Another debate

Last night’s debate between the eight Republican presidential contenders was put on by CNN and sponsored by the Tea Party, no less.  Wolf Blitzer presided, but he worked from questions from the Tea Party audience, which made them arguably more interesting to conservatives.

My impression is that Perry got beaten up pretty severely by the other candidates (to the point of getting boos from the Tea Party for his program of vaccinating little girls for sexually transmitted diseases and for promoting a Texas “dream act” giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition for state colleges.  Ron Paul got in trouble for blaming America for the 9/11 attacks.  Mitt Romney, on the other hand, did quite well, scoring points with conservatives and winning applause from the Tea Partiers.  Newt Gingrich put in an impressive performance, as did Rick Santorum.  Herman Cain acquitted himself well, getting across his intriguing “999” plan (9% individual income tax; 9% corporate income tax; 9% national sales tax).  Michelle Bachmann was forceful and aggressive, but I’m not sure she inspired confidence.  Jon Huntsman didn’t do too much.  (Am I missing anything in my analysis?)

After the first debate, Michele Bachmann rose to pre-eminence.  After the second, it was Rick Perry.  Now Mitt Romney seems to be in ascendance, with ex-candidate Tim Pawlenty endorsing him and politicos reasoning that someone who calls Social Security a Ponzi scheme (which, technically, it is) can hardly win Florida.

Anyway, how do things stand with you and this election so far?  Is there any candidate you feel like supporting with great enthusiasm?  Can any of these people beat President Obama?  Which is more important to you, electability or ideological purity?

 

 

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  • Caleb Land

    Living near Atlanta, GA I have been a fan of Herman Cain politically for a long time. In his local campaigns and his radio program he is always intelligent, passionate, charismatic and respectful. I would most likely vote for him if the primary were tomorrow, but I can’t help but hope that a knight in shining armor shows up to save the day.

  • Caleb Land

    Living near Atlanta, GA I have been a fan of Herman Cain politically for a long time. In his local campaigns and his radio program he is always intelligent, passionate, charismatic and respectful. I would most likely vote for him if the primary were tomorrow, but I can’t help but hope that a knight in shining armor shows up to save the day.

  • “Electability” is a complete non-issue to me. Not voting for someone solely because people won’t vote for him seems like s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Given that “electability” is just a way for the connected to acquire more voters than they have actual supporters, we should probably just let elections determine who is electable rather than letting the media hold meta-elections beforehand.

  • “Electability” is a complete non-issue to me. Not voting for someone solely because people won’t vote for him seems like s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Given that “electability” is just a way for the connected to acquire more voters than they have actual supporters, we should probably just let elections determine who is electable rather than letting the media hold meta-elections beforehand.

  • Tom Hering

    “Is there any candidate you feel like supporting with great enthusiasm? Can any of these people beat President Obama?”

    So, these same questions are going to be asked on a weekly basis here? (Sorry, Dr. Veith, but you’re starting to look desperate for a Republican savior. 😀 )

  • Tom Hering

    “Is there any candidate you feel like supporting with great enthusiasm? Can any of these people beat President Obama?”

    So, these same questions are going to be asked on a weekly basis here? (Sorry, Dr. Veith, but you’re starting to look desperate for a Republican savior. 😀 )

  • Random Lutheran

    Paul didn’t blame America for the attacks; he instead argued that we should actually listen to the reasons given by those who put the attacks together. If you’re at a party and a drunk guy attacks you because he thinks you’re flirting with his girlfriend, it doesn’t matter that he’s wrong — you still have to fend off the attack — yet it can often help in solving the problem to recognize the misapprehension under which the guy is acting. It seems to me that Paul was booed, rather, because he refused to stick to the silly Bushite narrative that we were “attacked for our freedoms”, a narrative many still cling to.

  • Random Lutheran

    Paul didn’t blame America for the attacks; he instead argued that we should actually listen to the reasons given by those who put the attacks together. If you’re at a party and a drunk guy attacks you because he thinks you’re flirting with his girlfriend, it doesn’t matter that he’s wrong — you still have to fend off the attack — yet it can often help in solving the problem to recognize the misapprehension under which the guy is acting. It seems to me that Paul was booed, rather, because he refused to stick to the silly Bushite narrative that we were “attacked for our freedoms”, a narrative many still cling to.

  • Pete

    I believe I’ve heard that Herman Cain is not interested in the vice presidency but, if he was, I think a Romney-Cain ticket would have a fightin’ chance.

  • Pete

    I believe I’ve heard that Herman Cain is not interested in the vice presidency but, if he was, I think a Romney-Cain ticket would have a fightin’ chance.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    All I can say is who is the third party candidate? I might vote for them.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    All I can say is who is the third party candidate? I might vote for them.

  • Cincinnatus

    Matt@2: Agreed.

    Random Lutheran@4: Actually, I think it’s “worse” than that. Paul does believe that, after a certain fashion, America is to blame for the attacks of 9/11. I agree with him. The perceptions of the Middle East are not invalid. To oversimplify the matter, we were attacked in response to a) our continued intransigence (which, at this point, is largely counter-productive) with regards to Israel, b) our cultural imperialism, and c) our military and political interference in the affairs of Muslim nations. Think how many regimes we have almost singlehandedly toppled in that region, how many bombs we have dropped, how many civilians killed in the last fifty years. The terrorists were radicals and criminals, and this does not justify our crime, but, by broaching the term “blowback,” Paul hopes to expose the fact that these attacks would never have happened if our foreign policy weren’t so darned imperial in practice.

  • Cincinnatus

    Matt@2: Agreed.

    Random Lutheran@4: Actually, I think it’s “worse” than that. Paul does believe that, after a certain fashion, America is to blame for the attacks of 9/11. I agree with him. The perceptions of the Middle East are not invalid. To oversimplify the matter, we were attacked in response to a) our continued intransigence (which, at this point, is largely counter-productive) with regards to Israel, b) our cultural imperialism, and c) our military and political interference in the affairs of Muslim nations. Think how many regimes we have almost singlehandedly toppled in that region, how many bombs we have dropped, how many civilians killed in the last fifty years. The terrorists were radicals and criminals, and this does not justify our crime, but, by broaching the term “blowback,” Paul hopes to expose the fact that these attacks would never have happened if our foreign policy weren’t so darned imperial in practice.

  • Michael Z.

    I’ve heard it said that this is now a two way race between Romney and Perry, with the rest of the candidates running for VP. I am inclined to agree.

  • Michael Z.

    I’ve heard it said that this is now a two way race between Romney and Perry, with the rest of the candidates running for VP. I am inclined to agree.

  • Dan Kempin

    Watch for Santorum.

  • Dan Kempin

    Watch for Santorum.

  • Random Lutheran

    @7: I can’t really disagree with you here.

  • Random Lutheran

    @7: I can’t really disagree with you here.

  • DonS

    Dr. Veith, I think you pretty much nailed it. It will be interesting to see how the next round of polling looks — i.e. whether Romney made any headway against Perry’s polling lead.

    Of course, Social Security IS a classic Ponzi scheme, in every sense of the word, except worse, because our participation is mandatory (unless you are a state or local government worker or clergy). So I think it is bad for Romney, at the primary level, that he went so hard after Perry on that issue. We need politicians to level with the American people about the inevitable collapse of unfunded entitlements like these, if they are not re-structured to be pre-funded, as is the case with other retirement systems. Attacking the honest politicians for their honesty is a big black mark, in my book.

  • DonS

    Dr. Veith, I think you pretty much nailed it. It will be interesting to see how the next round of polling looks — i.e. whether Romney made any headway against Perry’s polling lead.

    Of course, Social Security IS a classic Ponzi scheme, in every sense of the word, except worse, because our participation is mandatory (unless you are a state or local government worker or clergy). So I think it is bad for Romney, at the primary level, that he went so hard after Perry on that issue. We need politicians to level with the American people about the inevitable collapse of unfunded entitlements like these, if they are not re-structured to be pre-funded, as is the case with other retirement systems. Attacking the honest politicians for their honesty is a big black mark, in my book.

  • Lou

    “Which is more important to you, electability or ideological purity?” While I agree with #2 that voting for someone simply because everyone else is going to vote for them is counterproductive, I think that only applies to the general election.
    In the primaries, Republicans need to be thinking about putting forth a candidate who can represent the majority of the American citizenry, not just someone whose every ideological pet peeve lines up with my personal interest.

    I think when people have such a small view of “what’s in it for ME specifically” vs. what’s best for our country, we are becoming part of the problem within our current system of elections.

  • Lou

    “Which is more important to you, electability or ideological purity?” While I agree with #2 that voting for someone simply because everyone else is going to vote for them is counterproductive, I think that only applies to the general election.
    In the primaries, Republicans need to be thinking about putting forth a candidate who can represent the majority of the American citizenry, not just someone whose every ideological pet peeve lines up with my personal interest.

    I think when people have such a small view of “what’s in it for ME specifically” vs. what’s best for our country, we are becoming part of the problem within our current system of elections.

  • Didn’t watch the debate, but my impression that Perry was largely a shoo-in took a ding last night when I talked to my parents — both of whom live in Texas and both of whom haven’t voted for a Democrat in decades — about him. They were really lukewarm on the guy as a governor. I was surprised.

    I’m not surprised, however, that everyone was gunning for him last night. That’s as much a sign as anything that everyone thinks he’s the guy to beat right now.

    As for his “getting boos from the Tea Party for his program of vaccinating little girls for sexually transmitted diseases”, what a perfect conflation of religious legalism and a general disdain for science. You keep it up, Republicans!

    Anyhow, if Perry keeps getting beat up by everyone, I’m all the more certain that next year will be the Republicans’ turn to play out 2004 … on the other side.

  • Didn’t watch the debate, but my impression that Perry was largely a shoo-in took a ding last night when I talked to my parents — both of whom live in Texas and both of whom haven’t voted for a Democrat in decades — about him. They were really lukewarm on the guy as a governor. I was surprised.

    I’m not surprised, however, that everyone was gunning for him last night. That’s as much a sign as anything that everyone thinks he’s the guy to beat right now.

    As for his “getting boos from the Tea Party for his program of vaccinating little girls for sexually transmitted diseases”, what a perfect conflation of religious legalism and a general disdain for science. You keep it up, Republicans!

    Anyhow, if Perry keeps getting beat up by everyone, I’m all the more certain that next year will be the Republicans’ turn to play out 2004 … on the other side.

  • sg

    “I think when people have such a small view of “what’s in it for ME specifically” vs. what’s best for our country, we are becoming part of the problem within our current system of elections.”

    Life, Liberty and Property.

    This nation was founded on what’s in for me. Of course that was with the understanding that it would also depend on me rather than voting for the guy who would extort it from my neighbor.

    Anyway, the Ponzi part of SS was the natural assumption that folks would still have kids like they had before and that life expectancies would would remain flat. That changed but the system didn’t adapt to it.

    Excellent article by Philip Longman on the underlying issues.

    http://www.familyinamerica.org/index.php?doc_id=27&cat_id=13

  • sg

    “I think when people have such a small view of “what’s in it for ME specifically” vs. what’s best for our country, we are becoming part of the problem within our current system of elections.”

    Life, Liberty and Property.

    This nation was founded on what’s in for me. Of course that was with the understanding that it would also depend on me rather than voting for the guy who would extort it from my neighbor.

    Anyway, the Ponzi part of SS was the natural assumption that folks would still have kids like they had before and that life expectancies would would remain flat. That changed but the system didn’t adapt to it.

    Excellent article by Philip Longman on the underlying issues.

    http://www.familyinamerica.org/index.php?doc_id=27&cat_id=13

  • I’d like someone who thinks that Social Security is “technically” a Ponzi scheme to explain to me, technically, what a Ponzi scheme is.

  • I’d like someone who thinks that Social Security is “technically” a Ponzi scheme to explain to me, technically, what a Ponzi scheme is.

  • sg

    @ 15 I don’t know about technically, but functionally it is just a pyramid scheme where there have to be X number of folks paying for each of the people who are receiving.

