Faster history, faster democracy?

A mostly political Weblog.
March 15 2005 6:16 AM

Faster History, Faster Democracy?

Plus--Who cares who runs Disney?

(Continued from Page 1)

I hope they were local gay writers who mentioned that they were gay. ... [via Insta.] 12:33 A.M.

This Isn't Argument, It's Mere News Analysis! In Saturday's NYT David Rosenbaum** tries to show that Bush's "private accounts" plan would inevitably threaten the survivor and disability benefits now available under Social Security-- even though Bush says his plan "is only addressed to the retirees, not to the disabled and survivors." 

Rosenbaum notes that some Social Security benefits would almost certainly be cut under the Bush plan (to help make up for the diversion of payroll taxes into private accounts).  But why couldn't those cuts be confined to Social Security retirement benefits, as the White House suggests? In a section pretentiously labeled "The Facts," Rosenbaum simply asserts:

"And it is difficult to imagine constructing a system that provided less benefits to retirees than to survivors and the disabled."

It is? ... Wait ... There! I've just imagined it! It looks like a life insurance system and a disability insurance system on top of a less generous retirement system! ... Rosenbaum's P.S.: Rosenbaum may have been thinking of a March 3 Times column by Alan Krueger. Krueger at least tries to make an argument:

If disability benefits were continued at their current level after retirement age, a different problem would arise: disability would be more lucrative than retirement for workers who had poor investment returns on their personal accounts. The disability program already has difficulty in making consistent judgments as to whether workers are disabled - in one study, one in six cases were judged differently by different state disability examiners - so many marginally disabled workers who applied would probably be allowed benefits. Older workers could flood into the disability program, weakening its already frail financial health. [Emph. added]

Now, there's an unpersuasive paragraph! Sure, if disability benefits were more lucrative than retirement benefits, people would try to get onto disability. Duh! You'd have to police the disability rolls carefully to prevent the non-disabled from sneaking on. But you have to do that with any disability program--including the current one, in which being disabled gets you Social Security benefits even though you're under 65. Deciding who's disabled is always a tough call. (In ancient Athens they convened juries to decide it, I read somewhere.) The job would get a bit harder under Social Security disability if more people tried to qualify. So? This seems like a second-order consideration, if that.

There are plenty of good reasons not to do private accounts. The threat to survivor and disability benefits doesn't appear to be one of them.

**: Rosenbaum's column is called "Off the Issue," but maybe they should call if "Off the Web." I can't find it on the Times Web site (perhaps because the Times' editors decided it stunk). ... If you can locate a link, please let me know. ... 12:27 A.M.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Mystery Pollster was skeptical of blogger triumphalism--until Gallup's poll  purporting to debunk blogger triumphalism, which seems to be  making him reconsider. ... MP notes that if 12% of Americans really read political blogs, as Gallup reports, that's not a small number. It's an astonishingly large number. (I would have guessed 3%.) ... 2:31 P.M.

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