social security: explaining the numbers

I just received the following analysis of the president’s Social Security plan (at least what he’s made public so far) from a reader in New York. Unlike most of us who have been talking about this in the comments section these past few weeks, he’s got over 20 years of experience working in banking and finance, and is currently employed as a bond analyst at a major financial firm. I found his thoughts to be useful and hopefully you will too.

Let me start by opining that there is no immediate crisis. The aggregate payroll taxes deducted each month from worker salaries far exceed the aggregate monthly payments to retirees, and will continue to do so for the next 18 years or so (the official estimated “crossover” date keeps changing).

It’s true that the government currently borrows this monthly excess from the SS Trust Fund to use for other budget purposes (e.g. Iraq, etc.), but it gives Treasury bonds to the Trust Fund in exchange. Despite what some critics may argue, these are money-good … the government would never fail to repay any of its Treasury bonds.

So, after the initial 20 years … due to demographic changes (i.e. aging population) aggregate monthly payroll taxes will begin to fall short of the aggregate monthly retiree payments … but government payments on the Treasury bonds will supplement/cover the shortfall … probably for another 20 years or so. After that (i.e. around 2043) there will probably be a more significant shortfall problem … although nobody is really sure because these are such long-term forecasts and a lot can change. But, assuming there is going to be a problem, this is what Bush is now calling a crisis. In my view, the nation does face fiscal crises on several fronts (don’t get me started) … but SS is not one of them. It is a substitute or diversionary issue … akin to Iraq on the foreign policy front. It is also a relatively small issue in dollar terms than many of the other issues it is pushing out of the headlines. It truly seems ridiculous that this should be pushed as the major domestic agenda item of the United States in 2005.

Now for the Bush reform concept, which is simple. First, the future monthly benefit promise must be cut … and/or the normal retirement age (currently 67) must be pushed back further … and/or more payroll taxes must be collected now (exchanging the surpluses for more Treasury bonds). As an example, the promised monthly retirement benefit for a given worker might be cut from $2000 to $1,500. This is the only way the government eliminates future shortfalls and “fixes” SS.

Second, EVEN FURTHER cuts in promised monthly benefits will be made for workers who avail themselves of an optional “privatized” retirement account. The additional benefit cut would be sized so as to be break-even with a private account earning a compound annual investment return of CPI +3% (i.e. inflation rate + 3%). That is, the promised future retirement benefit for a worker who takes this option would be cut to, probably, less than $500. In exchange, they’d get around $2,000 a year set aside for them in their private investment account … which, if it earns CPI + 3% compounded over many years, will produce supplemental earnings that bring them back to the $1,500 level of the worker who doesn’t take the private account option. Of course, both workers are still taking a big cut from $2,000 under the current system. I’m not sure what the investment return needed to get back to $2,000 would be … but let’s just say there is significant chance that the large majority of participants will not come close. The government will probably restrict the investment options to simple index funds, so as to prevent the exploitation, but there will still be significant investment performance risk. What is the point of this complicated second step? It allows the whole deal, including the cuts, to be seductively marketed as “privatizing” SS. As if this was somehow safer or more reliable than the existing program. The “ownership society” bullshit.

Let’s assume that a lot of workers do opt for the private accounts … where does the money come from to seed these accounts with $2.000 per year? It comes from a good chunk of these workers current payroll taxes … thus reducing the excesses that the government is borrowing from the SS Trust Fund each month in exchange for Treasury bonds. As a result, the government will need to sell many more Treasury bonds (several trillion dollars worth) in the global capital market … which Greenspan just testified could be “disruptive”. In other words, the U.S. would need to finance more of its budget deficits in external capital markets as opposed to internally via the payroll tax/SS Trust Fund.

I think Greenspan was being kind. It seems pretty clear that ignoring our nation’s other fiscal problems … and simultaneously adding several trillion $ more external borrowing for this SS experiment … will not be viewed favorably by the purchasers of U.S. Treasury bonds. Our currency will likely fall in value, interest rates will go up, and taxes will rise (or gov’t services will be cut). Oh, and what about the workers who blow it with their private investment accounts … or if there is a major stock market investment meltdown that affects everyone? The gov’t will either borrow more or raise additional taxes to bail them out. This nation is not politically ready to tolerate massive poverty among its elderly citizens … that’s why we have social security to begin with.

He also suggested that we look to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a well-known, non-partisan policy think-tank in Washington, for more information.

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70 Comments

  1. chris
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Now this is worth being sodomized for!!!

    Move over DCET! There’s a new wo/man in town. Nothing is more sexy than a bulging brain, even sexier than bulging eyeball!

    Bandying about terms like “global capital market”. What’s next…Oscillating revenue streams?

    Mark, where so you find these good and knowledgeable folk?

  2. mark
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure what I can say, given the rules governing the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  3. Dick Cheney's Extending Taint
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Move over DCET!

    Talk about volitility! So much for that holding period.

    And here I was dreaming of taking of active position in a horizontal integration of your physical market.

    Ah well. I never found out how your backspread is weighted anyway. Saves me from due diligence regarding GAAP immunization.

  4. chris
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I think you are WAAAAY out of my league. Damn!

  5. Posted February 24, 2005 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    yes chris, where DOES mark get such folk? Seems nice but this one sentence:
    “It

  6. brett
    Posted February 24, 2005 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    mike, your article makes this suggestion that i believe (and have suggested before) is a perfect solution, although the author certainly doesn’t think so:

    “Or we could reduce other government spending….cutting defense by half…”

    I think there’s much to be said for the notion of cutting our defense budget, and it would have much further-reaching benefits for the planet than a bitter debate about whether you should be able to invest some of your SS tax. It also reinforces the point that’s been brought up here around a thousand times, including in mark’s post above, that this is NOT the biggest problem our country is facing right now, and is being used as subterfuge to avoid dealing with the more pressing matters. Each time it has been suggested, you accuse the speaker of avoiding the issue while you yourself refuse to even comment on that possibility.

