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Monday, June 21, 2010

Cruising the Web

William Galston of The New Republic tells Democrats to start whacking that panic button.

John Hawkins has the dismal story of all the perks and nice pay that teachers in Detroit schools get while the rest of the community is sinking fast. Detroit citizens will not be able to look to their School Board President to bail them out. He has been, er, otherwise occupied.

The oil-drilling moratorium is starting
to hit workers in the Gulf area. But don't worry. The President promises BP-funded welfare. That's better than a job, isn't it?

Jim Geraghty thinks that Congressman "Who are you?" Bob Etheridge is looking vulnerable now, when he was pretty reliably safe before he had his no good, bad, horrible day. There's even a story or a previous incident when he got a mite bit physical with a young man asking him a question. Who knows what the truth is of an incident from 10 years ago, but stories that get a lot of play often bring other stories to light.

Howie Carr has a great column on the double standard from the media on how they covered Bush and Obama. It reminds of those comparisons feminists used to make about how women and men were described - you know a guy is ambitious, but a woman is pushy - that sort of thing. Some examples:
Criticizing Bush - the highest form of patriotism. Criticizing Obama - hate speech. Who caused Bush’s problems? - Bush. Who causes Obama’s problems? - Bush.

When Bush mispronounced a word (like nuclear) - more proof he is a complete cowboy moron.

When Obama mispronounces a word (like corpsman) - how dare you even bring this up, racist?!

Unemployment at 4.6 percent under Bush - a jobless recovery.

Unemployment at 9.7 percent under Obama - the new normal, “steady,” a lagging indicator of the happy days that CNBC says are here again.

Economic woes under Bush - portents of a new Depression. Economic woes under Obama - a blip on the radar screen, surprising.

Cindy Sheehan under Bush - a future recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Sheehan under Obama - give it up already, you old bag.

Bush playing a rare round of golf - complete video coverage, showing his utter indifference to the suffering of the American people.

Obama playing one of his endless rounds of golf - only still photos allowed, yet another glowing indication of our dashing president’s youth and physical fitness.

Claire McCaskill says that she has 67 votes to end anonymous holds in the Senate. While I approve of this change I don't have much confidence that it will do anything to speed up movement of bills through the Senate. One senator can still block a bill by denying unanimous consent; it just can't be done anonymously. Many of them are proud and happy to let us know that they're blocking a bill or nomination that they don't like - that's why they do it.

Looking over the poll on the Obamateurism of the Week it's really hard to choose just one.

Ryan Streeter at the AEI America Blog
links to this way cool map gadget at Forbes. You can pick any county in the country and see a pictorial representation of how many people moved in and out of that county in 2008. You can really see the impact of economic conditions on out-migration. Go play around with it. It's fascinating. And I bet the effects would be even more dramatic for the 2010 data.

The Democrats are going to spend big this year to try to keep young people voting Democratic. The GOP is betting that this will be $50 million that the Democrats are throwing down the rat hole that trying to get young people to the polls usually was before the Advent of The One. The Democrats are betting that the thrill hasn't worn off and all those high school kids who were excited about Obama two years ago will be excited about voting and voting Democratic this year. I know my students, for the most part, are excited but then they're not the typically apathetic demographic.

It's been 80 years since Smoot-Hawley. If only some of today's protectionists would remember that lesson.

Apparently, Strasburg's pitches are not only difficult for batters - they're also tough for umpires.

Sadly, Manute Bol has died. People might have originally seen him as a freak, but he turned out to have a character as outsized as his height.
The Heat once fined Bol $25,000. He missed two exhibition games, so the fine wasn’t out of line, except this: he was in Washington D.C. for Congress-sponsored peace talks between rebel leaders from Sudan.

The team donated the money to Bol’s charity, but he was still annoyed, hinting out loud that trying to bring peace to a war-torn country might be a decent excuse for missing a couple preseason games.

You could do worse than that for an anecdote of Bol’s place in this world. According to reports, he made nearly $6 million in his career, and, aside from a few American comforts, spent it all trying to save lives and educate children back home. He has given so much and received little in comparison.

He was once lured back to his home country with the promise of a cabinet post, only to find out he would be required to convert to Islam. When he refused, he was stranded for nearly five years. His trust and good intentions have been abused so many times.

Even while playing, he went into war zones to help the Lost Boys and other refugees. Sometimes, those visits were interrupted by bombings from warlords who viewed Bol as a threat.

His family was wiped out by Darfurians, but when that country became victims, Bol was one of the first Sudanese to speak out in support. A Christian, he told his people that extremists were the enemy, not Muslims.
Those NBA Cares spots that ran throughout the tournament could have devoted an entire show just to Bol. May he rest in peace in a better place.


Pat Patterson said...

The worse the district the higher the salary and benefits are for the teachers, staff and administrators. When I changed districts I took a 25% cut in salary simply because the type of problems I faced in the new district paled into insignificance compared to the LAUSD. And it's also interesting in that the more problem districts always have stronger unions while the usually problem free suburban districts are often luke warm towards a strong union and often are hostile to it.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Is Social Security really 'going broke'?

While the Social Security system is in need of another overhaul (similar to the one it got in 1983), the fund is hardly “going broke.”

This year’s report by the trustees who oversee the fund found that, if left alone, the Social Security system will continue to be able to pay its bills for at least the next 40 years — thanks in part to a $1.4 trillion nest egg of Treasury securities that has been stashed away over the past several decades. (A separate analysis by the Congressional Budget Office figures the fund is in good shape until 2052.)

True, some of the money to be paid to soon-to-be-retired Baby Boomers will have to come from future payments from younger workers. But a big chunk of the bill has already been set aside. And by 2015, the amount set aside in the trust fund will swell to five times the estimated annual payouts. So the idea that Boomers will somehow be sponging off the next generation for all of their retirement funds just isn't true

So what happens after the 2044? By law, the trustees are required to make a 75-year forecast — which, of course, is virtually impossible to do reliably. (Who, when the fund was originally set up, could have forecast World War II, the Great Inflation of the 1970s, and the Internet bubble?) Still, even if no changes are made until 2078, the trustees figure that the amount of money going into the fund would pay 73 cents of every dollar of projected payouts by that year. (The six-member Board of Trustees, by the way, includes Treasury Secretary John Snow, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, and departing Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.)

You could make up that future shortfall, the trustees said, with either an increase in taxes today, or a cut in benefits (maybe by asking people to wait a little longer to retire.) Or a little of both. It wouldn’t be the first time the system needed to be tweaked. When the fund last got off track (largely because of the prolonged, painful inflation of the 1970s), the Reagan administration and Congress put together a relatively small tax increase, raising the amount paid by employers and workers from 5.4 percent each in 1983 to the current 6.2 percent.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

this one is from a wall street journal website:

Why Social Security isn't going broke

Reports that the Social Security system will soon run out of money have been greatly exaggerated.

As sure as day follows night, the annual report from the board of trustees of the OASDI fund (Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance otherwise known as Social Security) has brought forth alarms that the fund will run out of money in the not-too-distant future.

Although flush with cash now and over at least the next 10 years, the Social Security system is expected to gradually begin paying out more in benefits than it takes in from payroll taxes with the result that by 2041 its assets, in the words of the trustees, will be exhausted.

For those who look at only the summary page, this conclusion is nothing new. Indeed, the trustees have come to the same conclusion every year -- the only exception being the year the fund is expected to run dry.

In 2000, the system's actuaries thought the assets of this fund would be exhausted by 2032. Two years later it was 2037. Now the projected exhaustion date is 2041.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office, which makes these projections as well, recently thought the system will remain solvent until at least 2052.

Me, I don't make these projections personally, but I would like to point out that this year, as has been the case every year in the past, the actuaries have made and released not one but three projections. They call them low cost, intermediate and high cost.

The projection that has provoked these alarms is the intermediate projection. This reflects the trustees' consensus views regarding such inputs as economic growth, productivity, inflation, earnings, employment and interest rates.

Judging by past history, assumptions underlying the intermediate projection are very conservative -- especially when it comes to economic growth. And as you might imagine, the speed at which the economy grows has a lot to do with the other variables -- including the interest the fund earns from investing its surplus in Treasuries.

The intermediate projection assumes that the economy will grow by an annual rate of 2.3% per year between now and 2085. This may be higher than the 1.9% per year that was projected as recently as three years ago, but it is still well below the 3.4% that the economy grew on average between 1960 and 2005.

The actuaries' own low cost projection assumes an average annual growth rate of 2.9% between now and 2085. This is higher than the 2.3% pace embodied in the intermediate projection, but it is still well below the 3.4% average of the past.

Guess what? Under the actuaries' low cost projection, the Social Security system never runs out of money!

