Author Topic: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security  (Read 8495 times)

tooqk4u22

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Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« on: January 14, 2013, 07:28:51 AM »
I saw this commentary and I think it is something we all know, but it sure is depressing and embarassing for those of us from the US.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324081704578234080047332090.html#mod=sunday_journal_primary_hs

jpluncford21

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2013, 08:06:22 AM »
You know, in all honesty, I'm all for this! Aside from those who will lose their life because of someone elses stupidity, it social darwinism and I have no problem with that. This country is going through a long season of change and people will eventually have to wake up and realize that something has to be done. I'm not even willing to get into a discussion on an internet forum as to what I think that is, but things are going to have to happen over a broad spectrum of american culture.

Nords

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2013, 09:49:53 AM »
I saw this commentary and I think it is something we all know, but it sure is depressing and embarassing for those of us from the US.
Let's invert the question for a minute.

If it's so depressing and embarrassing, then why are so many international citizens trying to obtain U.S. residency/citizenship?  Why are we  building walls and surveillance systems to keep people out, instead of to keep us in?

We should all be emigrating to those other countries that are "so much better" for us.  Our children should be aspiring to attend their colleges, too, instead of so many international students trying to get into our colleges.  And, of course, we should all be trying to use those other country's social safety nets. 

Unless, of course, the U.S. has other advantages that those other countries appear to lack. 

Or maybe it just has to do with all of that unbridled freedom. 

I'm not worrying about fixing Social Security until after we fix Medicare/Medicaid. 

tooqk4u22

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2013, 10:12:43 AM »
Nords - people come here because, as I think you are implying, the US is the greatest nation in the world with unparralleled freedom and opportunities (and advantages as you say) even with our political/fiscal issues right now. 

But still, for a nation with such ambition, technology and resources you would think we would be smart enough to take care of ourselves. 

Jamesqf

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2013, 11:44:19 AM »
You know, I think the key phrase in that article is "We have more teenage sex".  Seems as though it's just the old religious right trotting out their morality again.  Personally, I think more teenage sex is a good thing.  Thought so when I was a teen, and nothing in the ensuing decades has changed my mind.

As to the rest of the article, I think it comes down to freedom of choice.  In many other places, people don't have the economic, social, or legal freedom to make choices.  In the US we do.  Some make bad choices (or at least ones that appear bad from my subjective viewpoint) such as eating themselves into an early grave.  Unfortunately, the rest of us have to drag those folks along with us, but even so, we do better than in most places.

What the author doesn't seem to understand is that averages just don't work all that well to describe the American population.  For instance, this country has a lot of fat people, but it also has a lot of very fit ones as well.  (Something like 60% of triathlon races are held in the US: http://www.trimapper.com/ )  Same applies in just about every area.

sol

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2013, 11:56:08 AM »
People immigrate to the US because they see greater opportunity for upward social mobility here than they do back in their home countries.

I don't see how that has any bearing on our comparatively dismal record of health care here in the US.

The main point that I see in that article is that other countries take better care of their children and poor people, and the US takes better care of it's old and rich people.  On average, other countries have greater longevity by decreasing child mortality compared to the US, but once you are already old and rich you get better care here.  I suspect that the promise of upward mobility combined with the promise of better health care for the old and rich is very attractive to people who are already past childhood and aspire to wealth, who are thus the most likely to immigrate.


James

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2013, 11:59:43 AM »
Cherry picking "facts" and throwing bombs isn't a way to gain my trust or convince me in an argument.  As Jamesqf and Nords point out, it's a lot more complicated than all that.  It's certainly not something we all know, and I'm not depressed or embarrassed.  That article just seems written to get everyone's patties in a wad...


PS  Child mortality facts are very grey, don't trust any numbers you see thrown around, even the experts can't agree on the facts there due to different reporting, record keeping, etc.

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2013, 03:14:26 PM »
I don't see how that has any bearing on our comparatively dismal record of health care here in the US.

Part of the problem here is a failure to distinguish between health care and medical care.  Medical care treats people after they've become sick or injured, while health care keeps them from getting sick in the first place.

I think an impartial examination of data will show that the US has actually done pretty well on health care over the last century or so.  Vaccination programs have reduced the death rate from diseases ranging from smallpox to polio to measles to zero.  Smoking has gone from an almost universal practice to under 20% of the adult population, while the US was among the first countries (ok, some states) to try to reduce second-hand smoke.  It's also done a lot to reduce air & water pollution, etc.