    If i was starving my family and letting my house fall apart because i wanted to keep spending all my money on buying more and more guns than i could (or should) ever need or want, i think (or hope) that even you would recognize i was clearly a delusional lunatic.

  7. mike
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    While I agree we should be able to audit government spending across the board with much more effeciently, I do not think that cutting our defense budget in half is something I would advocate at this time. Reorganize, possibly. Our defense is necessary to even exist in this world. Blowing up the world a thousand times over with our nukes is overkill to say the least but this is not where most of the money is being spent. If you haven’t realized that our military has freed more people on earth than all the militaries of the world combined then I can see where your point lies. We keep countries like china and north korea from spreading communism into the rest of asia, we deter anyone from destroying Israel (a democracy) the list goes on and history has shown the good we can do. I wish this world didn’t need any form of military but that’s not the case. In this world, the biggest kid on the block makes the rules. If it’s not us then it will be someone else. It always has been and probably always will be. Our defense also helps our economy tremendously, providing jobs in almost every job sector in this country and others around the world. It also provides countries like canada and mexico and japan and Britian and countless others the best security this planet has to offer. I think it’s vital to world peace and the free people of this world that our military remains by far the strongest. Would you rather have us deplete our military while china continues to build it’s own with the help of russia and now possibly the EU? I say it’s better to have a democracy be king of the hill in this area rather than a communist state. America haters see it differently, but that goes with the territory. France has had their asses saved by us twice and it breeds resentment. They are one of the leading detractors of this country along with the far left here on our own soil (oh and all the dictators around the world). We are not a perfect country but we are as close as it gets in this world right now. Do you even believe that? If not, we will not see eye to eye on much. Your peers here are a typical example of the “blame America first” crowd. Ward Churchill could find a home on this blog. I am sure he would also call the few conservatives here trolls. I would be honored, and ashamed elsewise. And my debate about SS is not bitter one. Your hatred for capitalism and contempt for America itself is the only thing bitter here. It’s the same mindset the democrats have had since 2000. It won’t get you anything but a place in the next anti-bush protest and some cheers on this blog.

  8. chris
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Mr. Taint, so whaddya think?

    MARK! That Clowes comic from Daily Kos would be great right about now.

    Ken (or was it Matt), I don’t think he has a return button, literally or figuratively.

  9. brett
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    mike, you seem like a very nervous and frightened individual. I don’t agree with any of the points you raised, not one, nor do I feel a need to itemize their failures in logic.
    There are singular flaws in each conspiracy theory you proposed, but they all basically come down to your belief in a general philosophy which has been popular in the United States for many years, called “Manifest Destiny”. It’s popular battle cry is “America- Right or Wrong”. This is a belief held by many other people worldwide, incidentally, except that they replace the word ‘America’ with that of their own country. It’s blind patriotism. Herd mentality.
    We’re all on a tiny speck of dust, mike, floating through a vacuum of space which streches out infinitely in all directions. That isn’t some metaphysical, new-age concept. It’s basic astronomy.
    National borders mean nothing in that scale, and the similarities between you and bogeymen like the Chinese communists you mentioned are far greater than the differences, both biologically and psychologically.
    Finally, I would like to specifically address one point you made. I am under 40 years of age, as is Mark, and as are you. While I could argue that America did NOT ‘save the French twice’, I will instead simply point out that if they indeed were ‘saved’ in either of the world wars, none of ‘us’ could have had anything to do with it, and you do a great disservice to our grandfathers when you casually make such comments.

  10. Anonymatt
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    Mike,

    I believe I asked on another SS thread why you think the bonds in the SS trust fund are somehow different from other bonds. As far as I can tell, the only difference you’ve pointed out is that you don’t want to have to pay them back.

    I followed your link. The article doesn’t explain how we are not obligated to pay back the bonds in the SS trust, it just points out that do so will likely require spending cuts or higher taxes.

    When the govt issues a bond, it has an obligation to pay back the money. And if it doesn’t have enough money, yes, it will have to raise taxes and/or cut spending. I would guess that would be a less painful choice than the repercussions in the financial world that would follow if the Treasury decided to repudiate some of its obligations for the first time ever.

    It’s interesting that that 1999 article uses the then current projections that SS will stop taking in more money than it pays in 2014 and the trust fund will be exhausted by 2034. Present SSA projections place the date in which the money flow breaks even at 2018 and the trust fund exhaustion at 2042 (the CBO estimate is that the exhaustion will be in 2052). The projections are made with pessimistic assumptions about economic growth. So far each year those two dates keep getting moved into the future as the previous year’s real (not projected) growth is brought into the calculation. People have been crying “SS crisis” since the mid 90’s or so based on these projections of insolvency, but as actual economic data comes in, the crisis dates keep moving further into the future.

    This is why I do not believe that SS is the major issue of our time. Under current projections we’re good for several decades at least, and given previous trends concerning the projections, we’ll probably be good for more. We do need to do something eventually, but we have more pressing concerns right now.

    Medicare is probably headed towards problems much sooner due to rising health care costs. the President should probably focus on that, and greatly expanding Medicare’s liability to include a prescription drug program (that will cost at least twice what was claimed when it was pitched) probably hasn’t helped.

    The Pres has expanded govt spending in many areas, it would help if he’d stop and try to balance the budget.

    Many people claim to be against govt spending, but what it usually comes down to is that they’re against govt spending on things they personally don’t like and/or benefit from.

  11. stella
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    What possible logic is having more arms than the Chinese, when essentially we’re up to our necks in businesses and debts with them. We’re totally in bed with them right now. When they want this country, they”ll already own it…….Who arranged that I wonder?

