Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Social Security A Giant Ponzi Scheme?

Not really. I responded to John's comments in the previous Social Security post, but think it's important enough to move to the top.

John, I don't think it's at all a Ponzi scheme in the traditional definition of that term. I think it was designed to be tinkered with over ongoing generations to keep up with the ebb and flow of american generations.

In the 80s, politicians realized that if left unchanged, it would run out of money. So, they raised the amount of money that people currently put into it. This caused it to have a growing surplus. The surplus will stop growing in approximately ten years or so and then will be tapped to pay the benefits of the so-called "greatest generation. Right now, if the government did nothing, it would still last well into the 2040s. If they tweak it minorly, it will likely go on for decades more. Paul Krugman has more.

And, yes, I might have some of the years slightly off, but this is the consensus of nonpartisan experts. They key, of course, is the nonpartisan part.


Steve said...

I'd have to agree with Miles. The record of the current administration suggests that they prefer to lead through fear and intimidation. As we've seen with the war in Iraq, they have used WMD's and imminent threats and links to Al Qaeda to persuade the American public to support their actions. As we've learned they lied about all these threats.

So given their history, and the facts that Miles has pointed out about the health of Social Security, I expect that Republicans will use any lies to reach their goal of destroying Social Security. If they can convince Americans again, that their lies are true, they will succeed in destroying this nation's safety net, while continuing to fill their corporate pockets.

John August said...

I think our viewpoints probably line up exactly, just with some different wording.

Obviously, I was using Ponzi scheme as an exaggerated analogy. I don't think Social Security is bad or a sham or dishonest or any of the negative things associated with the term. I think Social Security is a laudable idea that should continue to be funded, because it's one of the only safety nets we offer to older people. Asking people to carefully tend their money in some sort of quasi-private stock market thing is unrealistic. We're a country that can't count calories, much less compounded interest.

My Ponzi-scheme analogy is that Social Security isn't a bank account. New investors pay for the old ones. The money Bob puts in isn't the money Bob gets out. It was never designed that way, yet GWB is misleading people to think that's how it works.

Republicans will argue that at some point the money will run out, because there just aren't as many young workers as you need to fund all the older non-workers. But their timeline is, by the accounts I choose to believe, completely wrong, and there are more reasonable ways to adjust things. And Steve's right, they'll using the standard fear tactics to try to make the changes they want, even though it's bad for just about everyone.