God tells me to copy and paste, so you can't stop me. -- Kate

"You know, I could run for governor, but I'm basically a media creation. I've never done anything. I've worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business ..." -- G.W. Bush

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. -- Galileo Galilei

Friday, February 25, 2005

These are letters to the editor at the NY Times about Bush’s plan to trash Social Security. My problem with the first letter from the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy is that he doesn’t address the possibility that a private account may not make enough money to cover the life of the owner let alone leave any money for someone to inherit.

Social Security and the Generations (6 Letters)
Published: February 25, 2005

To the Editor:

I take issue with your Feb. 23 editorial "Some Inheritance" regarding President Bush's policy on personal accounts within Social Security.

The president is firmly on record in favor of allowing those who die before retirement to pass on their nest egg to their loved ones.

For those in retirement, the president has said they would not be able to spend their accounts all at once and put themselves in poverty. There are many ways to provide this protection that still allow for an inheritance to be passed on.

In 13 years, the Social Security system begins paying out more money than it takes in. This presents a choice of raising taxes, borrowing money or cutting spending. The president's proposal for fixing the system today will give workers a nest egg, allow them to pass on an inheritance to their children and own a piece of their retirement that no one can take away.

Allan B. Hubbard
Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
Washington, Feb. 24, 2005

To the Editor:

Re "On Social Security, a Political Appeal to the Young Draws the Attention of Their Elders" (news article, Feb. 23):

The Great Divider is at it again. The administration's effort to pit older workers against young in the Social Security discussion is just the latest in the politics of division - the art form that George W. Bush is so adept at. Younger workers are being encouraged to think that "their" Social Security funds are inexplicably being given to old strangers and that only privatization will restore the control and ownership to the rightful party.

Younger workers need to understand that people don't get to decide how we want portions of our tax dollars spent. Just because I don't have children, I can't decline to spend my taxes on education. Life is not like that.

Our taxes go to support programs that we need as a society. In the face of the relentless egoism of the Bush administration, we need to remember that our country functions best when everyone is cared for, protected and promised a certain level of dignity and financial security.

Sherry Fyman
New York, Feb. 23, 2005

To the Editor:

I am 78, and my wife is 75. We have three grandchildren, aged 15, 11 and 3. It is exactly for their sake that I have been so disturbed by the proposed changes in the Social Security program.

I am old enough to remember the suffering of people in the 1930's after the stock market crashed. Admittedly, there are some protections now in place that did not exist 75 years ago, but those measures do not provide assurance that sufficient money from individual accounts will be there when needed for retirement.

If the Social Security program is really in trouble (a fact that seems to be overblown in this debate), let us find ways to adjust the system other than through private retirement accounts.

(Rev.) William E. Palmer
Los Gatos, Calif., Feb. 23, 2005

To the Editor:

Once again, the Republicans are using divide-and-conquer tactics to polarize our country. Their you're-with-us-or-against-us attitude, displayed on so many issues, has created a country more divided and hate-filled than I've experienced in my 55 years. Now they're using these tactics to divide our younger citizens from our older citizens in the Social Security debate.

It is a mean-spirited, cynical approach that weakens us as a country. I long for leadership that seeks to unite our people around issues of deep concern to all of us.

Judith Childs Butler
Arden, Del., Feb. 23, 2005

To the Editor:

Never mind that there is no consensus among economists about whether there is a "problem" with Social Security or that President Bush's solution would further deepen the deficit. Future generations will suffer, he tells us, if we do not restructure Social Security now. Nonsense.

What is actually happening is this: George W. Bush is the leader of an increasingly doctrinaire Republican Party that believes that private enterprise solves all domestic problems. Social Security contradicts that premise because it provides assured benefits based on a schedule of taxation proportionate to work and earned income.

In other words, it is predictable and fair. That is why it has worked for 70 years.

But it is not part of the Republican creed of "ownership." So it must be "reformed." Its revenues must be handed over gradually but inexorably to the equities market, which will benefit many of the same Americans who enjoyed the biggest tax paybacks of 2001.

If we fall for that one, we'll fall for just about anything the Bush government sends our way.

Robert Bunselmeyer
Brunswick, Me., Feb. 23, 2005

To the Editor:
The Bush administration's strategy for dismantling Social Security begins with divide and conquer, as it does with every other agenda item. The administration goes about this strategy by making every issue one of Democrat versus Republican and liberal versus conservative.