    I liked Longman’s point that young people pay taxes so that old people get Medicaid, even when those young people can’t afford healthcare for themselves and their kids.

  • sg

    @ 15 I don’t know about technically, but functionally it is just a pyramid scheme where there have to be X number of folks paying for each of the people who are receiving.

    I liked Longman’s point that young people pay taxes so that old people get Medicaid, even when those young people can’t afford healthcare for themselves and their kids.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 15:

    A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to separate investors, not from any actual profit earned by the organization, but from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors. The Ponzi scheme usually entices new investors by offering returns other investments cannot guarantee, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. The perpetuation of the returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors to keep the scheme going.

    The system is destined to collapse because the earnings, if any, are less than the payments to investors.

    Here’s the definition of “Ponzi scheme” from Wikipedia. The Social Security scheme, because it paid benefits right away to eligible beneficiaries, from the contributions of later participants, and further because the government spent all of the excess collected payroll taxes, has no assets to pay promised benefits. Early “investors” made out handsomely, and your generation will get screwed, as a result. This is because the “ever increasing flow” of money from “new investors” is drawing to an end with the retirement of the baby boomers and the dearth of younger workers, relatively speaking, making for a very unsustainable worker-retiree ratio.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 15:

    A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to separate investors, not from any actual profit earned by the organization, but from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors. The Ponzi scheme usually entices new investors by offering returns other investments cannot guarantee, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. The perpetuation of the returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors to keep the scheme going.

    The system is destined to collapse because the earnings, if any, are less than the payments to investors.

    Here’s the definition of “Ponzi scheme” from Wikipedia. The Social Security scheme, because it paid benefits right away to eligible beneficiaries, from the contributions of later participants, and further because the government spent all of the excess collected payroll taxes, has no assets to pay promised benefits. Early “investors” made out handsomely, and your generation will get screwed, as a result. This is because the “ever increasing flow” of money from “new investors” is drawing to an end with the retirement of the baby boomers and the dearth of younger workers, relatively speaking, making for a very unsustainable worker-retiree ratio.

  • JDB

    I think that there were a number of people who did well last night. Romney, while he did not play to the Tea- partiers, showed himself to be a statesman who is willing to work with system, and make conscientious “reforms.” This will make him more electable than the strident Perry.

    Santorum also did well. He was sharp throughout the night. His answer on the vaccine question questioning the governor’s overstep into matters better left to private families will resonate with many conservatives. His realistic response to the issue of S.S. with Greta Van Sustern after the debate was also good.

    Paul’s response on reducing militarism but not defense resonated with me. We need to be prepared but not involved in nation- building. Nevertheless, his statement on 9/11 will sink him. What he was trying to say was good, but it didn’t come out right. Besides, some things are better left unsaid.

    As to your question about ideology or electability? I’m looking for someone who shares many of my values, but who will be able to work with the system. So I guess electability will trump ideology- by a hair.

  • JDB

    I think that there were a number of people who did well last night. Romney, while he did not play to the Tea- partiers, showed himself to be a statesman who is willing to work with system, and make conscientious “reforms.” This will make him more electable than the strident Perry.

    Santorum also did well. He was sharp throughout the night. His answer on the vaccine question questioning the governor’s overstep into matters better left to private families will resonate with many conservatives. His realistic response to the issue of S.S. with Greta Van Sustern after the debate was also good.

    Paul’s response on reducing militarism but not defense resonated with me. We need to be prepared but not involved in nation- building. Nevertheless, his statement on 9/11 will sink him. What he was trying to say was good, but it didn’t come out right. Besides, some things are better left unsaid.

    As to your question about ideology or electability? I’m looking for someone who shares many of my values, but who will be able to work with the system. So I guess electability will trump ideology- by a hair.

  • DonS

    JDB @ 18: That is a very good analysis.

  • DonS

    JDB @ 18: That is a very good analysis.

  • Joe

    tODD – I think the vaccine issue goes a little deeper than that. Its not like the chicken pox or the measles in that PPV is not catchy. You have to engage in genital contact in order to spread the virus. Thus, there is no real public health issue as with other vaccines. This was a state mandated private health decision (now I do understand there was a way to opt-out and perhaps that should solve the whole issue). The problem many have is that he was willing to insert state into this private healthcare decision at all.

    The issue is not whether the science says the vaccine is a good idea. Its whether it is the State’s job to review that science and make the decision for us. In a context like this, where there is no public health issues, the answer should really be pretty easy for anyone who claims to believe in limited government.

  • Joe

    tODD – I think the vaccine issue goes a little deeper than that. Its not like the chicken pox or the measles in that PPV is not catchy. You have to engage in genital contact in order to spread the virus. Thus, there is no real public health issue as with other vaccines. This was a state mandated private health decision (now I do understand there was a way to opt-out and perhaps that should solve the whole issue). The problem many have is that he was willing to insert state into this private healthcare decision at all.

    The issue is not whether the science says the vaccine is a good idea. Its whether it is the State’s job to review that science and make the decision for us. In a context like this, where there is no public health issues, the answer should really be pretty easy for anyone who claims to believe in limited government.

  • kenneth

    doctor vieth–“not sure she inspired confidence” is simply true of this sometimes cynical body and soul. In fact jshe is the only one who inspires me. Thank-you for your always relevant on evcry issue.

  • kenneth

    doctor vieth–“not sure she inspired confidence” is simply true of this sometimes cynical body and soul. In fact jshe is the only one who inspires me. Thank-you for your always relevant on evcry issue.

  • Grace

    Rick Perry is an excellent choice for the presidency. He has backbone, he knows how to lead, even when the decisions are difficult, he cuts to the chase.

    Rick Perry is right in calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. The problem we face if and when the program is cut way back.. who will take care of those who can no longer work?

    A great many young people are unwilling to take their parents in .. most are self centered, .. I might add, it isn’t a situation of their parents spoiling them, but more to the point, self centered behavior ruling their decisions.

    There has been much discussion over Vaccine (HPV) of young girls. I don’t like the idea of mandatory Vaccinations, but the alternatives aren’t going to solve the problem. All the education that has been rendered has failed, sexual contact between young people is rampant. STD’s are on the rise, the cost for such treatments, the spread of disease has caused even the most conservative to look at this grave problem.

    There is a great deal of material regarding STDs — below from CDC

    Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
    HPV Vaccine Information For Young Women – Fact Sheet
    Why the HPV vaccine is important
    “Genital HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another through direct skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Most sexually active people will get HPV at some time in their lives, though most will never even know it. HPV infection is most common in people in their late teens and early 20s. There are about 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of men and women. Most HPV types cause no symptoms and go away on their own. But some types can cause cervical cancer in women and other less common cancers— like cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, and vulva (area around the opening of the vagina) and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils). Other types of HPV can cause warts in the genital areas of men and women, called genital warts. Genital warts are not a life-threatening disease. But they can cause emotional stress and their treatment can be very uncomfortable. Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,000 women die from this disease in the U.S. About 1% of sexually active adults in the U.S. have visible genital warts at any point in time.

    Which girls/women should receive HPV vaccination?
    HPV vaccination is recommended with either vaccine for 11 and 12 year-old girls. It is also recommended for girls and women age 13 through 26 years of age who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series; HPV vaccine can also be given to girls beginning at age 9 years.”

    http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv-vaccine-young-women.htm

    I don’t believe the vaccinations for homeschooled children should be mandatory.

  • Grace

    Rick Perry is an excellent choice for the presidency. He has backbone, he knows how to lead, even when the decisions are difficult, he cuts to the chase.

    Rick Perry is right in calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. The problem we face if and when the program is cut way back.. who will take care of those who can no longer work?

    A great many young people are unwilling to take their parents in .. most are self centered, .. I might add, it isn’t a situation of their parents spoiling them, but more to the point, self centered behavior ruling their decisions.

    There has been much discussion over Vaccine (HPV) of young girls. I don’t like the idea of mandatory Vaccinations, but the alternatives aren’t going to solve the problem. All the education that has been rendered has failed, sexual contact between young people is rampant. STD’s are on the rise, the cost for such treatments, the spread of disease has caused even the most conservative to look at this grave problem.

    There is a great deal of material regarding STDs — below from CDC

    Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
    HPV Vaccine Information For Young Women – Fact Sheet
    Why the HPV vaccine is important
    “Genital HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another through direct skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Most sexually active people will get HPV at some time in their lives, though most will never even know it. HPV infection is most common in people in their late teens and early 20s. There are about 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of men and women. Most HPV types cause no symptoms and go away on their own. But some types can cause cervical cancer in women and other less common cancers— like cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, and vulva (area around the opening of the vagina) and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils). Other types of HPV can cause warts in the genital areas of men and women, called genital warts. Genital warts are not a life-threatening disease. But they can cause emotional stress and their treatment can be very uncomfortable. Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,000 women die from this disease in the U.S. About 1% of sexually active adults in the U.S. have visible genital warts at any point in time.

    Which girls/women should receive HPV vaccination?
    HPV vaccination is recommended with either vaccine for 11 and 12 year-old girls. It is also recommended for girls and women age 13 through 26 years of age who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series; HPV vaccine can also be given to girls beginning at age 9 years.”

    http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv-vaccine-young-women.htm

    I don’t believe the vaccinations for homeschooled children should be mandatory.

  • larry

    I agree with Matt and Cincin. on “Electability”.

    My wife and I watched and agreed:

    Perry got beat up, but he answered and the bickering was tiresome to keep beating a dead horse.
    Rommney came of as completely petuclant and dregging up a non-issue.
    Santitorum a waste of space and time, and pretty much a “yea me too” guy.
    Bachman came off as a mix of good and bad, she keeps the centeral issue but then she distracts just like Rommney.
    Love Cain, wish he could pull ahead.
    Paul, tiresome.
    Newt, love to have him in the cabinet, still good idea man.

    Unfortunately run of the mill rep. have in common with run of the mill voters one thing, ‘good hair’ and stern stature tend to drive more than actual substance and ideas (its really the bain of our age). Thus, Rommney and Perry get the lions share of the “winnability factor”.

  • larry

    I agree with Matt and Cincin. on “Electability”.

    My wife and I watched and agreed:

    Perry got beat up, but he answered and the bickering was tiresome to keep beating a dead horse.
    Rommney came of as completely petuclant and dregging up a non-issue.
    Santitorum a waste of space and time, and pretty much a “yea me too” guy.
    Bachman came off as a mix of good and bad, she keeps the centeral issue but then she distracts just like Rommney.
    Love Cain, wish he could pull ahead.
    Paul, tiresome.
    Newt, love to have him in the cabinet, still good idea man.

    Unfortunately run of the mill rep. have in common with run of the mill voters one thing, ‘good hair’ and stern stature tend to drive more than actual substance and ideas (its really the bain of our age). Thus, Rommney and Perry get the lions share of the “winnability factor”.

  • –helen

    As I recall Joe, the vaccine cost something like $300+ a shot and the state would be stuck for a lot of that, via Medicaid.

    This is the same State of Texas, that is cutting teachers at all levels and “can’t afford” to pay for the equipment of the volunteer fire departments which are still out fighting some of the biggest fires of the year.

    [That’s all in addition to giving teens the idea that they are disease safe with the vaccination, (although it does nothing for a number of STD’s, inc. AIDS).]

    Oh, yes, it was also reported that the company making the vaccine (only one) was a Perry campaign contributor. So we were thrilled all ’round!

  • –helen

    As I recall Joe, the vaccine cost something like $300+ a shot and the state would be stuck for a lot of that, via Medicaid.

    This is the same State of Texas, that is cutting teachers at all levels and “can’t afford” to pay for the equipment of the volunteer fire departments which are still out fighting some of the biggest fires of the year.

    [That’s all in addition to giving teens the idea that they are disease safe with the vaccination, (although it does nothing for a number of STD’s, inc. AIDS).]

    Oh, yes, it was also reported that the company making the vaccine (only one) was a Perry campaign contributor. So we were thrilled all ’round!

  • Grace

    Helen,

    You may boke at the cost – but the cost of spreading the disease, and caring for those who contract it through sex is far more costly.

  • Grace

    Helen,

    You may boke at the cost – but the cost of spreading the disease, and caring for those who contract it through sex is far more costly.

  • –helen

    DonS @ 11
    Of course, Social Security IS a classic Ponzi scheme, in every sense of the word, except worse, because our participation is mandatory (unless you are a state or local government worker or clergy).

    Your exceptions no longer hold. I pay into Teacher Retirement System and Social Security. Lutheran clergy have been paying it for at least 25 years. (The old guys who talked the young ones into it got a good deal, just like the old farmers did when the government wanted to sign up farm workers.)

    Social Security did not anticipate the wholesale movement of American jobs overseas where they pay neither Soc. Sec. nor American income taxes. It also did not anticipate the elimination of 50 million potential workers/payees by abortion!

  • –helen

    DonS @ 11
    Of course, Social Security IS a classic Ponzi scheme, in every sense of the word, except worse, because our participation is mandatory (unless you are a state or local government worker or clergy).

    Your exceptions no longer hold. I pay into Teacher Retirement System and Social Security. Lutheran clergy have been paying it for at least 25 years. (The old guys who talked the young ones into it got a good deal, just like the old farmers did when the government wanted to sign up farm workers.)

    Social Security did not anticipate the wholesale movement of American jobs overseas where they pay neither Soc. Sec. nor American income taxes. It also did not anticipate the elimination of 50 million potential workers/payees by abortion!

  • Grace

    Sorry — post 25 should have read:

    You may “balk” at the cost.

  • Grace

    Sorry — post 25 should have read:

    You may “balk” at the cost.

  • DonS

    Helen @ 26: Yes, some states and local governments are now in the system. In CA, where I live, they are not. Clergy can elect into the system, but cannot later elect out, once in. I guess LCMS has elected all of its clergy in? Hmm, that was probably not the brightest decision ever on their part.

  • DonS

    Helen @ 26: Yes, some states and local governments are now in the system. In CA, where I live, they are not. Clergy can elect into the system, but cannot later elect out, once in. I guess LCMS has elected all of its clergy in? Hmm, that was probably not the brightest decision ever on their part.

  • DonS

    Joe @ 20 hit the vaccine issue on the head. It is a parental rights issue, mainly. Here in CA, there are now some 23 required vaccines, whereas when I was a kid, there were 4. Some of these are great, and a boon to public health, and others not so much. HPV offends many because, as Joe says, the vaccine is only really necessary for the sexually active. Chicken pox vaccine was mandated more for the convenience of child care than because it is truly dangerous for the young, and since these vaccines have a limited effectiveness span (about 10-15 years), many believe they will ultimately result in more adult-onset chicken pox, which is much more dangerous. Many parents having a limited government orientation resent these kinds of government mandates and intrusions when there is not a compelling public health rationale, and have concerns about compromising young immune systems by exposing them to so many diseases in weakened form. Here in CA, we have a full right to opt out for reasons of conscience, so that does ameliorate the issue. I’m not sure what the case is in TX.

  • DonS

    Joe @ 20 hit the vaccine issue on the head. It is a parental rights issue, mainly. Here in CA, there are now some 23 required vaccines, whereas when I was a kid, there were 4. Some of these are great, and a boon to public health, and others not so much. HPV offends many because, as Joe says, the vaccine is only really necessary for the sexually active. Chicken pox vaccine was mandated more for the convenience of child care than because it is truly dangerous for the young, and since these vaccines have a limited effectiveness span (about 10-15 years), many believe they will ultimately result in more adult-onset chicken pox, which is much more dangerous. Many parents having a limited government orientation resent these kinds of government mandates and intrusions when there is not a compelling public health rationale, and have concerns about compromising young immune systems by exposing them to so many diseases in weakened form. Here in CA, we have a full right to opt out for reasons of conscience, so that does ameliorate the issue. I’m not sure what the case is in TX.

  • mendicus

    tODD:
    Thanks! It’s been days since my last dose of that uniquely leftist blend of condescension and misunderstanding. The taste you provided @13 regarding vaccinations, although small, was sweet. Nectar of the gods!

  • mendicus

    tODD:
    Thanks! It’s been days since my last dose of that uniquely leftist blend of condescension and misunderstanding. The taste you provided @13 regarding vaccinations, although small, was sweet. Nectar of the gods!

  • trotk

    tODD –

    Technically, a Ponzi scheme is any investment I am not currently profiting from.

  • trotk

    tODD –

    Technically, a Ponzi scheme is any investment I am not currently profiting from.

  • Matt

    I wish Jon Huntsman would get more traction. I think his campaign strategy is to emulate the John McCain road to the nomination, and I think that’s a mistake. He’s is a talented businessman, and actually conservative, especially when it comes to being pro-life and fiscal policy which are the two issues which are most important to me and many other conservatives. And he gives science it’s due. But his mistake is in thinking that Republicans want a John McCain type this time around. We don’t, so it’s disconcerting that he’s not touting his conservative credentials and his record more and not the stances he’s taken that are moderate. Right now he’s running to the left of Romney, and that’s a certain path to failure – all the more so when he’s already associated with the Obama administration from his time as ambassador to China.

  • Matt

    I wish Jon Huntsman would get more traction. I think his campaign strategy is to emulate the John McCain road to the nomination, and I think that’s a mistake. He’s is a talented businessman, and actually conservative, especially when it comes to being pro-life and fiscal policy which are the two issues which are most important to me and many other conservatives. And he gives science it’s due. But his mistake is in thinking that Republicans want a John McCain type this time around. We don’t, so it’s disconcerting that he’s not touting his conservative credentials and his record more and not the stances he’s taken that are moderate. Right now he’s running to the left of Romney, and that’s a certain path to failure – all the more so when he’s already associated with the Obama administration from his time as ambassador to China.

  • Tom Hering @3, Yes, I’m desperate to find someone I can support. And Yes, I’ll keep raising this issue, since I still haven’t found anyone. And I find the discussions here about the various candidates very helpful as I try to think through all of these factors, so thanks, everybody.

    As far as what a Ponzi scheme is, “technically,” it is an arrangement that pays earlier investers with the money that comes from later investers, rather than actual earnings. Social Security pays retirees with the money from current workers who are paying “into” the system. What they pay does not produce income, as in normal investments; rather, they themselves will depend on future workers to pay “into” the system when they retire. So it works like a Ponzi scheme. Doesn’t it?

  • Tom Hering @3, Yes, I’m desperate to find someone I can support. And Yes, I’ll keep raising this issue, since I still haven’t found anyone. And I find the discussions here about the various candidates very helpful as I try to think through all of these factors, so thanks, everybody.

    As far as what a Ponzi scheme is, “technically,” it is an arrangement that pays earlier investers with the money that comes from later investers, rather than actual earnings. Social Security pays retirees with the money from current workers who are paying “into” the system. What they pay does not produce income, as in normal investments; rather, they themselves will depend on future workers to pay “into” the system when they retire. So it works like a Ponzi scheme. Doesn’t it?

  • Barry

    Dr. Veith:

    Sorry to co-opt this space. Despite being slightly technologically savvy I cannot locate your email address.

    My point: can you further recommend works on being a Christian and an English professor? Do you think there is a Christian Literary Theory? If so, where is that best articulated?

    Again, I am sorry for making comments unrelated to this post, but I am desperate.

    Thank you
    -Barry

  • Barry

    Dr. Veith:

    Sorry to co-opt this space. Despite being slightly technologically savvy I cannot locate your email address.

    My point: can you further recommend works on being a Christian and an English professor? Do you think there is a Christian Literary Theory? If so, where is that best articulated?

    Again, I am sorry for making comments unrelated to this post, but I am desperate.

    Thank you
    -Barry

  • John C

    If the debates are a contest for the survival of the fittest candidate, then US voters will not elect a candidate who does not believe in evolution — the Independents won’t wear it.
    The statement that “evolution is just another theory that is out there” is a cultural marker; a measure of one’s fittness for presidential office.

  • John C

    If the debates are a contest for the survival of the fittest candidate, then US voters will not elect a candidate who does not believe in evolution — the Independents won’t wear it.
    The statement that “evolution is just another theory that is out there” is a cultural marker; a measure of one’s fittness for presidential office.

  • Bachmann ( fellow Lutheran – thus- Sola Scriptura) is the only one I truly trust-
    C-CS

  • Bachmann ( fellow Lutheran – thus- Sola Scriptura) is the only one I truly trust-
    C-CS

  • Cincinnatus

    C-CS@36: You must have missed the memo. Bachmann left her Lutheran church and now attends a slightly wacko evangelical(?) church.

  • Cincinnatus

    C-CS@36: You must have missed the memo. Bachmann left her Lutheran church and now attends a slightly wacko evangelical(?) church.

  • Sigh. Today’s events conspired to prevent me from replying until now, but…

    I think Trotk’s response (@31) about Ponzi schemes was the best. And perhaps as serious as any of the other ones.

    DonS quoted (@17) Wikipedia, which defines a Ponzi scheme as “a fraudulent investment operation that …” Wait. Is Social Security technically an investment? Who here thinks that? Wouldn’t an “investment” suggest that the expectation is that everyone — certainly on average, at least — gets more back than they put in? Is someone selling Social Security this way? Or have we already technically derailed from the definition?

    Wikipedia continues:

    The Ponzi scheme usually entices new investors by offering returns other investments cannot guarantee, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent.

    Again, in what way does that definition apply (technically or otherwise) to Social Security? I mean, seriously. Do you people want to argue “technically” here, or do you just want to defame Social Security with a trendy Republican meme? Just wondering.

    But, just to go through the motions: does Social Security “entice” anyone? Not really, it’s mandatory. Does it “entice investors”? No, it’s not considered an investment at all. It’s a safety net. Does it “offer returns other investments cannot guarantee”? Not at all. In theory, you could do much better playing the market. Does Social Security offer “short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent”? I mean, really, did anybody look up “Ponzi scheme” before making this comparison at a technical level?

    The perpetuation of the returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors to keep the scheme going.

    Whereas Social Security requires only that the amount being paid in by current workers is sufficient for the current recipients — a level that ebbs and flows based on population demographics, but does not increase exponentially as in a classic scheme.

    In fact, whereas a Ponzi scheme “is destined to collapse”, Social Security has been going for, what, over seven decades now. And for most of those, was not insolvent. And, with various, non-fundamental changes, could be made solvent again. In what way, people, is that a Ponzi scheme? Or, put differently, name a Ponzi scheme that runs like that.

    In short, this seems like so much cheap populist rhetoric, and not so much like a “technical” discussion — whether of Social Security or Ponzi schemes.

  • Sigh. Today’s events conspired to prevent me from replying until now, but…

    I think Trotk’s response (@31) about Ponzi schemes was the best. And perhaps as serious as any of the other ones.

    DonS quoted (@17) Wikipedia, which defines a Ponzi scheme as “a fraudulent investment operation that …” Wait. Is Social Security technically an investment? Who here thinks that? Wouldn’t an “investment” suggest that the expectation is that everyone — certainly on average, at least — gets more back than they put in? Is someone selling Social Security this way? Or have we already technically derailed from the definition?

    Wikipedia continues:

    The Ponzi scheme usually entices new investors by offering returns other investments cannot guarantee, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent.

    Again, in what way does that definition apply (technically or otherwise) to Social Security? I mean, seriously. Do you people want to argue “technically” here, or do you just want to defame Social Security with a trendy Republican meme? Just wondering.

    But, just to go through the motions: does Social Security “entice” anyone? Not really, it’s mandatory. Does it “entice investors”? No, it’s not considered an investment at all. It’s a safety net. Does it “offer returns other investments cannot guarantee”? Not at all. In theory, you could do much better playing the market. Does Social Security offer “short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent”? I mean, really, did anybody look up “Ponzi scheme” before making this comparison at a technical level?

    The perpetuation of the returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors to keep the scheme going.

    Whereas Social Security requires only that the amount being paid in by current workers is sufficient for the current recipients — a level that ebbs and flows based on population demographics, but does not increase exponentially as in a classic scheme.