  12. mark
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    But, Matt, there has to be a crisis…. I saw the men kissing!

  13. mike
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    brett – I feel sorry for you. People like you couldn’t defend this country mainly because you wouldn’t want to. You can’t even say that you live in the greatest country in this world. It’s so hard for you isn’t it. I don’t casually say that we have saved the french twice. It’s a fact. I honor the people that have kept this country (and the world) free every chance I get. You would spit on them. And talk about a herd mentality. Look around you. If you are like mark, you will keep same minded folk all around you. It’s safe that way. When Mark talks about diversity I just have to laugh. Make fun of what you don’t agree with or don’t have. Pretty diverse. You people are soooo tolerant aren’t you? And Brett, the last thing I am is frightened. Concerned about countries like China or Iran, yes. Frightened? Doesn’t do any good to be frightened.

  14. brett
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    mike, thanks for the sorrow, but it’s not really needed. I’ll be fine.

    I see no reason to justify my own patriotism, nor address any other mindless personal criticism you have made.

    You ARE afraid, mike. You live in a deluded fantasy world in which the government is out to rob you, the liberal media is out to convert you, and everyone on the planet is out to kill you.

    I find it amusing that you have so quickly jumped on posts here, that you feel make the assertion that most americans are ‘stupid’, as we are then your cliche’d “Liberal Elitists”. The fact is you have repeatedly made this exact same claim, magnified a hundred-fold, for every human being who lives outside the borders of this country.

    America is not the ‘Greatest Country on Earth’. That is a purely blind and subjective phrase that should be reserved for things such as Circus and Pro Wrestling advertisements. It is akin to saying “The white race is superior to all others”, “Men are smarter than women”, or “I am the king of the universe”.

    Prove it.

    As for 20th century history, The French fought valiantly in both wars, mike, but the first one completely decimated both their military as well as population, so in the second world war they were forced to engage in more subversive tactics such as the “French Resistance”, which maybe you’ve heard of. France was eventually liberated by the allied forces, of which they were a part themselves. Yes, the united states was among the military forces which turned the tide of the war, but i think you should go to france, or england, or even canada and start spouting off your view of what happened 30 years before you were even born, and you’ll see that there are some great differences of opinion.

    You can babble all you want about your social security funds, but when you start defining what it means to be an american, how one should behave, what they should say, and what they shouldn’t think, you are turning into a ridiculous caricature of the most hateful, fascist aspects of my country’s past and present.

    No matter what you want to believe, mike, I AM an American, just as much as you.

    Welcome to the Democracy Experiment.

  15. JF
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Mike,

    Notice the absent of Proud. DDD. I am sure it was just a slip.

    JF

  16. brett
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    JF,

    notice the suggestion that ‘proud’ is somehow ‘required’. I am sure you would also like me to start marching in goose-step and stand at attention when THE LEADER appears on screen.

  17. Anonymatt
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    What’s the exact wording of the loyalty pledge we’re supposed to swear to to prove we aren’t ashamed of America?

  18. JF
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Matt,

    We can start here:

    http://www.psz.com/firstgrade/pledge.htm

  19. Doug Skinner
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Mike — I don’t know if this will make you feel better, but French animosity to Americans seems to me to be greatly exaggerated over here.

    By “French,” do you mean the citizens, the government, Chirac? I’ve spent some time in France, and can report there’s a wide range of political opinion there, including many people more conservative than you. Most of the people I met were quite positive about the US.

    It’s true that many opposed the US’s invasion of Iraq, since the evidence of WMD was unconvincing; many, though, did not. It’s true that Bush is not popular there, but that’s hardly unique to France. And as you know, disagreement with the current administration is not the same as disliking the country. Were Republicans unpatriotic for dissenting from the Clinton administration?

    By the way, friends of mine were in Paris on 9/11; they said Parisians broke down and wept, and wouldn’t let them pay for their meals.

  20. Anonymatt
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    “indivisable”? Was that page put up by first graders?

    It’s hard to do the flag salute online here. I’ve seen no evidence that anyone here refuses to say the flag salute in real life.

    I’m going out now to a Polish restaurant for lunch. I hope mike will have responded to my post by the time I get back. But if he actually has to do work today instead of posting comments on blogs, I’ll understand.

  21. [steph]
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I’m no history scholar, but I do seem to recall the French lending us a bit of a hand during a little conflict called the American Revolution. Y’know, the one that resulted in the creation of this country.

  22. Tony Buttons
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just decided to get a patriotic ribbon tattooed onto my face. Who wants to join me?

  23. JF
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Matt,

    I think it was put up by first graders.

  24. JF
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    When criticizing the French I think it should be directed at the leaders (present and fast) as to why there is such animosity. Doug it does not center around their dislke for Bush. See some of the notes I have collected on this.

    The French never really liked the Clinton administration, either. In June 2000, during President Clinton’s last year in office, France was the only one (talk about unilateralism) of 107 countries to refuse to sign a U.S. initiative aimed at encouraging democracy around the world.

    When Charles de Gaulle became president of the Fifth Republic, he was still resentful that FDR had refused to recognize his Free French resistance over the Vichy regime during the war. De Gaulle decided never to depend on the Americans again, and though he was an ally of the United States, he was an exceptionally cranky one, pursuing d

  25. Dick Cheney's Extending Taint
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 12:20 pm | Permalink


    Comment from: mike [Visitor]

    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.

    You’re right Mike! Let’s march on Washington and take back OUR MONEY!! Fucking wastefull, bloated, government programs paying $12349 of YOUR FAMILY’S MONEY for a fucking screwdriver whose only purpose is to bolt on the $12400 toilet seat in a fucking $50,000 army port-a-potty. Where the hell is the common sense?!? Those idiots in DC think there isn’t a problem on the planet that a bigger government can’t solve.


    Comment from: mike [Visitor]

    Our defense also helps our economy tremendously, providing jobs in almost every job sector in this country and others around the world. It also provides countries like canada and mexico and japan and Britian and countless others the best security this planet has to offer.

    Thank you Mike for reminding me that god has blessed us with the biggest and best military on the planet. Thank goodness for our leaders in Washington who, time and time again throughout history, have had the common sense to make the right decisions and spread freedom to all of the people of the world. I stand with you in a solute to our Commander in Cheif and the good Senators and Representatives who wisely lead the greatest military in the world.

    And thank you for your clear, rational thinking on all of this. With your continued posting, I am hopeful that someday the confused liberals on this blog will understand the way things are.

  26. Posted February 25, 2005 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    JF, your hyperpuissance is indeed formidable.

    what does any of that have to do with one’s needing to say the word ‘proud’ before ‘American’, though? Or with taking a loyalty oath?

    (note the wiki link above if you need a refresher course on a few of the issues people have with the pledge)

  27. Doug Skinner
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    JF — all that is true. Relations with France have often been rocky. De Gaulle was downright loony — and often quite unpopular with his own people, by the way. Our relations with Germany and Russia were even rockier; I hope we can forge stronger alliances with them too.

    My point was that French anti-American sentiment has been exaggerated by some conservatives. If you visit France or read the French press, you will often get a different picture.

    I would translate “hyperpuissance” as “superpower”: a common English word that accurately describes the US’s position in the world.

    And I’m sure the French don’t want to be dominated. Who does?

  28. Dave Morris
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Mark – Thanks for the post from your reader in NY.

    Reader in NY- Thanks for confirming some of my earlier questions about Treasuries. Your points about the effects on the value of the dollar have also been duly noted.

    A similar issue to the Social Security that seems to be a much more real and looming danger is the pensions of many larger companies as well as the state worker pensions. A comparison and contrast of the two might be interesting. Any thoughts on this?

    The idea of people investing in a federal Public Works program that develops new technology, assists the private sector to assimilate it, provides efficient and durable infrastructure, secures and maintains domestic energy sources, provides quality education, assists in potable water distribution and making food affordable, protects our poor and tired, etc. This is essentially what we already have. It is an idea that ( unfortunately ) needs a little tidying up, some PR help and an annual report to show where the money went. The returns on these investments are calculable and incalculable. Not having to pay road tolls or purchase our tap water from profit driven private companies is kinda nice. Not having to worry about being destitute in old age is kinda nice too.

    Put the money back into projects that are based on communal ideas rather than predatory. Taking enormous loans from Saudi Arabia and China doesn’t sound like a good idea. Just imagine what their debtor prisons would be like.

    So as not to end on a bad note, a quote:

    “In a real sense, all life is interrelated. The agony of the poor impoverishes the rich. The betterment of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s keeper. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

    Dr. King

  29. JF
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Brett,

    I am sure I can guess your stance on the pledge of allegience, in particular the words “under God” – DDD

    JF

  30. brett
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    i’m sure you can, JF – PTL LOL :)

  31. Posted February 25, 2005 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    “In 1954, Congress after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, added the words, ‘under God,’ to the Pledge. The Pledge was now both a patriotic oath and a public prayer.”

    http://history.vineyard.net/pledge.htm

  32. Ken
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    France, the pledge, patriotism. What is going on in here?! I think you all have ADD. (That’s Attention Deficit Disorder for all the folks that want to be included in my secret little language!) The topic is Social Security as described by a guy that does financial type stuff. Let’s stay on it. (Except you, Dave. You get a gold star.)

  33. brett
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Ken, thanks for the diagnosis, but I believe this started in relation to the prevailing theme of the original article in question, which is summarized in his quote:

    “In my view, the nation does face fiscal crises on several fronts (don’t get me started) … but SS is not one of them. It is a substitute or diversionary issue … akin to Iraq on the foreign policy front. It is also a relatively small issue in dollar terms than many of the other issues it is pushing out of the headlines. It truly seems ridiculous that this should be pushed as the major domestic agenda item of the United States in 2005”.

  34. Doug Skinner
    Posted February 25, 2005 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    JF — oops, just did a little research; “hyperpuissance” is indeed a different concept than “superpower.” My mistake. As you were, troops.

  35. Andy
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    JF,
    I did a little research, too, and you seem to have stolen the words of Chris Suellentrop from this Slate article “The French- Why do they hate us?” without attribution:
    http://slate.msn.com/id/2077874/

    How many of your other posts are not your own work, sleazebucket?

  36. mark
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    It seems to me as though we’ve had this discussion with them before… It’s funny in a way too, because it’s generally Mike and Jerod accusing the rest of us of being in an “echo chamber.” You would think that they would be the ones generating new content, but, I suppose that’s a bit too difficult

  37. Anonymatt
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    One Intro to Psych 101 course does not an expert in human nature make, but I’ve thought of an interesting theory since I last posted.

    I think I can divulge this one bit of secret background information: both mike and JF played on the football team in high school. (and in a not so surprising corollary, Mark and I didn’t.)

    Knowing that, you might be able to understand their perspective concerning pep rallies. Unfortunately, there was always a sizable number of students who showed school spirit in other ways but just couldn’t give a shit about the pep rallies.

    As for myself, I was in the marching band, and we had to play the fucking Theme from The A Team everytime the football team came on the field. I think I’ve done enough for those two.

  38. mark
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Linette and I watched the movie

  39. Anonymatt
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    You can try to cultivate an appreciation for and familiarity of the A Team in Linette by playing “A Team” every time you fly together, in which one of you secretly tries to get the other to take sleeping pills or shoots the other up with knockout drugs.

