Friday, November 23, 2007

Baron Hill believes Social Security is "probably the best government program ever created"!!

David Mann in the Jeff/NA News-Tribune on Rep. Baron Hill's recent visit to New Washington Middle/High School...

Rep. Baron Hill fielded students’ questions about the environment, education, Social Security and other topics at New Washington Middle/High School on Monday afternoon. The question-and-answer session was part of several stops for Hill at area schools during the day...

First, a small side comment...

One student asked about what could be done to help noncollege-bound students who find the current educational standards too difficult. Hill responded by saying standards are necessary, even for those not going to college....

A great, spontaneous answer to a very sad question...I'm glad that Baron shot so straight with that student.

Now, to comment on Hill's comments about Social Security...

Social Security
One student asked Hill what could be done to ensure Social Security would be available to her generation — a question he called “loaded.”...

Uhhh, loaded? How so? Oh, loaded-- as in, great question...he must have meant that the student was loaded for bear!

Raising the age and raising the cap at which certain income levels have to pay into the system probably would be suggested.

I'm not sure what he meant here-- or maybe he was not paraphrased well. The standard modest reforms are: increase retirement age, increase taxes, and/or reduce benefits. Often, the desire for lower benefits or higher taxes are focused on the relatively wealthy. Among the problems with equity and efficiency introduced or extended by such proposals, this would take Social Security from a faux-retirement system to blatant income redistribution. But perhaps this is a net plus, since we could then quit pretending about the nature of SS.

He also would “build a wall around Social Security,” so that it could not be borrowed against.

Very interesting...Is Baron trying to bring back Al Gore's lockbox? This sounds like a nice idea, but it's incoherent. When Social Security has had short-term surpluses, where should they put the money: in a shoebox or into investments (in government bonds as has been the practice or elsewhere)?

“I believe Social Security is probably the best government program ever created,” Hill said, and spoke against some calls to privatize the system.

Wow...a staggering statement! "Probably the best government program ever"?! A few options here:

a.) Baron thinks all government programs are lame-- and SS looks good by comparison.
b.) Baron thinks SS is great by focusing on its high rates of return in the early years (its pre-"mature" phase), when people only paid in for a few years but received full benefits.
c.) Baron thinks SS is great as a contemporary and continuing policy-- for its lack of freedom and flexibility, its pathetic rate of return, or because it takes more money from African-Americans than it returns to them.
d.) Baron thinks SS is great as a political tool-- to scare senior citizens and to demagogue on an important policy issue where we're going to need substantive reform.
e.) B, C (with sarcasm), and D.


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