It is time for all Americans to set aside our differences. It is time for Republicans, Democrats and independents to fight to defend our free and just society. The Bush policies are creating a have and have-not society. Fake news and administration propaganda rule the airwaves.

Let's stop calling one another Republicans and Democrats, right-wingers and liberals, and let us join together as decent human beings to do the right thing.

Mary New
Winchester, Mass., Feb. 20, 2005

I can understand wanting to leave money to family and friends. I can understand wanting to have your own money to pay for stuff. I can’t understand why we should dump a program that works. Ok, it seems to be heading towards a rocky patch but it doesn’t seem to be anywhere ready to sink completely. Working with a program that has a good history is usually better, easier and cheaper than starting from scratch. Plus, Bush’s suggestion just leads to so many other questions. What happens if your account doesn’t make enough for you to live on? How much will the changeover really cost? How much money will be made by Wall Street? How much or how little control will people have over their accounts? What if someone can’t get the hang of working with the private account and they lose money? Will they be living on the streets when they can’t work any more? How will current retirees actually be taken care of? Things change, will the current retirees ever be at risk? It already looks like future retirees are at risk.

Geez, there are just so some many things that need to be understood before anything should be changed. What the heck is Bush's hurry anyway? He's already covered for retirement.
Can’t help it, gotta copy and paste Krugman, “the shape of smears to come.”

Kansas on My Mind

Published: February 25, 2005

Call it "What's the Matter With Kansas - The Cartoon Version."

The slime campaign has begun against AARP, which opposes Social Security privatization. There's no hard evidence that the people involved - some of them also responsible for the "Swift Boat" election smear - are taking orders from the White House. So you're free to believe that this is an independent venture. You're also free to believe in the tooth fairy.

Their first foray - an ad accusing the seniors' organization of being against the troops and for gay marriage - was notably inept. But they'll be back, and it's important to understand what they're up to.

The answer lies in "What's the Matter With Kansas?," Thomas Frank's meditation on how right-wingers, whose economic policies harm working Americans, nonetheless get so many of those working Americans to vote for them.

People like myself - members of what one scornful Bush aide called the "reality-based community" - tend to attribute the right's electoral victories to its success at spreading policy disinformation. And the campaign against Social Security certainly involves a lot of disinformation, both about how the current system works and about the consequences of privatization.

But if that were all there is to it, Social Security should be safe, because this particular disinformation campaign isn't going at all well. In fact, there's a sense of wonderment among defenders of Social Security about the other side's lack of preparation. The Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation have spent decades campaigning for privatization. Yet they weren't ready to answer even the most obvious questions about how it would work - like how benefits could be maintained for older Americans without a dangerous increase in debt.

Privatizers are even having a hard time pretending that they want to strengthen Social Security, not dismantle it. At one of Senator Rick Santorum's recent town-hall meetings promoting privatization, college Republicans began chanting, "Hey hey, ho ho, Social Security's got to go."

But before the anti-privatization forces assume that winning the rational arguments is enough, they need to read Mr. Frank.

The message of Mr. Frank's book is that the right has been able to win elections, despite the fact that its economic policies hurt workers, by portraying itself as the defender of mainstream values against a malevolent cultural elite. The right "mobilizes voters with explosive social issues, summoning public outrage ... which it then marries to pro-business economic policies. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends."

In Mr. Frank's view, this is a confidence trick: politicians like Mr. Santorum trumpet their defense of traditional values, but their true loyalty is to elitist economic policies. "Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. ... Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization." But it keeps working.

And this week we saw Mr. Frank's thesis acted out so crudely that it was as if someone had deliberately staged it. The right wants to dismantle Social Security, a successful program that is a pillar of stability for working Americans. AARP stands in the way. So without a moment's hesitation, the usual suspects declared that this organization of staid seniors is actually an anti-soldier, pro-gay-marriage leftist front.

It's tempting to dismiss this as an exceptional case in which right-wingers, unable to come up with a real cultural grievance to exploit, fabricated one out of thin air. But such fabrications are the rule, not the exception.

For example, for much of December viewers of Fox News were treated to a series of ominous warnings about "Christmas under siege" - the plot by secular humanists to take Christ out of America's favorite holiday. The evidence for such a plot consisted largely of occasions when someone in an official capacity said, "Happy holidays," instead of, "Merry Christmas."

So it doesn't matter that Social Security is a pro-family program that was created by and for America's greatest generation - and that it is especially crucial in poor but conservative states like Alabama and Arkansas, where it's the only thing keeping a majority of seniors above the poverty line. Right-wingers will still find ways to claim that anyone who opposes privatization supports terrorists and hates family values.

Their first attack may have missed the mark, but it's the shape of smears to come.
Here’s the pot calling the kettle black.
President Bush warned Vladimir Putin on Thursday against backsliding on democracy in Russia but assured the Russian president he is still a trusted partner of the United States.
Here’s a President who’s spent his whole presidency beating the crap out of Democracy telling someone else to not mess with it. What a lot of nerve he’s got .

From the NY Times, Bush Prods Putin on Democracy But Praises Ties

”Democracies have certain things in common -- a rule of law and protection of minorities and a free press and a viable political opposition,” said Bush, who made spreading democracy around the world a key theme of his second term.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

My sister sent this to me . It’s from an email sent around where she works.

A sum of money was found today on the 4th floor. If you beleive the money belongs to you, please contact HR on X1234. Please be prepared to identify the amount and the location on the 4th floor where the money was lost. Thank you.
Here are my sister’s thoughts on the email.
Oh well.... maybe whoever sent it in the first place will realize how silly it sounds to have someone identify exactly where they lost money....... "oops! I dropped money there! Well, it's lost now.... oh well! Maybe someone will find it and turn it in! " : - {} Heeeeere's your sign!!
”Here’s your sign!” refers to the comedian Bill Engvall and people who should be wearing a stupid sign.

Had to go with the Snopes link, the Bill Engvall
page didn’t give any decent examples of “Here’s your sign” humor. My favorite is when he said he couldn’t stop himself. He saw a guy in a parking lot sticking a hanger in the door around the window. Bill says he couldn’t help himself, blurted out “Locked your keys in the car?” The guy without hesitation says “Nope, I just washed the car and want to hang it out to dry. Here's your sign”

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Want to see the International Space Station or the Shuttle?
Go to NASA to see when and where to look in the sky for the best viewing.
There was one of these flying around Philadelphia yesterday around lunch time. I’m assuming that it was a training flight out of Willow Grove Naval Air Station but then who knows. There was also a huge military helicopter flying around at the same time. The helicopter didn’t look like it was flying low but it was low enough to set off car alarms. I wonder if they’ll be around today.

By the way, isn’t it convenient that right after Doug Wead’s tapes of conversations with Bush, a plot to kill the president is found out? Sorry folks, don’t have time to pay attention to the tapes and hear what kind of stuff Bush was up to, there’s a plot a foot.

All I know is that if it was Clinton on those tapes, the perfect Republicans would be twisting everything Clinton said and doing their best to fry him.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

This says alot about how things are going with the war and how people feel about it.

Iraq or No, Guard Bonus Lures Some to Re-enlist
After missing its recruiting goals, the National Guard is offering a re-enlistment bonus of $15,000 in an effort to bolster its ranks.
. . .

Last year, the Guard attracted 49,210 soldiers, about 7,000 short of its goal of 56,000, reflecting its shifting role from weekend duty preparing for national disasters to defending foreign soil.
Shouldn’t that read ‘oil’ not “soil?”. Anyways, I thought they were supposed to be defending U.S. soil not foreign.
I just don’t know what to say about these.

The Somerville Gates by the Anti-Christo

Numa Numa This week's Star Wars kid.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

All I can say is that the kid has a point.

"Andy Warhol had a soup can," he said. "Why can't I have a cardboard tube?"

I do think they were a little greedy in their pricing though.

'Gates' Relic Gets EBay Bid, and Seller Gets Complaints

Published: February 16, 2005

Sometimes a cardboard tube is just a cardboard tube. But sometimes, as a New York teenager discovered this week, a cardboard tube might be an objet d'art worth $1,200 - to the right buyer.

Last Saturday, Dane Kolomatsky, 15, accompanied his mother and a friend of hers to Central Park to view "The Gates," the public artwork created by Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, and composed of 7,500 saffron-colored nylon curtains hanging from rectangular frames along the pathways of the park.

Walking by the Loeb Boathouse near 72nd Street, Dane said, he saw a pile of cardboard tubes on the ground. The tubes had served to spool the curtains at the top of the gates. With the curtains unfurled, the tubes were destined to be transported out of the park and recycled.

