed" benefits are based on raising taxes alone.

But let me get back to the ownership idea. Right now, everybody's SocSec benefits are dependent on the whim of Congress. If there are private accounts, that is something you actually own. Those are actual assets that cannot be taken away without a breakdown in our system of laws. And private accounts are the sugar doused on the medicine of having to eat your vegetables, because there is at least a possibility of accumulating more with your own money than hoping future generations can be taxed sufficiently to meet your future needs.

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posted by Ace at 11:05 AM

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