That said, you might ask the question why this more realistic projection has escaped politicians from both major parties.

I don't know why, but I can only theorize that it's because they haven't taken the time to read the entire report, which is available on the system's website. Here's the link.

If you go beyond the highlights section to the projections section, you will see exactly what I mean.

In other words -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Irwin Kellner is chief economist for MarketWatch and for Capital One Bank

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Social Security to See Payout Exceed Pay-In This Year

This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, said that while the Congressional projection would probably be borne out, the change would have no effect on benefits in 2010 and retirees would keep receiving their checks as usual.

The problem, he said, is that payments have risen more than expected during the downturn, because jobs disappeared and people applied for benefits sooner than they had planned. At the same time, the program’s revenue has fallen sharply, because there are fewer paychecks to tax.

Analysts have long tried to predict the year when Social Security would pay out more than it took in because they view it as a tipping point — the first step of a long, slow march to insolvency, unless Congress strengthens the program’s finances.

“When the level of the trust fund gets to zero, you have to cut benefits,” Alan Greenspan, architect of the plan to rescue the Social Security program the last time it got into trouble, in the early 1980s, said on Wednesday.

That episode was more dire because the fund could have fallen to zero in a matter of months. But partly because of steps taken in those years, and partly because of many years of robust economic growth, the latest projections show the program will not exhaust its funds until about 2037.


Mr. Goss said Social Security’s annual report last year projected revenue would more than cover payouts until at least 2016 because economists expected a quicker, stronger recovery from the crisis. Officials foresaw an average unemployment rate of 8.2 percent in 2009 and 8.8 percent this year, though unemployment is hovering at nearly 10 percent.

The trustees did foresee, in late 2008, that the recession would be severe enough to deplete Social Security’s funds more quickly than previously projected. They moved the year of reckoning forward, to 2037 from 2041. Mr. Goss declined to reveal the contents of the forthcoming annual report, but said people should not expect the date to lurch forward again.

The long-term costs of Social Security present further problems for politicians, who are already struggling over how to reduce the nation’s debt. The national predicament echoes that of many European governments, which are facing market pressure to re-examine their commitments to generous pensions over extended retirements.

The United States’ soaring debt — propelled by tax cuts, wars and large expenditures to help banks and the housing market — has become a hot issue as Democrats gauge their vulnerability in the coming elections. President Obama has appointed a bipartisan commission to examine the debt problem, including Social Security, and make recommendations on how to trim the nation’s debt by Dec. 1, a few weeks after the midterm Congressional elections.

Although Social Security is often said to have a “trust fund,” the term really serves as an accounting device, to track the pay-as-you-go program’s revenue and outlays over time. Its so-called balance is, in fact, a history of its vast cash flows: the sum of all of its revenue in the past, minus all of its outlays. The balance is currently about $2.5 trillion because after the early 1980s the program had surplus revenue, year after year.

Now that accumulated revenue will slowly start to shrink, as outlays start to exceed revenue. By law, Social Security cannot pay out more than its balance in any given year.

For accounting purposes, the system’s accumulated revenue is placed in Treasury securities.

In a year like this, the paper gains from the interest earned on the securities will more than cover the difference between what it takes in and pays out.

Pat Patterson said...

This is ridiculous. TV is not on topic, he posts reams of other people's research and to top it off isn't courteous to make sure the links are not broken. Or, such as the Market Watch link, posts a comment from April of 2008. Which was nearly 6 months before the economy went kablooey. I'm sure I could find an article discussing the impact of Bryan's demand for the currency to be based on silver but it might not be relevant to current events.

TV simply doesn't realize or possibly care that his long off topic posts are a great source of amusement and often causes the viewer to scroll past even faster than normal.

tfhr said...

EAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGgggggggggggghhh! (sung to the tune of Howard Dean)

My mouse wheel is SMOKING! "TV" stands for terminal velocity, the speed achieved by my mouse by his second entry when he spams off-topic crap like that.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Pat Patterson said...
tfhr said...

:-) :-) :-)

i've pretty much come to rely on you two guys to not be able to deal with information from the real world. i don' know what i'd do if you ever changed and actually attempted to understand anything!

Pat Patterson said...

And we rely on you to plagarize, go immediately off topic and then whine about not being paid the proper deference too.

tfhr said...

Pat Patterson,

I looked at your comment yesterday too and I still can't top it. Well said.

In the meantime I've acquired a faster mouse with a heat resistant scroll wheel. Bring it on TV!