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Sunday Morning Politics
Previous | Next by Casey 19 October, 2003 - 3:35 AM

Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean accused Republicans on Thursday of running up the federal budget deficit so they can undermine the fiscal underpinnings of Medicare and Social Security.

I've never really thought about it like this before but I think he's right. I know he's just turning the usual defensive democratic arguement, "if we run these huge deficits we'll bankrupt our social programs!" around to the offensive one, "you republicans are _trying_ to bankrupt our social programs!". But to hear it put that way is an eye opener for me. I think alot of people take social security for granted. I know I took it for granted so much, it honestly never occurred to me that there might be people who oppose it. I like social security. I will likely never need the money I contributed to it, but if that is the price I have to pay to keep poor grandparents from being homeless, then I'm fine with that. I know that without social security my own grandparents would have become a huge burden on their kids, preventing me from being able to go to college and get a sweet job enabling me to pull the family out of poverty.

But many conservatives don't see it this way. I was always aware of the generally republican ideology of tax reduction. That is, if you cut taxes enough you can eventually reduce the size of government, ie to "starve leviathan". My libertarian side has always agreed with this idea in principle. The less government the better. Unfortunately I think in practice my libertarian ideology really only extends to social issues (abortion, drugs, euthanasia, etc). On the economic issues, I think I'm really more a proponent of a balance between capitalism for those who can be competitive (like us), and socialism to keep those who can't out of the way (like ill grandparents under the poverty line, down syndrome people, cripples, etc.)

I'm still not going to vote for Howard Dean because he still supports legislating lifestyles (the civil union thing is a good step, but not nearly far enough in my book). After this latest comment though, I've softened up on him a little bit.

So, you conservatives, what do you think, is Howard Dean on target? Is this the thing that the republicans are thinking but don't want to say out loud? Has he called them out? Or is this one of those slimy liberal tricks to baselessly slander the decent people of the world?

10/19/2003 >> ben

this is interesting... the term "disability," under the Social Security Act is defined as "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." Oddly enough, by church edict, in the middle ages, this was pretty much the same definition that allowed you to beg (people that were beggars who could possibly work gainfully were considered sinners, and were usually beaten or run out of town).

10/19/2003 >> ben

personally, i like this guy's ideas, he is, as he says, right, but i don't think his attitude towards being right is going to get him a lot of happy people. it seems like he's the kid in the chemistry lab that finishes before everyone else and kibitz' while you're trying to concentrate. or is that just me?

10/19/2003 >> Render

Social(ist) security doesn't need a Republican conspiracy to collapse. It will fail under the weight of pretty simple mathematics.

There's a reason pyramid schemes are illegal.

10/20/2003 >> Casey

So that's the other side of it. I keep hearing that no matter how you slice it, social security is doomed. I'm not so sure. I seem to remember during the Clinton years of plenty, it looked like we'd be able to sustain social security. I suppose that the best way to manage social security is to actually make it so that the funds drawn out of it come from the to contibutions of that same geneneration (pre-retirement) rather then the current working generation. That way way population effects like the one we're about to see with the baby boomers don't have as much of an impact. But despite that, if the government is running in the black they don't have to borrow from social security, thus alowing it to actually save up.

Now this is the part where render writes his four page dissertation explaining how wrong I am.

10/20/2003 >> Render

What's the point?

10/20/2003 >> Casey

right, a question more than a point. Lets operate from the assumption that the way social security is administered has some serious flaws. I think we can both agree on this at least. So the questions that follow from this are:

#1 From the republican standpoint, is the principle of some system of social security a good thing?

#2 If yes, is the current system good enough to try to work out a way to save it (here's where I say "yes").

If no, is the conservative "starve leviathan" tactic truly aimed at killing social security once and for all without providing alternatives?

10/20/2003 >> Casey

Having said, that my knwoledge base from which I can speculate starts to drop sharply. I'm not 100% sure on what all the flaws in the way social security is managed now. One think that I think is true is that as it stands right now, the people collecting money are getting it from the people paying in currently. Its not too different from the way insurance companies run thier business. This is fine in a country where the employment base is always growing faster than the rate of retirees and other ss collectors. However, the baby boomers are about to change all that. This seems like a pretty simple problem with the math and alludes to the essence of a pyramid scheme. I still like the idea of the system though. It seems to me it would be better managed if it were run more like a big savings account rather than an insurance fund. That is, the contributions made by everyone of a certain age are only paid to people of the same age at some later date. Basically, it would be the government collecting a pile of money from a generation and paying it back when they retire, with interest. Everyone gets the money back, so its fair, and there will always be enough, since it would be classed by age....

My understanding (which could be flat wrong), is that the first people to recieve social security funds back when the new deal was set up, never actually contributed to the system in the first place. In order to make my idea work we still need to find a way to make up the difference that these people owed. I'm thinking that we just spread that difference over a few generations of a little extra ss payments until we get caught up.

okay now I must get lunch.

10/20/2003 >> Casey

Cripes, I really should proofread. So sorry about that folks. One shouldn't write when rushed. Try to ignore the typos and focus on the content.

10/21/2003 >> Casey

At this point in the thread I'm basically just talking to myself. bah.

Here's a conservative who thinks like I do but actually has solutions:

and here's one who doesn't (on both counts):

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