"I picked out the smallest one, which was seven feet long, and I asked a volunteer if I could have it," Dane said. "And he said, 'Yes, but only one.' "

It was not until he decided to sell the cardboard tube on eBay, the popular auction Web site, that Mr. Kolomatsky become embroiled in an impassioned debate over New York's latest artistic extravaganza.

About 170 items related to "The Gates" have gone up for sale on eBay, including coffee cups, a copy of The Daily News featuring a "Gates" photo on the cover, and dozens of the swatches of curtain fabric that organizers have been handing out free to the exhibit's spectators.

But not all the items were meant to be souvenirs. There was, for example, a six-inch-long self-locking bolt offered by one Brooklyn individual for $2,000. "These bolts were specifically made to hold all 'The Gates' together," the seller proclaimed, but did not mention which gate, exactly, might be missing one of its bolts.

Another individual, who would identify himself only as oldmagazineman, the name he uses on eBay, said workers had given him three of the triangular plastic safety markers placed at the steel base of each gate before the gates were attached to the bases this month.

"I thought it was just a silly piece of plastic until I saw all the hoopla about it," he said in a telephone interview. "I realized that what I had was kind of unique."

But nothing seemed to stir as much controversy as Dane's cardboard tube, which he decided to sell after his mother's friend told him she had once sold an old pair of shoes on eBay. "People are crazy enough to buy anything," he said. "And since this was like a Christo-fest, we figured someone might want to buy it."

Dane and his mother settled on a price of $12,000 - "Should you ever set your standards low?" he asked -and posted a picture of him holding the tube so buyers could see what they were getting. An hour later, a bid for $1,200 came from a collector listed as "killkeny."

Then came more than a dozen angry queries from Christo fans offended by what they deemed an act of theft. One person claimed to have filed a complaint with the Manhattan district attorney's office. Another called him a "moron" and a "lowlife." Yet another accused Dane of stealing a "relic of a public art project" and trying to "hoodwink" art lovers out of their money.

The $1,200 offer was the highest - and only - bid when the auction ended last night, and Dane said he had decided to hold onto the tube for "sentimental value."

A spokesman for eBay was careful to note that stolen property is not allowed on the site. But the spokesman, Hani Durzy, said that "in order for it to be deemed stolen, law enforcement needs to contact us, and let us know that a stolen item report has been filed with them."

So far, he said, eBay has received no such complaints about items connected to "The Gates."

Megan Sheekey, a spokeswoman for the art project, said that workers had been told not to give away any items except the swatches. "The materials, like the cardboard, the bases, the nylon cloths and the vinyl poles - all that is supposed to be recycled," she said.

But Dane suggested that selling the cardboard tube on eBay was merely a way to make a new piece of art from the detritus of an old one.

"Andy Warhol had a soup can," he said. "Why can't I have a cardboard tube?"

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I thouught this was an interesitng article. It made me think about a couple I know. Kind of sad.

I Love Them, I Love Him Not
Published: February 14, 2005

Washington — YOUR young child shows up at your bedside five minutes before the alarm clock is set to ring. She climbs in. She is warm, her hair is silken, and she nestles perfectly into the curve of your torso.
You experience something like plenitude - until the alarm clock rings and your spouse's arm stretches out to shut it off and comes to rest upon the two of you. That arm is bristly and heavy, and feels, somehow, laden with demand. What demand the poor thing carries is not clear, but whatever it is, it feels like too much on this particular school morning when, after the usual rites of teeth brushing and sneakers and mittens are through, you've got to plan how, on this day of all days, you will most adequately express to your little loved ones just how deeply - and how festively and chocolate-drenchedly - you love them.

Happy Valentine's Day.

The holiday of lovers has been transformed into something very different for many parents these days. That's little wonder: for many couples, love itself has been transformed by the passage into parenthood.

If you flip through the magazines aimed at moms this month, you'd be hard pressed to find much talk of romance, unless you count all the articles on modern marriage's lack of romance, which are legion: Working Mother pleads, "Make Time for Your Valentine." Good Housekeeping insists, "Men can be romantic." Child magazine offers tips on "Staying Lovers While Raising Kids." And Parents, acknowledging that marriage with children often feels "about as romantic as changing a dirty diaper," offers advice for getting "back in the groove," like establishing "no-sex nights." (Absence makes the heart grow fonder?)