  40. mark
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    How about a short film where a band of misfit mercenaries bands together to go after the evil trolls that have been tormenting a peaceful on-line community? Since I have a “perfect nose,” I’ll play Templeton

  41. brett
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    does this mean that you guys will finally help me get out of the ypsilanti psychiatric hospital? It’s been really hard making all these posts without the nurse seeing me.

  42. chris
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I can only say I am honored. We have never met face to face so I find it ironic that you have chosen this character for me as I already have the mohawk.

    And yes, I truly do pity the fool.

    My being tapped comes with this free trivia:
    Mr. T lives/d in Lake Forest Illinois, you know that fancy Chicago suburb where Timothy Hutton attempted suicide.

  43. JF
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Andy you jackass notice that I said “see some of the notes I collected” in my previous past you sleazebucket. Get a life and actually respond to the issues and facts once in a while.

  44. Ken
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    JF, it would help to have the source of your cut-and-paste-comments (CAPC). It adds context to the few bits you pick and choose. Especially when they all come from the same article! Nobody wants to think of you as using a
    Coulterism/Dowdism.

  45. Brad
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Anonymatt-It’s not the pep rallies that turned us on. It was the excuse to beat another human being into the ground like a useless piece of meat and have everyone around you cheering you on. One criminal justice major and many psych and sociology cousres does not make an expert either, but, in my opinion, there are the violent and the non-violent. Some people enjoy running onto the field of battle accompanied by the rousing sounds of the A-Team and others don’t. Neither one is right or wrong, we’re just different. If it weren’t for the blood thirsty savage warriors in this country, the world would be a very different and, in my opinion, worse place. Some people play in the band, others want to rip someone’s head off. Different strokes for different folks, but ebeyone serves a purpose. Oh, I fucking hated pep rallies. I would have rather been drinking Jack and Coke and getting ready to watch my team kick someone’s ass. (I say watch because I was never a very good football player). By the way, you guys were a fucking kick ass marching bad. Much love and respect.

  46. mark
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    I neither waged war on the field, or played in the band… I didn’t even watch the games. I just boiled weiners and heated up frozen pretzels in the Student Council refreshement stand… How pathetic does that make me?

  47. Brad
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t “make” you pathetic. You were pathetic way before then.

  48. chris
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    OK, first of all. In some city’s that I attended HS, marching band was the coolest show in town. eg-Seattle Garfield HS, half the audience would leave after the band did their half time (think Drum Line) even though the FB team was apparenty OK. Other than the QB who was this way cool dude and I think a 28 yo masquerading as a student, I had no idea who the team was or cared.

    The other school, St. Paul Central High, I was by this time seeing the Femmes at First Ave. In fact, I don’t even know who the homecoming king and queen were. For all I knew it was the QB from Seattle. So my question is, if you weren’t playing an instrument why weren’t you out smoking dope and watching Eraserhead, or taking X and getting laid?

    Hot dogs…why? Was it a cover for your dealing business?

  49. Anonymatt
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Is Brad who I think it is? If so, welcome to the reunion.

    The concept of hearing someone describe our marching band as “kick ass” is completely alien to my weltanschauung. It’s not that I didn’t think I’d ever hear someone say that, it’s that I had never conceived of someone ever saying it. And “fucking kick ass” as well.

    Let’s try to be civil in our discourse. I nitpicked about the format of mike’s stream of conscienceness rants the other night by politely requesting he hit return occasionally. Unless I’m missing some previous history between some posters, throwing out the term “sleazebucket” seems harsh in an inquiry about whether someone used cut and paste arguments.

    I’d just like to point out that I answered mike’s post at the beginning and he hasn’t responded so I guess he agrees with or at least respects my opinion on the matter. The comment thread has digressed into France, pep rallies and the A Team, with myself taking a portion of the blame. But if mike has comments on the topics in my reply, which actually have to do with social security, I might add, I’d like to hear them.

    but since I haven’t weighed in on the French, I’m indifferent. Actively hating them gives them more attention than they deserve. Going to the point of “freedom fries” is just silly.

    In terms of post-Gannon scandal full disclosure, as I sit here and lecture other posters about their manners, I must disclose that I had originally stopped posting here in the comments after one day Mark pissed me off in a reply and I told him to go fuck himself. (I can’t find a link now)

  50. Brad
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Anonymatt – I am who you think I am. Thanks for the welcome. As the last bastion of Newtonites still residing in the county of Sussex, I can say, without any hint of sarcasm, that the band in which you played was kick-ass in comparison to the current state of affairs. You were awesome and we loved you.

    Mike is still as crazy as a shit house rat and, like any good Republican, can find stats to back up his right wing agenda. At least he does some homework for a change. I still think that SS is going to be a problem in 20 yrs if we don’t do anything about it. However, I don’t trust George W. Bush as far as I can throw him (and I could throw that scrawny, lying prick pretty far). He is making this an issue right now as a diversionary tactic, but I still think it is an important issue for us and our children.

    Regarding the French, I have never liked them. I have been to their country twice and wasted two years learning their language. I won’t say anymore because you are right on in saying they get more attention then they deserve. Freedom fries is such a fucking joke.

    Mark has a way of pissing off everyone. That is one of the reasons that I still respect him. Christ, if he could piss you off, he could piss off anyone. You gotta respect the guy for his beliefs and his effort.

