November 28, 2004

Bush's Social Security Plan Is "Said" to Require Vast Borrowing

Okay, I've calmed down a little.

Check out this "journalism": Bush's Social Security Plan Is Said to Require Vast Borrowing

Here's a copy of the letter I'm sending to the editor:

Dear Editor,
First, it is clear that Bush's idea for Social Security is just that, an idea, and not a plan -- if it were a plan, he would have some way to fund it, details on how these mandatory savings accounts were going to work, and solid numbers on how the movement of money would be different from the status quo. Since he has none of these, his is not a plan but a vague idea.

Second, and more importantly, this "plan" is said to require vast borrowing because it will require vast borrowing. This isn't some baseless partisan claim thrown out by some Democrats; if benefits for the unemployed and elderly aren't coming from the current payroll taxes (as in the current system) or income taxes (the only other real source of revenue the federal government has), they'd have to come from deficit spending, ie, borrowing. It is not something that "could be necessary" if this "plan" was implemented; it would be necessary. As the article itself points out, even people in favor of this idea recognize it would require borrowing at least hundred of billions of dollars!

Finally, the article fails to evaluate the "plan" from the point of view of the young people who would retire under it. Social security exists as a safety net, guaranteed by the government, so that people need not worry about how they are going to get by when they are unable to work. Under the current system, a young person like me does not need to worry about fifty years from now; my generation's children and grandchild will subsidize me at roughly the same rate I and my parents are currently subsidizing my grandparents. But investing in mutual funds, stocks, and bonds is nowhere near as certain as the status quo: what about a 65-year-old woman who had made plans to retire in late 2001, only to discover her mutual fund had overinvested in technology stocks and her $100,000 in savings was now $35,000?

On the other hand, the claims of the advocates for keeping the current system, just tweaking it in twenty years when the surplus starts to wear thin, were also left unexamined.

I am incredibly disappointed at the quality of the journalism displayed in this article. Mr. Stevenson should be ashamed at his inability to objectively evaluate the claims of his sources and actually educate his readers.

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