In many marriages, erotic love has been supplanted by what The New Yorker once called "the eros of parenthood." Up to 20 percent of couples now report having sex no more than 10 times a year, qualifying them for what the experts call "sexless marriages." Many mothers freely admit to preferring their children's touch to their husband's, without regret or shame.

Where did our love go? Look no further than the adorable little girl on the cover of this month's Parents, clutching a huge, red-sequined heart in her chubby little hands. According to a recent report by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, children are a "growing impediment" to a happy marriage.

That's a sobering thought. And it raises an important question: Is our national romance with our children sucking the emotional life out of our marriages?

It may well be. After all, in an era when Parents magazine can suggest, in its love issue, a "Second Honeymoon with Kids" under the rubric "Fun Time," it's clear that something is very much askew. In many households, the distinctions between married life and family life have all but disappeared.

With the widespread acceptance of "attachment parenting" - family beds, long-term breast feeding and all the rest - the physical boundaries between parents and children have worn away. Marital romance has dried up. Real intimacy has gone the way of bottle-feeding and playpens. In fact, the whole ideal of marriage as a union of soul mates, friends and lovers that's as essential to a happy family life as, say, unconditional love for the children, has taken a direct hit. And in its place has come the reality of a utilitarian relationship dedicated to staying afloat financially and child-rearing of a sort we tend to associate with frontier marriages, arranged marriages, marriages of convenience - marriages far removed, in time and place, from our lives, our parents' lives and even our grandparents' lives.

Some would say that's not a bad thing. After all, hard work and commitment are much better indicators of marital stability than are passion and that fickle thing, romantic love. The divorce rate is slightly down, to about 50 percent from a high of 52 percent in the early 1980's. Virtually no one believes anymore that the potential "self-fulfillment" that might come from leaving a less-than-satisfying marriage could in any way outweigh the harm that divorce does to children. Indeed, for many couples these days, staying married is not so much the definitive sign of their love for each other but the ultimate expression of their love for their children.

But does this virtuous child-centeredness equal family happiness? Apparently not. For although the divorce rate has gone down, the percentage of couples saying they're in less-than-happy marriages has gone up. According to the National Marriage Project, fewer children are growing up with happily married parents today than a generation ago. From 1973 to 1976, 51 percent of children under the age of 18 were living in a household in which the parents' marriage was rated as "very happy," the study found. From 1997 to 2002, only 37 percent were so fortunate.

Some of that, of course, reflects the declining number of children living in married households. But, according to the National Marriage Project's co-director, David Popenoe, a professor of sociology at Rutgers, there's another reason. Married couples today, he writes, report "significantly more work-related stress, more marital conflict and less marital interaction" than did those 20 or 30 years ago.

This gets to the crux of the problem: the culture of parenthood today is one in which marriages must fight to flourish. This is not because women naturally love their children more than their husbands. Nor is it because motherhood is naturally so exhausting and the world of work necessarily so draining that it's all but impossible for husbands and wives to find each other at the end of the day. It's because the roles we're playing - Supermom and Superdad - are love-killers.

So, this Valentine's Day, resist the temptation to download the directions for a cockscomb Valentine wreath. Throw out the glue gun and don't even think of trying to hand-stitch hearts on construction paper. Hire a sitter. Leave work early and go out on a date with your grown-up Valentine.

Do it for the kids.

Judith Warner is the author, most recently, of"Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Happy Chinese New Year!

I’m amazed that anyone can work out when it starts with these kind of instructions to find New Year’s Day each year.

. . . celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, which falls on the day on which the second new moon after the day on which the winter solstice occurs, unless there is an intercalary eleventh or twelfth month in the lead-up to the New Year. In this case, the New Year falls on the third new moon after the Solstice.

Happy Year of the Rooster, year 4702.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

n : finding a way to take money back from people that they were
given in another way; "the Treasury will find some
clawback for the extra benefits members received"

Spearing the Beast

Published: February 8, 2005

President Bush isn't trying to reform Social Security. He isn't even trying to "partially privatize" it. His plan is, in essence, to dismantle the program, replacing it with a system that may be social but doesn't provide security. And the goal, as with his tax cuts, is to undermine the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt.

Why do I say that the Bush plan would dismantle Social Security? Because for Americans who entered the work force after the plan went into effect and who chose to open private accounts, guaranteed benefits - income you receive after retirement even if everything else goes wrong - would be nearly eliminated.

