Sunday, February 20, 2005
Gil's on a roll
When the lies flow easily, the pen just flies. Gil Gutknecht had 18 paragraphs
in Sunday's Star Tribune to discuss Social Security. How dishonesty was he?
- Huge deception: Never mentions cost. Big Gil's plan would cost about $4 trillion in the first 10 years and $15 trillion or more in total. Big Gil never gets around to mentioning those costs, or whether this means "taxes will have to be raised, government will have to go deeper in debt, or other government programs will have to be cut."
- Minor deception: juxtaposes Clinton and Bush to imply Democratic support. From paragraph 2 ("p2"): "Clinton recognized the same problem then  that President George W. Bush recognizes today." Clinton had two proposals on social security. One, to allow the trustees to invest a portion of social security's trust fund in the stock market. Two, to create tax-advantaged retirement accounts for all citizens -- social security plus, or USA Accounts. Clinton never proposed privatizing social security the way Bush intends.
- Moderate deception: lying with statistics. From p4: "When today's workers are ready to retire there will be only two workers for every retiree. Americans are living longer. Thus, they are collecting more benefits." This is intentionally sloppy writing. Today's workers will be ready to retire starting today. We're talking about a 47 year window -- the difference between a 65 year old in today's workforce and an 18 year old. Big Gil doesn't explain who he is talking about. For Baby Boomers, though, Big Gil doesn't want you to remember the Greenspan/Reagan plan to increase payroll taxes to fund the social security trust fund in order to get the program through a retirement spike. That plan, according to the CBO, keeps social security solvent until 2052, and might keep social security solvent permanently. Life expectancy at age 65 has increased by about two years over the last 60 years. Big Gil wants you to think it's a lot, lot more. Overall life expectancy has increased primarily because of reductions in child and infant mortality.
- Mild deception: 2018 is looming From p5: "[B]y 2018 payroll taxes will not be adequate to pay expected benefit levels." Yes, but that's been the plan for 20 years!
- Hidden scare tactics: America has debt! From p5: [T]he Social Security Administration will have to start redeeming Treasury bonds, drawing upon the general tax revenue of the federal government. This means that either taxes will have to be raised, the government will have to go deeper in debt, or other government programs will have to be cut." Thanks to Republicans, our national debt is $7.6 trillion. That's $7.6 trillion in Treasury bonds that will have to be repaid in the future. Frankly, we should be grateful that another branch of the government owns a portion of our debt. Otherwise our domestic policy would entirely be in the hands of foreign creditors. Or is Big Gil advocating that we default on the $8.0 trillion of Republican debt (if you figure in Clinton's surpluses, Republican bad government looks even worse)?
- Minor lie by analogy. From p6: "Imagine an ocean liner headed for an ice berg 5 miles away. A course correction 5 miles out would hardly be noticed by the passengers, and the ship would pass by the iceberg with room to spare." A minor course correction might include indexing the cap on wages subject to social security taxes to inflation or other moderate, sensible changes to the existing program. Big Gil wants privitization. A minor course correction would fix the problem, but Big Gil wants to reverse the most successful program in the history of government.
- Huge lie by juxtaposition. From p8: "Bush and members of both political parties in Congress have suggested the idea of adding personal retirement accounts to the Social Security system. With these accounts, individuals could put a portion of the payroll taxes they currently pay into a personal Social Security retirement account." Democrats have suggested ADDING a personal retirement account feature on top of Social Security. Republicans want to privitize Social Security. These are not the same thing, but Big Gil wants you to think they are.
- Misdirection In p10-12, Big Gil talks about Galveston County, which opted out of Social Security and earned 7.5 to 8.0% returns. Know what? A lot of people did well in the stock market during the Clinton economic miracle. But not a single economist will suggest that 8.0% annual returns are sustainable. Even the Cato Institute's privitization benefits calculator assumes a return below 5.0%.
- Moderate lie about costs From p12: "Our children deserve better than future benefit cuts or the 1.5 percent returns that those born after 1980 will receive under the current system." Back in p4, Big Gil reminded us that we have a pay-as-you-go system. Now he compares pay-go to private investment and finds private investment works better. Surprise! And I'd pay off my mortgage a lot sooner if I didn't have to pay interest.
- Huge lie by quote From p17: "In 1999 ... Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada stated on Fox News Sunday that 'most of us have no problem with taking a small amount of the Social Security proceeds and putting it into the private sector.'" Reid was talking about the Democratic plan to allow Social Security to invest a portion of its funds in private equities -- in part because the Clinton economic miracle resulted in surpluses, not deficits. Big Gil can't win the debate honestly, so he wants you to think that Reid was talking about allowing individuals to invest money in private accounts.
Big Gil should be ashamed of himself. Eighteen paragraphs supporting a program and he can't come up with a single honest argument to support his position. Someone -- you! -- should write a letter to the editor.