  51. mike
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m back. I know you have all been eagerly awaiting my return so I could teach you “the way”. Matt, I am sorry that I have not replied to your post but I haven’t been to the site in a couple days – at least not with any time to actually sit down and write up a nice reply ..after which Brett would come swooping down with his name calling and swearing. I think my last post had something to do with mocking Chris for not knowing that here dad was a proud American because she doesn’t know what one looked like. Now Andy is calling people sleazebuckets for not correctly footnoting postings. Hey Andy -I don’t care where you find something, if you post it I will try to respond to the issues presented in the post instead of googling parts of it to see if it came from a left wing source -only to come back here and whine that “it came from Michael Moore, waah, I’m not going to resond to that, boo hoo.” At least after calling someone a sleazebucket you could post your agreement/disagreement with the statements presented. It seems that brett, steven, andy, and chris usually add nothing but insults. Let me take that back…Brett actually intertwines swearing, insulting, name calling and America hating with some points that he wants to articulate. At least I can respond to some of his stuff. I have to hit return for matt now. Hold on.

  52. mike
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Matt, I have to scroll up a bit to actually find your post so I can comment on your statements. Brad, nice seeing you here. Hope you stay. JF – I wish posters would resond to some of your thoughts but they are fact driven and you know how that goes. DDD. Mark – brad is right, you were pathetic before selling hot dogs during the football games.

  53. mark
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    We need to start up a separate Newton High blog, or at least have a page here at MM.com with our photos and a diagram showing how we know each other, so that people around the world can follow along. In the meantime, I will just say this… I had few friends until my sophomore year in high school. It was then that Rob Talercio, Dan Richardson, and Brad Hodgins began asking me over to their homes. They did so publicly even though doing so was not considered a

  54. Brad
    Posted February 26, 2005 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Go ahead and start up the NHS blog. I’ll send you some recent photos anytime you want them. I don’t think I ever gave a shit about what the “cool” thing to do was. I don’t even remember “inviting” anyone to come over. All were welcome and they still are. Dan is The Man. It’s never too late until your dead. Pandora doesn’t know shit. Peace out.

  55. Posted February 26, 2005 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Okay Matt I will paste snippets of your post directed tm me here and then reply:

    MATT:”I believe I asked on another SS thread why you think the bonds in the SS trust fund are somehow different from other bonds. As far as I can tell, the only difference you’ve pointed out is that you don’t want to have to pay them back.”

    MIKE:The difference is that we already had our SStaxes raised quite significantly to pay into the SS trust fund so we would have the money there when we needed it. What happened was that money was replaced by binds. However to convert the bonds back into money we now have to pay again -either by raising taxes (that would be twice now for the same money, or by cutting spending in other ares – that’s still being hammered twice. That is not what I would like to see happen again and if the current system is in place we will be replaying that scenario over and over. I think we should bite the bullet now and find another way. Putting the money into the hands of the people that earned it is, in my opinion, the best way to keep it from being spent on things other than a safety net for the elderly.

    MATT: “When the govt issues a bond, it has an obligation to pay back the money. And if it doesn’t have enough money, yes, it will have to raise taxes and/or cut spending. “

    MIKE: see first answer. The government will almost always raise taxes instead of cutting spending. Hence our tax rate today. Regardless, we shouldn’t be hit twice for the same bonds.

    MATT:”It’s interesting that that 1999 article uses the then current projections that SS will stop taking in more money than it pays in 2014 and the trust fund will be exhausted by 2034. Present SSA projections place the date in which the money flow breaks even at 2018 and the trust fund exhaustion at 2042 (the CBO estimate is that the exhaustion will be in 2052). The projections are made with pessimistic assumptions about economic growth. So far each year those two dates keep getting moved into the future as the previous year’s real (not projected) growth is brought into the calculation. People have been crying “SS crisis” since the mid 90’s or so based on these projections of insolvency, but as actual economic data comes in, the crisis dates keep moving further into the future.”

    MIKE: The projections will move every year. This doesn’t mean that the system we have is the best one we can create. Changing the system could make it so we don’t ever have to worry about what date it will be insolvent. With a higher rate of return, our elderly will be taken care of that much better and we won’t have to worry about things like the baby boom affecting the entire system. Hopefully it can be corrected to the point where our SS tax is slashed time and time again until it gets back to where it started. Or we could just keep raising the SS tax like we have done several times and keep pushing the insolvency date back further. That is the easiest thing for the government to do. How much tax os too much for you? If you would like to pay more, the government has a little check box on your yearly returns that allows you to throw in some extra money if taxes seem to low. Most of you despise the Bush tax cuts. I hear complaints that “$200 isn’t going to help me out one bit..that could go to a poor family.” If it won’t help you then by all means give the money back to the government or give it to a poor family. You giving a family $200 of your refund costs you $200. Let the government do it and it costs a $1000 or more with all the hands in the pot touching it. We are a compassionate society and I believe that the more money you put in the hands of the poeple that earned it, the more they will give to charity and the people that need it. Just look at the millions that were privately given to the victims of 911 or the Tsunami from the country. I can’t stand that fact that some people believe that government is the answer to so many problems when those same problems can be fixed more efficiently by the people themselves.

    MATT: “We do need to do something eventually, but we have more pressing concerns right now.”

    MIKE: we can say that about a lot of stuff. We can push it off, and push it off. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to fix…and we can handle more than one problem at a time. This president wants to fix this problem. The next administration is only 4 years away. Hopefully, they will actually want to fix another problem. We can’t take the attitude of “if you aren’t going to fix the problem that I think is most important then I am not going to support you fixing any problem.” Half the country will probably be against the next administration and could take the same attitude. It will hurt all of us if this is the prevailing wisdom.

    MATT:”Medicare is probably headed towards problems much sooner due to rising health care costs. the President should probably focus on that.”

    MIKE: We smoke, eat like shit and are lazy as a society. Pay for your own damn health problems. Me paying for your drugs because you didn’t take care of yourself is not in the constitution and isn’t a right fo your to have.

