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Social Security

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Yglesias is dead on that the best way for people to “invest” in their retirement is a functioning social security system. The average person probably doesn’t have the time, skills, and/or interest in managing a retirement portfolio. As I am finally getting some kind of retirement benefit, I almost feel like seeing what I can do with it. As a game of course, because I don’t really believe I’ll ever have the money to retire or even that the money will be there in 2045 or what not. A society as rich as the United States can easily fund a proper social security system that would allow average people to retire with dignity; everything on top of that should be frosting. But then Wall Street might not make quite as much money and we couldn’t have that.

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  • shah8

    It still boggles my mind how George W Bush was still pretty committed to privatizing SS! Would have been one of the all time great heists of the century…

  • Range of Motion

    Yglesias’ article and your comments both were pretty vague on how a larger Social Security system would be funded. I don’t need to remind you that we’re having trouble funding the one we have now. And when the money is deposited, it’s really not segregated as we are told. It’s used by congress to fund the “crisis du jour” and treasury notes are given instead which is a separate problem.

    I’m open to fixing the system, but you’ve got to have a plan and not just the pie in sky results that you would like to see happen.

    If you ever saw Seinfeld’s Yada, yada, yada, episode where all of the meat of the conversation was missing and it was yada yada yada and then the conclusion. That’s what this article and your comments feel like.

    • UserGoogol

      The money doesn’t really need to be kept separate anywhere. Money is just numbers on paper. It would be kind of redundant for the government to borrow money to fund general expenditures while at the same time saving money for Social Security. And ostensibly, money that doesn’t get borrowed by the government can be invested privately, (give-or-take the particulars of if and how crowding out happens) so the money is still invested, just instead of investing it directly they anti-borrow it.

      And treasury notes ain’t nothing, they’re one of the most trustworthy bonds on the market, even if you’re in the weird situation of lending them to yourself.

    • Murc

      Yglesias’ article and your comments both were pretty vague on how a larger Social Security system would be funded.

      The country is wealthier now than its ever been in real terms, and has historically low tax rates, so my answer to the question of how it would be funded is ‘with increased taxes.’ Hell, you could maintain the current system basically forever just by lifting the cap. Anything else is gravy.

      when the money is deposited, it’s really not segregated as we are told.

      Yes, it bloody well is. The SSA can do precisely two things with the coin it gets; pay it out, or buy treasuries with it. It can’t go buy fighter jets or whatever. That sounds pretty damn segregated to me.

      treasury notes are given instead which is a separate problem.

      Why? I own some treasuries. They seem pretty secure to me. It’s only a problem if you think the U.S government is incapable of meeting its obligations, and given our enormous wealth and our historically low tax rates, please see previous.

      • DrDick

        Lift the income cap on payroll taxes. Problem solved. Can’t do that, however, because then it would not be regressive.

    • Malaclypse

      I don’t need to remind you that we’re having trouble funding the one we have now.

      No, we are not. We can continue to pay out very close to full benefits forever under the current system. We could increase benefits, forever, by removing the cap and/or including unearned income in the tax base.

      Protip: there is no federal program socialsecurityandmedicare.

    • rea

      we’re having trouble funding the one we have now

      We are not having the slightest bit of trouble funding one now, other than the political trouble caused by the Republicans.

      • DrDick

        Conservatives are all about self-fulfilling prophecies.

    • mpowell

      How would it be funded? That’s politics. Ultimately, the system is likely to be progressive, but depending on where your income is, changes in social security could help or hurt you. One thing to keep in mind is that virtually guaranteed 2% return from SS is better than an expected return of 3-4% in something much riskier, like equities. And I’m not aware of any financial product that provides both inflation insurance and longevity insurance together. Annuities don’t.

      Right now the max SS benefit is in the mid 30s per year. What Yglesias is proposing would be interesting because mid 30s in income with medicare should keep anyone above the poverty line. Of course, we could increase the generosity of the program to those making less than 30, but Yglesias is talking about doing something like increasing SS rates and then increasing your final benefits. So instead of paying 12% now maybe you would pay 16% and get mid 40s retirement pay. Or we could uncap FICA and just basically increase taxes on the upper 5-10% of payers to fund better benefits for everyone. This is what I mean by politics. The structure of SS will be a political thing.

      There are other options, though. France has various guaranteed investment options on top of SS. I don’t know much about other European countries. These offer modest rates of return with a guarantee of no loss of principal (which I assume is state-backed, though not sure). If you’re going to do that, though, you had better get the rates right or it’s going to be a massive wealth transfer program. But you get the benefit of not having to invest in the real market and having the flexibility to choose your own consumption/investment trade off decisions, which I think is pretty reasonable once we have guaranteed that seniors won’t be living in poverty.

  • Tom M

    According to the Trustees Report (comes out every March) the current system captures about 83% of total payroll and the Greenspan “fix” was to capture 90%. you don’t need to have the tax on all payroll, simply get to the 90% it went to in 1982.
    I’ve never understood the (so-called) conservative objection to SS since, for the most part, you have to work to benefit. You know, skin in the game….

    • Murc

      You don’t? The objection seems pretty simple; it’s a tax (strike one) and the revenue raised isn’t used for bombing people (strike two) but is instead used to eliminate poverty among the elderly (strike three).

      The conservative objection seems very straightforward and easy to understand to me.

      • Njorl

        It also removes a chunk of people’s life savings from the hunting grounds of the birds of prey in the finance industry.

      • DrDick

        It makes working class people secure in their old age, so that they are not competing with high school kids to work as grocery baggers or Walmart greeters. Can’t drive down wages doing that.

  • Range of Motion

    Why are municipal employees, teachers and other select groups offered the option to opt out or Social Security?

    Now ask yourself why do most all of who have the choice to opt out make that choice do so? If it’s so good and so efficient, why do people run from it when possible?

    • Malaclypse

      Why are municipal employees, teachers and other select groups offered the option to opt out or Social Security?

      Wow, you just cannot get basic facts right, can you?

      There are a number of groups of workers who are exempted from having to pay Social Security taxes:

      Federal employees hired before 1984 who elected to continue to participate in the federal retirement program instead of receiving part of their retirement under Social Security coverage.
      State or local government workers (police officers, firefighters, and teachers) hired before March 31, 1986 and participating in their employers’ alternative retirement system.
      Ministers may choose whether or not they will participate in the Social Security program.
      Self-employed workers with annual net earnings below $400.
      Election workers earning $1,000 or less a year.
      Household workers earning less than $1,500 per year.
      Minor children with earnings from household work but for whom household work is not their principal occupation.
      College students working under Federal Work Study programs, graduate students receiving stipends while working as teaching assistants, research assistants, or on fellowships, and most postdoctoral researchers.
      Individuals who are members of certain religious groups such as the Amish and Mennonites.

      More knowledgeable trolls, please.

      • c u n d gulag

        You can improve knowledge by doing some work, like reading a few non-Wingnut written books on subjects like history or economics, etc., or using Google or some other search engine judiciously by, again, going to non-Wingnut websites.

        Reading Wingnut books and sites does not increase knowledge, it diminishes it. Rather drastically.

        And we see that evidence in our trolls on at least a daily basis – and usually on a post-by-post basis.
        Present company, like RoM, is definitely included.

      • DrDick

        If they knew what they were talking about, they would not be trolls. Indeed, they would not be conservatives.

      • mpowell

        This is good to know. The exemption for government employees always pissed me off. I didn’t realize it had a sunset.

      • Anonymous

        I’m confused about this passage. What’s with the “hired before 1986”? There are plenty of state workers who pay no SS taxes. They don’t collect SS either, obviously. Where did you get this info?

