Social Security: Tanner v. Krugman and Marshall

The Club for Growth’s Soc. Sec. blog had been previewing a debate on March 15 between Michael Tanner and Paul Krugman forgetting to mention that Joshua Marshall was also invited to speak. Via Joshua comes the transcript.

Michael Tanner led off trying to claim that the Trust Fund has $12 trillion in debt right now and then he opened the door with this:

So, think of the single mother working maybe two jobs to try to make ends meet, paying 12.5% of her income in Social Security taxes, and at age 59 or 60, she dies, and her children are over the age of 18, so they’re not eligible for survivors benefits, what happens to all of the money that she has paid in to Social Security over the course of her lifetime? It’s simply gone. Lost. None of that money is passed on to her children, that they could use to go to college or start a small business.

Paul Krugman led off thusly:

Let me just first say what Social Security is, and just repeat – it is not a pension fund. It is not an investment project. It’s a social insurance program. It is a – it’s something that is there to protect people against misfortune. Now, it’s a big social insurance program. It is in fact the principle source of retirement income for many, many people in the United States. But it’s – you need to think of it always as, in fact, being social insurance. Now, it fulfills that function very well. Michael Tanner talks about the 59-year-old person whose children are adult who receives nothing if she doesn’t – if she passes away, and this is true. There’s a reason for that, which is those are 18 – those are children who are working age. They can take care of themselves. We might like them to have more, but, you know, this is not what the program is for. Think, instead, about the 35-year-old working man with a traditional family, wife hasn’t worked, hasn’t paid into the system, several, maybe many children, is hit by a bus.

Paul also dismantled Tanner’s $12 trillion fraud. Joshua Marshall mainly discussed the politics but also got in:

Over the years, I think that many Republicans, and President Bush particularly, decided that this was a popular reform, and the way they did that was by doing basically what Michael just did: put the best case forward for what you get. You have ownership. You can pass, you know, equity you build up to your heirs and so forth. Michael never mentioned benefit cuts, cuts in your guaranteed benefits. And when you say that, support for the whole thing drops, drops rapidly.

I guess we now know why Le Club has not yet mentioned the actual debate in the last couple of weeks.