Monthly Archives: May 2012

Agenda 21 Again – What’s on the Internet

This video is one of the most comprehensive expressions of the fears some people have expressed about United Nations Agenda 21. It appears to be anything but hysterical. With these sober, scholarly people in their suits it seems totally possible that there is a United Nations plan to use sustainability issues for World Domination.

But there are many who feel that this is a fringe “conspiracy theory” and as such is somewhat equivalent to all the hoopla about Area 51. You will have to judge for yourself which side of this debate you will come down on, however, this particular set of beliefs is likely to make environmental issues more contentious than ever, which is difficult to imagine.

Opposite View

Here are some arguments from those who contend that there is no UN conspiracy connected with Agenda 21. This article is from the Richmond Times-Dispatch on March 18, 2012 and was written by Rex Springston

Agenda 21: plot or paranoia?

When the agents of totalitarianism come to crush you, they will do it not with tanks and guns but with electric meters and bike paths.
And your plight, according to that view, will be the work of a United Nations plot for world domination called Agenda 21.
Tea party members and others concerned about Agenda 21 are increasingly popping up at local government meetings to rail against proposals they see as part of the plot.
Among the measures they have tied to Agenda 21: growth plans for Chesterfield and Mathews counties; concerns about rising sea levels along the Middle Peninsula; the Chesapeake Bay cleanup; open-land protections; modern electric meters in homes; and things such as bike paths that are labeled “smart growth” or “sustainable development.”
“It is a methodology that has been devised to promote control over resources, the environment and ultimately, people,” said Andrew Maggard, a Mathews retiree and avid battler against Agenda 21.
In addition to tea party activists, those opposing Agenda 21 include the John Birch Society, GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich and the Republican National Committee.
Professional planners and others who have looked into Agenda 21 say the alleged plot is a nonsensical conspiracy theory stemming from long-held fears that the U.N. is bent on ruling the planet under a world government.
“The fact that local governments believe in things like smart growth, livable communities and planning for climate change … doesn’t mean that local governments are part of a nefarious U.N. plot to take over land-use decisions,” said Noah M. Sachs, a University of Richmond law professor and environmental expert.
Agenda 21 — the term means an agenda for the 21st century — is a nonbinding set of U.N. guidelines for protecting the environment, Sachs said. It was ratified in 1992 by more than 170 governments, including the U.S. during the first Bush administration.
“Agenda 21 has been a dead letter for 20 years,” Sachs said. “Its recommendations have not been implemented by most governments, and the U.S. has largely ignored it.”
Those trying to end Agenda 21 — sometimes called “Agenders” — say the federal government pushes the U.N. plan to the local level. Then local officials impose it, often unwittingly, on citizens through measures such as the protection of open lands — a move some see as forcing people into dense “human settlement zones” where bikes are preferred over cars.
For more than a decade, few people mentioned Agenda 21. But with the rise of tea parties over the past few years, the issue has arisen with a vengeance.
Donna Holt, director of the Virginia Campaign for Liberty, a tea party group, said she and other Agenders helped defeat Chesterfield’s proposed comprehensive growth plan.
Language in the plan about land and energy conservation, among other things, represented “a blueprint of what I had read coming out of Agenda 21,” Holt said.
Another of the Agenders’ concerns is “smart meters” in homes — computerized devices that can be read from remote locations. Smart meters “are, by definition, surveillance devices,” says a posting on the website Virginians Against UN Agenda 21.
At Dominion Virginia Power, which is just beginning to test smart meters, customers’ privacy is a “top priority,” said spokesman David Botkins. “I haven’t even heard of Agenda 21.”
Virginia’s Middle Peninsula is a hotbed of Agenda 21 activism, said Lewis L. Lawrence, acting executive director of the region’s planning district commission.
Some people see references to zoning, comprehensive plans, conservation easements, bike paths, sustainability or smart growth and immediately assert that Agenda 21 is the force behind them, Lawrence said.
“It makes it really hard to have meaningful discussions about what you want to do with your community when 95 percent of the professional language is off-limits because of the supposed nexus to Agenda 21.”
Lawrence, whose family goes back to the early 1800s in Gloucester, said he has been accused of being “brainwashed” and “a dupe for the U.N.”
Agenders couldn’t defeat the Mathews comprehensive plan, but they helped remove what they considered some worrisome references like “sustainable development,” said Maggard, the retiree.
Concerns about the environment are affecting property rights and imposing “a draconian form of control over the people,” Maggard said. “I cite Agenda 21 as the principal method used to achieve that control.”
Much of the Agenders’ wrath has been directed toward an Oakland, Calif., group with the unwieldy name ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. A membership group of local governments, it provides advice on issues such as energy conservation.
Agenders say ICLEI is a conduit through which the U.N. plan moves to local governments. Both Don Knapp, a spokesman for the group, and Holt, the tea party activist, say Agenders were instrumental in getting Albemarle County, James City County and Abingdon to cut their ties to ICLEI.
“It takes very little scrutiny to see that (the U.N. plot) is complete fiction and paranoia,” Knapp said. “It’s based on fear. People seem to just keep piling more and more things onto this conspiracy theory, and it’s absurd.”
Some Agenders claim Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as an ally. Cuccinelli said through a spokesman that he was aware of Agenda 21, adding: “I am concerned about anti-free-market land-use policies that do more harm than good.”
Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said, “Our work is done in coordination with federal and local entities, not the United Nations.” McDonnell is committed to protecting property rights, Martin added.
In a January resolution, the Republican National Committee criticized the “destructive and insidious nature” of Agenda 21. And Gingrich says in a YouTube video that the United Nations, through Agenda 21, is “seeking to create an extra-constitutional control over us.”
Holt, the activist, predicted more battles over Agenda 21. “I don’t see it going away.”