        • c u n d gulag

          Mal,
          Apparently, now, not only do you have to cut and paste information for these people, they demand that you provide a link for them too!

          Hey “Anonymous,”
          Read what I wrote a couple of comments right about yours.

          Sheeeeesh!

          • c u n d gulag

            Or, rather, “above yours.”

          • Anonymous

            Huh? I did not ask for a link. I just assumed you had an idea where the info came from seeing as you’re the one who put it up there.
            I really don’t understand the anger.

            • c u n d gulag

              I guess everyone here is angry but you.

              • Anonymous

                It just seems so odd to me. My question was genuine. I did not intend any malice.

                • c u n d gulag

                  I’m sorry, but sometimes after dealing with some of our resident trolling cockroaches, I carry over some sarcasm.

                  But you did ask, “Where did you get this info?” after Mal gave you the information, after Mal gave you some already.

                  o guiess my point was that if you were really interested, there are a number of ways you could go and find out. The simplest, as I’m sure you know, but certainly not necessarily the best, is google:
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_%28United_States%29

                  Or this one:
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_%28United_States%29

                  There are linkable references at the bottom of each one for specifics.

                  My point is that you can get general information in a lot of different ways on the internet, and not just google.

                  And, to be sure, I sometimes ask for a source from someone, too. But not usually without trying to find it myself first.
                  But someone this morning had some very interesting and pretty specific information about the USSR’s treatment of certain kinds of nationalities in Soviet Gulag’s. I asked him for help because the information I wanted would not have been readily available by search engine. And he kindly gave it to me. But, if he hadn’t, and I was interested enough, I’d have tried on my own.

                  Sorry if I offended. :-)

        • Malaclypse

          Where did you get your info, Brave Sir Anonymous?

          • Anonymous

            Why are you so angry?
            I got my info from being in a public pension program well after 1986, brave “Malaclypse” (your birth name, I’m sure.)

            • Malaclypse

              People here know who I am, Good Sir Anonymous.

    • David W.

      That was true 25 years ago, but no longer:

      There are a number of groups of workers who are exempted from having to pay Social Security taxes:

      Federal employees hired before 1984 who elected to continue to participate in the federal retirement program instead of receiving part of their retirement under Social Security coverage.
      State or local government workers (police officers, firefighters, and teachers) hired before March 31, 1986 and participating in their employers’ alternative retirement system.
      Ministers may choose whether or not they will participate in the Social Security program.
      Self-employed workers with annual net earnings below $400.
      Election workers earning $1,000 or less a year.
      Household workers earning less than $1,500 per year.
      Minor children with earnings from household work but for whom household work is not their principal occupation.
      College students working under Federal Work Study programs, graduate students receiving stipends while working as teaching assistants, research assistants, or on fellowships, and most postdoctoral researchers.
      Individuals who are members of certain religious groups such as the Amish and Mennonites.

    • Murc

      First of all, I’d like to see numbers on that.

      Second of all, to the best of my knowledge, the groups that are allowed to opt out of Social Security do so because they have wicked awesome defined benefit pensions (provided via the public purse) that do the same thing. In fact, I do believe some select groups of civil servants are actually BARRED from participating in social security specifically because they have access to pensions that preform the same task and are funded out of tax revenues.

      • Murc

        As always, Mal makes me look dumb by getter there quicker with more accurate data.

      • Davis

        As a retired federal employe, I can verify that this is correct. I never paid into SS, and was not given an option until 1984, when we were given the choice of opting out of CSRS and into SS. None of us did, because our plan was so wicked awesome, (the reason for doing away with it).

        • Malaclypse

          None of us did, because our plan was so wicked awesome,

          How much do you want to bet that the troll is very very angry about the GOLD PLATED UNION BENEFITS that you got, yet does not see the contradiction between wanting to destroy your pension, because it is better than SS, and wanting to destroy SS, because some pensions are better?

          • c u n d gulag

            Yup, SS was also supposed to supplement any pension(s) you might receive.
            And, savings, back when a single income might even allow a couple to save money for their old age.

            Of, course, that was when people still got pensions, before Wall Street pulled the wool over the politicians eyes (which takes no great effort at any time, when their payoff’s right), and reached in and emptied the people’s wallets, with their 401K BS.

            And privatizing SS is their ultimate wetdream!
            Allowing them to make money off the 401K’s, whether younger people make or lose money, and siphon-off money from seniors.

            Because there’s nothing that says “personal responsibility” more than letting old people make investment decisions on their own with whatever money they may have left.
            Sure, it’s a gamble! But, a lot of them like playing bingo, or going to casino’s to drop loose change into slot machines.
            So, how’s this any different?

            They can’t outright kill all of the old people.
            But the problem is, that with global warming, there’s less and less ice for the old people to crawl out on, and drift off to sea.

        • Anonymous

          I actually would prefer that everyone was in social security rather than public pension plans. I have found that those receiving (or set to receive) public pensions do not care as much about attacks on the program. It would be better if everyone was in the system. When I was in the public pension system (not receiving yet) I was surprised how many people thought pensions were “safe” and social security was going to go bankrupt.

          • c u n d gulag

            Never ever underestimate the creativity of the cut-throat whores in the Wall Street Bordello.

            They’re trying to put a flag and a bible on completing their initiative of wiping out private and public pensions, setting one against the other, and are making the privatizing SS for their own gain seem like a generational thing.

            So far, they’ve been successful at their “divide and conquer’ games between private v. public pensions. Though, recent united efforts by people in both groups in WI may give them some thought.

            And now, they’re making people think that Grandma and Grandpa are the villains because they want to hoard the SS money, and not share with their kids and grandkids.

            “Divide and Conquer.”
            It’s been successful since we lived in caves.

            • Anonymous

              I was thinking about those who received public pensions in lieu of social security. I guess in some states some people pay into both?
              I want as many people invested in keeping social security around as possible.

              • If you pay or have paid into both — I have enough quarters from early in my career to qualify for SS, and have periodically had small jobs where I have also paid FICA — your SS benefits are reduced roughly 2-for-1 based on the amount of your non-SS pension payments

                Spousal benefits are also reduced.

    • I didn’t opt. The people who were employed by the state thirty years ago., and the state legislature, thirty years ago, opted.

  • Brett Turner

    The average person probably doesn’t have the time, skills, and/or interest in managing a retirement portfolio.

    Save money. Place in mutual fund aimed at producing maximum return on a specific future retirement date. E.g., the Fidelity Freedom Funds. Easy as pie.

    The problem isn’t that Americans can’t manage their retirement funds, it’s Americans don’t save enough for retirement. At lower income levels, this is a function of lack of disposable income. But even at higher income levels, Americans aren’t very good at saving for retirement.

    So we do need Social Security, but the problem is unwillingness/inability to save, not inability to manage savings.

    • Murc

      Place in mutual fund aimed at producing maximum return on a specific future retirement date.

      Genuine questions, no snark:

      What do you do if the market tanks 2008-style the week before you retire?

      How do you handle the problem of not knowing how long you’ll live? Should everyone budget based on expecting to hit their centennial?

      • DrDick

        What do you do if the market tanks 2008-style

        That is not an “if” but a “when”, at least at some point during your working career. It may not happen just before you retire, but it will happen. It has happened at least twice (in the 80s and in 08) since I have been working.

      • mark f

        What do you do if the market tanks 2008-style the week before you retire?

        If you had a stronger work ethic and more talent, you would’ve succeeded on your own merit and been born in 1942 instead of 1943. Why do you need the government to hold your hand?

      • mpowell

        The freedom fund he is referring to will have you holding bonds and cash equivalents at that point (at least a good portion of your retirement income). It’s actually the best way to save for retirement if you can’t handle any complexity at all.

        But it still misses Yglesias’ point, which is that there is no social benefit to retail investing. And index funds are vulnerable to the high speed trading tax since the big market moves they make create discrepancies between buy and sell orders that are taken advantage of by traders on Wall Street. So even investing in index funds is going to feed the vultures on Wall Street.

    • efgoldman

      Exactly what I have 50% of my 401K in. Lost 1/3 of its value in the 2008 crash. Hypothetical 10K investment in 2004 actually had a negative return. Also down for the current year. So your point is?

  • steelpenny

    I don’t understand why you keep saying that you don’t think you’ll ever be able to retire. You have TIAA-CREF; it’s probably the safest, lowest-fee plan out there–if TIAA blows up, forget it, it’s Thunderdome. If your benefit is about 10% of your salary and assuming you get tenure and hang around for 30 years or so, you will definitely be able to retire (unless your retirement plans are 24/7 hookers and blow).

    • cpinva

      you say this like it’s a bad thing!:

      (unless your retirement plans are 24/7 hookers and blow).

      geez, what’s the point of retiring, otherwise?

      • c u n d gulag

        After a certain age, “hookers” are the things that snag your sweater, and after climbing a flight of stairs, that’s the only “blow” you’ll want.

      • tucker

        “24/7 hookers and blow” and keel over after the last line. Now that’s what I call market timing.

  • Range of Motion

    One more note for those who think lifing the cap will solve all ills.

    This “contribution” is applied to wages and few of the higher income earners get W-2s for much more than this cap. An unlimited cap on wages will not yield the huge windfall that you think it will.

    And also, remember that the wage earners’ contributions are only half of the tax collected as the employer matches it so any additional tax on SS will also affect those who employ putting added pressure on the economy as additional money is pulled out of the private sector from both the employees and the employers.

    Answers for this are not as simple and clean as you would like them to be.

    • David W.

      Here’s a pretty clean answer for you then – honor the Social Security Trust Fund and there’s no need for any “fix” at this time. Really, it’s that simple.

    • Murc

      Why is contribution in quotes?

      Also, suppose you’re right and that lifting the cap won’t supply the funds we think it will. (I absolutely do not concede the point here, by the way.) Even if that’s true, so what? We are an incredibly wealthy nation. There are more or less efficient ways to get the coin for our social insurance system, but at that point we’re basically just haggling over details.

      • Malaclypse

        Why is contribution in quotes?

        Because taxation is theft, silly. MEN WITH GUNS!!! require the withholding.

        This “contribution” is applied to wages and few of the higher income earners get W-2s for much more than this cap.

        Just because the troll has never seen a W2 for more than 106K, he thinks they don’t exist. That’s so cute.

        Also, apply the tax to unearned income. Problem solved!

        • DrDick

          There you go again, confusing the poor bastard with all those facts and data.

        • chris

          Why is contribution in quotes?

          Because taxation is theft, silly. MEN WITH GUNS!!! require the withholding.

          Well, sure, but wasn’t that implicit in the word “contribution”? Its root word is “tribute”, after all.

          any additional tax on SS will also affect those who employ

          Oh noes, not the job creators! Won’t anyone think of the job creators?!

          …Employers don’t employ out of the goodness of their hearts, but because it profits them to do so. Making them ever so slightly poorer won’t change the economically optimal number of employees for them to have. (I suppose you might have to make an exception for the kind of personal servants where employing them is really a form of consumption, but that’s never been all that common in this country anyway.)

      • Vice of Reason

        Why is contribution in quotes?

        I think it’s because it’s called a contribution…..but it’s really a tax. A contribution is understood to be voluntary.

        A tax is not voluntary.

        • c u n d gulag

          VoR,
          My ficus plant would like to have a word with you.
          Maybe it can explain this at your level.

          • c u n d gulag

            Oh, I almost forgot – bring Range of Motion with you.
            My ficus plant might as well kill two birds with one stone.

