Thursday, March 24, 2005

Max Speaks: "Hide Your Eyes From the 'Intellectual Pygmies'"

Max Sawicky is appalled that Robert Samuelson has the gall to write in plain English about welfare, rather than call it, 'social insurance' (bringing to mind the old saying that 'social' is an adjective that modifies whatever noun it precedes, to mean exactly the opposite of its customary definition):

Social Security and Medicare are our biggest welfare programs, but because Americans regard "welfare" as shameful, we've found other labels for them. We call them "social insurance" or "entitlements." Anything but welfare. Democrats and Republicans alike embrace the deception. No one wants to upset older voters. Well, if you can't call something by its real name, you can't discuss it honestly.

Which is why Max doesn't want it called by its real name. That would let this cat out of the bag:

Have the social and economic conditions that originally justified the welfare changed?

For Social Security, they have. In 1935 Americans 65 and older were 6 percent of the population. They're now 12 percent and by 2030 are projected to be 20 percent.

....Despite what you've heard, the real issue is not Social Security's "solvency." It is the total cost to the government of baby boomers' retirement, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (which covers much nursing home care).

The real issue is preventing those costs from becoming economically oppressive and politically poisonous. Even if the Social Security trust fund is made permanently "solvent" -- in the sense that taxes cover benefits -- the costs of all federal retirement programs may still become undesirably high. In 2004 Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were 8 percent of national income. Left alone, they'll reach 14.5 percent by 2030....

No comments: