Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2005
The key thing to remember
The key thing to remember when you hear the Administration's side of the Social Security debate is that they are not being honest about their motivations. They will say they want to earn a better return for workers' investments, but in reality they are just pushing right-wing idealogical principles such as Bush's "ownership society", which basically means they think poor people should just be fucked.
This is clear because Republicans say what they want is the power of the stock market, but they aren't okay with just having the government invest the pooled money in the market (which would enable everyone to benefit and no one to suffer if they invested poorly). See this passage in the NYT Magazine article:
In any case, Social Security could capture the return on stocks, without putting individuals at risk, by investing in equities directly. This would also achieve another frequently stated objective: keeping the government's hands off the Social Security trust fund. That option would be far more efficient, in economic terms, than separating the money into 150 million disparate accounts. Costs are much lower for one big investor. And more important, in a system of individual accounts, benefits will vary with individual choices, and some people will make poor ones. In Sweden, where the retirement system has included private accounts since 2000, the majority of Swedes made excessively risky investment choices by putting money into stocks at the market top, according to Richard Thaler, a University of Chicago behavioral economist. Finally, pooling the investment pools the risk, and thus reduces the danger of retiring at the wrong time. In a system of personal accounts, someone who retired after a market crash would be out of luck.
So it is notable that all the current proposals to privatize involve the economically inferior option of individual accounts. But privatization advocates aren't motivated solely, and perhaps not even primarily, by economics. Glenn Hubbard, Bush's former top economic adviser, wrote in Newsweek that an ''obvious objective'' of privatization is ''to advance the president's ownership society agenda.'' Such pro-free-market sentiment has a long lineage. Remember Senator Vandenberg, who fretted in the 30's that public ownership of private securities would amount to socialism? Even though state pension funds and some U.S. agencies, including the Federal Reserve, put some pension money in stock-index funds, conservatives still react as if such a solution for Social Security were akin to turning it over to the Kremlin. Peter Ferrara, a former White House staff member under Reagan and now senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Innovation, who has been proposing Social Security privatization plans since the late 1970's, told me that economics ''was not my primary motivation. It was ideological. We don't want the government controlling that much investment.''