Dean Baker

Recent Articles

Pension Fund Cashes in Treasury Bonds: AP Screams "Crisis"

Okay, it's not exactly a pension fund, it's the Social Security trust fund that is cashing in some of the government bonds that it holds to pay benefits. This is the way the trust fund was designed to work, but AP somehow cannot find a reporter (or editor) who understands even the most basic facts about Social Security or for that matter Treasury bonds, which get called "IOUs" in the headline and four times in the article. (When GE has its next bond issue, will AP report on the auction of "GE IOUs?") The whole purpose of building up the trust fund was to help defray the cost of the retirement of the baby boom cohort. This meant that at some point it would be necessary to sell some of the bonds to pay benefits. This has happened somewhat sooner than had previously been predicted due to the economic crisis created by inept policy and Wall Street corruption. It is not clear why anyone should see this as a crisis for Social Security. The article also includes this non-sequitur: "Now the...

NYT Spreads Nonsense on China Buying U.S. Debt

The NYT told readers that: "China is the biggest buyer of Treasury bonds at a time when the United States has record budget deficits and needs China to keep buying those bonds to finance American debt." Nope, this is nonsense. People can get the real story from today's Krugman column , China has an unloaded water pistol pointed at our heads. --Dean Baker

Krugman on China and the Dollar

Paul Krugman is absolutely right in describing the economic relationship between the U.S. and China ; the United States has nothing to fear from a decision by China to stop buying U.S. government debt. However, the discussion of the U.S-China relationship may not be quite right. Krugman has the United States meekly asking China to raise the value of the yuan since 2003, with little effect. This certainly has been the public position of both the Bush and Obama administrations. However, negotiations don't take place in public. When the United States negotiates with China, there are many items on its list. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have pressed China about increased protection for U.S. patents and copyrights. They have pressed China for increased access for U.S. films and openings for the entertainment industry more generally. They also want to open the Chinese market to Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and other big financial firms. No one ever expects to get everything on their...

The Post Is Terrified That Japan Will Become Less Crowded

Japan is an extremely densely populated country. Because of its low birth rate and immigration rate, it is likely to become less crowded in the future. While most normal people would probably consider this a positive development, the Washington Post ran an Outlook piece expressing horror at this prospect. The headline tells readers that: "even as population shrinks, Japan remains wary of immigration." It goes on to warn of a "demographic crisis," telling readers that: "The population is aging and shrinking -- a formula for economic calamity and social stagnation. Over time, there will be too few workers to care for the millions of elderly citizens, grow food on farms or fill the manufacturing jobs that drive this export-led economy." Those who have taken an intro economics class know that there are no special economic problems created by a declining population. See, it is not necessary to grow food on farms if a declining population needs less food. It is not necessary to "fill the...

The New York Times Doesn't Like Social Security

That is what readers could infer from Jackie Calmes' blognote in which she listed Social Security alongside Medicare and Medicaid as "fast-growing entitlement benefit program." Social Security is projected to grow at a 5.3 percent annual rate over the next decade, only slightly faster than the 4.4 percent projected growth rate of nominal GDP over this period. By comparison, Medicare is projected to grow at a 7.0 percent annual rate. It is also worth noting that Social Security is funded by a designated tax that is projected to keep the program fully funded until 2044. It appears that the NYT is unaware of the funding mechanism for Social Security. Given this designated tax it would make as much sense to cut Social Security as it would to cut interest payment on government bonds (i.e. default on the government debt), especially since interest is in fact a much more rapidly growing category of entitlement spending. The reference to Social Security appears in a statement telling readers...

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