Here's how it would work. First, workers with private accounts would be subject to a "clawback": in effect, they would have to mortgage their future benefits in order to put money into their accounts.

Second, since private accounts would do nothing to improve Social Security's finances - something the administration has finally admitted - there would be large benefit cuts in addition to the clawback.

Jason Furman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the guaranteed benefits left to an average worker born in 1990, after the clawback and the additional cuts, would be only 8 percent of that worker's prior earnings, compared with 35 percent today. This means that under Mr. Bush's plan, workers with private accounts that fared poorly would find themselves destitute.

Why expose workers to that much risk? Ideology. "Social Security is the soft underbelly of the welfare state," declares Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute. "If you can jab your spear through that, you can undermine the whole welfare state."

By the welfare state, Mr. Moore means Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - social insurance programs whose purpose, above all, is to protect Americans against the extreme economic insecurity that prevailed before the New Deal. The hard right has never forgiven F.D.R. (and later L.B.J.) for his efforts to reduce that insecurity, and now that the right is running Washington, it's trying to turn the clock back to 1932.

Medicaid is also in the cross hairs. And if Mr. Bush can take down Social Security, Medicare will be next.

The attempt to "jab a spear" through Social Security complements the strategy of "starve the beast," long advocated by right-wing intellectuals: cut taxes, then use the resulting deficits as an excuse for cuts in social spending. The spearing doesn't seem to be going too well at the moment, but the starving was on full display in the budget released yesterday.

To put that budget into perspective, let's look at the causes of the federal budget deficit. In spite of the expense of the Iraq war, federal spending as a share of G.D.P. isn't high by historical standards - in fact, it's slightly below its average over the past 20 years. But federal revenue as a share of G.D.P. has plunged to levels not seen since the 1950's.

Almost all of this plunge came from a sharp decline in receipts from the personal income tax and the corporate profits tax. These are the taxes that fall primarily on people with high incomes - and in 2003 and 2004, their combined take as a share of G.D.P. was at its lowest level since 1942. On the other hand, the payroll tax, which is the main federal tax paid by middle-class and working-class Americans, remains at near-record levels.
You might think, given these facts, that a plan to reduce the deficit would include major efforts to increase revenue, starting with a rollback of recent huge tax cuts for the wealthy. In fact, the budget contains new upper-income tax breaks.

Any deficit reduction will come from spending cuts. Many of those cuts won't make it through Congress, but Mr. Bush may well succeed in imposing cuts in child care assistance and food stamps for low-income workers. He may also succeed in severely squeezing Medicaid - the only one of the three great social insurance programs specifically intended for the poor and near-poor, and therefore the most politically vulnerable.

All of this explains why it's foolish to imagine some sort of widely acceptable compromise with Mr. Bush about Social Security. Moderates and liberals want to preserve the America F.D.R. built. Mr. Bush and the ideological movement he leads, although they may use F.D.R.'s image in ads, want to destroy it.
I don’t know what “clawback” is so I need to go look that up but it doesn’t sound good. The whole plan sounds pretty lousy though, fees that we have no clue about, your account makes "too much" and you get you money taken away, reduced future benefits.

I don't know what steams me more the part about an account making over a certain amount and you lose money or the bit about future benefits being only 8% versus a current 35%. You put in a lot of your own money and get reduced benefits in the end. From the sounds of things, the best thing you could do with the accounts that Bush is pushing is to put your money into bonds just like the government has been doing for Social Security.

I want to know how long it’s going to take before the people who voted for Bush realize that they made a big mistake.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Can anyone who has a Monday to Friday job be surprised at this?

The stress of returning to work on a Monday morning can trigger a dangerous increase in blood pressure, according to a study.

The Tokyo Women's Medical University study shows blood pressure readings are higher than at any other time of the week.

It may explain why deaths from heart attacks and strokes tend to peak on a Monday morning.

There are 20% more heart attacks on Mondays than on any other day.
Blood pressure soars on Mondays

What I like about Paul Krugman, he backs up pretty much all he says. I’ve been thinking for awhile basically what he says in this article.

The numbers presented by the people who are hot and heavy for privatizing just don’t add up. They’ll point to a small bit of market history and say “See. What we’re saying will work.” If you look at history in total it doesn’t. Anyway, market history isn’t an indicator of the future and even the present isn’t doing what these not so impartial experts are saying.