Social Security Dialogue VI – Not a Ponzi Scheme

This is the final post from the Social Security series from Mark Thoma on the Economist’s View Typepad and it does not really give us any guidance on saving social security, but it does refute the charge that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme made by those who favor dismantling the system.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

As a follow-up to this:
Ponzi Schemes vs. Social Security, SSA, January 2009: …The Logic of Pay-As-You-Go Systems In contrast to a Ponzi scheme, dependent upon an unsustainable progression, a common financial arrangement is the so-called “pay-as-you-go” system. Some private pension systems, as well as Social Security, have used this design. A pay-as-you-go system can be visualized as a pipeline, with money from current contributors coming in the front end and money to current beneficiaries paid out the back end.
There is a superficial analogy between pyramid or Ponzi schemes and pay-as-you-go programs in that in both money from later participants goes to pay the benefits of earlier participants. But that is where the similarity ends. A pay-as-you-go system can be visualized as a simple pipeline, with money from current contributors coming in the front end and money to current beneficiaries paid out the back end.

So we could image that at any given time there might be, say, 40 million people receiving benefits at the back end of the pipeline; and as long as we had 40 million people paying taxes in the front end of the pipe, the program could be sustained forever. It does not require a doubling of participants every time a payment is made to a current beneficiary, or a geometric increase in the number of participants. (There does not have to be precisely the same number of workers and beneficiaries at a given time–there just needs to be a fairly stable relationship between the two.) As long as the amount of money coming in the front end of the pipe maintains a rough balance with the money paid out, the system can continue forever. There is no unsustainable progression driving the mechanism of a pay-as-you-go pension system and so it is not a pyramid or Ponzi scheme.

In this context, it would be most accurate to describe Social Security as a transfer payment–transferring income from the generation of workers to the generation of retirees–with the promise that when current workers retiree, there will be another generation of workers behind them who will be the source of their Social Security retirement payments. So you could say that Social Security is a transfer payment, but it is not a pyramid scheme. There is a huge difference between the two, and only a superficial similarity.

If the demographics of the population were stable, then a pay-as-you-go system would not have demographically-driven financing ups and downs and no thoughtful person would be tempted to compare it to a Ponzi arrangement. However, since population demographics tend to rise and fall, the balance in pay-as-you-go systems tends to rise and fall as well. During periods when more new participants are entering the system than are receiving benefits there tends to be a surplus in funding (as in the early years of Social Security). During periods when beneficiaries are growing faster than new entrants (as will happen when the baby boomers retire), there tends to be a deficit. This vulnerability to demographic ups and downs is one of the problems with pay-as-you-go financing. But this problem has nothing to do with Ponzi schemes, or any other fraudulent form of financing, it is simply the nature of pay-as-you-go systems. …

Social Security Dialogue V

I’m still mining Mark Thoma’s pithy series. Here economist Dean Baker is myth-busting:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Dean Baker:
The Myth of the Wealthy Elderly, by Dean Baker: The austerity gang seeking cuts to Social Security and Medicare has been vigorously promoting the myth that the elderly are an especially affluent and privileged group. Their argument is that because of their relative affluence, cuts to the programs upon which they depend is a simple matter of fairness. There were two reports released last week that call this view into question.
The first was a report from the Census Bureau that used a new experimental poverty index. This index differed from the official measure in several ways; most importantly it includes the value of government non-cash benefits, like food stamps. It also adjusts for differences in costs by area and takes account of differences in health spending by age.
While this new measures showed a slightly higher overall poverty rate the most striking difference between the new measure and the official measure was the rise in the poverty rate among the elderly. Using the official measure, the poverty rate for the elderly is somewhat lower than for the adult population as a whole, 9 percent for the elderly compared with 14 percent for the non-elderly adult population. However with the new measure, the poverty rate for the elderly jumps to 14 percent, compared with 13 percent for non-elderly adults.
By this higher measure, we have not been nearly as successful in reducing poverty among the elderly as we had believed. While Social Security has done much to ensure retirees an income above the poverty line, the rising cost of health care expenses not covered by Medicare has been an important force operating in the opposite direction. …
It is also worth remembering that the Medicare premium is projected to rise considerably more than the cost of living each year. This means that as retirees age, rising Medicare premiums will be reducing the buying power of their Social Security check each year.  And this is the median; half of all seniors will have less income than this to support themselves.
This is the group that the Very Serious People in Washington want to target for their deficit reduction. While the Very Serious People debate whether people who earn $250,000 a year are actually rich when it comes to restoring the tax rates of the 1990s, they somehow think that seniors with incomes under $30,000 a year must sacrifice to balance the budget. There is a logic here, but it ain’t pretty.
Raising the payroll tax limit for Social Security would provide needed revenues in a way that is skewed heavily toward the wealthy. However, it would also be a tax increase and we can’t have that. But cutting benefits and putting more of the elderly in jeopardy of living in poverty? Apparently that’s not a problem.

Posted by Mark Thoma on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 01:17 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Social Insurance, Social Security |

http://economistsview.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451b33869e20163058c0479970d-popup

Honor the Warriors

We can chart human history by our wars. Every nation has needed soldiers. Every empire has needed soldiers. Even minor chieftains have needed soldiers. Soldiers enforce power. Without the threat that the warriors represent, the next ambitious figure will change a society’s destiny in a drumbeat. So for centuries the world has used its warriors and sometimes celebrated them and sometimes ignored them and has learned that if you ignore your warriors you lose the respect of your society and your power will be in jeopardy. Societies must thank their soldiers and honor their families and it should be their honor to do so. In times like these when armies are large and finances are tight it is difficult to treat warriors and their families as well as we should. Societies have often postponed rewards to soldiers until more affluent conditions prevailed. Fortunately there are those who remind society to show appreciation for soldiers with things like parades and ceremonies and awards, but also in more tangible ways with things like housing and education and medical care and jobs. This is our Memorial Day, set aside to remember our fallen soldiers and thank our living soldiers for defending our nation and our way of life. Hopefully we will not begrudge them the more tangible rewards they were promised and which they deserve.
Meanwhile we all still yearn for a day when history will no longer be measured in wars. We continue to strive to find a way to organize our societies so that peace will bind us all together and war will become obsolete. Realistically, we can’t imagine how this will ever be possible.

 
FREEDOM – Tom Zart

In their new uniforms,
The young march off
Not knowing who shall return.
With a proud devotion,
They brandish their flag
Leaving loved ones to wonder and yearn.

May we all be buried
By all of our children
Is an ancient tribal prayer.
They’re so easy to lose
But so hard to forget;
Such a burden for a parent to bear.

Oh, the taste of victory
Shall soon be forgotten;
But, never that which was lost.
For those rows of white headstones
In peaceful green fields,
Make it easy to tally the cost.

America has survived all attempts to destroy
Knowing the cruelty of war,
And, we who remain
Must help keep her free
For those who can march no more!

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – Book

Reading the novel Rules of Civility by Amor Towles may lead you to believe that you have wandered back to the New York City of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda. This is a period piece from the year 1938, near the end of the Great Depression and before America entered World War II, when jazz and small clubs shared the New York social stage with more glitzy establishments which were just beginning to thrive after years of grimmer pursuits. These were the times when young women arrived in New York to launch themselves into a career and perhaps a good marriage. They lived together in all-female boarding houses and some actually made their dreams come true.

