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July 11, 2008

Comments

I thought that was what von was talking about when he referred to the cap being removed.

Ah. Well, I guess I'd have to see the details, because that's where the devil lives. I believe the analysis has already been done, though, that shows that simply removing the cap, or even part of it, isn't going to solve anything. Unless the outlay rules are changed inconsistently with the taxation rules, in which case SS starts to look more like an entitlement. And we all know that SS simply cannot be messed with, in any way, or Grover Norquist will have won.

"Okay, so there isn't available evidence that most people think of Social Security as some sort of dreadfully ineptly handled individual retirement program, or at least none to hand."

Look above and google any thread on the topic here. And we're the 'educated' ones. Also that is how it was presented when it was rolled out. Also that is how it is talked about by most politicians when they aren't insisting that it is wholly an anti-poverty program. I honestly can't muster the will to try to prove Earth is Round level assertions, it gets tedious and it seems to be asked more and more. If hilzoy or anarch or slarti thinks it isn't common, I might try.

And means-testing phase-outs can easily have a 5:1 or so ratio to allow for good incentives without too much hand-wringing.

I think a visit to the Wikipedia SS page is probably in order, Sebastian, unless there's a better place on the innertubes to read up on the history.

"You're being ridiculous. So why don't we pay food stamps money to the middle class and rich people?"

For crissake, Sebastian, few anti-poverty programs suck more than food stamps. Ever tried to live on $80 worth of food a month?

Current data. Nowadays the maximum a state can give to 1 person is $162, but what the actual average state maximum is I'd have to look harder for. More.

Benefit erosion.

Current and Projected Standard Deduction Levels
by Household Size under Current Law (in nominal terms)
Household Size 2007 Projected
2012 Projected
2017
1 $134 $134 $134
$134. That doesn't suck?

"You're being ridiculous. So why don't we pay food stamps money to the middle class and rich people?"

For crissake, Sebastian, few anti-poverty programs suck more than food stamps. Ever tried to live on $80 worth of food a month?

Current data. Nowadays the maximum a state can give to 1 person is $162, but what the actual average state maximum is I'd have to look harder for. More.

Benefit erosion.

Current and Projected Standard Deduction Levels
by Household Size under Current Law (in nominal terms)
Household Size 2007 Projected
2012 Projected
2017
1 $134 $134 $134
$134. That doesn't suck?

"And the idea that we have to spend 70% of an anti-poverty program on middle class and rich people to bribe them, shows exactly why conservatives think that government is often super-inefficient at its aims."

So you can get most conservatives to support just raising income support levels, then, and removing all those limits on receiving it? Cool!

Otherwise, this works out to, for poor people, heads you lose, tails you lose.

"Well, Gray try noticing again."

Try quoting where Catsy said what you seem to think he said.

"And hooray, I get rude comments from you again, how exciting."

I don't mean to be rude to you, Sebastian, and I apologize for anything you perceive as rude.

Possibly you might now respond on the substance?

"I'm sure you can nit-pick it somehow"

Nitpick what?

Von: "I don't want a 67-year old retire plumber thrown out onto the street or required to work at McDonalds."

We've found a starting point for agreement, then.

Sebastian: "As such it doesn't connect well to your claim that an actual anti-poverty program has to pay 70%+ of the money to non-poor people."

Claim? Have you read any histories of (not attacks on) the New Deal, and how Social Security and other programs came about? Or, alternatively, can you point to any examples of cheerfully well-funded means-tested anti-poverty programs not opposed by conservatives?

"Dread and worry suck."

Especially decade after decade. They become reflexes, even when not appropriate, and can warp personalities. They're destructive in themselves.

Gary: Very true indeed, about the personality warping. Really, abolishing (to the extend it's feasible) abolishable fear in the population at large has become a driving force in my politics. People who are afraid are vulnerable to the temptations of tyrants and con-men in ways that people are confident and secure just aren't. In some ways I've become downright Bismarckian, at least to the extent of agreeing that a social safety net forestalls revolution and chaos.

I had always figured that the people setting up schemes that hurt the poor and needy so often mostly just didn't really care. One of the startling developments for me this decade has been finding out how many architects of our movement conservatism actually do prefer a population that's fearful and vulnerable, regarding it as an asset, providing them with a population willing to do degrading things gladly and to follow arbitrary orders for want of an alternative. It's meant a lot of crow-eating and reconsideration on my part.

Hmmm, I though TiO had a corner on the market for ObWi meta. Will have to talk to our legal staff.