I just think about my insurance agent talking about how he’s looking forward to kids just out of college putting a couple thousand dollars a year into their own little private accounts. Boy, he was looking past me into the distance and he got a little smile. Obviously, the thought of all that money made him happy. There are commissions to be made and he wants a cut!

Something that no one has mentioned is that Social Security is supposed to be just a part of your retirement. You are supposed to be doing something on your own for retirement and SS should be a supplement. The way the White House is talking, you won’t need to save anything else for retirement if the private accounts come into being. I don’t believe it one bit.

Many Unhappy Returns

The fight over Social Security is, above all, about what kind of society we want to have. But it's also about numbers. And the numbers the privatizers use just don't add up.

Let me inflict some of those numbers on you. Sorry, but this is important.

Schemes for Social Security privatization, like the one described in the 2004 Economic Report of the President, invariably assume that investing in stocks will yield a high annual rate of return, 6.5 or 7 percent after inflation, for at least the next 75 years. Without that assumption, these schemes can't deliver on their promises. Yet a rate of return that high is mathematically impossible unless the economy grows much faster than anyone is now expecting.

To explain why, I need to talk about stock returns. The yield on a stock comes from two components: cash that the company pays out in the form of dividends and stock buybacks, and capital gains. Right now, if dividends and buybacks were the whole story, the rate of return on stocks would be only 3 percent.

To get a 6.5 percent rate of return, you need capital gains: if dividends yield 3 percent, stock prices have to rise 3.5 percent per year after inflation. That doesn't sound too unreasonable if you're thinking only a few years ahead.

But privatizers need that high rate of return for 75 years or more. And the economic assumptions underlying most projections for Social Security make that impossible.

The Social Security projections that say the trust fund will be exhausted by 2042 assume that economic growth will slow as baby boomers leave the work force. The actuaries predict that economic growth, which averaged 3.4 percent per year over the last 75 years, will average only 1.9 percent over the next 75 years.

In the long run, profits grow at the same rate as the economy. So to get that 6.5 percent rate of return, stock prices would have to keep rising faster than profits, decade after decade.

The price-earnings ratio - the value of a company's stock, divided by its profits - is widely used to assess whether a stock is overvalued or undervalued. Historically, that ratio averaged about 14. Today it's about 20. Where would it have to go to yield a 6.5 percent rate of return?

I asked Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, to help me out with that calculation (there are some technical details I won't get into). Here's what we found: by 2050, the price-earnings ratio would have to rise to about 70. By 2060, it would have to be more than 100.

In other words, to believe in a privatization-friendly rate of return, you have to believe that half a century from now, the average stock will be priced like technology stocks at the height of the Internet bubble - and that stock prices will nonetheless keep on rising.

Social Security privatizers usually defend their bullishness by saying that stock investors earned high returns in the past. But stocks are much more expensive than they used to be, relative to corporate profits; that means lower dividends per dollar of share value. And economic growth is expected to be slower.

Which brings us to the privatizers' Catch-22.

They can rescue their happy vision for stock returns by claiming that the Social Security actuaries are vastly underestimating future economic growth. But in that case, we don't need to worry about Social Security's future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come.

Alternatively, privatizers can unhappily admit that future stock returns will be much lower than they have been claiming. But without those high returns, the arithmetic of their schemes collapses.

It really is that stark: any growth projection that would permit the stock returns the privatizers need to make their schemes work would put Social Security solidly in the black.

And I suspect that at least some privatizers know that. Mr. Baker has devised a test he calls "no economist left behind": he challenges economists to make a projection of economic growth, dividends and capital gains that will yield a 6.5 percent rate of return over 75 years. Not one economist who supports privatization has been willing to take the test.

But the offer still stands. Ladies and gentlemen, would you care to explain your position?
I’ve been wondering how much money brokers stand to make when someone dies and the brokers don’t find out about it. They’ll most likely get to hang on to it until someone shows up saying that the owner of the account died and it’s time to pay out or until they notice no activity and go looking. They’ll still make the fees even if you are dead. How much money will be left behind by people who move and don’t update their address?

I’m sure there are a variety of reasons that brokers want privatizing and none of them have anything to do with making things better for future retirees. Brokers will make money regardless of whether your account does. If your account doesn’t make money, they’ll blame it on you for not watching a bit more closely.

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