Around the Webz

My holiday blogging hiatus is over!
At Democracy in America: Evidence from Iowa that limited government isn't really a priority for tea-party Republicans.
At Big Think: A free-associative mini-essay against resolutions and the tyranny of the annual.
And, from last week, my Bleeding Hearts Libertarians guest post on “Why I'm Not a Bleeding-Heart Libertarian.” Two of my Economist colleagues comment on aspects of this post, here and here.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

3 thoughts

  1. I’m not here to defend the system as is. But here’s what “Joe” said about Social Security: “Social Security’s a joke. I have parents. I don’t need another set of parents called the government. Let me take my money and invest it how I please. Social Security, never believed in it, don’t like it. I hate that it’s forced on me.”
    That’s it. Certainly not an uncommon sentiment. But he has the “right idea”? What idea is that? He doesn’t say what he wants to do, only that he wants to keep his money. Well, here’s a shock: so would everyone else if we were in a utopia. Unfortunately, there are poor old people. We as a society decided to help them out 75 years ago, and to do that we’ve taken money out of every breathing worker’s paycheck since then. To make that work politically, we decided to give the benefit to people who don’t need it as well, and sort of suggested there was some type of account you were paying into for yourself your whole life. That was dumb. Fundamentally were helping out poor old people here — we should have no illusions about it. If Joe or Will are against that, they should stand up and say it: “I want to invest my own money — screw the old poor people.” Because personal retirement accounts or forced savings are not going to make the old poor people go away. They’ll still be around, they’ll still have very little income from which to save, and anyway, what does a personal retirement account do for you if it’s empty, and you’re poor and old already? Perhaps if Roosevelt had gone the forced savings route, there would be no old poor people today. I kind of doubt that. But maybe. Thing is, he didn’t, and there ARE old poor people today. They’re rather used to getting their checks. I’m all for any kind of government-sponsored retirement accounts for young folks today to help them be better off when they’re old so they (we) aren’t so dependent on their Social Security checks. And if that’s all Will’s article calls for — a phase-out of some kind to privatization, then it’s probably a very fine article and it comes down to what your preference is for how things should work. But it bothers me that Will credits The Plumber with such nuance. It’s not there. Joe wants to take care of his parents only, and keep his Social Security payments. And he means, like, now. So Joe either doesn’t get that his payments are not for him in the future, but for current old poor people without their own Joes the Plumber (or whose Joes are not in a position to buy their 250-280K business — oh, wait….), doesn’t know that such old poor people currently exist, doesn’t really care what happens to old poor people without their own kin to look after them, or thinks they’ll get looked after some way or other.
    I’ll have to read the article, but I don’t think Will believes any of therese things. I assume his proposals are very sensible, as I said. So I wish Will would not sink to cheaply promoting his (I trust) very sensible ideas by attaching them to the latest campaign sensation, when HIS ideas are so reflexive and uninformed.

  2. Okay, I read all I need to read from the paper, at least until Will gives me a reason. This is from the Introduction:
    “A safety net of a guaranteed minimum retirement income would also be available, funded by general tax revenues.”
    An argument was never so gracefully conceded: that (a duaranteed minimum retirement income) is what Social Security is for! Period! The “social cohesion” gobbledygook is just bureaucratic flourish.
    WIll (or, “Scholars at Cato” ) wants to retain the entitlement at the heart of Social Security, while just taking away the special name for the tax that pays for it. Maybe he doesn’t want to, but that’s what he’s proposing! Joe: you’re still going to be paying social security taxes, dude, they’ll just be quieter!
    This proposal is flat-out unremarkable — it doesn’t change the basic functioning of Social Security. I’m for (fairly generous) means testing in Soc. Sec. (anyone serious about S.S. is). I’m for retirement accounts — I mean Jesus, they already exist!
    What Will proposes is basically just that we stop paying Soacial Security to people who don’t need it and help people save during their working years. That is NOT what Joe the Plumber had in mind.

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