social security exists for a reason

I just got back from a meeting of the Washtenaw County Democrats. The topic of conversation was Social Security privatization. (They’re against it.) I sat in the back row, eating my sandwich and taking notes. I only spoke up once, toward the end of the meeting, when I directed a question to the young man from our Congressman’s office. I said something like, “When discussing Social Security reform with conservatives, they invariably start out by saying that the system is in crisis. I respond by quoting the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office report, telling them that the system, left exactly as it is, would continue to pay full benefits to all recipients until 2053. Knowing that, they’ll usually back off the immediate danger line, but then we’re left discussing what needs to be done now in order to guarantee that the program exists past 2053. And, it’s at this point that I generally lose them. Whether you agree with it or not, they’ll point out that Bush has a plan, and ask what the Democrats are suggesting that we do to fix it. So, my question to you is this – what are we offering instead? We know the system left as it is will not go on forever, but what are we suggesting that we do to fix it?” A few people jumped in to second what I was saying and little debate erupted.

The fellow from DC was of the opinion, at least it seemed as though he was of the opinion, that we should wait and see what’s in Bush’s plan before we do anything. (He said that given our minority status we wouldn’t be able to bring legislation to the floor anyway.) He seemed to think that we should bide our time, building consensus with moderate Republicans, and prepare to offer a bipartisan alternative once the President’s plan had been defeated. Quite a few of us suggested that the situation calls for a more proactive stance, but his opinion was that, for the time being, we should just focus on killing the idea of privatization, one of the key elements in Bush’s as yet to be delivered plan.

I don’t want to give the impression that the Democrats aren’t doing anything, because they are. They’re looking into various alternatives, like raising the cap on contributions, but it seems as though they don’t want to come out and say something until they know what they’re up against. I can see where they’re coming from, but I think that if we learned anything in the last election it was that just being against something wasn’t enough. We need to be able to tell people what we’re for, not just react to what the Bush administration proposes.

(I just mentioned the cap on contributions. Right now, as I understand it, people in the U.S. just pay Social Security tax on their income up to $90,000. I believe the rate is something like 6.2%. On everything over $90k, however, they pay nothing. One of the alternative ideas being kicked around Democratic circles is raising that cap. Of course, raising the retirement age, and other things, are also being discussed.)

Following are a few other things that were covered in the meeting.

– Bush’s plan, as he’s described it, does nothing to make Social Security more viable in the long run. Privatization, for instance, will not change the fact that money flowing out of the system, beginning in 2019, will be more than the amount flowing in. In fact, instituting Bush’s private accounts will add at least one trillion dollars in new debt.

– It was the consensus of all of those involved in the discussion that Bush bashing should not play a part in our actions, that our efforts should just focus on the protection of Social Security. It was the belief of most that moderate Republicans could be brought to our side.

– There may be a large-scale protest in Washington, DC on August 14 to mark the 70th anniversary of FDR’s signing of the Social Security Act. The hope is to have at least 1 million people attend. (If necessary, it could be held before the August. It depends on how aggressively Bush tries to push his legislation through.)

– Quite a bit of time was given to the art of writing letters to the editor. Here were the highlights: be terse, stick to one point, be cogent, be clear, get your facts straight, and make them personal. It was also suggested that we start an on-line forum where people could proofread each other’s letters. And, it was felt that we should make an effort to engage the young in joining the letter-writing campaign. (Out of the 40 people there tonight, there were only about 3 of us who were under 40 years old.)

The most important thing to come out of the meeting for me was the appreciation for Social Security not as a savings tool for myself, but as a mechanism whereby those of us Americans who are working take care of our elderly. It was funny, but until I heard an older lady next to me mention it, the idea had never occurred to me. I had always thought about it in a more “me generation” kind of way. While I didn’t think of it as a savings account as such, I did kind of think about it like the money I was paying in was supposed to be for me. I never thought about it like, “I’m paying this money in to take care of people who are my grandparents age.” I know it’s a subtle difference (in that you do eventually get something back out upon your retirement), but it’s profound.

Illustrating this fact, someone else in the audience stood up to tell the story of Ida May Fuller, the first woman to receive Social Security, just shortly after FDR signed the bill into law. After paying into the system for just a very short while, Ida May retired from her job and began collecting. Although she’d only paid $24 into Social Security, she began receiving checks for $22 per month. She lived to be 100 and collected $25,000 from the system in the process. The younger people in the U.S. paid to take care of her, even though she hadn’t paid in, and that’s a good thing. It’s something we should always keep in mind when we’re tempted to say, “but it’s MY money.” Social Security was never intended to be a savings account. It was, and continues to be, primarily a program to support the elderly.

OK, I have to go now, but if you’re interested in reading more, check out FactCheck.org. It’s a good, non-partisan source for information. If you know of others, leave a link.

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58 Comments

  1. Posted February 14, 2005 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    kudos mark -good fair reporting. One point that got me though was
    “for the time being, we should just focus on killing the idea of privatization, one of the key elements in Bush

  2. chris
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    Mike, Reg. your Galveston story back when you kind of began this, is artfully discussed on Fresh Air, link-http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=449336 there are many for whom it did not work, including those who received less than what they would have received from SS, many of whom were in the lower 40% of earners. But really, what do you care?