One of these young women, Katey (Katherine) Kontent (pronounced ConTENT) sees a photo of someone from her past at a show in an art museum which she is attending with her husband. The photos in the exhibit are all of subway riders, but subway riders who were survivors of a very tough decade and who displayed their “chastened” humanity in these images captured between 1938 and 1941. One of the photographs is of someone Katey knows, Tinker Grey. The rest of the story is a long flashback into the most memorable year of Katey’s life, 1938, when Tinker Grey was a little more than a member of her circle of friends; she thought for a while that she was in love with him.
Katey describes Tinker in this photographic image as “a twenty-eight-year-old man, ill shaven, in a threadbare coat.””Twenty pounds underweight, he had almost lost the blush on his cheeks, and his face was visibly dirty. But his eyes were bright and alert and trained straight ahead with the slightest hint of a smile on his lips, as if it was he who was studying the photographer.” But that is not how Tinker looks when she meets him. That year, 1938, Katey’s life, along with that of her roommate Eve, crossed paths with that of Tinker Grey and his brother Henry, with Wallace Wolcott and Dicky Vanderwhile and with Anne Grandyn.

As Katey and her husband are leaving this same photography exhibit they come across a second image of Tinker Grey.  “On the wall between two portraits of older women, there was a second portrait of Tinker. Tinker in a cashmere coat, clean shaven, a crisp Windsor knot poking over the collar of a custom-made shirt.” It would seem as if he made a success of himself, but actually the photo of the threadbare Tinker was taken a year later than that of the posh Tinker. This novel is the story of all of these people, including our narrator, Katey Kontent, but it is especially the story of Tinker Grey, charismatic and desirable, but not what he seems. The original Rules of Civility are contained in a small book of social pointers with the title The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation that the Father of our country, George Washington, put together and  which can also be found at the end of the novel. Tinker tells Katey that he uses this book as a guide for his life, but Tinker, as you will see, is no George Washington.

It’s difficult to put together a period book, in particular one that is from a period that is not terribly distant. The author must collect small details and add them up to create a replica that is believable, which is perhaps easy if you are a person who happened to actually inhabit the arena you wish to recreate. However, this author is too young to have lived in the New York City of 1938. The author is a man, but the narrator is a woman. This gender twist is not always easy to carry off either. Mr. Towles does a very credible job and the story is a delight to read because it does truly transport us to a different place and time while we are immersed in this novel.

Social Security Dialogue – Part IV

This is another article I found when I asked about ways to save Social Security. Again taken from Mark Thoma’s blog this particular article is written by Dean Baker and Peter Dorman. They contend that if we raise the tax cap we can save Social Security, but that it will continue to pay out even if we don’t, although payments may not be 100%.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Dean Baker:
The Primary Cause of Social Security’s Bleak Outlook Is Upward Redistribution, by Dean Baker: In an article on the release of the 2012 Social Security trustees report the Washington Post told readers that:
“Social Security’s bleak outlook is primarily driven by the ever-larger numbers of people in the baby boom generation entering retirement.”
Actually the fact that baby boomers would enter retirement is not news. Back in 1983, the Greenspan Commission knew that the baby boomers would retire, yet they still projected that the program would be able to pay all promised benefits into the 2050s.
The main reason that the program’s finances have deteriorated relative to the projected path is that wage growth has not kept pace with the path projected. This is in part due to the fact that productivity growth slowed in the 80s, before accelerating again in the mid-90s and in part due to the fact that much more wage income now goes to people earning above the taxable cap.
In 1983 only 10 percent of wage income fell above the cap and escaped taxation. Now more than 18 percent of wage income is above the cap.
Raising the cap is my favored solution, but (surprise) somehow raising taxes of those with the most political power is not on the agenda. Instead, the proposed solutions always seem to hit those who are the most politically and economically vulnerable.
Peter Dorman also weighs in:
For the past thirty years we have seen repeated campaigns to eviscerate Social Security—to privatize it, siphon off its finances, drain it of its essential social insurance character.  These have failed, not because of the brilliance or commitment of its defenders, but simply because it fulfills a vital social function and is wildly popular.  Even those who, in their heart of hearts, want to crush it to bits, claim to be in favor of “saving” it.  So what’s the strategy of the anti-SS minions?
Cynicism.  Convince younger voters, whose benefits are still decades away, that the program is dying a slow but certain death, and that politicians are too myopic or pandering or just stupid to do anything about it.  From time to time I poll my students, and by a big majority they always tell me that SS will not be around to support them in their retirement.  (Not that this has provoked a big Feldsteinesque spike in their personal savings….)  As this mindset takes hold, it becomes easier to simply tune out the debate over SS.  After all, it’s not like it’s actually going to be there when I’m old, no matter what they say, right?  At some point, it goes from being a third rail to a footnote to just background noise, to mangle a bunch of metaphors.
What I’d like to see are news stories that say something like, “Social Security has had its ups and downs, but it’s in better financial shape now than it was a generation ago, and unless its enemies prevail, it will be there for you when you need it.”
People also need to realize that “Social Security faces a shortfall — NOT bankruptcy — a quarter of a century from now. OK, I guess that’s a real concern. But compared to other concerns, it’s really pretty minor, and doesn’t deserve a tenth the attention it gets. It’s also worth noting that even if the trust fund is exhausted and no other financing provided, Social Security will be able to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits, which would mean real benefits higher than it pays now.”
Notice that even under the worse case scenario, real benefits would be higher than they are now. The benefits would not keep up with increases in productivity as they do presently — payments rise as the standard of living rises — but the benefits would still rise as much or more than inflation. So today’s standard of living would still be available even in the worst possible case. But there is the problem of how to cover the productivity increases over the next quarter century. What to do?
Raise the cap and close the gap.

Posted by Mark Thoma on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 10:05 AM in Economics, Social Insurance, Social Security, Taxes 

http://www.economistsview.typepad.com/raise-the-cap-and-close-the-gap.html

Social Security Dialogue, Part III

This article, by Michael Hiltzik, is, once again, republished here from the blog of Mark Thoma. I asked the internet to help me find info about how to save Social Security and these were the most promising articles I found, although still no real answer that gives a logical plan to save the program. This author and the others I will be posting wrote about the Social Security talking points that are often being used to show how impossible it will be to maintain this retirement option. These authors give us a bit of hope that the demise of Social Security is not yet inevitable and that we should fight to save the program.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More on Social Security:

Let’s beef up Social Security benefits instead of cutting them, by Michael Hiltzik: Advocates for strengthening Social Security have come to dread the release of the annual report of the program’s trustees. That’s because the event has become the basis for more hand-wringing about Social Security’s fiscal condition and calls to cut benefits for current and future retirees. This week’s release of the 2012 report is no exception. …

What won’t be adequately explained is that the program isn’t “insolvent” or “bankrupt.” … Economic recovery alone will improve the program’s fiscal condition, and the trustees say that even if Congress does absolutely nothing, in 2033 there still will be money to pay about 75% of currently scheduled benefits.

And by the way, despite facing the worst economic conditions in its history, the program ran a surplus of $69 billion last year, increasing the trust fund to nearly $2.7 trillion. …

It’s time to shut down the talk of cutting benefits, which serves nobody, and pump up the volume on making them better. … Of the customary three legs of the retirement stool, two — personal savings and employer-paid pensions — have been shattered into smithereens by the markets, high unemployment and changes in workplace benefits. Social Security is the third leg. …

Modernizing Social Security is crucial today because the actions of government and industry have increased Americans’ dependence on the program. …

Undoubtedly you’re going to hear that improving Social Security will bankrupt America. This is the mating cry of the haves-and-want-mores, and it’s malarkey. Federal taxes … amounted to about 15.4% of our gross national product last year… That’s lower than the level of every other industrialized country…

Isn’t it curious that the same people who insist that America is the greatest, richest country in the world, ever, are those who insist that there’s no way we can afford to provide for our elderly, our disabled and the survivors of our deceased workers to the same degree as the rest of the industrialized world? …

We can afford to give people a decent retirement. People who benefitted from the hard work of others — those who reaped the gains of increasing inequality and have more than enough — can do more to help provide a decent retirement to the people who toiled day in and day out to help create that wealth. And as I’ve said again and again, the income distribution mechanism has gone awry in recent decades. People at the lower income are not getting what they have earned, and people at the top are getting more than what they contribute. So I view this as simply returning income to its rightful owners.
Posted by Mark Thoma on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 08:44 AM in Economics, Income Distribution, Social Insurance, Social Security, Taxes 

UN Agenda 21 – A Little Paranoia Break?

