Dean Baker

Recent Articles

Bush's Numbers Racket

The word from President Bush and his minions is that Social Security is on its last legs, facing imminent danger of bankruptcy. Fortunately, Bush is prepared to rescue this antiquated program by offering workers the opportunity to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts. He would like us to believe that this plan will both get the government out from under a crushing debt burden, in the form of future Social Security obligations, and provide younger workers with a more secure retirement. Almost every part of this story is untrue. First, Social Security does not face any crisis in the normal meaning of the term. Second, private accounts would not give workers a more secure retirement; they reduce security. And third, the basic logic of the story is faulty; it is impossible to both reduce government spending on Social Security and increase benefits, unless the plan somehow increases growth. And no economist seriously contends that putting Social Security money...

Bush's Numbers Racket

The word from President Bush and his minions is that Social Security is on its last legs, facing imminent danger of bankruptcy. Fortunately, Bush is prepared to rescue this antiquated program by offering workers the opportunity to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts. He would like us to believe that this plan will both get the government out from under a crushing debt burden, in the form of future Social Security obligations, and provide younger workers with a more secure retirement. Almost every part of this story is untrue. First, Social Security does not face any crisis in the normal meaning of the term. Second, private accounts would not give workers a more secure retirement; they reduce security. And third, the basic logic of the story is faulty; it is impossible to both reduce government spending on Social Security and increase benefits, unless the plan somehow increases growth. And no economist seriously contends that putting Social Security money...

Anti-Social Behavior:

W hen President Bush first described the war against terrorism, he warned that we may never learn of some of the victories therein. One such victory that has largely escaped public attention occurred last week, when the Bush administration kept the 2002 Social Security trustees report out of the hands of terrorists. Ordinarily, the annual trustees report, which provides detailed projections on the health of the Social Security program, is released at any early morning press conference. Copies are made available to anyone who wants one. The report is also posted on the Web, where the public (and terrorists) can freely download it. Reporters usually spend the day reading and digesting the report, contacting experts around the nation for assessments, and then filing their stories. This information is then transmitted by radio and television, across the country and around the world, where even al-Qaeda terrorists in caves along the Afghan border can pick it up. That didn't happen this...

Two Cheers for Clinton's Social Security Plan

Think Social Security should invest in the stock market? Take a closer look.

President Clinton's plan to extend Social Security's solvency through 2055 preserves the existing benefit structure and rejects individual accounts. The plan relies primarily on placing most of the projected 15-year budget surplus into the Social Security trust fund. These aspects of the Clinton plan have been warmly welcomed by progressives who feared an imminent compromise that would have added individual accounts by diverting revenue from the current system. Partly to increase the projected rate of return, and partly to steal the privatizers' thunder, the President also proposed placing some $600 billion of the projected surplus into the stock market to earn a higher return. This part of the plan warrants a more wary reception. Placing some of the trust fund in the stock market raises both phony issues and real ones. Let's dispatch the bogus ones first. For one thing, the amount of money the administration proposes placing in the stock market will never be a very large share of the...

Behind the Numbers: The Privateers' Free Lunch

The flawed mathematical assumption behind privatizing Social Security.

B ehind the various proposals for privatizing Social Security, in whole or in part, is one seductive assumption. By investing their savings individually in financial markets, rather than collectively relying on the Social Security system, workers supposedly will get a greater return. This premise is the basis of the proposals by two factions of the Social Security Advisory Council for government-mandated individual savings. It seems a reasonable belief, particularly given the stock market's stellar growth in recent years. But it turns out the claim is based on inconsistent assumptions about economic growth and stock market returns. The Social Security Advisory Council's own projections of growth are far too pessimistic to justify the projections for the stock market. An accurate comparison of all the costs and returns of private savings plans with the costs and returns of the existing Social Security system shows that a mandated savings plan, in which retirees invested their money...

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