    • Njorl

      Two things:

      First, there has been a very large increase in the number of people earning million dollar incomes as opposed to capital gains. Lifting the cap would pull in a lot of money.

      Second, I think Yglesias’ rationale for the existance of a cap is sound. We do want some people investing rather than just relying on a more generous social security benefit. People with very high incomes should be encouraged to invest. I would raise the cap significantly, but I would not do away with it. As mentioned above in the thread, the target of the 1983 deal was to apply the payroll tax to 90% of income. Floating the cap to reach this goal seems a reasonable measure.

      • mpowell

        Raising the cap will not discourage investment for retirement unless you dramatically change the structure of SS. The thresholds for SS are 90%, 70% and 10% of income. And that 10% threshold is pretty low, though I forget where it is off the top of my head (maybe 50K/year). So for people in that bracket, which presumably would now include all those earners above 106K/year, there is very little improvement in their retirement income due to the additional SS tax they pay. The system is fundamentally progressive in this regard, which is a good thing. But if I’m making $200k/year or $1M/year, I have an expectation of standard of living that requires my own retirement fund and is not something that SS in it’s current form could ever replace.

      • Vice of Reason

        First, there has been a very large increase in the number of people earning million dollar incomes as opposed to capital gains. Lifting the cap would pull in a lot of money.

        Well…yes and no.

        Yes, there’s been an increase in the number of high income earners. No, lifting the cap won’t bring in a lot of money because most of those earners receive most of their remuneration in some other form than wages.

        Small businesses operate under the S-corp rules or LLCs. Both allow a small business owner to pay himself a reasonable salary and pay the payroll taxes on that salary and take the lion’s share home in the form of distributions which are not subject to payroll taxes.

        Those high income earners that are in larger businesses have a nice salary, but they may get stock that they sell and pay capital gains or some other vehicle that would not be subject to payroll taxes.

        Few high income taxpayers get a W-2 for the BIG bucks. It just doesn’t make sense for them.

        • Njorl

          For those earning $1,0000,000+ per year, on average, 30% of their income is capital gains or dividends. There are a lot of specific examples of people who make enormous sums almost exclusively from capital gains, but they are not the norm, even for the rich. They are probably common among the ungodly rich, but there aren’t as many of those.

        • chris

          Yes, there’s been an increase in the number of high income earners. No, lifting the cap won’t bring in a lot of money because most of those earners receive most of their remuneration in some other form than wages.

          Well, you know, loopholes *can* be closed, if there is sufficient political will. If they’re getting that income in exchange for doing work, even white-collar wheeling and dealing on golf courses work, then they damn well ought to be paying payroll taxes on it, no matter what kind of spin they put on it.

          • Range of Motion

            Let’s stop frothing at the mouth and understand that the system was set up as a closed system for wage earners during the FDR administration. They had a chance to fund this out of the general coffers but decided that it would be by wage earners FOR wage earners.

            And now that this system is failing, you wish to turn it into something else.

            I doubt that’s gonna happen so you better start looking for a solution that isn’t the ol’ MORE TAXATION PLEASE solution that you offer up for most any problem.

            • c u n d gulag

              “Let’s stop frothing at the mouth…”

              Ok, you first.

              By the way, now that there’s talk about 3 or more parties, are you going to campaign for the “Know Nothing” nomination?

              You’d be a natural!

    • cpinva

      actually, they are.:

      Answers for this are not as simple and clean as you would like them to be.

      1. if the SS cap is lifted, it doesn’t, by definition, require that the rate be the same at all personal service income levels (the type of income currently subject to FICA). the rate could be the same for $1 – $250,000, and then be halved for income in excess of $250,000.