But if we are going to dabble in meta, I have to think that von has succumbed to the 'balance is the most important thing in the world', which means that we have to write equally scathing reports on the two candidates because that's the fair thing to do. Thus, if McCain keeps making these idiotic statements, hilzoy is obliged to find a problem with Obama to write about. Color me unimpressed.

I guess I've always found the GenX freakout about SS kind of weird.

So do I, and I'm Gen-X myself.

And fwiw, I agree with the rest of russell's post, as well as Nell's all-important point that universal payment (i.e. without means testing) is the political insurance needed to keep SS intact. Sorry, Republicans: wish we could trust you but, well, we can't.

Incidentally, Bruce, took a bit of the above exchange, and used it here.

*goes to look*

Excellent, Gary.

"And fwiw, I agree with the rest of russell's post, as well as Nell's all-important point that universal payment (i.e. without means testing) is the political insurance needed to keep SS intact. Sorry, Republicans: wish we could trust you but, well, we can't."

Ok, but then you really have no leg to stand on whatsoever when someone points out how wasteful government spending is. 70% of the costs going to people who aren't the intended beneficiaries in one of the larger programs around is just wasteful.

It is also almost certainly wrong. The "let grandma starve on the street" constituency is almost certainly under 60%.

In the spirit of how conservative arguments are treated at obsidianwings:

Please show me polling evidence which suggests that throwing grandma on the street is a likely consequence of failing to waste 70% of the money on bribes to the middle class and rich through Social Security.

Until then I might be forced to suspect you are just fear-mongering. :)

Perhaps Turbulence will come up with the data? Gary maybe? Nell? Bruce?

Where do you get this idea that ENOUGH Republicans want grandma to starve on the street that your projected outcome is likely? Individual Senators aren't going to cut it, we need evidence that such is a COMMON enough Republican response that when added to Democratic votes there is any substantial likelyhood of that being a real fear.

Sebastian: Please show me polling evidence which suggests that throwing grandma on the street is a likely consequence of failing to waste 70% of the money on bribes to the middle class and rich through Social Security.

Suggest you read a little history about what used to happen to people who were too old or too infirm to work, before a means of providing a guaranteed basic income was set up.

It's not even a question of the faulty assumption that everyone has children and grandchildren and this younger generation can be expected to take care of their grandparents, great-aunts, great-uncles, and other relatives too old to work.

It's also the simple fact that financial dependence never made anyone's life better. I'm sure you'll argue that all grandma's problems are solved if you take away her social security check and give her a rice cooker, but trust me: grandparents don't necessarily want to be dependent on their grandchildren for every cent, any more than most grandchildren want to give up their working lives to providing for the older generation.

The waste of providing a large administration to make sure older people get not a penny more than they're entitled to is far greater and far less productive than the "waste" of some people who paid into Social Security all their lives getting Social Security checks that they don't need for basic survival.

So that would be an "I can't find anything" response then?

Ok, but then you really have no leg to stand on whatsoever when someone points out how wasteful government spending is. 70% of the costs going to people who aren't the intended beneficiaries in one of the larger programs around is just wasteful.

Seb, I don't think the 70% is wasted. I mean, SS is a redistributive program, so people in the upper and middle income ranges get less from it than they put in on average while people in the lower income ranges get more than they put in. And while 70% of the money might be going to upper+middle income folk, as long as they contributed more than 70%, I don't see how the program can be considered wasteful. Are you trying to make an argument about the administrative overhead of dealing with the whole population rather than just the worst off? Or am I missing something in your argument?

Also, it is rather difficult to argue with generalities. I don't think I've ever claimed that "no government has ever engaged in wasteful spending" in part because I think that is an insane claim. I can name for you dozens of government projects that I think are wasteful spending, but the details matter: I don't think it is preordained that any government program will be run with higher overhead than comparable privatized services. In some cases they will but in others they won't; one has to look at specifics and analyze details. I thought that this line of thinking was widely accepted by most conservatives in this country in that most conservatives are not advocating for privatized police and military forces. Do you agree with that?

Please show me polling evidence which suggests that throwing grandma on the street is a likely consequence of failing to waste 70% of the money on bribes to the middle class and rich through Social Security.

Again, I'm unclear on how you can call it a bribe when the rich and middle class pay more than they get out. If you give me $20 and I give you back $18 before parting ways forever, there are many labels we might apply to that transaction, but "bribe" doesn't seem to be one of them.

