Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Trust Fund Is Real, and It Can Deliver

19 October 2011

When anyone tells Social Security doomsayers that the baby boomers are provided for by the Social Security Trust Fund, they tend to say that the trust fund is not real, that it is an accounting gimmick, that it doesn’t matter because the United States government still has to come up all that money it needs to pay the trust fund back, which is gong to be, like, impossible. Therefore, disaster looms.

The doomsayers have it wrong. These claims don’t hold up to scrutiny.

The trust fund is real, because it exists by law and the trustees of the Social Security system by law have the authority to redeem the Treasury obligations in the trust fund whenever they need to.

But when the Treasury needs to pay off those obligations so that baby room retirees can get their benefits, won’t that put an insupportable burden on the taxpayers? No. There will be a considerable burden, but it won’t be of any larger scale than several other major spending needs and debt repayments.

The total debt of the US Treasury at the present is 15 trillion dollars, and 2.5 trillion of that is owed to Social Security. So Social Security is a big chunk of debt but still only one sixth of the total.

To recap, then, is there money set aside to pay benefits to retiring baby boomers? Yes. Is it reasonable to believe that the government can deliver that money when it is needed? Yes.

For a later post, I’ll cover the issue of whether Social Security revenues, backed up by the trust fund, are really going to be enough to pay retirees for the foreseeable future. But the trust fund is there and will be needed, along with continued payroll tax contributions from working Americans.

Remiss

28 September 2011

As in, I’ve been. Remiss. Not posting. Short on creative juice.

I could blame the weather. It’s suddenly turned to a run of dismal weeks.

I have been dropping a comment in now and again on some of my favorite blogs, as well as one or two that aren’t favorites. I like to aim my comments at the blog author, but I do read other people’s comments, and man, that can be a drag. Are these commenters representative of the nation? Are they actually more intelligent than the national average? They seem to be highly literate, but not very thoughtful.

Maybe a lot of them aren’t for real. Some may be true trolls: just out to provoke a reaction. It’s been said a million times, “Don’t feed the trolls,” but lately I see an awful lot of maniacally extended exchanges where one guy who seems reasonable won’t stop responding to some buffoon’s flood of fact-free ideology and crude polemics.

These blogs, sheesh. It’s like a bar somewhere where you can’t ever go in sit down, have a drink, and talk with friends, there has to always be a guy coming in to start a fight and always a few jumping up to get their licks in, and every brawl goes on for twenty minutes.

No 9/11 Post

12 September 2011

I do have something to say about the 9/11 tenth anniversary, and it is fitting that I did not say it on 9/11, because what I have to say is that there wasn’t much that needed to be said about it. Indeed, too much was said about it.

Of those who wanted to come together and share their continued grief at memorial ceremonies, God bless them. Everyone else talking about 9/11 on or around the anniversary was more or less angling to make some coin off it, or to use it to leverage some political point, or to emphasize their ability for remembering historical dates, or to get a dark thrill about having lived through that totally awesome deathfest.

I don’t necessarily knock people for suiting themselves in any of these ways, but my personal preference, which I do urge on others, is to respect the terrible loss of 9/11 by curbing my excitement about it. Many good ordinary Americans would just as soon let the horror of 2001 continue to fade, and that should be allowed.

Islam Is Not an Evil Empire

5 September 2011

A lot of Americans are eager to fight the whole of Islam, from its roots with Mohammed and the Koran to its vast reach in the world of today, and especially its involvement in various conflicts, great and small. Basically, the rhetoric is in the evil empire vein, which might be the simplest response, but it’s not very accurate.

It’s pretty weak to condemn modern-day Islam on the basis of its early history of expansion by warfare, or to make generalizations based on warmongering parts of the Koran written during those ancient conflicts. Judaism and Christianity have plenty of murderous aggression in their respective histories and scriptures. In more recent times, all these faiths have advanced to allow mutual respect and tolerance, and judging any of them by the actions of their radical elements is not fair.

The conflict between Israel and the Arab world, on the other hand, is a true hatefest, but it doesn’t stem from religious principles. It’s a war over territory. No appeals to holy scripture or tradition are necessary to fuel that fight.

Islam-bashers also justify themselves by pointing to the supremacy of autocrats over many Islamic countries and the institution of Islam as state religion in those countries.

If the status of Islam as a state religion worries you, consider that Christianity is the official religion of a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Greece, and Argentina; from this we can conclude—nothing. Those states aren’t acting in concert or as individuals to advance the cause of Christianity in other lands—but neither are the Islamic states.

Like Christianity, Islam is now long past its peak of consolidated political control; as a state religion in various lands today, Islam is no more coherent a global power than Christianity is.

What about those Islamic dictators? Well, most of the dictators are neither enemies of Western democracies nor friends of radical Islamists. The House of Saud, Saddam Hussein, and Hosni Mubarak have all been hated enemies of Islamic extremists and brutal oppressors of Islamic radicals.

As both a practical and moral matter, Americans should continue to distinguish between the Islam we can get along with and the radicals we cannot.

Invest in a Democratic Society

30 August 2011

Our government is part of our society. You won’t like everything it does, but if you try to radically change it, you’re going to run into major difficulties.

You can wish for some changes, but there’s not too much most people can do as individuals to make a big difference. What you can do is join up with folks who are like-minded or have similar interests to yours, and work on influencing that group while helping that group influence our politics. Sometimes your group will swing an election to someone who will run things more to your liking.

The most powerful political groups are the major parties, so you might want to gauge which of the two parties suits you better and support it. Or, if you are part of a smaller movement, help your group figure out which party to back, and then support the party that your group supports.

These aren’t very original thoughts or profound insights. A lot of people don’t subscribe to them, though. Witness your average political blog commenter. They expect to get everything their own way by ranting, and if neither party closely matches their individual views, they are inclined to embrace radicalism. Radicalism’s not for me; I have too much to lose.

US Treasury Yields Are Low

30 August 2011

If you are interested to know what interest rates the United States pays on its Treasury bills, you can check them at a site like Bankrate.com.

These rates are down from a month ago. So if anyone tries to tell you rates shot up when S & P flipped out and downgraded US debt earlier this month, make a mental note that that person is not a trustworthy source of financial information.

Rates are also down from one year ago. They are really about as low as they can go, and there’s no movement up yet. Whatever is hurting our economy now, it is not a lack of confidence in the ability of the United States to pay back its debts.

[Update, 2 Sept.: Removed a misplaced word “who” in “if anyone who tries”.]

Not Hypocrisy

23 August 2011

It isn’t hypocrisy for a member of Congress to request funds for their district from a program that they oppose. Why can’t left-aligned bloggers resist this lame accusation?

If you have half a brain or more, you understand that opposition to a program means it shouldn’t be giving out money to anyone. Of course, as long as it is giving out money to everyone else, you accomplish nothing by not taking what you could get for your district.

It’s the same as opposing some tax deduction, but claiming that deduction for yourself as long as you are eligible. You think it’s a bad idea for the government to give up so much tax revenue, but they are doing it anyway. There’s no virtue to not taking what the existing law gives you. You can still say it’s a bad idea.

Lindershaw City Teems

10 August 2011

The views on this blog have been going through the roof! And I haven’t even started publicizing it yet.

I’m holding the line on ads, though.

Five B.S. Allegations against George W. Bush

10 August 2011

At the same time I was thinking of a bunch of bad raps against President Obama, I thought about some unfair claims that had been made against George W. Bush while he was president.

1. He knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand.

2. He said “the question is our children learning?”

3. He let Osama bin Laden get away.

4. He didn’t care about black people.

5. He couldn’t think of any mistakes he’d made as President.

However, there were some sound criticisms as well:

1. He moved to privatize Social Security.

2. He took us to war against Iraq on fabricated evidence.

3. He asked for and got more spending, less revenue, and a large deficit throughout several years of economic growth.

4. He denied global warming was occurring.

5. He ran a relentless political propaganda campaign against the opposition.

If You Do This One Weird Trick Every Year, You’ll Balance the Budget!

4 August 2011

A United States Senator advocates a permanent nonsensical constraint on debt limits on the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page.

One, the gimmick doesn’t make sense, as I’ve already remarked. Two, if you tried to do it anyway, you’d fail. The present deal on spending cuts did not come easy, and we’re still not done wrangling over it. Trying to force ever-deeper cuts by this same political method year after year would exhaust everyone’s tolerance for tea-partydom by the second year.

Budget gimmicks for balancing the budget have been tried before. Gimmicks are things that offer you a novel and simple-sounding strategy that logically implies you’ll reach your goal. This might make Wall Street Journal readers feel good until it comes time to take the next novel, simple-sounding step, and it turns out to be even more difficult and less satisfactory than the old, complicated way of doing things.

Here’s an old idea that actually has worked before. Increase taxes, restrain spending, and let the economy grow. The first two parts don’t tend to make people happy. But it’s like diet and exercise–you’d better pay attention to both if you want to get in shape.