    But anyway, I am really kind of pissed that I am even responding to you given what you have put us all through. I will not read anything after your name, or JF’s and hope you don’t resort to fronting anymore. Also, I think you might REALLY enjoy the West Virginia Surf Report, there is a link here for the blog.

    Mark, can’t your webmaster just forward the troll postings w/ ISP email address to their co. CEO, I think s/he would esp. find the part interesting where Mike invited all of his co-workers to post to your site rather than actually work…unless of course the CEO is an immediate family member. I guess this is a threat, but I really wish they would leave.

    One good thing that has come out of this is the realization that I have often been to angry in my posts and my apologies to your faithful readers.

    Oh yeah, are you really Tony Buttons? And does anyone have any suggestions for how to catch the two mice who are currently laughing at me behind my back because they have figured out how to avoid the traps?

  3. Brian
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Let’s try to stay on topic with this post.

  4. mike
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    Chris, your link didn’t work.

  5. mike
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    I found the correct link.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4493369

  6. Dick Cheney\'s Extending Taint
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    First let me state for the record that I am Dick Cheney’s Extending Taint and I have never posted as anyone else (at least since I last cleared cookies.)

    Now, Social Security:

    The republicans bullshit PR line about ‘crisis’ is being called and it seems to be losing steam. The 50% of Bush haters are like “That fucking asshole is lying AGAIN!!” The rest of the country is like “C’mon it’s politics. What’s the harm in a little white lie if we can really get something good done for everybody. Loosen up, you pussies.” In a rare break from the talking points, conservative Grover Norquist admitted on Morning Edition last week, “It’s not in crisis, it’s just a shitty system.”

    Fair enough. It is kind of shitty. It doesn’t work if there is a baby boom. And it was created when things were a lot different than they are now. When it was dreamt up there were, like, lots of very poor old people. They were starving and cold and shit. And it was like, HALF of all old people were like that. Not just a few here and there like the homeless now.

    These days almost everyone has a place to stay. They can afford basic food and electricity. Clean water. Most have some money in the bank and a pretty good number have pensions or investments that would keep them from starving even if SS were completely cut off tomorrow. This is far different than it used to be.

    So, yes, there are people who’ve been gunning for the gutting of social programs ever since the New Deal, and now they’re salivating because their party owns DC at the moment, and this pisses progressives off, BUT maybe it’s time to refine the system. It’s certainly imperfect, and what if there is a better way to do it?

    So we have this market idea. The stock market is what made America great right? Give the people a little capital. Let them compete for more. This drives efficiency/productivity at getting shit done that we all need done. We fire it up and the next thing you know we’re THE GREATEST FUCKING COUNTRY ON THE PLANET!!! God handed us the free market capitalism ball, we ran with it, and it’s our duty to keep on running.

    And a bonus of that system is that anybody can own a little piece of the winners. Fits well with the democracy concept.

    So the idea to fix social security now is hook the retirement savings of the masses up to the market. Why not? It’s not all that crazy an idea, right? Sure George Bush is an evil moron, but this idea… it’s not bad. It’s creative. It’s big one. At least Bush has some balls to really try to make a difference. Gotta respect that. The “Ownership society”. We’re all in it together. We’re all invested. Nice concept.

    Oh my gosh look at the time. I’m afraid that’s all we have for today. I’ll leave it here for you guys to pick up. What are the problems with this idea?

    What’s the upside?
    What’s the downside?
    Has it worked in other countries?
    Is the market a good bet?
    What does history say? (hint: say the average person works for 40 years. That gives the theoretical retirement return for the market no more than two independent data points. Even though it’s 80 years, are two data points really a trend to bet on?)
    What happens to stocks when everybody is always buying?
    Transition costs?

    The opinions (didn’t really get to any, but… next time) expressed or solely those of Dick Cheney’s Extending Taint.

    Goodnight Mark’s blog readers.

  7. Dave Morris
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Good Morning –

    One quick thought ( a refinement of comment 101 back in the shit flinging room ) – The money that is paid out of our earnings for Social Security, if I understand it correctly, mostly goes into US treasury bonds. The capital is then used by the US government for the development and improvement of infrastructure, which in turn supports the growth of the economy.

    Perhaps the SS money is not that large of a proportion of the funding of these projects. My guess is that it is, but I don’t know for certain. It is a big chunk of change and it had better not be just sitting around. ( Someone please fact check me on this one. And be nice. I asked politely.,)

    The point is that if it is, how is the market going to grow if there is no cash to fund improvements of infrastructure and subsidies to basic services ( like produce and water. )

    Perhaps I am just confusing the issue more.

    The problem is one of due diligence in my opinion. Would the captial be better used funding new Herman Miller office furniture for latt

  8. JF
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Good stuff Mark (truly),

    A couple of comments first to Chris as he probably wont read anything with my name on it but if someone knows him tell him Peanut Butter works best on mouse traps. Never fails at my house.

    On Social Security my first question of this group is do we all agree that the Social Security system simply cannot pay the benefits that have been promised? If so I agree with all of you that something needs to be done. Unlike many conservatives I am open to any idea to help re-direct this system. I do believe allowing younger workers to invest a portion of it on their own is the best for the future. As long as there is a yearly maximum. I also believe we should cover the costs by slowing the growth of payouts to future beneficiaries. But am open to other ideas. Either way George Bush is the first president who actually has the canons to tackle this difficult and EMOTIONAL problem. As he works for a solution others are going to sit on the sidelines and take cheap and dishonest shots.

    Chris thanks for the Galveston article. I will read this as this is the first time I have heard of any failures in this program.

    JF

  9. JF
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    Thanks for the link to factcheck.org. Have heard it mentioned before but never read any of there stuff. Good stuff. So I will no longer use the words Bankrupt or privatize. But also notice the MoveOn.org factcheck. Interesting as well.

    Later

  10. brett
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I have a few things to say on the subject, but i’m going to digress briefly, as the post from chris above made me feel like i have a little bit of penance to pay as well.

    I’d like to take a moment to let all of mark’s invisible friends know that i’m not exactly proud of the methodology i employed in the last 48 hours. If you look at certain extended periods over the weekend, there are three posters dominating the site, and I’m one of them. The fact that I’m the person arguing on behalf of ‘progressiveness’ may excuse my comments to some extent, but the fact that i was the only one making those points has led me to the conclusion that at least some of you may believe i opted for the wrong tactic in dealing with the situation. My logic was simply that if Mark’s blog be abandoned and turned into an echo chamber of personal insults about the fact that he wore windbreakers in the 1980’s , or else an endless run of one-sided comments arguing for Bush’s social security reform, flat tax, etc, that this would be a great loss to the blogosphere and an injustice to the important work mark’s already done by raising awareness about certain issues.

    I’m sorry.
    If there is an alternate reality out there, as some of you may feel, where i hadn’t respond to the comments from mike and company and they immediately wandered away out of boredom, then i’m doubly sorry. My hope is that, now that a few others have come back online, the debates and discussions can be direct, pleasant, and brief from here on out.
    I will be scrubbing chimpanzee shit off myself for the next week because of this, and I honestly hope none of you get covered in the stuff, because it stinks.

    Back to the topic at hand. I just wanted to very briefly mention the woman mark talks about in his post, Ida May Fuller, the first SS recipient. I had never heard the story before he told it, and I think it is a perfect example of the importance of the social contract. Several hundred years ago now (I think it was wednesday, actually), I made one of the first replies to a new poster named ‘mike’, not knowing what would come after; the point i made involved my own grandmother, who is having trouble affording medicine with the current benefits offered by the plan, which i think is an effective way of bringing the issue down to the very human component of the matter being debated, and basically enforced the same thought mark raises regarding Ida May and society’s moral obligation to care for her.

    The thing about Ida May is, that after a very short google search I saw that she has already been co-opted by some conservative pundits, most notably a mr. Limbaugh, to use as evidence of why social security is, as they say, a “Ponzi Scheme” which is fiscally unsound and tantamount to welfare, due to the fact the SS ‘lost money’ on her. SO, when you’re debating with your conservative brother-in-law or coworker, and you bring up her name as a point of pride, don’t be surprised if they’ve already heard of her.

    Another matter which has been addressed concerns something called “Fairtax”. This is a proposal to eliminate ALL taxes, including the IRS which enforces them, and replace them with a 23% sales tax on all new consumer purchases. I’m not going to get into the matter now, but I will say it’s becoming a very popular idea, and it’s going to be something that we will all very soon have to either accept or fight against, depending on your opinion of it, based on the momentum it appears to be generating. I also did a google search for this, and found page after page of personal and organizational websites celebrating the idea, and one of the only dissenting voices i heard came from a “Jewish pro-gun ownership” group, so it seems like once again the convservative agenda has found ‘populist support’ on an issue before it even shows up on most of our radar screens.

    Finally,to Chris, I would have to agree with JF’s peanut butter suggestion. It is more attractive than most types of cheese, and is also more hygenic as it doesn’t tend to mold as quickly. I don’t know what design of trap you’re using, but there are very inexpensive, reusable live traps that are a little clear plastic box with a lightweight door that only opens inward, and I’ve had much success with the design as it doesn’t entail a spring device which can misfire, and which then renders the trap useless until it’s reset again. And I think i recall you saying at some point that you were a “Bitch” (your term), and not a male as JF insinuates. It’s a small point, but as i am also blessed/cursed with a ‘gender-ambiguous’ moniker i thought i’d mention it for the sake of clarity.

  11. Ken
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I think that when Jarod uses the word EMOTIONAL for this issue, that it is synonymous with political. Politics has become very emotional in the last decade. It is almost akin to a sporting event. I want my team to win and when it doesn’t I am upset. Along with my team, I like the players and everything they do. When Mr. Cheney’s Extending Taint said that this is political, I think he hit the nail on the head. It is all about politics. It is about undoing something that has been a legacy of the Democratic party and turning it into something decidedly Republican. This makes the fans of both sides cheer louder, do the wave and pull out the foam #1 fingers. Because of this, nothing will probably be done. In this country, things get done after something happens. Think 9/11. Think Great Depression. That is when, as a reaction, a small group of people push through what they think needs to be done. It works. There is no time to even think about all the minutia involved. No time to quibble over the price. When things aren’t getting shoved through, it becomes Design by Committee. That is when things get watered down and lose their edge. Unfortunately, a lot of times, that is the only way something is possible. It is a choice of Design by Committee or nothing. Right now, Bush is trying to ram it through under the guise that it is a crisis but it will eventually be designed by a committee and then die.

    I do think the Fair Tax Initiative is relevant here because Social Security would be rolled up into that along with Medicare. My issue with that tax would be the loop holes and the ways to beat the system. Human nature is to beat the system. How do they beat it now? They pay people under the table and set up accounts that can’t be taxed. How would they beat it under a new system? They would sell goods in the alley if they could get away with it. Who wouldn’t want to save $500 bucks on a new computer. It would be beating the system. I wonder how the big guys like Wal-Mart would come down on a large sales tax. My guess is they wouldn’t want it but I could be wrong.

    Off Topic Stuff – Chris have you seen the mice? I ask because I thought I had mice and when I went to Home Depot to get traps the guy asked me if I had seen it. When I replied that I hadn’t, he said it was most likely a rat. The year of the rat! I got rat traps, four of them and loaded them up with peanut butter and that rat licked that stuff off 8 different times. Licked clean, he left nothing. In ended up putting a piece of cheesy ham from a pizza and that did the trick.

  12. Teddy Glass
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I like this thread on rat catching and social security reform very much. (Surreal and yet somehow almost appropriate.) Maybe later we can start one on oral sex and food stamps. Then, trout fishing and media consolidation.

  13. Ken
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Just a note on the flame war of the past week: I don’t know about the rest of you but I don’t come here for the politics. I come here for Mark. I enjoy his take on life and I admire his energy. He has more irons in the fire than anybody I know. That wasn’t the first flame war here and it most surely will not be the last. When the dust settles, it always will be where you come for all of your Mark Maynard needs!

  14. mike
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    don’t have time right at this moment to discuss an article that I just read at lunch but want to share it now with all of you:
    http://www.townhall.com/columnists/jeffjacoby/jj20050214.shtml

    I will be back to discuss after tending to some work. Some good points are made (disregard the Ann coulter book for sale on the bottom of the page. Hopefully, we can stick to the content of the article…and catching mice)

    mice: I had one stare me in the face when I opened the pantry. Looking for something to eat and came face to face with the 3 inch monster. Almost shit myself. Anyway, bought two cheap sticky traps can caught 3 in one night. End of problem. They eventually suffocate I believe. I don’t really care but some of you may want a more humane way to get rid of them. I have 3 kids and them not getting bit takes precedence over the welfare of rodents in my house.

  15. brett
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    The article referred to above makes the precise assertion i mentioned earlier regarding the depiction of “Ida May” as being something akin to the first ‘welfare queen’. One of the points I learned from researching her story, is that the precise amount she got in payments seems to vary slightly from source to source; as such, if an article gives a specific dollar amount (in this case $20,933.52) you may find it amusing to google that number along with her name to see where the ‘facts cited’ have come from. In this case, there are only FOUR resulting links, all descending from a report published by the Libertarian CATO institute (which was coincidentally mentioned in “What’s the Matter with Kansas”, as an employer of the ponytail-wearing conservative economist Vernon L. Smith).

    my favorite throwaway line in the article is: “A social-welfare program created in the age of gramophones and the Model A would be updated for a world of iPods and superhighways.”, which is inserted in the hopes that the reader will feel that Bush’s plan will actually make them somehow ‘fashionably hip and modern’, although it has absolutely no relevance to the actual argument whatsoever.

    Although he obviously doesn’t say so expressly, the author, Jeff Jacoby, bases all arguments on the a priori logic that one’s personal interests are more important than the maintenance of the society in which they live.

    Yes, Ignore the ann coulter book advertisement. Also ignore the fact that it’s on townhall.com. But do go here:

    http://www.townhall.com/columnists/jeffjacoby/archive.shtml

    to read the titles of the columnist’s articles for the last two years, and you’ll see that he appears to lack a certain sense of objectivity.

    Finally, to continue the cross-disciplined spirit of the discussion, the above poster says: “Anyway, bought two cheap sticky traps can caught 3 in one night. End of problem. They eventually suffocate I believe. I don’t really care but some of you may want a more humane way to get rid of them. I have 3 kids and them not getting bit takes precedence over the welfare of rodents in my house”(endquote)

    While I am not terribly surprised that his feelings towards the welfare of mice are the same as his attitude towards ‘welfare’ in general, I though i should correct his statement about sticky traps suffocating the animals, which is overly simplistic. The information below is taken from “A Laboratory Test Method for Evaluating the Efficacy of Glueboards for Trapping House Mice,” Vertebrate Pest Control and Management Materials: Fourth Symposium, American Society for Testing and Materials, 1983, pp. 209-225. :

    “A 1983 test that evaluated the effectiveness of glue traps found that trapped mice struggling to free themselves would pull out their own hair, exposing bare, raw areas of skin. The mice broke or even bit off their own legs, and the glue caused their eyes to become badly irritated and scarred. After three to five hours in the glue traps, the mice defecated and urinated heavily because of their severe stress and fear, and quickly became covered with their own excrement.Animals whose faces become stuck in the glue slowly suffocate, and all trapped animals are subject to starvation and dehydration.”(endquote)

    Death by starvation and dehydration, by the way, takes several days in the case of small mammals.

  16. Ken
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Brett, I feel the flames a startin’! Feel the love brother, feel the love. It is Valentines Day! For all of you that don’t celebrate this Hallmark holiday, just hold out until March 14th

  17. brett
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Ken- I’m cool, man. I’m cool. Don’t worry. That’s all I have to say, and now it’s been said.

    As Teddy Glass suggested, your link should be discussed only when the subject of food stamps is raised, though.

  18. Edward Klee
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Ken, for pointing the way to some common ground that I think we can all agree on.

    Alas, we have found the great common denominator!

    http://www.sunnycrittenden.com/BlowJob101.html

  19. JF
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Brett,

    I agree with you on the sticky traps believe it or not. Much better sticking to the old reliable mouse trap. As long as you can manage not to get your finger when setting the trap you should be ok.

    The sticky traps are a little inhumane for me. But I am sure you can find an article on the negatives of a normal mouse trap.

  20. JF
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Snap Traps…are best with some peanut butter. Quick snap of the neck and that is all she wrote. Perfect for that pesky rodent.

    Mike why bother with the sticky traps? Why not get the snap traps? Either way you are going to kill them. At least this way you dont have to do it yourself. It certainly would make Brett much happier.

  21. brett
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    JF- thanks for the comments.

    I might add that, as I know mike has kids, that if they’re very young they might unwittingly handle the sticky traps which possibly (depending on the brand) contain poisons they shouldn’t be exposed to.

    “Think of the Children!”, I always say.

  22. Posted February 14, 2005 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Seems like the whole SS revamp attempt is the Bushies’ 2nd effort to “pump up the Dow Jones”.

    The War didn’t work, so now they want to take money out of the public SS system and insert it into the expense accounts of GOP-donatin’ corporations.
    The piper must be paid (by our kids).

    …well, not MY kids.

  23. Dick Cheney\\\'s Extending Taint
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    People, live traps are the shit. Not only does the mouse/rat not suffer at your hand, but you get to hold them up for the wife and kids to examine alive up close. It’s cool. And when you’re done checking him out, take your kids on a long walk (or drive) to some woods. Pick out a spot and let the thing go. If you pick a large open field and you’re lucky a hawk will swoop down and break the little rodent’s neck right in front of you!

  24. Anonymatt
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    When I had a mouse problem, I decided on spring traps. They’re violent but quick. Glue traps are horrible (unless you’re willing to put the caught mouse out of its misery, which I’m not), and I didn’t want to have some poisoned mouse expire under my cabinets and rot. Live traps were out of the question, I live in Brooklyn and cannot drive somewhere to let the mouse go. (I cannot imagine that taking the mouse somewhere else in the city would go over well with the people living there.)

    But I found out that the mice were coming up through a hole in the floor by one of my radiators. I haven’t seen a mouse since I blocked the hole. Find out where they’re getting in, and seal it up.

  25. Posted February 14, 2005 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    (Sticky trap fan here. Maybe not as humane, but more effective).
    In my ignorance I wonder why there’s a SS cap in the first place. If there weren’t, and Mr. Gates and co. were contributing, the “crisis” would vanish over night. And that class would miss the money much less than a single mom in Detroit with 2 jobs. I agree with Mark that the Dems need to rally round a thought-out platform, instead of just react. Maybe “SCRAP THE CAP!” could be a platform to appeal to the average person in the middle/working class. I can hear the ads already. “You work hard to feed your family while the wealthiest 1% of the country…” &c.

  26. JF
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    See this is much more pleasant. If we could just stick to mouse traps my need for blood pressure medicine will subside.

  27. mark
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I haven

  28. mike
    Posted February 14, 2005 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    I just threw the mice in the garbage before it died so waiting three days for it to soffocate was not a problem. They were also set to where the kids couldn’t get to them so no poison problem.
    leighton, pumping up the Dow Jones is actually a GOOD thing for this country. Why the bitterness? If the dow gets pumped up then the investors win. The investors are the public. We ARE trying to find a way to earn more on our money, right? So we have enough to redistribute to the people who need it but were unfortunate enough not to be able to save much with their own skills and decision making, right? You people cry about the poor and then you cry about corporate america then you cry about mice. Instead of hating big corporations, embrace them. They supply a lot of jobs in this country, although small business supplies more. At what point does a mom and pop operation become the hated corporation? When it becomes too successful? Investing in the market is a wise thing. It will help our ecomomy. Allowing 2% of your SS to be invested in a personal account would guarantee that everyone, even the previously disenfranchise, could finally own a piece of corporate america. No longer will the evil rich own the stock market. It will be all of ours. Especially if you believe in the free market and the economic strength of the greatest country in the free world (getting more free every year now that Bush is in office) you would keep an open mind to this concept.

  29. mike
    Posted February 15, 2005 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Good article although light on the actual statistics and details of the actual funds the contributors could invest in.

    Seems like some pro and cons.
    One thing to look out for is who will manage the accounts and how much they can charge for doing so. I am sure that we can manage them at much lower costs here but will we have a choice and how do we pick the firms that will do it

  30. Dick Cheney\'s Extended Taint
    Posted February 15, 2005 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    2% for personal accounts mean 2% of the income for the current system is gone. This means that the gov’t has to borrow that or cut benefits. This may make it too pricey to switch.

    “no SS lockbox” – Do you think the companies that you would invest in will hold your money in a lock box for you?

  31. mike
    Posted February 15, 2005 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    “no SS lockbox” – Do you think the companies that you would invest in will hold your money in a lock box for you?

    Well, number one, it would be mine. Number two, I have never heard of someone selling their mutual fund and the company holding it saying “yeah, we don’t have that..it’s gone”. However, the government does it all the time.

    And yes, you are right, 2% will be gone from the government. Will there be sacrifices? Yep. Where are they going to be? I don’t know. My wife and I would give up all our SS benefits if it meant our children would be able to count on a legitimate system. I have no problem with that solution. How about you? If you also say yes, then maybe so many people will voluntarily give it up for their kid’s sake.

  32. Dave Morris
    Posted February 16, 2005 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Apologies in advance if I am going over already covered material. Have not read through all the posts, links and comments on SS.

    Here is the answer to my question- 25% of all federal revenue is from payroll taxes. 20% is paid out to SS recipients. The current annual federal revenue is around $4 trillion – or 25% of the GDP (approx. $12 trillion.) So, 5% ( $200 billion ) goes into US Treasuries. What the government does with that loan – I don’t know. I assume that they use it to finance spending that exceeds the amount of annual federal revenue.

    Assuming that the government is capable of paying the loan back, things seem to look good- as long as no one starts questioning the “full faith and credit” line.

    Here is an article that was in the Seattle Times on Monday. I think it is a nice response to Mark’s question of ” what are we offering instead?” It is about another idea for private accounts:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2002179207_peirce14.html

    and a link to the organization they are referring to :

    http://www.cfed.org/

    On the subject of rats, I had a little fella that was helping himself to the compost in my worm bin. I didn’t notice it until it was too late. For a few weeks the compost pile kept getting noticeably smaller. I just thought the worms were doing a fine job. Then the worms started disappearing. I pushed the bedding aside and noticed that the weep holes were enlarged, so I lift up the box and it looked like a frat house on Saturday morning. I bought a rat trap, put a piece of cheese on it, and checked it about every other day. No luck. I started checking less frequently and after about a month of not checking I decided to open the worm bin up. There was barely anything left of the rat. He was covered in these black beetles that were busy disassembling him. So everything got composted, but not the way I had intended.

  33. Dave Morris
    Posted February 16, 2005 at 2:54 am | Permalink

    This one goes to the info on Individual Development Accounts-

    http://www.cfed.org/focus.m

    ( disclaimer; I don’t know a whole lot about these guys. The idea is interesting and thought I’d throw it out there. )

  34. JF
    Posted February 16, 2005 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Good link here.

    http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2005/cyb20050215.asp#1

    Just shows that it is a good plan when Clinton was in office for the Dems but now that they are not it is a poor plan. Hypocrisy at its finest.

  35. Dave Morris
    Posted February 16, 2005 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    There was an article in the LA Times yesterday about the economy and jobs. They mentioned that companies are becoming more efficient with less people and that US companies combined are sitting on $4.7 trillion dollars in ” liquid assets.” That is a huge chunk of change just sitting around. That money is never going to go toward improvements of infrastructure. It is there for the companies to develop products and services. And they don’t know what to do with it. Microsoft just gave back $30 billion to share holders because they didn’t know what to do with it. $30 billion.

    I suppose that the cash could be invested in treasuries to help improve infrastructure and fund large scale research and development, but that just increases the national debt. That brings us back to raising taxes.

    At some point “investing” becomes ridiculous. Money does not generate weath. Hard work and resources do.

    Why not consider the creation of a federally funded and supervised organization, like Bell Labs or Friedmans “alternative energy manhattan project”, for large scale research and development? People could voluntarily invest in this “federally funded” organization and the result would be the development of patents that could be licensed out to the private sector in such a way that there is a set rate of return for people investing. There could even be a team of people that work with different industries to help develop new products that they cannot fit into their current fiscal cycles.