Sure, it can be expensive to be sick in the US, but a lot of that is down to that old freedom of choice thing.  Many people, through their insurance, have the option to choose between expensive high-tech treatments and cheaper but just as effective low-tech ones, with no apparent price difference to themselves, because "the insurance will pay for it".

dragoncar

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2013, 04:51:19 PM »
Quote
average intake of 3,770 calories a day,

Just came here to say ... whaaaaaattt??

Blindsquirrel

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2013, 06:09:21 PM »
  Interesting points all. An unfortunate fact about many of the places that people come from to get to the US is the fact that unless you were born with a refrigerator in your house, your chances of ever living in a house with a fridge are rather poor. The US does offer more social mobility than most points south of the US in the new world. Yep, we have plenty of problems with health care in the US but much better to die of a heart attack at 50 than typhus or dysentery at six.  Not a real fix for SS though. :)

marty998

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2013, 06:43:51 PM »
Quote
average intake of 3,770 calories a day,

Just came here to say ... whaaaaaattt??

Yeah that's quite shocking. I can get by on about 1000-1200 calories a day. Cereal for brekkie, couple of bread rolls for lunch. 1 serve of meat with salad in the evening with a yougurt for dessert. Lots of fruit and lots of water. Anything more seemed to be converted straight to fat.

If I go for a long bike ride I tend to get major hungry so eat a bit of crap (chips/chocolate etc) to fillup. But that's the only excuse I have for eating crap. Else a face punch is deserved.

JamesAt15

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2013, 01:26:50 AM »
There's been some studies recently that suggest that social mobility in the US is not as good as we tend to think it is.

Here's one article on Huffington Post about it, which includes links to the Economic Mobility Project, which seems to be where they are getting their data.

Edit: here's another one, referencing data from "the non-partisan Congressional Research Service."
« Last Edit: January 15, 2013, 01:29:55 AM by JamesAt15 »

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2013, 07:38:19 AM »
Cherry picking "facts" and throwing bombs isn't a way to gain my trust or convince me in an argument.  As Jamesqf and Nords point out, it's a lot more complicated than all that.  It's certainly not something we all know, and I'm not depressed or embarrassed.  That article just seems written to get everyone's patties in a wad...


Yep. +1

SwordGuy

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2013, 10:15:18 AM »
Social Security will be "fixed" in the following manner:

1) Retirement age will be raised.
2) Benefits will be reduced by slowing the rate they are raised to compensate for inflation. 
3) Inflation so #2 works without politicians having to lower social security.

Inflation is the same way we will pay down our national debt.

Medicare is unsustainable as it stands.  Don't know how it will be fixed.

We need to stop providing medical coverage to treat self-inflicted diseases.  Got diabetes because you chose to eat to much?  Kept your diabetes because you continued to eat to much?  Screw you.  Pay for your treatment yourself.   Got the kind of diabetes that shows up because you just have bad luck?  Welcome to covered treatement.

Got lung cancer because you chose to smoke a pack a day?  Screw you.  Pay for your treatment yourself.  Got lung cancer even though you didn't smoke?  Welcome to covered treatment.

Got cirhossis (sp?) of the liver because you drank to much?  Screw you.  Pay for your treatment yourself.  Got a liver problem because you just had bad luck?  Welcome to covered treatment.

We simply cannot afford to continue to pay for other people's stupid choices.   Yes, someone has to make the decision between what's a reasonable calculated risk and what's just plain stupid.   Yes, someone can draw that line in the wrong place and some folks will be hurt until the line is corrected.  That's still better than the entire nation going bankrupt and no one getting any help!
 
We also need to drop the expensive life-prolonging procedures for really old folks.  Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get one old person a few extra months of life vs. giving useful healthcare to hundreds of younger, productive folks decades of life makes no sense.  Both would be nice, but if we can only afford one, helping younger folks stay productive longer is the choice to make.


Jamesqf

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2013, 11:01:12 AM »
There's been some studies recently that suggest that social mobility in the US is not as good as we tend to think it is.

