Thursday, December 16, 2004

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch carried an article written by Joel Havemann of the L.A. Times on the growing scepticism concerning the President's focus on the "coming collapse" of Social Security. The economists referred to in the article all say that the fear-mongering pushed by the Republicans at the moment is off-base, that Social Security will be okay well into the future.

A number of people have been trying to get more focus on the actual math concerning the future of Social Security which shows that, even untouched, the system will be okay well past 2050, and with a bit of tinkering could be solvent for the foreseeable future. Much of the focus on "reform" has mostly been to reframe the public perception so that the Republicans can achieve what they have longed to do for decades, eliminate Social Security.

Devin Drum at Political Animal has an excellent article on what we can expect in the coming weeks concerning the discussion over Social Security.
One of the things that's slowly becoming clear in the Social Security debate is that President Bush's advisors are probably not going to risk what's left of their professional reputations by pretending that private accounts can fix Social Security's future funding shortfall. Instead, they're going to propose benefit cuts in order to balance the books.
What Kevin points out, which is also mentioned in the L.A. Times article, is the alternative plan of changing the benefits index from wage inflation to price inflation (Consumer Price Index, CPI). Currently, as wages increase, the paid-out-benefits also increase. Instead the new system would increase benefits as prices increase. Given that wages have risen at twice the rate that prices have in the past 50 years and that barring an economic collapse wages are likely to outpace prices, this change in the index equals a benefit cut. If this passes the Republicans can cut benefits while blaming it on economic effects, thus achieving deniability.

In the long-term, if this happens, people will see benefits decrease and thus it will seem that Republican cries of SS insolvency were true, thus laying the stage for a re-emergence of private accounts and the dissolution of the SS system.

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