    In fact, whereas a Ponzi scheme “is destined to collapse”, Social Security has been going for, what, over seven decades now. And for most of those, was not insolvent. And, with various, non-fundamental changes, could be made solvent again. In what way, people, is that a Ponzi scheme? Or, put differently, name a Ponzi scheme that runs like that.

    In short, this seems like so much cheap populist rhetoric, and not so much like a “technical” discussion — whether of Social Security or Ponzi schemes.

  • Grace

    35 – John C

    “If the debates are a contest for the survival of the fittest candidate, then US voters will not elect a candidate who does not believe in evolution — the Independents won’t wear it.”

    Don’t bet your pet pair of socks on that one John. Evolution is a ‘theory, one that cannot be proven, nor does it align with Scripture, that is if you believe in what the Word of God states. That of course is difficult, if you twist other parts of Scripture.

    “The statement that “evolution is just another theory that is out there” is a cultural marker; a measure of one’s fittness for presidential office.”

    John, is that the old saw of ‘cultural war, that measures conservatives, and leaves liberals wasting away in the ‘cultural war of anti Scripture?

    Just a few days ago, I read the ‘Culture War diatribes, all trumped up, bleating,….. nay, nay, not the liberal so called ‘Warring Culture Warriors……. all the ‘Culture Warriors are conservatives,….. or those who are just like them.

  • Grace

    35 – John C

    “If the debates are a contest for the survival of the fittest candidate, then US voters will not elect a candidate who does not believe in evolution — the Independents won’t wear it.”

    Don’t bet your pet pair of socks on that one John. Evolution is a ‘theory, one that cannot be proven, nor does it align with Scripture, that is if you believe in what the Word of God states. That of course is difficult, if you twist other parts of Scripture.

    “The statement that “evolution is just another theory that is out there” is a cultural marker; a measure of one’s fittness for presidential office.”

    John, is that the old saw of ‘cultural war, that measures conservatives, and leaves liberals wasting away in the ‘cultural war of anti Scripture?

    Just a few days ago, I read the ‘Culture War diatribes, all trumped up, bleating,….. nay, nay, not the liberal so called ‘Warring Culture Warriors……. all the ‘Culture Warriors are conservatives,….. or those who are just like them.

  • Grace

    C-Christian Soldier @ 36

    “Bachmann ( fellow Lutheran – thus- Sola Scriptura) is the only one I truly trust-

    If you believe that, then you must believe wieners grow on trees, just like my little sister, when she was 5 years old.

    Bachmann left the Lutheran Church. You need to read the news, MORE OFTEN. So…. since she isn’t a Lutheran, who’s your next fav candidate?

  • Grace

    C-Christian Soldier @ 36

    “Bachmann ( fellow Lutheran – thus- Sola Scriptura) is the only one I truly trust-

    If you believe that, then you must believe wieners grow on trees, just like my little sister, when she was 5 years old.

    Bachmann left the Lutheran Church. You need to read the news, MORE OFTEN. So…. since she isn’t a Lutheran, who’s your next fav candidate?

  • Grace

    “Social Security has been going for, what, over seven decades now. And for most of those, was not insolvent. And, with various, non-fundamental changes, could be made solvent again. In what way, people, is that a Ponzi scheme? Or, put differently, name a Ponzi scheme that runs like that.”

    The changes aren’t possible – what is possible, but rather improbable is, in this day and age, people taking care of their elders, their parents, that is the SOLVENCY in which this country will continue to grow and prosper. It’s not a novel idea, but one that is as old as history.

    What many who have elderly parents FEAR NOW, is taking care of their parents who will NOT HAVE SOCIAL SECURITY, which has finally dawned on them. However, they don’t want to pay for SS, they would rather the rich, or corporations pick up the tab. So what the new breed will come up with is a way to inspire others to invent a new structured plan for Social Security. It’ isn’t going to happen.

    We are all back to 70 plus years ago, when families took care of their elders, OR…. they were outcasts of society for neglecting their parents and those in their families who were sick.

    The country is in debt, the job market is a mess, Social Security is an issue that those who are facing retirement fear, those who have family, elders, parents who are nearing SS have awakened to the dreaded news that it might just not be there —— and with that news, they realize they will take care of mom and pop, OR be ridiculed for being the selfish children they were taught in public schools to expect, which is…… whatever they can get, and give as little as possible!

  • Grace

    “Social Security has been going for, what, over seven decades now. And for most of those, was not insolvent. And, with various, non-fundamental changes, could be made solvent again. In what way, people, is that a Ponzi scheme? Or, put differently, name a Ponzi scheme that runs like that.”

    The changes aren’t possible – what is possible, but rather improbable is, in this day and age, people taking care of their elders, their parents, that is the SOLVENCY in which this country will continue to grow and prosper. It’s not a novel idea, but one that is as old as history.

    What many who have elderly parents FEAR NOW, is taking care of their parents who will NOT HAVE SOCIAL SECURITY, which has finally dawned on them. However, they don’t want to pay for SS, they would rather the rich, or corporations pick up the tab. So what the new breed will come up with is a way to inspire others to invent a new structured plan for Social Security. It’ isn’t going to happen.

    We are all back to 70 plus years ago, when families took care of their elders, OR…. they were outcasts of society for neglecting their parents and those in their families who were sick.

    The country is in debt, the job market is a mess, Social Security is an issue that those who are facing retirement fear, those who have family, elders, parents who are nearing SS have awakened to the dreaded news that it might just not be there —— and with that news, they realize they will take care of mom and pop, OR be ridiculed for being the selfish children they were taught in public schools to expect, which is…… whatever they can get, and give as little as possible!

  • Also, through 2009, according to SSA.gov, “the Social Security program has expended $11.3 trillion”, but “has received $13.8 trillion in income”. Well, gosh, if those numbers aren’t the very technical definition of a Ponzi scheme, I don’t know what is! I mean, we all can name dozens of Ponzi schemes that have lasted for 3/4 of a century, right? Technically, that is.

    Continuing with DonS’s defense of this “Ponzi scheme” definition, he said this about Social Security:

    Early “investors” made out handsomely, and your generation will get screwed, as a result.

    This is, of course, counter to contemporary Republican rhetoric, which typically notes that fewer people were getting Social Security benefits when the program started, but that now, more people are getting them. But what kind of Ponzi scheme is that?!

    Again, in 1940, a 21-year-old male had a 54% chance of living to 65. In 1990, he had a 72% chance. In 1940, a 65-year-old male lived, on average, for 12.7 years. In 1990, he lived for an average of 15.3 years. Sounds to me like the later “investors” made out better than the earlier ones. Which, technically, doesn’t sound much like a Ponzi scheme to me.

    In a Ponzi scheme, the number of people demanding to be paid is always increasing. In Social Security, it depends on the demographics. Yes, right now the worker-retiree ratio requires us to make changes to the program. But when the Boomers have largely shuffled off this mortal coil, there will be a noticeable decrease in people needing Social Security. Again, this does not happen in Ponzi schemes.

  • Also, through 2009, according to SSA.gov, “the Social Security program has expended $11.3 trillion”, but “has received $13.8 trillion in income”. Well, gosh, if those numbers aren’t the very technical definition of a Ponzi scheme, I don’t know what is! I mean, we all can name dozens of Ponzi schemes that have lasted for 3/4 of a century, right? Technically, that is.

    Continuing with DonS’s defense of this “Ponzi scheme” definition, he said this about Social Security:

    Early “investors” made out handsomely, and your generation will get screwed, as a result.

    This is, of course, counter to contemporary Republican rhetoric, which typically notes that fewer people were getting Social Security benefits when the program started, but that now, more people are getting them. But what kind of Ponzi scheme is that?!

    Again, in 1940, a 21-year-old male had a 54% chance of living to 65. In 1990, he had a 72% chance. In 1940, a 65-year-old male lived, on average, for 12.7 years. In 1990, he lived for an average of 15.3 years. Sounds to me like the later “investors” made out better than the earlier ones. Which, technically, doesn’t sound much like a Ponzi scheme to me.

    In a Ponzi scheme, the number of people demanding to be paid is always increasing. In Social Security, it depends on the demographics. Yes, right now the worker-retiree ratio requires us to make changes to the program. But when the Boomers have largely shuffled off this mortal coil, there will be a noticeable decrease in people needing Social Security. Again, this does not happen in Ponzi schemes.

  • Regarding the HPV vaccine, Joe said (@20):

    You have to engage in genital contact in order to spread the virus. Thus, there is no real public health issue as with other vaccines.

    Sure. As long as no one is engaging in sexual activities, I agree with your conclusion.

    The problem many have is that he was willing to insert state into this private healthcare decision at all.

    Right, just like they were equally upset at the public schools requiring polio vaccinations, because that’s a private healthcare decision, too. It’s not like this was all about sex and legalism. No, no.

  • Regarding the HPV vaccine, Joe said (@20):

    You have to engage in genital contact in order to spread the virus. Thus, there is no real public health issue as with other vaccines.

    Sure. As long as no one is engaging in sexual activities, I agree with your conclusion.

    The problem many have is that he was willing to insert state into this private healthcare decision at all.

    Right, just like they were equally upset at the public schools requiring polio vaccinations, because that’s a private healthcare decision, too. It’s not like this was all about sex and legalism. No, no.

  • Regarding the HPV vaccine, DonS said (@29):

    It is a parental rights issue, mainly. Here in CA, there are now some 23 required vaccines, whereas when I was a kid, there were 4.

    What’s funny is that you seem to think your second sentence proves something. Sorry, but if it was a “parental rights issue” with 23 vaccines, then it was the same issue with 4. Changing the number doesn’t change the issue. The fact that it seems to you for you suggests it isn’t necessarily about parental rights for you, Don.

    Some of these are great, and a boon to public health, and others not so much.

    Well, are you going to tell us which ones (plural) weren’t a “boon to public health”?

    HPV offends many because, as Joe says, the vaccine is only really necessary for the sexually active.

    Exactly my point. It’s all about sex and legalism. And how we shouldn’t try to prevent disease if an immoral activity is related to it.

    Here in CA, we have a full right to opt out for reasons of conscience, so that does ameliorate the issue. I’m not sure what the case is in TX.

    Because that would have been hard to look up. … Oh wait, I just did it. You can opt out for philosophical/religious reasons in Texas, too. But let’s do keep arguing as if that weren’t the case.

  • Regarding the HPV vaccine, DonS said (@29):

    It is a parental rights issue, mainly. Here in CA, there are now some 23 required vaccines, whereas when I was a kid, there were 4.

    What’s funny is that you seem to think your second sentence proves something. Sorry, but if it was a “parental rights issue” with 23 vaccines, then it was the same issue with 4. Changing the number doesn’t change the issue. The fact that it seems to you for you suggests it isn’t necessarily about parental rights for you, Don.

    Some of these are great, and a boon to public health, and others not so much.

    Well, are you going to tell us which ones (plural) weren’t a “boon to public health”?

    HPV offends many because, as Joe says, the vaccine is only really necessary for the sexually active.

    Exactly my point. It’s all about sex and legalism. And how we shouldn’t try to prevent disease if an immoral activity is related to it.

    Here in CA, we have a full right to opt out for reasons of conscience, so that does ameliorate the issue. I’m not sure what the case is in TX.

    Because that would have been hard to look up. … Oh wait, I just did it. You can opt out for philosophical/religious reasons in Texas, too. But let’s do keep arguing as if that weren’t the case.

  • Joe

    tODD – your missing the point. I can’t sneeze on you and give you HPV. I can’t spread it to the whole class room or the whole town simply because I have it and I am living in the town. There has to be a certain level of intimate contact. My point is not that no one could possible get it from another student in some manner. My point is that kind of disease transition is not a PUBLIC health issue.

    Your example of polio fails miserably. Polio is easily classified as a public health issue because it is highly contagious and easily transmitted. Improperly washed, post-bathroom hands is one of the key methods of transmitting polio.

    Again it comes back to line drawing, but for me its kind of easy in this case.

  • Joe

    tODD – your missing the point. I can’t sneeze on you and give you HPV. I can’t spread it to the whole class room or the whole town simply because I have it and I am living in the town. There has to be a certain level of intimate contact. My point is not that no one could possible get it from another student in some manner. My point is that kind of disease transition is not a PUBLIC health issue.

    Your example of polio fails miserably. Polio is easily classified as a public health issue because it is highly contagious and easily transmitted. Improperly washed, post-bathroom hands is one of the key methods of transmitting polio.

    Again it comes back to line drawing, but for me its kind of easy in this case.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: Fine, Social Security isn’t “technically” a Ponzi scheme, but it certainly behaves analogously to one. Here’s why (to some extent I will be repeating things others have framed more articulately):

    1. Social Security was originally intended to be a forced savings scheme, in which future retirees would be from funds that had been deducted from their own paychecks throughout their lives.

    2. As you are surely well aware, the Social Security trust fund, etc., was raided long, long ago. Moreover, as early as the 1950’s, Congress refused to raise payroll taxes to the level necessary to keep the program self-sufficient in the way that it was originally intended. Not to mention the oft-repeated canard that the program was never intended to support a pensioner for 20+ years: the average American worker at the time was lucky to live past 60. In fact, this was why Social Security was, at the time, (and sometimes still is) referred to as “old age insurance“–i.e., money for you to survive on if you happen to be fortunate enough to reach an age at which you are incapable of continued labor.

    3. Thus, since it is no longer technically a savings program, Social Security’s current disbursements to current retirees are being (and have been for quite a while) funded from the tax deductions of current workers and employees. I.e., current pensioners are having their Social Security checks underwritten by their working children and grandchildren. And when these children hypothetically retire, they will be supported by their children, ad infinitum.

    Ok, I suppose we can live with that arrangement, assuming we recognize that Social Security has abandoned its original structure (to ensure that American workers provided for themselves) and that we are optimistic about the future. But…

    4. We can’t be optimistic about the future. Long-term (and short-term) demographic trends dictate (or predict very strongly, at least) that the ratio between pensioners and working contributors to the Social Security system is steadily declining, and will soon dramatically decline as the Baby Boomers retire en masse. It could be as bad as two workers for every pensioner within short order. Not only that, but real wages are stagnant and even declining versus inflation, meaning that Social Security deductions won’t be able to keep up with necessary and legally-mandated cost-of-living increases in disbursements, etc. In short, the situation is so bad that the system will be insolvent very soon (estimates differ, but none of them are beyond the average lifetime of someone like me or you, tODD).

    And yes, Social Security was originally (and still is) touted as an investment program rather than a pure savings program whereby contributions are simply stuffed under the government’s mattress. Rather, from the beginning, interest was promised, disbursements larger than what you “invested” were assured. Even today, money that goes into the Trust Fund is theoretically invested in Treasuries, etc.

    So, yes. Social Security is like a Ponzi scheme in that I am being enticed (actually, forced) to invest in a venture whose returns I am almost certainly not guaranteed to see. In fact, in the current course, I am only ensuring that the promises made to earlier investors are fulfilled. But since the working population is declining relative to the retired population, I will probably never see returns of my own. So the whole thing will likely collapse (unless dramatically reformed).

    You know, like a Ponzi scheme.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: Fine, Social Security isn’t “technically” a Ponzi scheme, but it certainly behaves analogously to one. Here’s why (to some extent I will be repeating things others have framed more articulately):

    1. Social Security was originally intended to be a forced savings scheme, in which future retirees would be from funds that had been deducted from their own paychecks throughout their lives.

    2. As you are surely well aware, the Social Security trust fund, etc., was raided long, long ago. Moreover, as early as the 1950’s, Congress refused to raise payroll taxes to the level necessary to keep the program self-sufficient in the way that it was originally intended. Not to mention the oft-repeated canard that the program was never intended to support a pensioner for 20+ years: the average American worker at the time was lucky to live past 60. In fact, this was why Social Security was, at the time, (and sometimes still is) referred to as “old age insurance“–i.e., money for you to survive on if you happen to be fortunate enough to reach an age at which you are incapable of continued labor.

    3. Thus, since it is no longer technically a savings program, Social Security’s current disbursements to current retirees are being (and have been for quite a while) funded from the tax deductions of current workers and employees. I.e., current pensioners are having their Social Security checks underwritten by their working children and grandchildren. And when these children hypothetically retire, they will be supported by their children, ad infinitum.

    Ok, I suppose we can live with that arrangement, assuming we recognize that Social Security has abandoned its original structure (to ensure that American workers provided for themselves) and that we are optimistic about the future. But…

    4. We can’t be optimistic about the future. Long-term (and short-term) demographic trends dictate (or predict very strongly, at least) that the ratio between pensioners and working contributors to the Social Security system is steadily declining, and will soon dramatically decline as the Baby Boomers retire en masse. It could be as bad as two workers for every pensioner within short order. Not only that, but real wages are stagnant and even declining versus inflation, meaning that Social Security deductions won’t be able to keep up with necessary and legally-mandated cost-of-living increases in disbursements, etc. In short, the situation is so bad that the system will be insolvent very soon (estimates differ, but none of them are beyond the average lifetime of someone like me or you, tODD).

    And yes, Social Security was originally (and still is) touted as an investment program rather than a pure savings program whereby contributions are simply stuffed under the government’s mattress. Rather, from the beginning, interest was promised, disbursements larger than what you “invested” were assured. Even today, money that goes into the Trust Fund is theoretically invested in Treasuries, etc.

    So, yes. Social Security is like a Ponzi scheme in that I am being enticed (actually, forced) to invest in a venture whose returns I am almost certainly not guaranteed to see. In fact, in the current course, I am only ensuring that the promises made to earlier investors are fulfilled. But since the working population is declining relative to the retired population, I will probably never see returns of my own. So the whole thing will likely collapse (unless dramatically reformed).

    You know, like a Ponzi scheme.

  • Joe

    Even Paul Krugmen believes SS has some elements of ponzie scheme

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/paul-krugman-social-security-ponzi-scheme-and-will-soon-be-over

  • Joe

    Even Paul Krugmen believes SS has some elements of ponzie scheme

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/paul-krugman-social-security-ponzi-scheme-and-will-soon-be-over

  • DonS

    tODD @ 44: I think Joe fully answered your comments, but to emphasize, the 4 or so vaccines that were required when I was young were all related to preventing serious infectious disease outbreaks — the type of diseases that pose serious risk to health and quality of life and are spread by normal human contact of the type that happens every day in a school classroom. Where this started to go off the rails was with the chicken pox vaccine, which was mandated not so much because of its serious public health risks, but because it disrupted child care arrangements for two earner families. To me, that’s not a compelling enough reason to force parents to vaccinate their kids. Since then, the number of required vaccines has burgeoned, without adequate study evidence as to the long term consequences to young immune systems. As Joe said, the HPV vaccine is particularly irksome, because HPV cannot be transmitted by normal classroom contact — there is no compelling reason for it to be a mandatory vaccine.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 44: I think Joe fully answered your comments, but to emphasize, the 4 or so vaccines that were required when I was young were all related to preventing serious infectious disease outbreaks — the type of diseases that pose serious risk to health and quality of life and are spread by normal human contact of the type that happens every day in a school classroom. Where this started to go off the rails was with the chicken pox vaccine, which was mandated not so much because of its serious public health risks, but because it disrupted child care arrangements for two earner families. To me, that’s not a compelling enough reason to force parents to vaccinate their kids. Since then, the number of required vaccines has burgeoned, without adequate study evidence as to the long term consequences to young immune systems. As Joe said, the HPV vaccine is particularly irksome, because HPV cannot be transmitted by normal classroom contact — there is no compelling reason for it to be a mandatory vaccine.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 38 and 42: Not all investments provide an expectation of a return greater than principle. You are ignoring the whole world of annuitized investments, wherein you invest a sum of money in return for a guaranteed periodic benefit, beginning at a certain age until death. If you die early, just as in Social Security, you lose your investment. However, why many people choose annuities is for the security of knowing that they cannot outlive their principle if they live to an extremely old age. Social Security is most closely analogized to an annuity.

    If an insurance company offering annuities were discovered to be diverting the invested funds intended to provide those annuities to pay its annual operating expenses, and replacing those funds with IOU’s promising to repay them with interest from future year general revenue, the managers and directors of that company would be hauled to prison ala Bernie Madoff. It’s fraud, pure and simple.

    Also, through 2009, according to SSA.gov, “the Social Security program has expended $11.3 trillion”, but “has received $13.8 trillion in income”. Well, gosh, if those numbers aren’t the very technical definition of a Ponzi scheme, I don’t know what is! I mean, we all can name dozens of Ponzi schemes that have lasted for 3/4 of a century, right? Technically, that is.

    Well, that’s cute snark, but not very convincing. So what if Social Security payroll taxes have, so far, exceeded benefits expenditures? The point is that the excess funds are NOT in the so-called trust fund. They have been diverted for general budgetary purposes, replaced by IOU’s from…..you, the general taxpayer. Worthless paper. There is nothing in the definition of a Ponzi Scheme that requires outlays to exceed income. For a while, all Ponzi Schemes receive more money than they pay out — when that no longer is the case, they collapse. There is also no requirement as to the length of time a Ponzi Scheme remains active, before it can no longer be labeled as such. Social Security is just a much more massive one — with many more “investors” because we all have to. The analogy between a Ponzi Scheme and Social Security is that the investor funds are diverted, improperly, from their intended purpose, to fund future benefits.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 38 and 42: Not all investments provide an expectation of a return greater than principle. You are ignoring the whole world of annuitized investments, wherein you invest a sum of money in return for a guaranteed periodic benefit, beginning at a certain age until death. If you die early, just as in Social Security, you lose your investment. However, why many people choose annuities is for the security of knowing that they cannot outlive their principle if they live to an extremely old age. Social Security is most closely analogized to an annuity.

    If an insurance company offering annuities were discovered to be diverting the invested funds intended to provide those annuities to pay its annual operating expenses, and replacing those funds with IOU’s promising to repay them with interest from future year general revenue, the managers and directors of that company would be hauled to prison ala Bernie Madoff. It’s fraud, pure and simple.

    Also, through 2009, according to SSA.gov, “the Social Security program has expended $11.3 trillion”, but “has received $13.8 trillion in income”. Well, gosh, if those numbers aren’t the very technical definition of a Ponzi scheme, I don’t know what is! I mean, we all can name dozens of Ponzi schemes that have lasted for 3/4 of a century, right? Technically, that is.

    Well, that’s cute snark, but not very convincing. So what if Social Security payroll taxes have, so far, exceeded benefits expenditures? The point is that the excess funds are NOT in the so-called trust fund. They have been diverted for general budgetary purposes, replaced by IOU’s from…..you, the general taxpayer. Worthless paper. There is nothing in the definition of a Ponzi Scheme that requires outlays to exceed income. For a while, all Ponzi Schemes receive more money than they pay out — when that no longer is the case, they collapse. There is also no requirement as to the length of time a Ponzi Scheme remains active, before it can no longer be labeled as such. Social Security is just a much more massive one — with many more “investors” because we all have to. The analogy between a Ponzi Scheme and Social Security is that the investor funds are diverted, improperly, from their intended purpose, to fund future benefits.

  • Joe (@45) and Don (@48), I’m going to move any discussion of the Perry/HPV thing over to the more relevant thread, for my part. Just FYI.

  • Joe (@45) and Don (@48), I’m going to move any discussion of the Perry/HPV thing over to the more relevant thread, for my part. Just FYI.

  • Cincinnatus (@46), the only way in which Social Security “behaves analogously” to a Ponzi scheme, that I can tell, is that it does not involve explicit individual accounts, and so benefits are paid out by those paying into the system, not from what has accrued in an individual account. At the very least, I’m pretty sure this makes every pension system, public or private, a Ponzi scheme — or else how do pensions ever become un(der)funded?

    Social Security was originally intended to be a forced savings scheme, in which future retirees would be from funds that had been deducted from their own paychecks throughout their lives.

    Really? Got a cite for that? Because the SSA says that:

    Taxes were collected for the first time in January 1937 and the first one-time, lump-sum payments were made that same month.

    Now, how do you suppose people collected payments from Social Security in the first month that taxes were collected for it? Did people just get their single deduction refunded to them, along with a note that that was everything? Or are you mistaken?

    Not to mention the oft-repeated canard that the program was never intended to support a pensioner for 20+ years: the average American worker at the time was lucky to live past 60.

    Wait, so you’re depending on a “canard” (“a false or unfounded report or story; especially : a fabricated report”) to try to convince me something is true? I’m confused. Regardless, as I already said (@42), in 1940, a 21-year-old male had a 54% chance of living to 65. So no, the average American worker was not “lucky” to live past 60. The average worker had better than even odds of making it to 65.

    So the whole thing will likely collapse (unless dramatically reformed).

    Which, I believe, makes my point. If reforms can save it, then it’s not like a Ponzi scheme. Yes, the demographics of the country in 1940 are different than they are today in terms of workers, children, retirees, etc. Yes, Social Security has already adjusted to those realities, to some degree. Yes, they almost certainly need to be adjusted again (raise the minimum payout age, life the cap on taxable income).

    But the whole point of a Ponzi scheme is that it is unalterably fraudulent. Social Security’s 3/4-century track record so far speaks pretty clearly to the fact that it isn’t.

  • Cincinnatus (@46), the only way in which Social Security “behaves analogously” to a Ponzi scheme, that I can tell, is that it does not involve explicit individual accounts, and so benefits are paid out by those paying into the system, not from what has accrued in an individual account. At the very least, I’m pretty sure this makes every pension system, public or private, a Ponzi scheme — or else how do pensions ever become un(der)funded?

    Social Security was originally intended to be a forced savings scheme, in which future retirees would be from funds that had been deducted from their own paychecks throughout their lives.

    Really? Got a cite for that? Because the SSA says that:

    Taxes were collected for the first time in January 1937 and the first one-time, lump-sum payments were made that same month.

    Now, how do you suppose people collected payments from Social Security in the first month that taxes were collected for it? Did people just get their single deduction refunded to them, along with a note that that was everything? Or are you mistaken?

    Not to mention the oft-repeated canard that the program was never intended to support a pensioner for 20+ years: the average American worker at the time was lucky to live past 60.

    Wait, so you’re depending on a “canard” (“a false or unfounded report or story; especially : a fabricated report”) to try to convince me something is true? I’m confused. Regardless, as I already said (@42), in 1940, a 21-year-old male had a 54% chance of living to 65. So no, the average American worker was not “lucky” to live past 60. The average worker had better than even odds of making it to 65.

    So the whole thing will likely collapse (unless dramatically reformed).

    Which, I believe, makes my point. If reforms can save it, then it’s not like a Ponzi scheme. Yes, the demographics of the country in 1940 are different than they are today in terms of workers, children, retirees, etc. Yes, Social Security has already adjusted to those realities, to some degree. Yes, they almost certainly need to be adjusted again (raise the minimum payout age, life the cap on taxable income).

    But the whole point of a Ponzi scheme is that it is unalterably fraudulent. Social Security’s 3/4-century track record so far speaks pretty clearly to the fact that it isn’t.

  • Grace

    Excellent – the Ponzi scheme!

    Instead, with fire in his eyes after Mitt Romney tried to pile on by offering a transparent kiss-up to senior citizens, Perry said: “You cannot keep the status quo in place and not call it anything other than a Ponzi scheme.”

    Investors Business Daily
    On The Right

    Perry Is Right To Raise Issues That ‘Provoke’

    By DOUGLAS MACKINNON Posted 09/08/2011

    “From now until the election in November 2012, Gov. Rick Perry may come to be known as “Governor Provocative-Language or Gov. PL” for short by Americans desperate for some actual leadership for a change.

    Certain Republican candidates continue to put their fingers in the air to gauge the political winds and then give insulting non-answer answers that disgust a growing segment of voters. But Perry decided to take the Texas steer by its famous horns and speak directly and honestly to anyone who actually cared to listen.

    During the debate that aired Wednesday night, moderators Brian Williams of NBC and John Harris of Politico let loose with a prepared question designed to put Perry on the spot and paint him in a corner as “too conservative” for the country.

    Surprise! Their rhetorical trap backfired.

    The liberal moderators basically challenged Gov. Perry to defend his accurate charge that Social Security in its current form is a “Ponzi scheme.” In reality, they were hoping Perry would cower before them and back off his characterization of the failing program.

    He did not.

    Instead, with fire in his eyes after Mitt Romney tried to pile on by offering a transparent kiss-up to senior citizens, Perry said: “You cannot keep the status quo in place and not call it anything other than a Ponzi scheme. … That’s provocative language — maybe it’s time to have some provocative language in this country.”

    http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article/584247/201109081840/Perry-Is-Right-To-Raise-Issues-That-Provoke.aspx?src=SeeAlso

  • Grace

    Excellent – the Ponzi scheme!

    Instead, with fire in his eyes after Mitt Romney tried to pile on by offering a transparent kiss-up to senior citizens, Perry said: “You cannot keep the status quo in place and not call it anything other than a Ponzi scheme.”

    Investors Business Daily
    On The Right

    Perry Is Right To Raise Issues That ‘Provoke’

    By DOUGLAS MACKINNON Posted 09/08/2011

    “From now until the election in November 2012, Gov. Rick Perry may come to be known as “Governor Provocative-Language or Gov. PL” for short by Americans desperate for some actual leadership for a change.

    Certain Republican candidates continue to put their fingers in the air to gauge the political winds and then give insulting non-answer answers that disgust a growing segment of voters. But Perry decided to take the Texas steer by its famous horns and speak directly and honestly to anyone who actually cared to listen.

    During the debate that aired Wednesday night, moderators Brian Williams of NBC and John Harris of Politico let loose with a prepared question designed to put Perry on the spot and paint him in a corner as “too conservative” for the country.

    Surprise! Their rhetorical trap backfired.

    The liberal moderators basically challenged Gov. Perry to defend his accurate charge that Social Security in its current form is a “Ponzi scheme.” In reality, they were hoping Perry would cower before them and back off his characterization of the failing program.

    He did not.

    Instead, with fire in his eyes after Mitt Romney tried to pile on by offering a transparent kiss-up to senior citizens, Perry said: “You cannot keep the status quo in place and not call it anything other than a Ponzi scheme. … That’s provocative language — maybe it’s time to have some provocative language in this country.”

    http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article/584247/201109081840/Perry-Is-Right-To-Raise-Issues-That-Provoke.aspx?src=SeeAlso

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: I realize I’m returning to this discussion late, but I feel compelled to reply because (I think) you’re wrong. On the internet. What choice, then, do I have?

    In brief, I maintain my claim that Social Security currently functions in a way analagous to a Ponzi scheme. Please not the difference between “is” and “is like” a Ponzi scheme. For one, Social Security isn’t intentionally fraudulent–at least I think so on my less cynical afternoons.

    In any case, most of your claims are rhetorically and/or logically unconvincing. For one, it’s not the lack of individual accounts that makes SS like a Ponzi scheme, per se. In a nutshell, the “simple” problem is that current “investors” in the scheme are funding the investment returns of past investors. While this has worked reasonably well for the last 75 years, such an arrangement is not assured sustainability.

    Ponzi schemes collapse when there are no longer enough investors to fund the returns expected by earlier investors. Social Security thus far has not had this problem because new investors are legally compelled to contribute to the program. Imagine if Bernie Madoff could literally force new investors to contribute to his scheme; he might not yet be in prison. Anyway, so far so good, in fact. This arrangement of compelled participation in which current investors must fund the retirements of their elders–which is actually contrary to Social Security’s original purposes and mechanisms–has been enough to stave off collapse of the system. Collapse wasn’t even remotely a concern in the early years of the program, in fact, even as trust funds and such were raided for other purposes: at that time, there were about 160 workers funding the pensions of every retiree. But this arrangement doesn’t guarantee stability. Demographers predict that, within a few decades, there will only be two workers supporting every pensioner. I don’t think I need to convince you that this is utterly unsustainable. SS can and may very well collapse like any other Ponzi scheme.

    Now to your factual disputes:

    -Yes, SSA distributed the first death benefits in 1937. But the first retirement/pension checks weren’t cut until 1940, after savings had already been built up. And only to a very small number of people! As we both noted, most people didn’t even survive past 65*. (yes, 60 was a typo/error; and fine, you got me with my misuse of “canard”)

    -The fact that SS can theoretically be reformed is irrelevant in comparing it to other Ponzi schemes. First, I’ll remind you that we’re talking about analogies, not equivalences. Second, actual Ponzi schemes could theoretically be reformed as well–all that is need are more numerous and more generous investors. They could hypothetically sustain themselves forever. Same goes for Social Security. The fact that SS has existed for 75 years is not proof of its viability, especially as unfavorable demographics cloud the horizon.

    -In the interests of full disclosure, yes: I’m opposed to Social Security. I would like to see it dismantled. I revel in the fact that my current mode of employment does not require me to pay SS taxes. I rather gleefully await the system’s collapse, and I do not expect to see a check cut in my name from the SSA ever. But my words above apply equally to those (perhaps like you?) who are wholeheartedly committed to the program and wish to see it form an integral component of our welfare package for perpetual generations. If so, you should be all the more aware that, under its current regime, SS functions almost exactly like a Ponzi scheme, and that if drastic measures aren’t taken, the whole thing will collapse accordingly.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD: I realize I’m returning to this discussion late, but I feel compelled to reply because (I think) you’re wrong. On the internet. What choice, then, do I have?

    In brief, I maintain my claim that Social Security currently functions in a way analagous to a Ponzi scheme. Please not the difference between “is” and “is like” a Ponzi scheme. For one, Social Security isn’t intentionally fraudulent–at least I think so on my less cynical afternoons.

    In any case, most of your claims are rhetorically and/or logically unconvincing. For one, it’s not the lack of individual accounts that makes SS like a Ponzi scheme, per se. In a nutshell, the “simple” problem is that current “investors” in the scheme are funding the investment returns of past investors. While this has worked reasonably well for the last 75 years, such an arrangement is not assured sustainability.

    Ponzi schemes collapse when there are no longer enough investors to fund the returns expected by earlier investors. Social Security thus far has not had this problem because new investors are legally compelled to contribute to the program. Imagine if Bernie Madoff could literally force new investors to contribute to his scheme; he might not yet be in prison. Anyway, so far so good, in fact. This arrangement of compelled participation in which current investors must fund the retirements of their elders–which is actually contrary to Social Security’s original purposes and mechanisms–has been enough to stave off collapse of the system. Collapse wasn’t even remotely a concern in the early years of the program, in fact, even as trust funds and such were raided for other purposes: at that time, there were about 160 workers funding the pensions of every retiree. But this arrangement doesn’t guarantee stability. Demographers predict that, within a few decades, there will only be two workers supporting every pensioner. I don’t think I need to convince you that this is utterly unsustainable. SS can and may very well collapse like any other Ponzi scheme.

    Now to your factual disputes:

    -Yes, SSA distributed the first death benefits in 1937. But the first retirement/pension checks weren’t cut until 1940, after savings had already been built up. And only to a very small number of people! As we both noted, most people didn’t even survive past 65*. (yes, 60 was a typo/error; and fine, you got me with my misuse of “canard”)

    -The fact that SS can theoretically be reformed is irrelevant in comparing it to other Ponzi schemes. First, I’ll remind you that we’re talking about analogies, not equivalences. Second, actual Ponzi schemes could theoretically be reformed as well–all that is need are more numerous and more generous investors. They could hypothetically sustain themselves forever. Same goes for Social Security. The fact that SS has existed for 75 years is not proof of its viability, especially as unfavorable demographics cloud the horizon.

    -In the interests of full disclosure, yes: I’m opposed to Social Security. I would like to see it dismantled. I revel in the fact that my current mode of employment does not require me to pay SS taxes. I rather gleefully await the system’s collapse, and I do not expect to see a check cut in my name from the SSA ever. But my words above apply equally to those (perhaps like you?) who are wholeheartedly committed to the program and wish to see it form an integral component of our welfare package for perpetual generations. If so, you should be all the more aware that, under its current regime, SS functions almost exactly like a Ponzi scheme, and that if drastic measures aren’t taken, the whole thing will collapse accordingly.

  • Cincinnatus (@53), you said:

    I’ll remind you that we’re talking about analogies, not equivalences.

    Doubtless you are, but keep in mind that my initial foray here (@15) was to counter Dr. Veith’s assertion that Social Security is “technically” a Ponzi scheme. That’s equivalence, not analogy. Again, I believe most pension systems of any kind are, per your argument, analagous to a Ponzi scheme. Even the ones that are properly funded. But I don’t hear much about that, because I think people using this “Ponzi” language are mainly interested in slagging Social Security through connotation — a connotation that depends on the fraudulent nature of Ponzi schemes that are not present in Social Security.

    For the record, I don’t have a problem with people slagging on Social Security. I’m just interested in reasonable rhetoric. As a middle-class (at least, mentally; I have no idea where my salary would actually land me on a graph) kind of guy, I’d of course prefer to invest my own money myself, with a better hope of seeing it later than I currently do. I’d rather see Social Security turned into a program only for the needy retired, not for all retired people.

    Ponzi schemes collapse when there are no longer enough investors to fund the returns expected by earlier investors. Social Security thus far has not had this problem because new investors are legally compelled to contribute to the program.

    Honestly, this sounds like an argument in favor of my point. The whole point is that a Ponzi scheme will — must — at some point collapse. In an unregulated world, it will collapse because it runs out of people. (If it doesn’t collapse, how is it a Ponzi scheme?)

    This is not the case with Social Security. Opponents of it — those given to this “Ponzi” rhetoric — tend to dismiss its 75-year lifespan with but a wave of the hand. I suppose if it lasted for 200 years, such people would be no more convinced of its potential for sustainability. In a similar manner, I’m not entirely convinced that this whole “living in cities” idea is going to work out, given that it’s only been around for a few millenia.

    Again, my whole point is that, for a particular population, one can, given their demographics, assign values to various Social Security variables (what is paid in and what is paid out, basically) such that it is sustainable. This is not true of a Ponzi scheme.

    Am I arguing that the current variables apply well to our current demographics? I am not. I get that things are different now than they were 75 years ago.

    This arrangement of compelled participation in which current investors must fund the retirements of their elders–which is actually contrary to Social Security’s original purposes and mechanisms…

    Hmm. Citation needed.

    At that time, there were about 160 workers funding the pensions of every retiree.

    I suppose I could slap a “Citation needed” here, as well, but I’m inclined to go with the more inflammatory “BS”. I mean, I’m sure that number was technically true for a very slight amount of time (very early on, of course, there were millions of workers funding the pension of the very first person who got a Social Security check, but you will agree that’s a meaningless way to view things, yes?). According to the SSA (p. 53), in 1945 (five years after checks were cut), the ratio was 41.9 workers/retiree. 16.5 in 1950. And by 1975, we reached the steady state lasting until very recently of just over 3 workers per retiree. Yes, with Boomers retiring, among other things, that will now decrease.

    As we both noted, most people didn’t even survive past 65*.

    We did not both note that. You did. I noted that (@51), “in 1940, a 21-year-old male had a 54% chance of living to 65”.

  • Cincinnatus (@53), you said:

    I’ll remind you that we’re talking about analogies, not equivalences.

    Doubtless you are, but keep in mind that my initial foray here (@15) was to counter Dr. Veith’s assertion that Social Security is “technically” a Ponzi scheme. That’s equivalence, not analogy. Again, I believe most pension systems of any kind are, per your argument, analagous to a Ponzi scheme. Even the ones that are properly funded. But I don’t hear much about that, because I think people using this “Ponzi” language are mainly interested in slagging Social Security through connotation — a connotation that depends on the fraudulent nature of Ponzi schemes that are not present in Social Security.

    For the record, I don’t have a problem with people slagging on Social Security. I’m just interested in reasonable rhetoric. As a middle-class (at least, mentally; I have no idea where my salary would actually land me on a graph) kind of guy, I’d of course prefer to invest my own money myself, with a better hope of seeing it later than I currently do. I’d rather see Social Security turned into a program only for the needy retired, not for all retired people.

    Ponzi schemes collapse when there are no longer enough investors to fund the returns expected by earlier investors. Social Security thus far has not had this problem because new investors are legally compelled to contribute to the program.

    Honestly, this sounds like an argument in favor of my point. The whole point is that a Ponzi scheme will — must — at some point collapse. In an unregulated world, it will collapse because it runs out of people. (If it doesn’t collapse, how is it a Ponzi scheme?)

    This is not the case with Social Security. Opponents of it — those given to this “Ponzi” rhetoric — tend to dismiss its 75-year lifespan with but a wave of the hand. I suppose if it lasted for 200 years, such people would be no more convinced of its potential for sustainability. In a similar manner, I’m not entirely convinced that this whole “living in cities” idea is going to work out, given that it’s only been around for a few millenia.

    Again, my whole point is that, for a particular population, one can, given their demographics, assign values to various Social Security variables (what is paid in and what is paid out, basically) such that it is sustainable. This is not true of a Ponzi scheme.

    Am I arguing that the current variables apply well to our current demographics? I am not. I get that things are different now than they were 75 years ago.

    This arrangement of compelled participation in which current investors must fund the retirements of their elders–which is actually contrary to Social Security’s original purposes and mechanisms…

    Hmm. Citation needed.

    At that time, there were about 160 workers funding the pensions of every retiree.

    I suppose I could slap a “Citation needed” here, as well, but I’m inclined to go with the more inflammatory “BS”. I mean, I’m sure that number was technically true for a very slight amount of time (very early on, of course, there were millions of workers funding the pension of the very first person who got a Social Security check, but you will agree that’s a meaningless way to view things, yes?). According to the SSA (p. 53), in 1945 (five years after checks were cut), the ratio was 41.9 workers/retiree. 16.5 in 1950. And by 1975, we reached the steady state lasting until very recently of just over 3 workers per retiree. Yes, with Boomers retiring, among other things, that will now decrease.

    As we both noted, most people didn’t even survive past 65*.

    We did not both note that. You did. I noted that (@51), “in 1940, a 21-year-old male had a 54% chance of living to 65”.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@54: I’ll address your comment by paragraph.

    1) Fine, but I’m not parroting Dr. Veith. And you weren’t addressing Dr. Veith in your last comment to me. I agree that claiming that SS is “technically” a Ponzi scheme is at best rhetorical pandering.

    2) I think transforming SS into a program exclusively for the needy (i.e., enacting wage caps) is essentially the only way that the program can be rendered even remotely sustainable. Keep in mind, however, that this would transform SS into the redistributive program it was never intended to be.

    3) I still don’t follow your dispute here. SS is structured like a Ponzi scheme. Essentially, the only thing separating SS from “is” instead of “is like” is the fact that SS can compel the participation of new investors. This isn’t an entirely encouraging fact for me. But if this is the definitive “NOT A PONZI” signal for you, the real problem is, again, changing demographics. This is an inescapable fact that will destroy SS if not addressed, and the collapse will function exactly like the collapse of a true Ponzi scheme.

    4) See my previous comment for your contention regarding SS’s current long lifespan. I see the claim of length to be irrelevant. A Ponzi scheme, as the SEC itself admits on its website, can theoretically last forever–and some do last a very long time. Temporal duration, within reasonable limits, isn’t an accepted standard for defining Ponzi schemes. But let’s compromise: fine, prior to, say, 1980 (which was around the time SS started dipping into general revenue to keep itself going), SS wasn’t analagous to a Ponzi scheme. Given changing demographics, it now is.

    5) First citation needed: I’m too lazy to find a link, if one exists, but SS was originally intended as a forced savings program (nice logic: the elderly are generally too poor to have saved for their own retirements, so lets coercively shrink their paychecks to do it for them). This is what I know from my studies of the logic at the time. *shrug* It’s not really an essential point. The fact is that it doesn’t function like that, whether it was ever supposed to or not.

    6) Absolutely not BS. http://www.ssa.gov/history/ratios.html In 1940, the ratio between beneficiaries and workers was 159.4. True, within five years, that had declined to 41.9, but the point is that things have vastly declined since then. Fact: a situation in which only 2 or 3 workers are supporting each beneficiary (which is an actual prediction) is patently unsustainable. Currently, the average monthly check for a SS recipient is $1,177. If the ratio were 2:1, each worker would have to pay almost $600 every month to cover the costs of SS. That’s horrible enough as it is, but it’s complicated by the fact that inflation is increasing (leading to COL increases in SS checks) while wages are stagnating.

    7) Finally, I’m not sure what you’re denying here. The average life expectancy at birth in 1940 for both sexes was 62.9. Obviously shorter for males. The expectation is that most people wouldn’t even need SS (due to “premature” death obviously), and that those who did wouldn’t for very long. Now the average retiree can expect 10 -20 years of retired bliss–a fact that obviously compounds the problems outlined in the previous paragraph.

    In other words, I’m sticking to my guns.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD@54: I’ll address your comment by paragraph.

    1) Fine, but I’m not parroting Dr. Veith. And you weren’t addressing Dr. Veith in your last comment to me. I agree that claiming that SS is “technically” a Ponzi scheme is at best rhetorical pandering.

    2) I think transforming SS into a program exclusively for the needy (i.e., enacting wage caps) is essentially the only way that the program can be rendered even remotely sustainable. Keep in mind, however, that this would transform SS into the redistributive program it was never intended to be.

    3) I still don’t follow your dispute here. SS is structured like a Ponzi scheme. Essentially, the only thing separating SS from “is” instead of “is like” is the fact that SS can compel the participation of new investors. This isn’t an entirely encouraging fact for me. But if this is the definitive “NOT A PONZI” signal for you, the real problem is, again, changing demographics. This is an inescapable fact that will destroy SS if not addressed, and the collapse will function exactly like the collapse of a true Ponzi scheme.

    4) See my previous comment for your contention regarding SS’s current long lifespan. I see the claim of length to be irrelevant. A Ponzi scheme, as the SEC itself admits on its website, can theoretically last forever–and some do last a very long time. Temporal duration, within reasonable limits, isn’t an accepted standard for defining Ponzi schemes. But let’s compromise: fine, prior to, say, 1980 (which was around the time SS started dipping into general revenue to keep itself going), SS wasn’t analagous to a Ponzi scheme. Given changing demographics, it now is.

    5) First citation needed: I’m too lazy to find a link, if one exists, but SS was originally intended as a forced savings program (nice logic: the elderly are generally too poor to have saved for their own retirements, so lets coercively shrink their paychecks to do it for them). This is what I know from my studies of the logic at the time. *shrug* It’s not really an essential point. The fact is that it doesn’t function like that, whether it was ever supposed to or not.

    6) Absolutely not BS. http://www.ssa.gov/history/ratios.html In 1940, the ratio between beneficiaries and workers was 159.4. True, within five years, that had declined to 41.9, but the point is that things have vastly declined since then. Fact: a situation in which only 2 or 3 workers are supporting each beneficiary (which is an actual prediction) is patently unsustainable. Currently, the average monthly check for a SS recipient is $1,177. If the ratio were 2:1, each worker would have to pay almost $600 every month to cover the costs of SS. That’s horrible enough as it is, but it’s complicated by the fact that inflation is increasing (leading to COL increases in SS checks) while wages are stagnating.

    7) Finally, I’m not sure what you’re denying here. The average life expectancy at birth in 1940 for both sexes was 62.9. Obviously shorter for males. The expectation is that most people wouldn’t even need SS (due to “premature” death obviously), and that those who did wouldn’t for very long. Now the average retiree can expect 10 -20 years of retired bliss–a fact that obviously compounds the problems outlined in the previous paragraph.

    In other words, I’m sticking to my guns.

  • Cincinnatus (@55)…

    2) I realize that my ideas would very much change the nature of Social Security. But then, I’m of the opinion that government programs should only take care of the less fortunate, not people who could otherwise provide for themselves. Please don’t tell my “conservative” detractors on this blog, though.

    3) My point is that you have reduced “Ponzi scheme” to merely meaning “benefits being paid out to earlier investors by current investors” — completely ignoring the fairly critical “fraudulent” and “investment” aspects. Again I ask, is there a pension system to which this doesn’t apply? Is the point to critique all such retirement systems? I kind of think not.

    In fact, here is another “Ponzi scheme”, along that logic: people work a fairly harsh life of agricultural subsistence. When they are old and unable to work the fields, they are cared for by their children. See how that works? Benefits (namely, food) being paid to earlier investors (the now elderly) come from the work of later investors (their children), who hope to be taken care of when they are old by even later investors. This system is stable only to the degree that demographics remain stable, and people continue to have enough children such that they will be provided for in their dotage.

    So, was most of human existence before the modern era, therefore, a giant Ponzi scheme? Or structured like a Ponzi scheme?

    4) “A Ponzi scheme, as the SEC itself admits on its website, can theoretically last forever”. Again, citation needed. I didn’t find it on this page

    Fine, prior to, say, 1980 (which was around the time SS started dipping into general revenue to keep itself going), SS wasn’t analagous to a Ponzi scheme.

    Well, now we’re getting somewhere, though I feel this characterization makes my point, again. If a demographic shift (viz. a change in birth rates and longevity) is the only thing that makes it unsustainable, it’s not a Ponzi scheme. Similarly, if a change in the benefit structure (e.g. increase minimum payout age, remove contribution caps, etc.) once again makes it solvent, then it wasn’t a Ponzi scheme, either. Or even analagous to one.

    5) Seems the trail on this point has gone cold, but I still have to note that your claims that “SS was originally intended as a forced savings program” and was not intended to be “distributive” seem to be at odds with your noting that a large chunk of those paying into the system at the beginning saw no benefits — they were only enjoyed by those who lived to be 65. Sounds pretty distributive.

    6) My point in calling “BS” was not necessarily to doubt your numbers, but to doubt that they said what you appeared to say they said. Again, the implication seems to be that this shift from 159 (workers/retiree) to 42, all of five years later, was in some way surprising or unforeseen by the SSA. It appears to me to be a ramping-up of the system, which didn’t reach a steady state for several years. And yes, the demographics were shifting underneath all that, so that the steady state it did settle on around 1975 was apparently unsustainable. But I still think pointing to the 1940 ratio and comparing it to now or the future is dishonest.

    7) Come on. Are you really referring to average life expectancy at birth? So you’re going to completely ignore the different mortality rates of those too young to be in the workforce? Again, in 1940, a 21-year-old male had a 54% chance of living to 65. Which is to say, someone who survived to the point of almost certainly having entered the workforce (and, therefore, had some FICA withholding) had better than even odds of living to the age where he would receive a check from the SSA.

  • Cincinnatus (@55)…

    2) I realize that my ideas would very much change the nature of Social Security. But then, I’m of the opinion that government programs should only take care of the less fortunate, not people who could otherwise provide for themselves. Please don’t tell my “conservative” detractors on this blog, though.

    3) My point is that you have reduced “Ponzi scheme” to merely meaning “benefits being paid out to earlier investors by current investors” — completely ignoring the fairly critical “fraudulent” and “investment” aspects. Again I ask, is there a pension system to which this doesn’t apply? Is the point to critique all such retirement systems? I kind of think not.

    In fact, here is another “Ponzi scheme”, along that logic: people work a fairly harsh life of agricultural subsistence. When they are old and unable to work the fields, they are cared for by their children. See how that works? Benefits (namely, food) being paid to earlier investors (the now elderly) come from the work of later investors (their children), who hope to be taken care of when they are old by even later investors. This system is stable only to the degree that demographics remain stable, and people continue to have enough children such that they will be provided for in their dotage.

    So, was most of human existence before the modern era, therefore, a giant Ponzi scheme? Or structured like a Ponzi scheme?

    4) “A Ponzi scheme, as the SEC itself admits on its website, can theoretically last forever”. Again, citation needed. I didn’t find it on this page

    Fine, prior to, say, 1980 (which was around the time SS started dipping into general revenue to keep itself going), SS wasn’t analagous to a Ponzi scheme.

    Well, now we’re getting somewhere, though I feel this characterization makes my point, again. If a demographic shift (viz. a change in birth rates and longevity) is the only thing that makes it unsustainable, it’s not a Ponzi scheme. Similarly, if a change in the benefit structure (e.g. increase minimum payout age, remove contribution caps, etc.) once again makes it solvent, then it wasn’t a Ponzi scheme, either. Or even analagous to one.

    5) Seems the trail on this point has gone cold, but I still have to note that your claims that “SS was originally intended as a forced savings program” and was not intended to be “distributive” seem to be at odds with your noting that a large chunk of those paying into the system at the beginning saw no benefits — they were only enjoyed by those who lived to be 65. Sounds pretty distributive.

    6) My point in calling “BS” was not necessarily to doubt your numbers, but to doubt that they said what you appeared to say they said. Again, the implication seems to be that this shift from 159 (workers/retiree) to 42, all of five years later, was in some way surprising or unforeseen by the SSA. It appears to me to be a ramping-up of the system, which didn’t reach a steady state for several years. And yes, the demographics were shifting underneath all that, so that the steady state it did settle on around 1975 was apparently unsustainable. But I still think pointing to the 1940 ratio and comparing it to now or the future is dishonest.

    7) Come on. Are you really referring to average life expectancy at birth? So you’re going to completely ignore the different mortality rates of those too young to be in the workforce? Again, in 1940, a 21-year-old male had a 54% chance of living to 65. Which is to say, someone who survived to the point of almost certainly having entered the workforce (and, therefore, had some FICA withholding) had better than even odds of living to the age where he would receive a check from the SSA.

  • Cincinnatus

    2) I think we’re generally agreed here, if we must have a quasi-liberal (small-l) state as we currently do.

    3) Exactly. SS is analogous to a Ponzi scheme in its structure, but not analogous in that it is not intentionally fraudulent. And? The point of an analogy is that it is imperfect; otherwise, it would be an identity. The very definition of a Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment arrangement in which returns to earlier investors are funded by new investors. That is how SS currently functions minus the fraudulent aspect.

    Complaining that my definition–which isn’t actually mine idiosyncratically–would also implicate all other defined-benefit pension programs does not, in fact, undermine my argument. I agree completely: these days, defined benefit pension programs function like Ponzi schemes. These is why they have largely been abandoned wholesale, first by private corporations (try finding a job that offers a guaranteed pension anymore) and now by the public sector (Wisconsin, Indiana, even New York, etc.). Defined benefit pensions, while I would love to have one, are patently unsustainable, just like SS.

    Your reference to agriculture et al. is not only irrelevant but well night offensive. Ponzi schemes are investment schemes: I invest in the hope of higher, or at least equal, returns later; but I will likely not receive them, because my money isn’t actually being invested (SS contributions, btw, were originally supposed to be saved in a “lock box” and/or invested in Treasuries). To reduce my obligation or choice to care for my parents in their old age to an investment scheme is absurd.

    4) I can no longer find the link; a friend sent it to me and I’ve since lost it. But yes, a Ponzi scheme can last as long as it can find/convince the participation of new investors. This is a theoretically interminable length of time. SS has been able to persist so long, as I noted, because it can compel participation. The problem, I repeat, is that it very soon won’t be able to compel enough new investors due to changing demographics. The problem in its outline is really quite simple.

    5) Like I said, this argument isn’t really crucial to the point at hand. But yes, SS was never intended to be a redistributive program. Period. Which is one reason, paradoxically, so many found it problematic at its foundation: why are you forcing everyone to participate in this scheme?

    6) I’m not convinced that was your reason for crying “BS.” But either way, I think you’re missing the forest for the trees. Fine, by 1950–is that a more “honest” date?–the ratio was more like 17 beneficiaries for every contributing worker. Not only was this a more accurate reflection of the American working population, but it was also, most importantly, roughly sustainable. Seventeen working men can generally supply the funds necessary to cut a modest check to an elderly retiree, who isn’t expected to live that much longer anyway. Two or three cannot.

    7) Um, well, life expectancy at birth is the typical figure used. But your figure isn’t much more advantageous to your argument. In 1940, a 21-year-old male had barely more than a 50/50 chance of living to retirement age. He obviously had lesser odds of making it past 65. You’re still confirming my point: SS was crafted under the assumption that a substantial proportion of workers wouldn’t even need SS because they wouldn’t live to age 65 (and note that life expectancy would have been lower in those professions that would be more common beneficiaries of the program), and that those who actually did qualify for benefits wouldn’t need them for long. You can’t possibly be denying this fact. Today, the life expectancy (at birth…) is something like 77 and rising. Unsustainable. Someone who lives to age 90–which isn’t a rare event these days–will almost certainly collect more than he put in, all while the number of workers supporting him is declining and their wages stagnating.

  • Cincinnatus

    2) I think we’re generally agreed here, if we must have a quasi-liberal (small-l) state as we currently do.

    3) Exactly. SS is analogous to a Ponzi scheme in its structure, but not analogous in that it is not intentionally fraudulent. And? The point of an analogy is that it is imperfect; otherwise, it would be an identity. The very definition of a Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment arrangement in which returns to earlier investors are funded by new investors. That is how SS currently functions minus the fraudulent aspect.

    Complaining that my definition–which isn’t actually mine idiosyncratically–would also implicate all other defined-benefit pension programs does not, in fact, undermine my argument. I agree completely: these days, defined benefit pension programs function like Ponzi schemes. These is why they have largely been abandoned wholesale, first by private corporations (try finding a job that offers a guaranteed pension anymore) and now by the public sector (Wisconsin, Indiana, even New York, etc.). Defined benefit pensions, while I would love to have one, are patently unsustainable, just like SS.

    Your reference to agriculture et al. is not only irrelevant but well night offensive. Ponzi schemes are investment schemes: I invest in the hope of higher, or at least equal, returns later; but I will likely not receive them, because my money isn’t actually being invested (SS contributions, btw, were originally supposed to be saved in a “lock box” and/or invested in Treasuries). To reduce my obligation or choice to care for my parents in their old age to an investment scheme is absurd.

    4) I can no longer find the link; a friend sent it to me and I’ve since lost it. But yes, a Ponzi scheme can last as long as it can find/convince the participation of new investors. This is a theoretically interminable length of time. SS has been able to persist so long, as I noted, because it can compel participation. The problem, I repeat, is that it very soon won’t be able to compel enough new investors due to changing demographics. The problem in its outline is really quite simple.

    5) Like I said, this argument isn’t really crucial to the point at hand. But yes, SS was never intended to be a redistributive program. Period. Which is one reason, paradoxically, so many found it problematic at its foundation: why are you forcing everyone to participate in this scheme?

    6) I’m not convinced that was your reason for crying “BS.” But either way, I think you’re missing the forest for the trees. Fine, by 1950–is that a more “honest” date?–the ratio was more like 17 beneficiaries for every contributing worker. Not only was this a more accurate reflection of the American working population, but it was also, most importantly, roughly sustainable. Seventeen working men can generally supply the funds necessary to cut a modest check to an elderly retiree, who isn’t expected to live that much longer anyway. Two or three cannot.

    7) Um, well, life expectancy at birth is the typical figure used. But your figure isn’t much more advantageous to your argument. In 1940, a 21-year-old male had barely more than a 50/50 chance of living to retirement age. He obviously had lesser odds of making it past 65. You’re still confirming my point: SS was crafted under the assumption that a substantial proportion of workers wouldn’t even need SS because they wouldn’t live to age 65 (and note that life expectancy would have been lower in those professions that would be more common beneficiaries of the program), and that those who actually did qualify for benefits wouldn’t need them for long. You can’t possibly be denying this fact. Today, the life expectancy (at birth…) is something like 77 and rising. Unsustainable. Someone who lives to age 90–which isn’t a rare event these days–will almost certainly collect more than he put in, all while the number of workers supporting him is declining and their wages stagnating.