The problem with those articles is that they fail to differentiate between the availability of opportunity for economic mobility (not social mobility, which is an entirely different thing), and whether people choose to take advantage of the available opportunities.  I mean, we hardly have to look further than the stories on this blog to see how people's lifestyle choices have affected their economic status.

arebelspy

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2013, 05:33:39 PM »
Another link to discussion on how the US ranks low in life expectancy among "rich" nations:
http://science.slashdot.org/story/13/01/11/1312243/us-near-bottom-in-life-expectancy-in-developed-world

Others may still be coming here, but for opportunity.  I don't know that many immigrate here based on longevity stats.  It's a tradeoff (quality of life for years of life) that makes for an interesting question.

The problem with those articles is that they fail to differentiate between the availability of opportunity for economic mobility (not social mobility, which is an entirely different thing), and whether people choose to take advantage of the available opportunities.

How would one differentiate and quantify that?
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marty998

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2013, 06:53:48 PM »
 
We also need to drop the expensive life-prolonging procedures for really old folks.  Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get one old person a few extra months of life vs. giving useful healthcare to hundreds of younger, productive folks decades of life makes no sense.  Both would be nice, but if we can only afford one, helping younger folks stay productive longer is the choice to make.

This makes perfect sense. But guess what? Old people comprise an ever growing proportion of the population. And old people have a tendancy to vote for there own interests.

The seniors lobby groups in Oz are experts at squeezing out benefits. Health care cards, cheap prescriptions, discount public transport, discount electricity bills, discount council rates, discount water charges, heavily subsidised aged care, a $500 tax offset just for working, hey the government even throws in annual bonuses for seniors in the budget, and then there's the biggest tax rort of them all costing $30billion a year which is superannuation.

And the bloody oldies have the temerity to keep whinging for more!!!

Nords

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2013, 07:32:42 PM »
Here's a cheerier view from a MoneyCrashers blogger debunking five common myths spread during partisan politics:
http://www.moneycrashers.com/political-lies-social-security-truth/

madage

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2013, 07:27:43 AM »
Here's a cheerier view from a MoneyCrashers blogger debunking five common myths spread during partisan politics:
http://www.moneycrashers.com/political-lies-social-security-truth/

This is a great article. Thanks, Nords!

tooqk4u22

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2013, 09:14:25 AM »
Not a real fix for SS though. :)

I think the writer was being facetious with suggestion that dying at 50 was fix for SSI - I am not sure people are getting that.  The point of the article was about the relative health of the US vs. other countries.

Here's a cheerier view from a MoneyCrashers blogger debunking five common myths spread during partisan politics:
http://www.moneycrashers.com/political-lies-social-security-truth/

Thanks for the article.  I wouldn't say that it debunks common myths, but it does discuss key elements (albeit with a signifcant liberal bias) or levers that can be pulled to ensure the viability of the program.   

The key takeaway for me is "In 1937, 53,236 beneficiaries (primarily white males) received benefits of $1.3 million, while in 2012 56,758,185 retired workers, dependent family members and survivors, and disabled workers and their family members received $773.2 billion in benefits." - clearly this demonstrates how the purpose of the program has changed.

Jamesqf

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #20 on: January 16, 2013, 11:18:01 AM »
Here's a cheerier view from a MoneyCrashers blogger debunking five common myths spread during partisan politics:
http://www.moneycrashers.com/political-lies-social-security-truth/

Well, they don't actually debunk a couple of what they'd like you to believe are myths, they just try to spin them.  As for instance, SS taxes DO get invested in US Treasury securities, which means the money does fund current government expenditures.  Now they may honestly believe that those are "the safest investment in the world" (though even a cursory acquaintance with current events suggest that the US is teetering on the brink of insolvency), but it's also a truism that low risk investments offer low returns.

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2013, 12:00:20 PM »
 
We also need to drop the expensive life-prolonging procedures for really old folks.  Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get one old person a few extra months of life vs. giving useful healthcare to hundreds of younger, productive folks decades of life makes no sense.  Both would be nice, but if we can only afford one, helping younger folks stay productive longer is the choice to make.

This makes perfect sense. But guess what? Old people comprise an ever growing proportion of the population. And old people have a tendancy to vote for there own interests.

The seniors lobby groups in Oz are experts at squeezing out benefits. Health care cards, cheap prescriptions, discount public transport, discount electricity bills, discount council rates, discount water charges, heavily subsidised aged care, a $500 tax offset just for working, hey the government even throws in annual bonuses for seniors in the budget, and then there's the biggest tax rort of them all costing $30billion a year which is superannuation.