  36. Dylan Tyner
    Posted February 16, 2005 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I wasn’t aware that the Estate Tax (also known as the inheritance tax by Progressives, and the death tax by Republicans) played a role in funding Social Security until I read that article. Thank you, Jerod. As for solutions, I liked what Ball had to say in the article. Here’s the crux of his idea:

    Axelrod: “To do that, says Ball, is relatively simple. First, raise the max on income that gets taxed. Right now, it’s $90,000. While President Bush says new taxes are not on the table, raise that number, says Ball, and you fill a big chunk of that deficit.”

    Ball: “Only six percent of earners get more than $90,000. So only they, only the ones above $90,000 are affected by raising the maximum earnings base.”

  37. Dave Morris
    Posted February 16, 2005 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    correction – $4 trillion is 33% of $12 trillion, which makes me question the 23% flat tax idea. 23% of 12 is $2.75 trillion. Are there other sources of revenue that make up the difference?

  38. mark
    Posted February 16, 2005 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I agree about the Inheritance Tax. It should not be phased out. I also agree with raising the contributions cap. Both of those options should be on the table… Dave, as for your articles, I’m going to try to read them tonight. Thanks for sending them along.

  39. mike
    Posted February 23, 2005 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    yes, it’s a townhall article but it’s worth reading. Why are the people against privatization, against it? Why does SS exist? Mark and others hammer home that’s it’s supposed to be an “insurance” hence the “I” in “SSI”. Not so says the US Supreme Court.
    http://www.townhall.com/columnists/walterwilliams/ww20050223.shtml

  40. mike
    Posted February 23, 2005 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    JF and JG —> you win again as shown with Kathie and Chris –>DDD. Let’s see who’s next.

  41. Dick Cheney\'s Extending Taint
    Posted February 23, 2005 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    “no SS lockbox” – Do you think the companies that you would invest in will hold your money in a lock box for you?

    Well, number one, it would be mine.

    “It” being a stock certificate. Yes, that certificate would indeed be yours.

    Number two, I have never heard of someone selling their mutual fund and the company holding it saying “yeah, we don’t have that..it’s gone”.

    For your kids sake, I would suggest you refrain from investing your own money in the market if you’ve never heard of that. You see Mike, the value of the stock you buy changes over time. Sometimes it goes up. Sometimes it goes down. So if you invest $100 today in a stock and it goes down 10% and then you sell it, I’m afraid to inform you that you don’t get your $100 back. You get $90. I know this seems really unfair, but just a warning, if you ask for that $10 back, you’re probably going to hear very much like,

    “yeah, we don’t have that..it’s gone”.


    However, the government does it all the time.

    I wouldn’t say “all the time” exactly, but, sure, in 1842 11 US states did default on loans from Britain and still haven’t paid up.

  42. chris
    Posted February 23, 2005 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Taint, I am so impressed! Who are you that you know about the 1842 defaults? I have heard that there are still to this day a couple of old moth eaten wig wearin here here yelping barristers are out there still trying to squeeze their overdue tuppence out of Alabamie. Or was it Georgia…Please look forward to a guest post and an interpretation of the privitization plan. Are you in the bond rating industry by any chance?

    You intrigue me sir!

  43. mike
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Dick Taint- which plan has done better – The federal employees thrift plan or SS?

    You also keep talking about stocks as if peopel are going to have a choice of individual stocks. To my knowledge, they will have the option, like federal employess of broda based mutual funds – younger workers can choose those heavily invested in stocks and older workers those in bonds. They will also be invested with every paycheck – Dollar cost averaging. This is the same principal as most 401k’s. You will be hard pressed to find a 401k from a worker that has contributed his entire career that will end up being less than if that same money was put into out current SS system. I don’t know if you can even find one out of the millions out there. The government has no say so in these funds except to raise the capital gains tax on them and thus the entire market. And remember that we are still only talking about 2%. And we are talking about freedom of choice. Again, I have to state that the less the government, no matter what administration, handles the finances of your money the better off everyone will be. I can’t think of an example where the government actually does a better more efficient job at something when compared to that of private enterprise doing that same job with the same capital. Just too many hands in the pot when you deal with the federal government. And on this point, I don’t care who is in the white house – it’s just ineffecient. And as I have stated before, the 2% is just part of the paln. There has to be more than that to fix the saftey net. I have 3 kids – I want it fixed for them more than I want it fixed for me. I am willing to sacrifice whatever I have to to make it work for them. I just think raising taxes is never the way to go, because there is usually no way in hell those taxes ever get repealed. Thye just keep increasing and our government keeps finding ways to use it. Quick example is a toll road. We have one here called GA400. 50 cent toll. The plan was to use the toll to pay for the road. Well, it’s been paid for twice over–tolls are still there. Now they use the money to not only maintain the road but to fund other projects. They said that they would take them out once the road was paid for. No way. They have a new revenue stream and nobody’s going to take it away from them. That’s what I see everytime someone says let’s raise taxes. Hey, how about someone saying let’s spend out money more wisely? That’s all and good until you want to cut a program . Whatever program gets cut –it’s the end of the world for the people affected. It’s like that in every state.

  44. Anonymatt
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    I thought the Thrift Savings Plan was something that govt workers paid into in addition to SS. I’m for personal/private accounts that supplement SS instead of replace it. If Mike is advocating that, good. If not, I fail to see the relevance of the comparison.