      2. currently, certain types of earned income are treated as not-earned income, and thus not subject to FICA. characterize that income for what it actually is, and make it subject to FICA.

      granted, either of these options require political balls, but it’s not as though the options aren’t available.

      as it stands (contrary to messrs. yglesias’ & loomis’ assertions), SS is working exactly as originally planned, especially with the improvement of the trust fund, created by st. ronnie of reagan, back in 84.

      where, exactly, do you think the bulk of the federal budget is spent, if not (both directly & indirectly) in the private sector?

      additional money is pulled out of the private sector from both the employees and the employers.

      this is another fraudulent conservative talking point: that somehow, our tax dollars are spent, not here in the US, but in some fantasy foreign country, that only federal employees have access to. they aren’t, they’re spent right here (probably 95%) in the good old us of a.

      • c u n d gulag

        To add on to what you were saying – part of the agreement that was negotiated under Reagan was that the poor and middle class would pay in the bulk of the contributions, and that after 25 years, the burden would shift to the wealthier.
        That was the purpose of the “cap” that was adjusted a few times.

        Of, course, in anticipation of the wealthier picking up the slack after a quarter of a century of freeloading, Little Boots started taking about privatization (which actually started much, much, earlier, but because of the coming deadline to talk about increasing the cap, started to really be pounded day after day).
        That has served two purposes:
        1. It successfully derailed any conversation about increasing the cap so the wealthier could contribute more of “their fair share,” because the focus became on saving the program, and not on percentage of contributions.
        2. It’s meant to ‘divide and conquer’ generationally, to pit old v. middle v. young, and start to grease the skids for the greatest shift of money from government to private hands in the history of the world.

        And now, look where we are today!
        No increase in the cap.
        And the conversation’s about raising the age eligible, grandfathering people in certain age groups as far as what they’ll get each month, and, of course, privatization.

        So far, another win for Conservatives.

      • Vice of Reason

        …that somehow, our tax dollars are spent, not here in the US, but in some fantasy foreign country…

        The fantasy is actually one where government can confiscate wealth from the private sector, and because they will spend it in the private sector, it’s as if they didn’t receive it in the first place. If any of this were true, you could take it all and it wouldn’t make any difference.

        government is overhead, plain and simple. The more overhead there is, the less net there is for the rest of us.

        currently that overhead is about 25% of GDP, up a full 25% of it’s previous historic levels just during this administration alone.

        • Murc

          government is overhead, plain and simple. The more overhead there is, the less net there is for the rest of us.

          This is untrue except in an extremely narrow technical sense. The government does many things that produce benefits for society far in excess of what leaving money exclusively in the hands of the private sector does. Roads, schools, firehouses, police stations, and, yes, social insurance programs. Before social security the vast majority of the elderly in this country died in poverty. Now almost none do.

          currently that overhead is about 25% of GDP, up a full 25% of it’s previous historic levels just during this administration alone.

          So what? It could go massively higher without negatively impacting the economy, assuming competent management. See: just about every other first world country.

  • c u n d gulag

    I admire your guys patience trying to explain things like this to our resident trolls.

    I was just saying that to my ficus plant, who has a better chance of grasping the economics behind SS than any troll.

    • Murc

      I can’t speak for the others, but I actually find it enjoyable (up to a point) rather than wearisome. Additionally, I sometimes come to personal insights or other things of value only to myself when forced to actually explain or articulate something directly. The act of writing has a salutary effect on me.

      I also am not writing just for the trolls, but for any potential lurkers out there. Constructive engagement makes you look like the bigger man and lends credence to your points. You never know when the next former Republican or former Independent is hanging around.

      • c u n d gulag

        Murc,
        You’re a better man than I.

        But, that’s a rather large crowd, so don’t take too much out of that. :-)

      • DrDick

        I just like making fun of conservatards, myself.

      • We lurkers salute your efforts. It’s useful to have things like this explained so I have a better understanding of what to say when people repeat the “SS is broken” line.

    • Your ficus plant doesn’t have an agenda, and argues in good faith.

      It may not say much… but it doesn’t grind axes or peddle falsehoods.

      Life’s full of trade-offs.

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