Thursday, November 25, 2004

If it's broke, fix it

It had to happen sooner or later. You can’t be a lightning rod without lightning striking. I write to expose what I consider the truth based on documentation, resources, and factual evidence. I go out of my way to provide my sources so any reader can “look it up”. I try to maintain a respectful, if tongue-in-cheek, attitude, though at times some overwhelming display of ignorance or stupidity calls for a sledgehammer rebuke. Last week (Nov 24), Chuck Gregory went over the line. Criticize my positions, question my information, you can even insult me (I can take it, I’ve got big enough shoulders), but leave my family out of it. Mr. Gregory, my parents are both dead. My six year old will never know her wonderful grandparents. They both died young of terrible cancers and I had the displeasure of nursing them through it. Thank you ever so much for refreshing those memories at this festive time of year.

Now I don’t recall ever staking out a position on SSI Privatization. If I had, I apologize, but since I don’t think I did and, providing Chuck doesn’t come up with a piece I’ve written on it, I have to question Chuck’s motive in singling me out as his example. Chuck doesn’t know me, but I’m in the phone book, I put my email up, and I have even received a letter sent to me through the Springfield Reporter. In short, I’m not hard to reach. Chuck never bothered to talk to me before targeting me and my parents to make his argument.

Chuck criticizes me for doing a “wondrous job explaining what young Republicans are against” but not “what they are for”. Of course, this would mean that Chuck has read what I’ve written. Now, either Chuck is illiterate or he’s doing what ‘old liberals’ always do: side-swipe an issue, spew statistics and formulae, and blather with a rapacious drive to overwhelm the audience to the point that they can’t question what they’ve heard because there’s just too much of it and the emotional-spinal-tap they just got has them all at odds. Every one of my letters has stated quite plainly exactly what I stand for. Chuck’s approach, like most liberal clap-trap, reminds me of teaching my daughter about global warming. I used the Chicken Little story: that’s the one where the liberal runs around screaming that the sky is falling. Chuck seems like that to me.

Chuck seems to rely on Andrew Hacker’s book, but never mentions that Hacker is not an economist, but rather a professor of political science. Nor does Chuck tell us that his guy is at best a socialist who believes that there should be a maximum allowable income of $200,000 in the US and anything over that would be redistributed to everyone else (and, like most liberals, Hacker does not donate his income in excess of $200,000 to the government - as I am sure Chuck does, because he’s so concerned with equity). Chuck also neglects to mention that Hacker’s statistics, facts, figures, and financial model pre-dates 1997 and is probably out of date.

But let us not write Chuck off as a liberal, extremist, intolerant, insensitive, arrogant ideologue because he gives me, yet again, the opportunity to expose his side for the fear-mongering zealots they are. I am 42, I don’t consider that ‘young’, per se, but not old either; still I am quite worried about ever being able to retire at all and I don’t expect much from Social Security. I am a conservative, which means I do not think it’s ok to take from one person to give to another person. Usually that’s called theft, but when governments do it, it’s called welfare. This is the system we have developed. Fine. I live within it. If that is the system we have to have, I believe it should actually work. The Social Security system is 40+ years old and the world it was designed to serve is not the world we have today.

The History: Social Security was designed in a “pay-as-you-go” format in which workers’ payroll taxes pay the benefits of retirees. At the time, most workers did not live much beyond retirement age, so the system worked. At the time, the shared risk pool, comprised of young workers, was thought to be large enough to accept the burden. Times change. People live much longer now for a variety of reasons and the worker:retiree ratio has changed dramatically as population growth slowed. I feel duty-bound to point out the sheer short-sightedness of this program and to reflect on who instituted this Great Society-- and it wasn’t Republicans. On balance, it is true that Republicans share equal guilt with Democrats for exacerbating this problem. Both parties have shamelessly raided the SS funds and diverted the money to pet projects. The hands-off policy for the “third-rail of politics” makes both parties irresponsible for avoiding addressing the problems that have been apparent for years.

The Facts: Now, unlike Chuck, I prefer to get economic advice from economists: “Over the next 75 years, the program faces $26.4 trillion in unfunded liabilities,” noted Berna Brannon, Social Security analyst at The Cato Institute. “This translates into $4.9 trillion that must be invested today in order not to cut benefits or raise payroll taxes to pay for the promised level of benefits.” The Social Security actuaries themselves project that in 2018, SS pay-outs will exceed payroll taxes and the coffers will be empty by 2042. There is no debate about changing the system; in it’s current form it is untenable. Many countries have moved to a system very similar to the Bush plan, including Chile, UK, and Poland. Their success speaks for itself.

I don’t understand Wall Street or the Stock Exchange and, believe me, I’ve tried to figure it out. I don’t like or trust the brokerage industry, but that stems from my lack of understanding, I’m sure. I fear for my future as much as anyone else. I am not a “financial genius,” Chuck, but I do know how to read and add, so I know that the system we have is about to collapse.

I also know who I trust and who I do not. I do not trust “Chicken Littles” like Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) who said to the Senate on May 21, 2002, “It is indisputable that the Bush Social Security Commission’s privatization proposals include drastic cuts in guaranteed Social Security benefits.” In true liberal fashion, where reductions in increases of spending equal ‘drastic cuts’, Corzine lies about the Commission’s proposals, each of which will pay out more than the current system will, as documented by the Social Security actuaries.

Chuck, I have to admit, you got me on this one. I don’t have the answers you are looking for-- do you? What I can say for sure, is that what we have now is not working and needs to be changed. I can also say for sure that everywhere you look, governmental control equals mismanagement, cost overruns, layers of bureaucracy, and ever-increasing taxation. We have tried Social Security your way, Chuck, for ages. Chuck, your team promised us better education (hasn’t happened), an end to racial injustice (didn’t happen), an end to poverty (won’t happen). In fact, liberals have been promising the same promises for decades and have yet to deliver on one. Republicans promised lower taxes (we got ‘em), more jobs (5.6% unemployment - read it and weep), and a better economy (despite 9/11 and the Clinton Recession, it’s happening). Democrats talk, Republicans do. Don’t you think, Chuck, it’s time for a change?

As a footnote, I’d like to note that Chuck is a classic liberal. He projects onto me his own problem. He criticized me for not doing much to explain what I am for and yet in his entire letter he rants about what he’s so obviously against and not once mentions what he is for. Keep trying Chuck; even monkeys will write “Romeo and Juliet” if you give them enough ink, paper, and time.

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