    MATT:”The Pres has expanded govt spending in many areas, it would help if he’d stop and try to balance the budget.:

    MIKE: he is trying to cut spending on 154 programs and guess whose bitching now —BOTH parties. I do not like our spending habits although as a percentage of the GDP it’s not even close to a record as the headlines make some think. This is already a long reply so I won’t go into detail. I would love for the government to have less money to waste and this goes along with my agreement that we should privatize SS and get it out of the government’s hands.

    MATT:Many people claim to be against govt spending, but what it usually comes down to is that they’re against govt spending on things they personally don’t like and/or benefit
    from.

    MIKE: I agree 100%. Hence the easy choice for the politicians os to raise taxes insteaad of cutting spending, this pisses off less voters and that’s all that matters when you want to be re-elected. The class warfare ticket for the Dems comes to mind. That’s why I am for the fairtax and think we should debate it heavily here. It takes tax and entitlement issues right out of the campaigns. No more promises of taking from the evil rich and giving to the ever growing “working man.” (as somehow the people that make over ‘X’ amount of money all of a sudden don’t work).
    Sorry this was long matt but it took a long time for me to answer and I want to be as thorough as possible.
    Until next round,
    The end

  56. brett
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    (comes swooping down)

    money worshipping occultist!!!

    you damnednable monkey-buggering bunghole!!!!

  57. mike
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    Brett – I would feel lonely without you. It just wouldn’t be the same. Beer # 3 opening now as I tag family photos with photoshop elements on one screen and hit refresh on mm.com on the other.

  58. Anonymatt
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Hi, mike, thanks for the response. I’m actually happy to see evidence that you do get away from the computer occasionally.

    I think we have a disagreement in terms. I would not say we are being taxed twice to repay the SS trust fund bonds. I would say that we are taxed to pay the Treasury’s obligations on its debt, a very large portion of the federal budget (amounting to hundreds of billions per year, I believe) that goes to all holders of federal debt, including private investors; mutual funds; the central banks of China, Japan, and other countries; the SS trust fund and other federal, state and local trusts; pension funds; and debt-holding professors and Mary Annes throughout the country and the world. I still see no reason to treat the Treasury’s debt obligations to the SS trust fund differently from any other.

    Every year we have a budget deficit, the Treasury issues bonds and the debt obligation portion of the federal budget goes up in a planned and predictable manner for the duration of the bonds. The debt obligation is the one portion of the budget that cannot just be cut. The large deficits we have been running the past few years are the real crisis, and I’m sceptical of the President’s ability to steer us towards a balanced budget.

    I am open to discussion about ways to fix SS. Even though I don’t think it’s the biggest crisis we face, focusing on and solving the problem early would hardly be a bad thing. As I’ve said before, I’ll wait for the Pres to put his plan together rather than debate what I might think he wants to do.

    We could debate the merits of Clinton’s proposal, which was to invest a portion of the SS trust in the markets (probably through index funds, I can’t remember the particular options) to increase the rate of return. In this case, the trust gets the higher returns associated with risk, while the risk is borne by the trust fund in general, not the individual. With the magic of hindsight, though, it looks like if we had done this when Clinton proposed it in 1998 it probably wouldn’t have looked like it had been a good idea in 2000-2001.

    If we have a system with personal accounts, how would you handle the people who make crappy investment choices and are left with too little money to retire on? With the introduction of just a little risk, statistically speaking a small percentage of people are going to fuck up and lose money, and 1% of 200 million people is still 2 million. Would we have to shoar up their payments to a guaranteed minimum? And what about the disability insurance portion of SS, what happens to that? (If you’ve answered these previously in another thread, let me know.)

    I am not in principle against raising taxes on myself and others if I feel the benefits would be worth it. To suggest that because of this I should voluntarily contribute extra taxes is stupid, but I recognize it’s a traditional canard cherished by some people. I will consider paying extra taxes if libertarians that believe in states rights and less federal govt spending deny themselves all programs that benefit from federal spending. So when you decide to eschew driving on federal interstates, deny yourself the products of interstate commerce regulated by the govt and facilitated by the aforementioned highways, have your state and local communites return any federal grants especially after natural disasters, etc. let me know. We play by the rules we’ve got, let’s not be silly. I happily accepted my portion of the Bush tax cuts, they helped offset the increases in state and local taxes.

  59. mike
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    matt, you say
    “I am not in principle against raising taxes on myself and others if I feel the benefits would be worth it.”

    Benefits to who? You? The entire country? The people you deem need help? a program you deem to be needed? and what is your tax limit before you decide it’s just not worth working? There has to be a line. If you tax me at 100% so you can redistribute as you see fit..so everyone is taken care of by the government equally, well that would just give 100% of the people a reason to not work at all. Why work if I will get it handed to me. This is why it is not okay with me to just keep raising the taxes whenever someone thinks it will benefit “the people”. We will keep putting the tax burden on less and less of the population therefore giving the entitlement population less and less incentive to work. The more we give, the more we are expected to give. This cannot continue as it will eventually hurt the people that we are trying to help. We have to find ways to make everyone self reliant for the sake of the mselves. Again, my philosophy is that are government os not there to make sure that everyone is taken care of no matter what their decisions in life. Our government is there to make sure we are not denied the right to make those decisions. Freedom comes with risks. One more thing – concerning your statement that it would be silly for you to give more of your money to taxes voluntarily. WHy do your actions have to depend on someone else doing something first? Why don’t you do it out of principle with no regard of whether someone else wants to follow theirs? additionally, I said an option would be to give the extra money directly to a program or person that you thinks needs it. That would seem very easy to do.