I'm also not sure I understand what you're asking for. I think you are asking me to supply polling data indicating that, in a hypothetical world in which SS didn't exist but the government did provide from the general fund financial support for disabled people, widows+orphans, and impoverished elderly, a significant fraction of the population would seek to reduce that funding below the equivalent benefit that those groups get now. Is that right?

The question as you (or some other commenter?) phrased it doesn't make much sense to me: very few people are going to be interested in throwing their grandmother on the street. What matters is whether they'll be OK if poor grandmothers (who are not their own) and who generally don't look like them end up on the street in exchange for lower taxes. After all, most people wouldn't want to throw anyone out on the street for no apparent reason; you have to ask in the context of a tax benefit.

Seb,

Also, and maybe this is just me being slow on the uptake, I'm genuinely confused by your claims that some people say SS is an antipoverty program while others say it is a pension program. I mean, a single government program can have multiple intended effects. The Defense Department paid for me to go to school even though I had nothing to do with the military, but it doesn't make sense to say "that's wrong! the DOD is a military organization and not a studying or university or research organization so they shouldn't be funding studying or research". Likewise, when Verizon offers me both internet service and cable television service, my response is not "No! That's impossible! Verizon is an internet provider so they have no business also selling cable television!" because in the real world there are often synergies that might not be obvious at first glance which make combined service offerings more efficient than individual offerings.

Seb: I would argue that the money given even to the wealthiest is extremely well-spent if it preserves the program as a whole in being.

The fact that some people need to be bought off is not a bug in SS, but a feature of the surrounding world to which it must, unfortunately, adjust.

"Please show me polling evidence which suggests that throwing grandma on the street is a likely consequence of failing to waste 70% of the money on bribes to the middle class and rich through Social Security."

The evidence is that the allocations for anti-poverty programs not structured like Social Security are so under-funded, and that conservatives won't vote for the funding to be raised so that no one is below the poverty level; when we have income support and/or social programs that keep almost everyone above the poverty level, you'll have a case that programs won't need to be structured like Social Security to keep them, well, secure.

If you see a flaw in this reasoning, and in the actual history of social security, please point it out.

"Individual Senators aren't going to cut it, we need evidence that such is a COMMON enough Republican response that when added to Democratic votes there is any substantial likelyhood of that being a real fear."

You really need me to link to votes by a majority of Republicans to not keep anti-poverty programs, such as "food stamps" (in quotes because there are no actual stamps any more) and "welfare" at a level that keeps receipients above the poverty level? I mean, there have been thousands of such votes, Seb; do you really contest this simple fact?

If you need, I'll go find, say, five such votes, but it's of course difficult to easily and quickly find straight up and down votes that you might not find some reason to claim was voted against for some other provision. So I'd like to first know if you are seriously claiming that the majority of Republicans and/or conservatives in Congress support keeping most all Americans above the poverty line via income support and government programs, because if that's the case, I do believe it will come as news to just about everyone on the planet who has ever read a word about such topics.

Of course, I could be wrong.

"The fact that some people need to be bought off is not a bug in SS, but a feature of the surrounding world to which it must, unfortunately, adjust."

But it is unestablished that you need to spend 70% of the program buying people off for an anti-poverty program. I realize that it is assumed, but it is an unsupported assumption.

"If you need, I'll go find, say, five such votes, but it's of course difficult to easily and quickly find straight up and down votes that you might not find some reason to claim was voted against for some other provision. So I'd like to first know if you are seriously claiming that the majority of Republicans and/or conservatives in Congress support keeping most all Americans above the poverty line via income support and government programs, because if that's the case, I do believe it will come as news to just about everyone on the planet who has ever read a word about such topics."

I'm saying that Democrats plus the Republicans who would go along are enough that grandma isn't likely to be put on the street.

And if you think otherwise, I strongly suspect that you are wrong. And if you disagree, I'd like to see some evidence.

Seb: I'll just say it's a gamble I am not prepared to take.

"I'm saying that Democrats plus the Republicans who would go along are enough that grandma isn't likely to be put on the street."

If we're down to this, then I'll skip the vote hunting, and say that I'm disinclined to rely on there being a safe minimal number of such Republicans in Congress for the next few decades, and will wait until there's a demonstrable safe majority of Republicans who have demonstrated a consistent willingness to vote in favor of bills that will keep most all Americans above the poverty line, before I'm willing to gamble the existing structure of Social Security away on such a thin and tenuous reed of hope.

YMM, and probably does, V.

But, then, I have a number of outright socialistic views, after all.

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