What if the predicted collapse of Social Security is only doublespeak and all the Chicken Little economists' warnings just prodigious flummery? Social Security is truly healthy, say Drs. Baker and Weisbrot, both of Washington's Preamble Center. It simply doesn't need the dire purgatives the putative experts prescribe. There is no dispute about the figures, statistics, or projections cited by the prognosticators when they spy a shortfall along about 2034. But the authors challenge basic assumptions with vigor and intelligence. They question the methodology and even the intentions of those who would renounce the remarkable success of America's great social-insurance program. The advertised deficit in the Social Security fund over the next 75 years, they note, is based on a projected rate of growth that's less than half the last 75. Social Security bookkeeping should be isolated from that of Medicare (which is funded in large part by general revenues). The supposed overstatement of the consumer price index, discovered by experts with their own agendas, may be way off base after all. (At any rate, an adjustment of the CPI would clearly improve the dire predictions for all social programs.) The privatization of the national retirement system—promoted, naturally, by Wall Street—would wreak havoc, based as it is on clearly untenable assumptions over any reasonable period. Demographics show that intergenerational warriors promote a false, poisonous cause. All in all, say economists Baker and Weisbrot, it's not an honest debate. Let's talk about the real problems, they urge. The environment is inexorably deteriorating, the gap between rich and poor is widening, and the rising cost of health care is of paramount concern for the future. So calm down, policy wonks. Let Grandma alone. Your own retirement will be fine if it you let Social Security alone. Its future is brighter than the pundits and politicos would have us believe. An absolutely relevant and important analysis, presented with force and clarity, that asks, basically, what kind of a nation we really are.
Read full book review >