  60. Anonymatt
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Mike,

    I have no set tax limit or rate above which flags go off. As I said, I consider the benefits, and yes to myself, the country in general, etc. Some taxes have the benefit of reducing my out of pocket expenses, or are for a cause I think is worth spending money on. I live in NYC with high state and local taxes and cost of living but I clear enough money to make it worth it. There are some things that are worth spending on by society in general, although we may disagree on some, we certainly agree on others (defense, I’d guess).

    As I said before, we play by the rules as they are, not as we’d like them. My point was that it would be stupid to ask either group to adopt rules that won’t apply to the other, it’s not a matter of who should be gracious and go first.

    If you are talking about rather than introducing or expanding some federal spending measure, its proponents should consider covering it through private means first, then I agree.

    Our attitudes towards taxes are different, and I doubt arguing will move either of us. This fact underlies many of our positions on various govt topics, so we might just accept that we’ll disagree on those. I think we’ve exhausted the financial part of this post.

  61. JF
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Matt,

    Do you find the fact that 20% of income earners account for 40% of wages collected but pay 80% of the tax burden offensive? Probably not. The more “fortunate” you are the more you owe everyone else is my guess. Right?

    JF

  62. Anonymatt
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    JF-

    do I find it offensive? Probably not, but I’d need more detail. Are the figures limited to income tax? I do not mind that income tax is regressive since other taxes are progressive (i.e. SS tax has a salary cap, sales tax proportionally affects lower income workers, etc.) So I don’t consider it “punishing success” unless progressive taxes are punishing their targets. Don’t tell me you are saying that no one becomes “fortunate” in this country without taking advantages of the services and stable society provided by the govt. Sure, some people do so by their own effort more than any help from society, but no one gets by 100% on their own and we don’t have the time to evaluate appropriate percentages on a case by case basis. So some taxes wil be unfair to some people (and corporations) and others will be unfair to others.

    We can quibble over the who, what, where, when, why, and how much of various types of taxes, but in the end we do need to collect some taxes to pay for some services. I’m just saying that I will consider paying more if I feel it’s worth it, not that I’d necessarily like to. It’s just not my personal credo that all taxes are bad.

  63. Anonymatt
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    BTW, I will not be posting for a while, because I am going to do my taxes this afternoon.

  64. Anonymatt
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh, fuck, I’ve become a loser who cannot stop posting on the internet.

    Just thought you might like to know I wouldn’t mind a federal flat tax, but the rate wouldn’t just apply to income, but also to interest/dividends and capital gains. (CG taxes would have exceptions for home sales up to a limit [I’d be OK with $2 million, but would accept higher] and for estates passed to surviving spouse.) It also would apply to individuals and corporations. I think this would be fairer across the general tax base and eliminate a lot of tax loopholes. and then Congress would have to vote on increasing the rate to get money for more spending, or adjust it down when surpluses return.

    I don’t *like* the fact that taxes are regressive and progressive, just wanted to clarify.

  65. Posted February 27, 2005 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Matt – have you looked into the fairtax? Not a flat tax, but basically a sales tax. I think it would benefit the economy, the rich, the poor…basically I think it would benefit more people than the current sysem does and end up solving many problems like SSI resolvancy and our Health care system etc. Hell, it would save you from having to do your taxes on a sunday also. By the way – What are you using to do taxes (this question goes to everyone)? Are you using turbo tax? Federal and state? If turbo tax then which one –premiere, delux, standard? I haven’t done my own in 4 years, ever since the kids came along and other things like stocks and donations ( yes, the evil greedy republican gives many items to charity – if fact we filled up the pickup( no,we do not have a. a confederate flag printed on the back window or b. a nascar sticker of any type on the truck..it’s used, cheap (no payments, american built ford…actually maybe it was built in canada, bad on gas, convenient on making trips to home depot for our many do it yourself project….how many tangent can I go on?? I may post as Tangent Man once in the while for fun, please don’t yell at me for it) twice the other weekend and my son and I went to goodwill. I was very proud to explain to my son (who went with me) what we were doing. If fact,when we came home he piled up as bunch of toys that he doesn’t play wth much and asked if we could go back and give them to goodwill so the kids that don’t have much could play with them. I gave him a big hug. Maybe we will arrange to go to a children’s hospital ( I did that a lot while playing professional baseball, and although it was emotionally hard on me to see kids (mainly terminal) in that condition, it was so uplifting knowing that it made their day…at least on that day) instead of goodwill and hand out some toys personally. I know my son would feel very happy doing it. I believe you are born with that kind of heart, although upbringing also plays a big part. But I think he was born wanting to make other people happy. I can’t explain it yet but I can’t wait to see how that outlook affects him as he grows. Anyway, I think the questions were fair tax and how are you doing your taxes this year.

  66. mike
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to post something short.

  67. Anonymatt
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Mike,
    I would guess that your and JF’s overall tax burdens are higher than mine because you have property taxes because you’ve elected to buy homes. And I realize that having dependents means making every penny count. So that may help explain our attitudes.

    I’ve heard of fair tax/sales tax proposals, but I don’t feel like discussing the specifics here. I think we’ve exhausted the SS discussion, we can debate again someday in a newer thread. You and JF let me know if you have unanswered questions here.

    I’m doing my taxes manually. (I’ve already done the calculations, I just have to prepare the final copies and put together the envelopes.) My lack of dependents and property makes things pretty easy. If I ever buy a place to live, I would probably get software or have someone else do the taxes.

  68. JF
    Posted February 27, 2005 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Just think Matt with at flat tax or the national sales tax you can get rid of all of the tax code and you would not need software to do your taxes, even if you owned a house.

    I would be fine with either (flat or national sales) tax as long as they got rid of all of the loopholes that exist in the current tax code.

  69. mark
    Posted March 4, 2005 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    It’s kind of off-topic now and this is an old thread anyway, but we

  70. Anonymatt
    Posted March 4, 2005 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    That was really funny.

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