Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rare (or not so rare) Candor

Kevin Drum led me over to Andrew Sullivan this morning where I discovered a few juicy tidbits.

Consider the following passage from Krugman’s 7 December column:

My favorite example of their three-card-monte logic goes like this: first, they insist that the Social Security system's current surplus and the trust fund it has been accumulating with that surplus are meaningless. Social Security, they say, isn't really an independent entity -- it's just part of the federal government.

If the trust fund is meaningless, by the way, that Greenspan-sponsored tax increase in the 1980's was nothing but an exercise in class warfare: taxes on working-class Americans went up, taxes on the affluent went down, and the workers have nothing to show for their sacrifice.

But never mind: the same people who claim that Social Security isn't an independent entity when it runs surpluses also insist that late next decade, when the benefit payments start to exceed the payroll tax receipts, this will represent a crisis -- you see, Social Security has its own dedicated financing, and therefore must stand on its own.
There’s another way of reading this. (1) This part is true. (2) Yes, the Greenspan-sponsored tax increase was an exercise in class warfare, and that’s a bad thing. (3) No, it’s still not an independent entity.
Let me take a crack at this "another way of reading this" stuff. (1) I am part of the group that believes that Social Security is not independent. (2) Yes, Greenspan & Co. screwed the lower classes -- sorry about that. (3) I still believe that Social Security is not independent.

Great stuff, if you ask me. Sure, we fleeced the poor in order to prevent a General Fund crisis (a problem that has been essentially re-created by the Bush tax cuts), but hey. Mistakes were made. The commitment that justified the payroll tax increase is, frankly, inconvenient to honor and is therefore no longer operative.

Andrew, the history of the Social Security still matters in this debate. You can't simply ignore the pieces of the history you wish didn't exist. Nice try, though.

One last thing. If you thought I was blowing smoke in my last post about system noise being used as justification for system abolition, take a look here:

SOCIAL SECURITY AND SELF-RELIANCE: Which leads us to Social Security. It’s not that I agree with Paul Krugman—that the Bush administration’s true intention is to destroy a successful government program precisely because it represents an ideological affront—but, well, Social Security is an affront to the “ideology of self-reliance,” and it fosters dependency.

Some noise is inherent. Deal with it, Andrew.
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