Monday, January 28, 2013

Today's Anti-Social Security Propaganda

Well, it looks like there is a new push on in the long term destruction of Social Security today. Now, I usually write about the plight of the long term un and underemployed but I am getting close to Social Security eligibility so decided I would discuss the anti Social Security effort today.

I'll start with Fact Free Fred Hiatt's Concern Troll op-ed in today's (Monday, January 28) Washington Post. It seems Mr Hiatt wants to offer his advice to President Obama on "entitlement reform" using the guise of how Democrats and Republicans view the past four years:

To achieve a fiscal compromise, Obama agreed in 2011 negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner to changes in Social Security that would be anathema to liberals, but Boehner walked away from the talks.


Both histories are factually correct. That coherent accounts can be written either way ought to suggest to partisans that neither version is quite the slam-dunk they imagine.

At a minimum, it ought to propel the White House to continue acting in the national interest, whichever party that seems to serve. And for a long time, Obama has said the national interest requires both revenue increases and reform of entitlement programs.
Once again, Mr Hiatt and the Post are pushing the myth that Social Security is a part of the overall Federal Budget and needs to be "controlled" to "fix the deficit" when in fact, Social Security loans to the Genera Fund have been propping up the Federal Budget for decades, allowing for the tax cuts over the years.

While I expect this type of nonsense from the Washington Post, today's Tampa Bay Times had a decidedly misleading headline ("US spends far more on seniors than on kids.") How is it misleading?
In 2008, all government (local state, and federal) spent $26,255 on average for each person 65 or older, most of which is Social Security and Medicare.
The blurb on children spending:
Conversely, the federal government spends relatively little on children and Medicaid is the largest single item. State and local governments spend much more n children because they pay for schools. But overall, governments spend far more than double on seniors than they do on children 18 and younger.
Finally, at the very bottom of this post, the Times offers a couple of caveats to offset the misleading nature of their headline and opening:
And boiling it down to a zero-sum game between young and old can make it seem as if those were the only choices. Indeed, other portions of the federal budget could be targeted instead, from defense spending to interest on the debt. Or people might be willing to pay higher taxes for government to do more.

Perhaps most crucially, if you spend dollars on the old, that can indirectly aid the young, and vice versa.


Finally, some experts suggest that the issue isn't spending on the elderly versus spending on children. Rather, it's a question of what policies can promote high employment and growth versus policies that promote consumption today.
This brings us to Politico which offers this article titled "The quiet liberal plans for entitlement reform." Of course, the first "liberal" plan is the Chained CPI:
This new formula — a tweak to the consumer price index — would assume that people switch their buying habits when prices rise, rather than just buying the same things over and over. So, for example, if the price of ground beef goes up, someone might buy chicken or fish instead.


But a lot of Democrats and liberals aren’t on board. They say seniors are already having a hard enough time with the current cost-of-living increases without dialing them back.


That’s why liberals want any chained CPI agreement to be balanced out with measures to ease the burden on the seniors with the lowest incomes. For example, Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, suggests exempting people on Supplemental Security Income — which pays benefits to the lowest-income seniors — and making a special payment to seniors who have been on Social Security for 20 years because they get poorer as they get older.
Note to Politico and inside Beltway Villagers: if you have to make special provisions for the poorest and lowest income on the scale to avoid the bad impacts of a policy, that should by definition tell you the policy is bad for everyone.

For what it is worth, Politico does mention lifting the cap on Social Security earnings but limits this to:
Lift the cap so 90 percent of all Americans’ earnings are taxed — it’s only about 83 percent now — and a Social Security deal could raise about $550 billion in revenues over the next 10 years, according to estimates by Third Way, which has endorsed the approach. It would also wipe out Social Security’s deficit through 2020.
Of course, this is also misleading as "...wipe out the Social Security deficit through 2020..." discounts the loans Social Security has made to the general fund for 30 plus years and the surplus that was built up that was used to fund tax cuts.

There is a large amount of cluelessness across the board with the policies being discussed. A week and half ago, the "Business Roundtable" proposed raising the Social Security and Medicare eligibility ages to 70. Jon Walker at FDL Action made a rebuttal on this level of idiocy here. I would just like to ask these CEOs where the jobs are that allow folks to keep working until age 70? The BLS information for December 2012 shows the Unemployment Rate as 7.8 and the rate for the long term un and underemployed and those who have given up at 14.8% (a figure that I believe is much too low than actual). But of course, they don't actually have to do anything that might mitigate the problems they have helped to create.

And because I can: