Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Just Vox, Baby

John Kerry picked a fight with the wrong economist (Andrew Samwick):

On the campaign as of late (see Senator Kerry's speech in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday and a press release and its background material from the same day), there are several examples of what I will politely refer to as "poor form." ....

As the press release starts enumerating "facts," it states:

George Bush’s Plan Costs $2 Trillion – According to His Own Advisers

The plan in question is a version of Model 2 presented by the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security. .... It is not a plan that the President has endorsed. Calling it "George Bush's plan" is inaccurate.

....The press release misrepresents an illustration as an endorsement. Were we really supposed to write about the economics of reforming Social Security through personal accounts without providing an example of such a plan?

Prof. Samwick quotes the Kerry press release:

George Bush’s economic advisers analyzed one and only one Social Security plan: Plan 2 put forward by his Social Security. [sic--where's the proofreader for this campaign?]

And responds:

That would be a tough one for them to verify. I know that they didn't call me to ask me how many plans I analyzed. To clear up any of their confusion, I can attest personally that I analyzed numerous Social Security plans during my time at CEA. We only used one for the purpose of illustration. ....

It is also misleading to label this as "Plan 2 put forward by his Social Security" Commission. As the ERP clearly states, we have assumed 100 percent participation in the accounts for the purpose of illustration, so that no one would be able to say that we had understated the changes in deficit or debt that could result. Taking up the accounts is voluntary, so an assumption about take-up has to be made. ....

Plan 2 put forward by the Commission would more accurately use the 2/3 participation rate. The Kerry campaign can have its $2 trillion in nominal costs over 10 years, but it also has to then agree that everyone would opt for personal accounts. Not a very good assumption for them to maintain while saying personal accounts are a bad idea. Which would they like?

Logic not being the strong suit of Senator Kerry, I doubt he'll get an answer. There's much more that anyone interested in the Social Security problem should read for themselves. The professor begins his wrap-up with:

Every quote in that press release is selectively excerpted to confuse the reader about the key issues with the Commission's plan, the President's association with it, the ERP's discussion of it, and CBO's analysis of it. There is also nothing in the Kerry speech that provides anything more than boilerplate about what the Senator would do to reform the system. (Start reading after the criticisms of the President--not all of which are inaccurate--with the statement, "John Edwards and I have a real plan to cut the budget deficit in half and protect Social Security." Tell me if you see a plan.)

Of course, there is no plan. Just as Kerry has no plan to prosecute the War on Terror. He's simply an egomaniac who has convinced himself he deserves to be President. What's sad is that he seems to have convinced about 40% of American voters he is right.

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