The internet is all atwitter-this time about a United Nations document called Agenda 21, and one way or another there may be something to it this time. This 325 page document is a result of a conference in Rio in 1992 by a UN group tasked with coming up with a plan for sustainability. This is a very comprehensive plan for sustainable air, forests, water, trade, and how agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and all human activity can be included in planned and sustainable communities with planned population growth and health care arrangements. The agenda talks about how to wipe out poverty and equalize incomes. It talks about how to use education to teach sustainability.
Perhaps this plan was intended to be benign, but many are seeing it as anything but. In fact, they see this as a sinister plot to form one global community, regulated from “above”, and they aren’t referring to a deity. They interpret this as a devious plan to push people off the land and into high density multi-dwelling urban areas of low-cost housing. The land will be returned to a wild state so as to “sustain” these urban areas, the earth, and all the species that remain on the earth. These critics of Agenda 21 interpret the educational goals of the agenda as designed to center on only sustainable practices and refer to it as a “dumbing down” process.
This sinister plan is already in place, opponents say, and, if you look you will see signs of it operating in your community. It seems that 600 cities in 60 countries have signed onto Agenda 21 and may be devising ways to comply with this agenda that are affecting our lives already. This includes the redevelopment of the city core with mixed use buildings, retail on the bottom, apartments above. It includes lots of talk about rail lines and bike lanes. They swear that it is the intent of Agenda 21 to kill Democracy, in fact to end all nationalism and leave us with one global system, to end choices, dictate where people will live, what they will do, and how they will transport themselves.
If this scary vision of our future is true, we actually might like to know about it and find ways to prevent such “official” manipulation.
On the other hand, some say that Agenda 21 is a benign plan designed to help us “sustain” our existence on our planet for many generations to come. They say that the United Nations is an amazingly powerless organization. It has no clout. It has little ability to get anything of this scope done at this time. They say that the UN may have written Agenda 21, but no one has looked at it in 20 years and it certainly isn’t being systematically implemented.
Even if this isn’t a totalitarian plan to move us all over the earth’s surface like little pawns until we assume the “proper” configurations deemed appropriate to sustainability, the fact that it exists and sounds so “Orwellian” is enough to give unnecessary ammunition to groups who already feel that environmental concerns were “made up” by liberals to create roadblocks to Capitalism. This will really ramp up the great divide.
Unless it’s real, and in that case it just might bring us all together – Federation vs. Empire.
(Thanks to Trimby for bringing this story to my attention.)

Social Security Dialogue, Part II


The writer, Nancy Folbre, compares the growth in spending on Social Security with the growth in spending on Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, today in the Daily Beast we get a great graph from Andrew Sullivan which points out that we are using health care less and costs are still going up and up. Ms. Folbre further suggests that it is the current paranoia about the “welfare state” that is the real problem. 

Monday, May 14, 2012
Another reminder that the long-run budget problem is a health care cost problem, a problem that exists in both the private sector and in government. This is Nancy Folbre:
…Spending on Social Security, often treated as the greatest bugaboo of our aging society, has remained at 4.5 to 5 percent of G.D.P. since 1985. The already carried out transition to a higher retirement age is contributing to cost containment.
The scary increases in government spending have come in Medicaid and Medicare. These two programs, which consumed 1.2 percent of G.D.P. in 1975, reached 4.1 percent of G.D.P. in 2008.
These increases have less to do with government spending than with the increased costs of health care, regardless of who is paying the bill. …
All government programs deserve critical scrutiny, and there is plenty of room for meaningful debate over the relative efficiency of public versus private provision. But there is no evidence that social spending in the United States is approaching some upper limit of feasibility.
What is unsustainable (or should be) is the current level of confusion, misinformation and paranoia about the future of the so-called welfare state.
Posted by Mark Thoma on Monday, May 14, 2012 at 04:27 PM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Health Care, Social Insurance, Social Security |

The Social Security Dialogue, Part I

Economists feel that we may be able to save Social Security, although probably not Medicare and Medicaid. I am hoping that we can save all three with modifications if we can ever work together and come up with modifications that are acceptable to all Americans and not just those on the Right. This chart from Mark Thoma at the Economist’s View Social Security web site is of course controversial, but it does point out that Social Security could be saved without bankrupting America.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Posted by Mark Thoma on Monday, May 14, 2012 at 04:27 PM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Health Care, Social Insurance, Social Security | Permalink