And the bloody oldies have the temerity to keep whinging for more!!!

Kinda sounds like you're bucking for a Soylent solution . . .

Nords

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #22 on: January 16, 2013, 10:35:06 PM »
Now they may honestly believe that those are "the safest investment in the world" (though even a cursory acquaintance with current events suggest that the US is teetering on the brink of insolvency), but it's also a truism that low risk investments offer low returns.
I guess the next question would be-- what's a safer investment?

Note that the Treasury securities referred to are not available to us mere mortal investors.  I believe they're strictly for swapping debt among federal agencies.  The Dept of Defense uses a similar type of security to fund military pensions, and it's long been touted as one of the reasons that "so much" of DoD's funding is tied up in pensions-- they're putting them in safe investments instead of in higher-yielding investments... or instead of forcing servicemembers to fund their own retirements through "just" the Thrift Savings Plan.

I was very surprised during 2008-09 to see the rest of the world rushing to what they perceived to be the world's safest investment:  the American $100 bill.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 10:38:24 PM by Nords »

marty998

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #23 on: January 17, 2013, 03:03:18 AM »
 
We also need to drop the expensive life-prolonging procedures for really old folks.  Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get one old person a few extra months of life vs. giving useful healthcare to hundreds of younger, productive folks decades of life makes no sense.  Both would be nice, but if we can only afford one, helping younger folks stay productive longer is the choice to make.

This makes perfect sense. But guess what? Old people comprise an ever growing proportion of the population. And old people have a tendancy to vote for there own interests.

The seniors lobby groups in Oz are experts at squeezing out benefits. Health care cards, cheap prescriptions, discount public transport, discount electricity bills, discount council rates, discount water charges, heavily subsidised aged care, a $500 tax offset just for working, hey the government even throws in annual bonuses for seniors in the budget, and then there's the biggest tax rort of them all costing $30billion a year which is superannuation.

And the bloody oldies have the temerity to keep whinging for more!!!

Kinda sounds like you're bucking for a Soylent solution . . .

Holy crap I wouldn't go that far. I'm just calling for a little less selfishness (not just from oldies). It really is the age of entitlement in the Western World. Governments can't cut anything because they'll get thrown out. Whenever the government freezes indexation on a benefit (not removes, just freezes it), the local rags find 1 Aussie battler on $150k a year who complains on the front pages how fucking hard life is now that their benefits have been "slashed".

And they always put a picture of mum, dad and 3 kids in front of the McMansion, 2 4WDs and boat.

Jamesqf

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #24 on: January 17, 2013, 11:12:55 AM »
I guess the next question would be-- what's a safer investment?

I'd say a diversified portfolio of domestic & international stocks, plus some bonds & similar.  At least that's where I'm putting MY money :-)

As far as safety goes, the bottom line here is that US Treasury securities ultimately depend on nothing more than the word of 536 politicians (435 Congress, 100 Senate, 1 President).  Do YOU trust ANY SINGLE ONE of them, let alone a majority?

Quote
Note that the Treasury securities referred to are not available to us mere mortal investors.  I believe they're strictly for swapping debt among federal agencies.

Could be, but see above on using SS money to fund the rest of the government.

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #25 on: January 25, 2013, 11:00:53 AM »
I saw this commentary and I think it is something we all know, but it sure is depressing and embarassing for those of us from the US.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324081704578234080047332090.html#mod=sunday_journal_primary_hs

Naw, just a bunch of garbage. Author threw out a few statistics, inflammatory remarks, offered no solution, and then closed with a rage against the machine. Whine, whine, whine.

dragoncar

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #26 on: January 25, 2013, 11:38:22 AM »

Naw, just a bunch of garbage. Author threw out a few statistics, inflammatory remarks, offered no solution, and then closed with a rage against the machine. Whine, whine, whine.

So basically, Internet.

turtlefield76

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Re: Sobering View of HOW We Will Fix Social Security
« Reply #27 on: January 25, 2013, 02:02:55 PM »

Naw, just a bunch of garbage. Author threw out a few statistics, inflammatory remarks, offered no solution, and then closed with a rage against the machine. Whine, whine, whine.

So basically, Internet.

this ^^^