Monday, February 14, 2005

Bush Plan Make Brain Hurt; Drought of Truly Original Content Continues

I think I'm suffering for GW's sins (well, ok, I KNOW pretty much ALL of us in the less-than-near-infinity income bracket are suffering, most of all the Iraqis, but I have a specific angle, go with me here).

It seems obvious that the Bush Crime Family is completely immune to cognitive dissonance. I think I'm experiencing it ALL for them.

As was said in the Monty Python version of "King Solomon's Wines Mines", "Brain hurts!"

From Al Franken today on AAR has possibly the best brief explanation of Bush's Social Security Plan for private accounts (though maybe this quote is originally from Michael Kinsley, but paraphrased in any case):

"A man dying from thirst asks the President for water.

'I don't have any water,' says the President, 'but I have some lemonade.'

'Oh, okay... that'll be fine,' responds the thirsty man.

The President gives the man some powdered lemonade.

'All you have to do now is to add water.'"

Of course, some MiniTruth apparatchik, basically affirmed this analogy in a less opaque manner some days ago:
From the February 2 White House background briefing:

QUESTION: Can you give us a second ten-year estimate on the revenue effect? Can you tell us how you would pay for that, in the first ten years' revenue loss? And am I right in assuming that in the way you describe this, because it's a wash in terms of the net effect on Social Security from the accounts by themselves, that it would be fair to describe this as having -- the personal accounts by themselves as having no effect whatsoever on the solvency issue?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the second point, that's a fair inference.



Do note that this, to my knowledge, is the only place the Administration mentions this. THAT THE PERSONAL INVESTMENT ACCOUNTS BY THEMSELVES HAVE NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER ON THE SOLVENCY ISSUE.

Solvency = the ability to pay all dues and debts, that is to NOT be bankrupt, that is, personal accounts have no effect whatsoever, according to a Senior Administration Official, on the bankruptcy "problem" of Social Security.

Well, some doubting thomas unlikely to be reading my site huffs, you haven't shown that the President has implied the Private Accounts will fix the bankruptcy problem. They're a good idea anyway, so you shouldn't try and pass them off as something they're not.

Let's go to the tape:
(Scott McClellan): ...and so the President is going to continue reaching out to the American people and talking about the problems facing Social Security, and the reason why we need to act now to strengthen it, because it's something that only gets worse over time. In 2018, you're going to have the system paying out more than it's taken in. And each year after that, the shortfall only grows worse. And then in 2042, of course, it becomes bankrupt.

So the President is going to continue emphasizing the problem facing Social Security, he's going to continue to reach out to members of Congress, as well. He's had a number of meetings, he will continue to have a series of meetings to talk about ideas for solving this problem. Part of the solution is personal accounts, so that younger workers can realize a greater rate of return. Everybody is going to have a guaranteed benefit under Social Security. We want them also to have a voluntary option of a new benefit that would help them realize a greater rate of return.

Q But the personal accounts are not part of solving the solvency problem?

MR. McCLELLAN: They're part of strengthening Social Security, and that's -- the problem facing Social Security right now is that younger workers are facing either massive benefit cuts or massive tax increases if we don't act to address it now. The status quo is massive tax increases or severe benefit cuts. And that's not a solution. So both are part of the solution. Yes, personal accounts in and of themselves do not solve the fiscal problem facing Social Security, but they are part of the solution for strengthening Social Security for our children and grandchildren.

And seniors are not going to see any changes. The President will continue to make that clear, that if you're born before 1950, nothing will change for you.

--February 11, 2005 White House Press Briefing

Arrrgh. Arrgh. Arggh. (These are grunts of dismay, not pirate sounds.)

Of course, there are also numerous analyses saying, in contradiction of the White House, that Social Security is not even in desperate danger -- it needs to be addressed, but the dates waved around by the Bush Crime Family obscure what the timeline actually says. 2014 or so, as I understand it, the program starts paying out more than it takes in -- making this a turning point, but not necessarily a crisis point. Rate of income will now be less than rate of benefits-paying -- a net outflow of money isn't good/sustainable, but with savings it's not insurmountable (the government "IOUs" to itself isn't exactly "savings" but that's a topic for another time). In 2042 (estimate by the Social Security Administration), or in 2052 (the estimate by the Congressional Budget Office), the trust funds will be depleted. However, estimates say that 73-75% of benefits will be payable by the government in 2042/2052, declining to 68% in 2075.

A stitch in time saves 9, and all that, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and so the J Continuum definitely supports addressing Social Security; but with 37 years until the problem reachs any kind of hard wall, and 70 years until the problem leads to a one third reduction in benefits, the problem is serious, but not the same as, say, our soldiers and Iraqi civilians dying each week, to the tune of tens of thousands of Iraqis and some 1 or 2 thousand US troops. Widespread human rights violations, from incarceration without cause to collective punishment to extraordinary rendition to, of course, torture, with those who followed orders going down for those who gave them. Both are guilty -- but logically, one can't solve a problem by picking out, as it were, a couple leaves from a weed -- it has to come up by the roots.

For more on Social Security, see perhaps clearer explanations here (the "net neutral effect" of private accounts will require "borrow[ing] $754 billion (including interest) through 2015 to finance the initial phase-in of the accounts"), here ("Nobody who has read this exchange should fear any longer that Social Security is going 'bankrupt.'", from 1997), here (with others now sadly in the 'pay' category at the NYTimes, though this one isn't yet), and here (good summary by Washington Post).

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