Has the Bush administration jumped the shark?

Now that a 9-year old presidential hopeful is stumping across the country for Social Security reform along with his idol G.W. it strikes me (and others) that the Bush administration has reached the point where most Americans are tuning it out. To regain its past glory the administration has recruited a cute little kid ala The Brady Bunch (Oliver), Diff’rent Strokes (Sam), and Scooby Doo (Scrappy).
Honestly, maybe a child is the best spokesperson for the President’s Social Security “reform”* plan. He certainly demonstrates the same lack of understanding of the issues as those he represents.
For instance, he probably doesn’t know that both the Social Security trustees (4 of the 6 trustees were appointed by Bush) and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predict that the system can function exactly as it has for the past 50 years until at least 2042 (The CBO says 2052). “By either measure Social Security is more fiscally sound today than it has been throughout most of its 69-year history.” [Center for Economic and Policy Research – Facts PDF]
He also probably should learn that even after “2042 (or 2052), enough new money will be coming in to pay between 73-80 percent of promised benefits. Even with this reduction, new retirees will still receive more money, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than today’s beneficiaries.” (emphasis mine) [Washington Post Op/Ed]
He is most certainly unaware that most seniors claim that rising Medicare and Medicaid costs and reduced coverage actually cause them much more hardship than any potential reductions in Social Security and many have urged the President to focus his attentions on those programs.
Please see the extended text of this entry for more facts. Or read this PDF: What is Social Security?
* denotes a word that is misused as the President doesn’t really want to reform Social Security but rather destroy it, as its very existence is an affront on the ideals of Darwinist Capitalism.
This is quickly turning into a much longer, more involved, post/rant so if you want to read more feel free…

In his review of The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know About America’s Economic Future by Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns, Paul Krugman explains that, however astute their observations of the situation are, Kotlikoff and Burns miss the point by laying blame mostly at the feet of demographics instead of the true source of problem: rising medical costs.

“Kotlikoff is a fine economist, one of the world’s leading experts on long-run fiscal issues. His book with Burns is full of valuable information and sharp insights. Yet in their effort to grab the lay reader’s attention, Kotlikoff and Burns do little to alert readers to the distinction between two quite different issues—an aging population and rising spending on health care. And their failure to make that distinction grossly distorts their discussion.
The demographic problem is, of course, real. It is, however, of manageable size—exaggerating the problem by confounding it with the problem of medical costs just gets in the way of dealing with it. The problem posed by rising medical costs, on the other hand, would be there even if the population weren’t aging—and misrepresenting the problem as one of demography gets in the way of confronting it.”

And more…

“Congressional Budget Office showing the combined expense of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid rising from less than 8 percent of GDP now to more than 20 percent by 2075. It seems natural to assume that the grim cost projections follow directly from the aging of the population, and the book doesn’t tell you that this assumption is wrong.”

This talk of the fallacy of the aging U.S. population as a reason to reform Social Security has reminded me of a great program PBS/NOVA produced: World in the Balance. In it Peter Hewitt states:

“It is our lack of aging that makes the United States ‘the island of tranquility in a turbulent demographic sea.'”


“Meanwhile, the donor countries that provide America’s immigrants will eventually run out of surplus youth. I suspect that immigration from Mexico, for example, will probably slow down to a trickle by the 2020s. Mexico is on its way to becoming an older population than the United States, and this is true of all Latin America. So our major sources of immigration are aging very rapidly, much more rapidly than we are. You have to assume that someday the immigration will slow down, and when that happens, we’ll age more rapidly.

All food for thought I guess. What I would like people to come away with is an understanding that there is more out there then what the President is saying in his countrywide tour to drum up support.

%d bloggers like this: