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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Earl the Pearl discovers third rail is hot

We noted recently that our congressman, Earl Blumenauer, was proposing shifting Social Security to a means-tested, rather than insurance-like, system. And apparently some other folks noticed. Since then, old Earl has been backpedaling faster than Ginger Rogers in her prime.

But even the watered-down version of his mental meanderings is being called into question:

My other problem is here: "Somehow you can’t look at reduction in benefits for wealthy people 30 years from now without threatening retirement security for middle-income people in the next decade. Well, that’s nonsense." Actually, it’s math. Progressive-price indexing, which is what Blumenauer is talking about here, doesn’t work unless the indexing dips all the way down into the middle class. The type of policy Blumenauer describes – "reduction in benefits for wealthy people 30 years from now" – does nothing for long-term actuarial health. You would have to basically eliminate benefits at the high-end to provide the actual revenue savings necessary. Setting aside the dangerous ground of turning a universal benefit into a means-tested program for the poor, the only real savings can derive from making this a broad cut.

Comments (10)

. . Since then, old Earl has been backpedaling faster than Ginger Rogers in her prime. . .

Earl has been a career politician. He has lots of experience knowing how to peddle and backpedal. On the bike and off.

He is great peddler for light rail devotees. No worry for him though.
If by off chance, he would not be re-elected, he would merrily pedal on his way with his bow-tie to be a huge peddler lobbyist for his most vested interests, light rail.

Hasn’t he been a peddler lobbyist anyway for how many years?
Please Pedal Away.
Give someone else a chance to represent the constituents needs here such as
Schools, public safety, etc. - all hurting because he has just peddled a little too much for his Masters.

Many so called "socialist" countries have means testing for old age pensions. Friends visiting from Australia told us that there has always been means testing there.

He is going to cake walk through this election cycle but in two years his time will be up for good.

Just up the cap on contributions and the whole thing is fixed. Upping the retirement age by two years is already a big enough gouge against the poor -- many will be homeless until 67 now, whereas in the past they could get off the street at 65. The whole thing is shameful and you have to wonder whose cool aid Earl is drinking on this one. Probably the same venal stinkers whose cool aid he drank on the DOMA.

re portland native's comment. If I recall Sweden, that cradle to grave socialist country, has a number of alternatives that one can enroll in. Kinda like Chile's program from what I have been told.

On SS and changes:

1. Assuming the SS Fund is zero at some point in the future (a risky assumption given Economists cannot predict one month in advance what will happen) these are the choices.

a. Pay benefits equal to what comes into the SS Fund, estimated at about 75% of scheduled benefits. (the default option, don't do anything and this will occur)
b. Raise the retirement age.
c. Reduce benefits for selected people in a variety of ways. Privitization is one that will basically do this.
d. Increase payroll taxes to make up for the shortfall.
e. Make up the shortfall from general revenues/borrowings.

Ok, this is democracy, take your choice.

2. The government does sponsor private accounts, IRA's and 401k's. The govt support is through very generous tax provisions.

3. SS and Medicare have been successful in their goal of reducing (but not eliminating)poverty and deprivation among retired individuals. Since Conservatives do not believe any government programs will work, they must implement provisions which will destroy these programs so they can then say "Look, the programs don't work". In two months they may well have the power to start this process.

SS benefits are paid out in full until 2037. Plenty of time to "fix" things. Medicare and Medicade are the 2 things that should be fixed as much as possible and large chunks of the savings in Obama's HC plan was from getting rid of waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicade. Easier said than done.

There are only two ways that the US Bureau of Public Debt can redeem its Intragovernmental bonds. One is to use tax revenue (income + excise taxes). The other is to borrow money, thus increasing the debt held by the public. Option one requires an increase in income tax revenue; by increasing rates, by bracket expansion or by increasing the GDP. Option two just means adding to the deficit & debt via increased borrowing.

For every year since Social Security was founded in the 1930’s there have been more payroll taxes paid in than benefits paid out. The later addition of Medicare and Medicaid just added two spigots to the benefits paid out. In 2012 the payroll taxes paid in will not exceed the SS/Medicare/Medicaid paid out and the first net redemptions of the trust funds will begin.

Shall we tax or shall we borrow?

JFree - Of course if the govt had not raided the interest by investing it in junk US govt bounds (to pay for things that base taxes should have covered) from the social security trust fund (they cannot touch the principal or at least they haven't tried that yet), 2012 would not be a problem.

There's a good explanation here:


Our elected representatives decided to use FICA contributions to fund general government programs and thereby facilitate cuts at the high end of the income scale. This resulted in a big transfer of wealth from the any working people to the few well-to-do. Now that this has been done, the next logical step is to cut social security benefits so the wealth concentration can be maintained and enhanced.

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