The Social Security Un-Crisis

The Bush Administration, as usual, is not talking about Social Security (hereafter SS) because they are concerned about what will happen 40 years from now. Gosh, it would be nice if they were. Name one other initiative of the Bushies that is concerned with the state of the country 40 years from now. There are none. There should be — namely, global climate change, but alas they conveniently ignore the growing body of science on that one. No, they are concerned about SS because their power base is as strong as ever and they wanna push through every possible ideological initiative while they can. What is the ideological motive here: they hate SS. Yuck, it even has the word “social” in it, as in socialism. This is an ideological attack on socialism. It is an entitlement and they hate entitlements on philosophical grounds. No matter that SS is one of the most successful programs the government has ever done, that it keeps people from eating cat food in their old age, assists people who are injured and can no longer work,etc. That is all beside the point to them. They hate social programs and they are attempting to use their power to eliminate this one.

First a little background on the problem: if we did nothing to SS in 40 years or so we would need to cut benefits by 30% or so. That is the worst case scenario right now if we do nothing. So when Bush says it will be “broke” in 40 years what he means is that the existing payroll taxes 40 years from now will only pay for 70% of the current benefits. That ain’t bankrupt, folks. Raise your hand if you’d rather get $0.70 than $0.00.

A very important point about SS is that it is not a charity program. Everyone gets it regardless of need and that is a Good Thing. This means the Right can’t prattle on about how it is wealth distribution. It is not. In fact, rich people pay a much smaller percent of their income into SS than non-rich people because you only pay in on something like the first $80k you make. So if you make $250k/yr you are paying very, very little into SS. So please, Rush, don’t give us this shit about this is some wealth redistribution scheme ’cause it ain’t.

In terms of the privatization scheme, there are a few problems with it. It’s not that it is an entirely insane idea, but there are problems. Problem one is, it is much more expensive. Administration of the SS system is very cheap compared to the average cost of managing, for example, a mutual fund or a stock portfolio. That’s because Wall Street manages the latter and everyone knows that the 11th Commandment is that Wall Street people must be rich. Financial managers are in the business of their own enrichment. Your average government worker is not.

Second, the financial markets are risky. Yes, you can get a higher return but it is at the cost of higher risk. When the dot com bubble burst some of my mutual funds went back to balances I had 10 years earlier. I lost 10 years of growth in some of these funds. What do we do with retirees whose nest egg evaporates a few months before they retire? Cat food? That defeats the whole point of SS. If we need a safety net to catch people who can’t live on their privatized SS income, we have gained nothing.

Privatization is a major change in philosophy. Instead of existing young workers helping to support the elders of our community, you have to save enough money to take care of yourself. While this doesn’t sound so bad the implication is clear: in the first case we take care of our old folks no matter what and in the latter case if they fail to take care of themselves, they eat cat food in their latter years.

I should probably write a separate post about it, but the problem with ideological initiatives is that they are not necessarily based on reality. Either privatization of SS will or will not improve our care of retirees. Whether it does or not is something that can be proven one way or the other. Ideologues base their solutions on a philosophy that is based on their abstract ideas of what is good and what is bad — it doesn’t take the proof into account. That is why the “cutting taxes solves all problems” philosophy of the Right is so annoying. This shit is measurable and whether you like it or not, the USA needs tax revenue. The no taxes ever approach is completely wrong but you’d never know it talking to one of these ideologues.

So, in summary, Bush is lying again. It’s not about avoiding an impending crisis it’s about eliminating an entitlement that has been very successful. I also think it is ideologically sound — I’ll take care of you when you are old and I am young and when I am old the young people will take care of me. Makes perfect sense to me.

Don’t be fooled, Bush is hurting America again.

The Social Security Un-Crisis

Scared, Stupid Bush

Bush’s inaugural speech was typical of a scared and stupid man.

First of all, I’m not willing to take as a basic tenant that there is gathering evil in the world poised to overwhelm us. That’s crap. Yes, we have made a lot of enemies but by far the world is a peaceful place full of our allies. Bush has created and inflamed our enemies and now uses that fact to bolster his power base.

Second, the Orwellian repetition of the words “freedom” and “liberty” was suspicious at best. Actions speak louder than words and what is happening in America, Iraq and around the world is the Bushies erosion of both of these concepts. Freedom, according to Bush, is something that is apparently only granted to people that agree with him. To be a suspect in this administration is to be guilty. Due process is gone, basic issues of privacy are gone and we send the marines to negotiate with those who disagree with us. That is why he needed to chant those words over and over to try to hypnotize us — because he is lying. The goal of this administration is crystal clear: control the world’s resources for the benefit of the richest people in the history of the world.

I do not support this president, I do not support this administration and I look forward to the day when history regards him as the worst president in the history of the USA.

Scared, Stupid Bush

There is no alternative scientific theory to evolution.

In regards to the Supreme Court decision ruling that “textbook stickers referring to evolution as ‘a theory not a fact’ are unconstitutional”, the Discovery Institute says: “The bottom line is that what matters in science is evidence, not motives. In science you follow the evidence where it leads no matter the presumed motives of the scientists. There are more than 300 scientists who doubt Darwinism, that’s evidence that proves this is a scientific debate.”

And the competing theory is…nothing! There is no alternative scientific theory of how we got all these animals and plants and stuff. There is only an anti-theory which is it certaintly can’t be evolution. The alternative to Darwinism is currently nothing. Intelligent design is not a scientific theory. People don’t write papers with evidence and experiments that are peer-reviewed and debated and published like scientists do. Creationists just write op-ed pieces and lobby school boards. I repeat, there is no other theory to teach! These people are arguing against evolution because they can’t argue (scientifically) for anything else. Creation and intelligent design are not science. Believe them if you want, I don’t care, but we cannot teach them as science.

I don’t think science is at odds with religion — they are entirely separate things. Science is interested only in what you can “prove” and what you can predict. The word “prove” is always in quotes because in science you can’t really prove things are true, you can only prove what is not true. We often take observational evidence as proof but the underlying physics that explains why we observe what we do can never be proven, per say. It can only be supported or refuted by evidence. Example: matter is made of atoms, atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons and all of these are made of quarks (except electrons). How do we know this? We don’t. We have a model that explains what we observe very, very accurately. We can predict things with this model to a high degree of accuracy. Is our model of the atom “true”? We don’t know. All we know is it correctly predicts the results of experiments.

Evolution is another such theory. Is it true? We don’t know. We do know that it fits the evidence. It is a scientific theory in that it is based on sciences like genetics, evolutionary development, cell development and archeology. We have a model that explains why some animals are very similar and others are very different. It explains why we don’t see modern humans 100,000 years ago in the fossil record. The theory of evolution is based on the fundamental scientific tenant that whatever happened happened in a way that can be explained, in this case in terms of biology and physics.

So if creationism is to be a science it has to be a theory of biology and physics. If you want to believe that God pointed his finger and Adam appeared, that is fine, but it is not a biological/physical theory, it is religion. The theory of intelligent design is not a theory of biology or physics, it is based on a premise of a supernatural will and that takes it completely out of the realm of science. There is no scientific theory of creation because it’s not science. Note that the theory of evolution does not in any way imply that the hand of God was not somehow involved, only that, if so, God did his work in a intelligent and organized way which, when studied, yields beautiful physical relationships such as those we have discovered.

There is no alternative scientific theory to evolution.