    Mike, please hit return occasionally to make your long posts more readable. I only made it through the first couple of sentences.

  45. mike
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Matt- actually the proper comparison should be to the plan developed in Galveston TX which opted out of SS in 1982 or 83. You look at the numbers there and you can see the benefits of privatization.
    (I kept it short – you can research if you want to).

  46. JF
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Dont forget about the success in SS privatization in South America.

    Here is some reading material from Cato. If you want to see the entire article the link is http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj15n2-3-1.html

    In 1980, the government of Chile decided to take the bull by the horns. A government-run pension system was replaced with a revolutionary innovation: a privately administered, national system of Pension Savings Accounts.

    After 15 years of operation, the results speak for themselves. Pensions in the new private system already are 50 to 100 percent higher–depending on whether they are old-age, disability, or survivor pensions–than they were in the pay-as-you-go system. The resources administered by the private pension funds amount to $25 billion, or around 40 percent of GNP as of 1995. By improving the functioning of both the capital and the labor markets, pension privatization has been one of the key reforms that has pushed the growth rate of the economy upwards from the historical 3 percent a year to 6.5 percent on average during the last 12 years. It is also a fact that the Chilean savings rate has increased to 27 percent of GNP and the unemployment rate has decreased to 5.0 percent since the reform was undertaken.

    More important, still, pensions have ceased to be a government issue, thus depoliticizing a huge sector of the economy and giving individuals more control over their own lives. The structural flaw has been eliminated and the future of pensions depends on individual behavior and market developments.

    The success of the Chilean private pension system has led three other South American countries to follow suit. In recent years, Argentina (1994), Peru (1993), and Colombia (1994) undertook a similar reform. In the four South American countries, around 11 million workers have a personal retirement account.

  47. mike
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    JF – the Chile system was already ‘debunked’ by a NPR article which stated “those that didn’t contribute to the plan didn’t see any increase in their benefits”. Hard hitting stuff right there.

  48. Dick Cheney's Extending Taint
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Comment from: chris [Visitor]

    Mr. Taint, I am so impressed! Who are you that you know about the 1842 defaults?

    You intrigue me sir!

    It’s common knowledge where I come from Maam. I’m just a simple guy really–working hard to do what’s best for the readers of Mark’s blog.

  49. chris
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    and I for one LOVE it. (Read “love it” with as if you are a tiger growling, at least that’s how I heard it in my head when I wrote it). Is this by any chance Linette?

  50. mark
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Are you asking if my wife, Linette, is in fact our vice president’s tainted taint? That in itself might be enough to have you ejected from here, Chris.

  51. chris
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Ok, not the taint thing, but one of the few intelligent and rational voices (and I realize this is being said without having read the entirety of Taint’s submissions) in the comment section including myself, excluding Brett, you, and Ken.

    In fact, I take umbrage, sir, that you would suggest that I would insult, or otherwise dishonor your wife.

    BTW, you know what I had to give up and put on the table for this site!! There master plan is working…we are turning on each other. Next I will tell Brett he has VUH (very ugly hands).

  52. mark
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Linette’s never posted here, not even once. I’ve asked her to many times, but she refuses. She won’t even do it under an alias like, “Former Atlanta Brave Mike Bell.” She’s never said so, but I think she hates this site.

    As for Mr. Taint, I suspect I know who he/she is, but I don’t want to say publicly.

    And, I’d like to point out that you are not the only one who’s been sodomized for this site. On one level or another, it’s something we’ve all been subjected to since the troll van rolled up into the driveway.

  53. Anonymatt
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    And, I’d like to point out that you are not the only one who’s been sodomized for this site. On one level or another, it’s something we’ve all been subjected to since the troll van rolled up into the driveway.

    Mark–at least it was free, not $200/hr.

    hmmm….
    markmaynard.com, Now with Free Sodomy!

  54. chris
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    No, remember it was either sodomy OR bathing the kids, doing the dinner dishes, AND cleaning the grease traps. Though as I pointed out before the latter could always be code for sodomy.

    BTW, my husband was mortified with this revelation. I said, “well I meant just a blow job” to which he replied “no, it just means taking it in the ass”…and of course the reply…”How do you know?”. But, don’t the sodomy laws include oral sex?

    Check out the new Dan Clowes/Tom Tomorrow comic at DailyKos. It should sum up your faithful readers’ experiences as of late.

  55. Ken
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Mark, you never did that FAQ that you were promising us so long ago. One thing you can have in it is a glossery explaining all the secret code words that you and your latin club buddies used back in high school.

  56. Ken
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    One more thing, I remember that Linette posted one time here when you guys were on vacation abroad. It was cute because she made sure to tell us so that we wouldn’t confuse her with you.

  57. mark
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Clearly, if your object is to really have good, open, honest discussions about important issues, you want to use codes that only you and one other person understand. It makes perfect sense.

  58. mark
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    And you’re right about that, Ken. Two years ago, when we were traveling aroound Italy, Linette did post something. You have a good memory.

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