One good reason to vote for Bush

By Cathy Young


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Letters to the Editor
October 31, 2000 1:31PM (UTC)

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Cathy Young, a researcher at the Cato Institute, says that Social Security won't work, so we need to invest in the stock market instead, and this is a good reason to vote for Bush.

Has anybody at the Cato Institute ever said anything else? According to them, nothing about the government works.

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She says that Social Security will run out of money in 2037. Does she realize that the date was 2034 only last year? So in one year the apocalypse date has moved forward three years. Will it be 2040 next year? No one knows, certainly not Cathy Young, and not even the Social Security Board of Trustees which is responsible for these guesses.

Would you care to predict the Dow, the price of milk or your income 37 years from now? Of course not. No one can make accurate predictions, especially about economics, that far ahead. And the assumptions that are used to make the estimate quoted by Young are ridiculous: The expected growth rate over the next 37 years is assumed to be one half of what it has averaged over the past 75 years. Sure makes sense to me!

No wonder people want Social Security "fixed" when writers like her toss these numbers about as if they were facts.

If Young is so worried, why doesn't she suggest a simple cure for any possible shortfall? Just let the Social Security tax be taken out of all income, instead of only the first $80,000 or so. People who make more than that amount never seem to propose such an easy solution for the doom they predict.

-- Sam Duncan

Fuzzy math again. The return on your Social Security payments is not 2 percent. Social Security payments are indexed to inflation, unlike stocks. There are a lot of 20-plus-year periods of loss in the indexes which few investors or funds equal over time. Privatization will require a huge additional employment and wipe out any gains. Actually, the program will cost more later than the present program. Gore's program funds Social Security through the peak of retirement with no increased liability or overhead. Many believe the Bush plan will destroy Social Security in a decade, and these non-partisans are not being given a hearing in the media.

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Young did not mention Gore's investment program, possibly because it is for the lower 90 percent of the population, which is not a Cato concern. This is the most revolutionary retirement program since Social Security and would fuel capital for investment and growth.

-- Don Roskam

The doomsday scenario of Social Security "bankruptcy" in 2037 rests on two fundamentals: inadequate economic growth and a relative decline in the number of workers supporting the retired. But if economic growth is poor, and workers are scarce, guess what? Profits are going to be even worse. Lousy profits mean lousy stock prices, as even dot-com investors are learning. Stock market speculation is more likely to damage Social Security than save it.

-- Andy MacTavish

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The author misses a critical point: that falling birthrates won't lead to lowered tax revenues. Why? A moment's reflection tells us that businesses will insist on increased immigration quotas to prevent serious labor shortages. Those immigrants will pay the same kinds of taxes we do now, including Social Security taxes, assuming they still exist.

Privatizing Social Security may or may not be a good idea, but this isn't an argument for it.

-- Bob Lewis

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Cathy Young's analysis of Social Security's fiscal and demographic flaws is correct as far as it goes, but the situation is likely to get worse faster than even she and other critics of the current system assume. Anyone who follows news about the biological sciences should agree that between now and 2015, when Social Security will need to begin dipping into its nonexistent "trust fund" surpluses to balance its books, cancer and heart disease -- the two current top-ranked causes of death in America -- are likely to be vastly more preventable and treatable than at present. The same will be true of many only somewhat less formidable causes of decline and death such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Whatever the merits of the assumptions made about the future growth of the American economy that underlie the projections used by the various combatants in the Social Security wars, none of them seems to assume any sudden sharp upward jump in the average life span of Americans. This is a fatal miscalculation. A lot of current and future Social Security recipients are still going to be on the rolls instead of in the ground come 2015 -- never mind 2037. That fact alone will doom Social Security in its current form and do so soon enough to be troublesome even in the near-future context of a Gore Administration, should we all be so unfortunate as to have such a thing.

-- Dick Eagleson

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Cathy Young has it exactly right. I would argue that the problem with George W. Bush is not his message, which is mostly right on, but his inability to articulate it to the people. Unlike Reagan, he is not a good salesman for his platform, which is fundamentally the same as Reagan's.

I have faith that this deficit as a campaigner will not translate into the same deficit in office. It's about time that Bush got credit for daring to breach the subject of Social Security at all.

-- Rich Gelb


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