Simpson’s Opinion, or the Commission’s?

Former Sen. Alan Simpson, co-chair of the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, was up to his usual antics the other day, calling Social Security “a milk cow with 310 million tits.” He’s apologized for that, after a fashion. The important thing, however, isn’t what he thinks, but whether his colleagues on the commission share his views.

When a child misbehaves serially at school, one of the first things his or her teachers ask themselves, understandably, is what’s going on at home. Where did he get that mouth? Where did she learn to fight like that? From his parents? From her older brothers and sisters?

Continue reading Simpson’s Opinion, or the Commission’s?

Who Are the Tea Partiers, and Who Speaks for Them?

Dick Armey certainly thinks he does. As a self-appointed spokesperson for the movement, he’s trying hard to make Social Security privatization one of the big issues in the upcoming midterm election. It’s not clear his Tea Party comrades are behind him, however.

The silly season is upon us, when the Democratic and Republican establishments become obsessed with wedge issues and rallying their respective “Bases.” In the case of the Republicans, keeping the Tea Party movement enthused and eager to vote this November are crucial. Understanding who these people really are and what they want is essential.

What do the Republicans think they know, and what is the reality?

Continue reading Who Are the Tea Partiers, and Who Speaks for Them?

The Social Security Trustees’ “Infinitely” Unreal Projections

Friends of Social Security on the whole should be pleased by the numbers in the trustees’ annual report. Except for one thing: they continue to include a dubious “infinite” projection in the report alongside the traditional 75-year forecast. This Bush-era innovation in Social Security accounting should be eliminated.

The trustees’ annual report is generally regarded as the best benchmark of Social Security’s long-term fiscal health. (There are a number of very good reasons to take it with a grain of salt as well, but we’ll leave that for another time.) And this year, the numbers look pretty good. Despite two years of a terrible economy, with payroll tax receipts down and the depressing effect of high unemployment likely to continue for some time, the most important number in the report actually got better.

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I Didn’t know Krugman Could Read Geithner’s Mind

What Krugman suspected – that high unemployment just doesn’t matter that much anymore to our political leaders, and in fact is the new normal – appears to be just what Tim Geithner is willing to settle for.

Paul Krugman was saying what a lot of people were already thinking on Sunday, when he described

a sick feeling … that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal…. I worry that those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is ‘structural,’ a permanent part of the economic landscape — and that by condemning large numbers of Americans to long-term joblessness, they’ll turn that excuse into dismal reality.

Reading between the lines just a little bit, this is the scenario Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner laid out in Krugman’s newspaper, the New York Times, just two days later. Continue reading I Didn’t know Krugman Could Read Geithner’s Mind