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Social Security ‘Reform’: the Undead Return

by Bruce Webb
What does it take? A stake through the heart? A bullet through the brain? Baker and Krugman do some pushback.
Dean Baker in his post The Post’s Jihad against Social Security points to this article Obama Predicts Years of Deficits over $1 trillion and notes that they don’t hesitate to single out the usual suspect. Is it the cost of the war? The cost of the bailout? The cost of the stimulus package? Nope apparently those are just short term problems. Instead as always the first stop for deficit reform is Social Security.

WaPo: The mounting debt has raised an alarm on Capitol Hill, where some Republicans and moderate Democrats are pressing Obama to tackle the looming challenge of skyrocketing Medicare and Social Security spending, and to adopt tough new budget rules to prevent future deficits from ballooning.

Which leads Dean to reply with some exasperation:

The article includes a comment about “the looming challenge of skyrocketing Medicare and Social Security spending. ” Of course Social Security spending is not projected to skyrocket. It is projected to increase gradually, and its costs are fully covered by its own tax stream until 2048, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest projections.

In a related note Paul Krugman poses the question in a Jan 5 post A Bullet Dodged

What would have happened if George W. Bush had actually succeeded in his plan to privatize Social Security?

and suggests an answer ‘Ask the Italians’ Bloomberg News: Italian Pensions Sapped by Private Funds Bush Backed

In my view it is practically criminal for policy makers to be wasting a second talking about Social Security given the very real possiblity we are headed for a new Great Depression. And so equally criminal for opinion makers to be twisting current events to pursue this old vendetta. It is a shame that people like Baker and Krugman still have to keep a vigilant eye out for the zombies intent on eating the flesh of Social Security. Maybe we can make a deal. If the Right will simply stop taking every possible opportunity to take a bite at Social Security then I promise to shut up. And then maybe we can let Krugman and Baker continue the really important discussion.

“Social Security ‘reformers’! Report back to your graves!”

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Random Notes, or, More Posts I Don’t Have to Write

Greg Mankiw presents Yet Another Reason to regret skipping the AEA this year, though somehow the word “intentional” was left out of the description.

Stan Collender, of all people, does the job I wished someone would do on Martin Feldstein’s WSJ op-ed. I may have beaten him by a day in calling it out, but there’s nothing so perfect as Collender’s conclusion:

Finally, something that’s not in the Feldstein piece: dollar for dollar, military spending doesn’t provide as much an economic return as domestic spending. Building an extra tank or missle that then sits idle because it’s not needed provides a one-time boost to the economy. But building a road, bridge, tunnel, sewer, or information superhighway that is needed continues to provide benefits as people, goods, and information travel faster, less expensively, and far more productively than would have otherwise been the case.

That means that starting with the headline, Feldstein was seriously mistaken.

Differences between now and 1992, positive version: In 1992, Dave Barry made a legendary appearance at the National Press Club. At some point during the Q&A, he declared that he was going to end all of his answers with the phrase “failed Clinton Administration.” (There may have been cheering.)

UPDATE: I was trying to think of a nice way to be rude about Tyler Cowen’s NYT piece on how “the seeds of the crisis” were planted by the resolution of the LTCM crisis.* () But Buce at Underbelly saves the day with a two-point takedown (not the three-pointer of Collender, but still aces) called Long-Term Confusion:

Tyler Cowan has an amazingly confused piece in this morning’s NYT arguing tht we owe our current plight in large part to the “bailout” (I use the term advisedly) ten years ago of Long-Term Capital Mangement (link). But the point of LTCM, as Tyler’s own piece acknowledges (but Tyler ignores) is precisely that LTCM was not a bailout, except perhaps in the sense that the Feds provided lunch.** Okay, and a little bit of arm-twisting. But I should think that would be on the approved list for even the most hairy-chested libertarian. The message was: look, we love ya, and we will work with ya, but we will not put skin in the game. [italics mine, but they could have been his]

In 2008, the NPC appearance of note is by Paul Krugman (h/t EconLib, again of all places), whose six part presentation and q&a session is available on YouTube and therefore easier to watch for the Internet-impaired than his Nobel Lecture.***

McMegan Wuz Robbed! Then again, that’s nothing compared to the abomination of this voting, where something that’s already remainder and long-forgotten appears to be winning.

And, finally, proof that it’s really TOUGH to live in Hoboken.

Happy New Year!

*If Robert Samuelson had published the same piece, Brad DeLong would not have been nice. As it is, we can just assume DeLong hasn’t read it yet amidst his globetrotting.

**Meaning in this case literally the food for the sixteen conversants, fifteen of whom anted up.

***Yes, I assume anyone who accesses YouTube from a non-networked machine has a downloading program. Also, am I the only one who just realised that YouTube is maintained on a Linux-based server?

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