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This blog used to be about politics. Not so much anymore as I have worked through my fascination with that subject. It now seems appropriate that with a new president and the end of the Bush nightmare that I move on to new subjects that are more in line with my current interests. I may still occasionally express an opinion about political matters but for the most part I will be commenting on music, photography and personal observations. Thank you for reading.

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SS - Even More Simple and Incomplete
Yeah, I know I'm repeating myself, and I apologize to those that have been reading along. But, I've been accused of being incomplete in my analysis.

I dislike Bush, I freely admit it. But I dislike him because of the things he does and says, not out of some partisan bias. Got that? And when I say harsh thing about people its because I find them deplorable.

Why do I say that Bush is being dishonest about his Social Security plan? Because in his speeches he spends loads of time talking about personal accounts, making social security solvent, and helping the next generation. But he never mentions what his own administration admits is the key to his reform plans: lowering benefits.

Exhibit A: Peter Wehner, President Bush's director of strategic initiatives, on the White House's plans for Social Security reform:

Second, we're going to take a very close look at changing the way benefits are calculated. As you probably know, under current law benefits are calculated by a "wage index" -- but because wages grow faster than inflation, so do Social Security benefits. If we don't address this aspect of the current system, we'll face serious economic risks.

It's worth noting that wage indexation was not part of the original design of Social Security. The current method of wage indexation was created in 1977, under (you guessed it) the Carter Administration. Wage indexation makes it impossible to "grow our way" out of the Social Security problem. If the economy grows faster and wages rise, this produces more tax revenue. But the faster wage growth also means that we owe more in Social Security benefits. This has produced a never-ending cycle of higher tax burdens, even during periods of robust economic growth. It is the classic case of the dog chasing his tail around the tree; he can run faster and faster, and never make any progress.

You may know that there is a small number of conservatives who prefer to push only for investment accounts and make no effort to adjust benefits -- therefore making no effort to address this fundamental structural problem. In my judgment, that's a bad idea. We simply cannot solve the Social Security problem with Personal Retirement Accounts alone. If the goal is permanent solvency and sustainability -- as we believe it should be --then Personal Retirements Accounts, for all their virtues, are insufficient to that task. And playing "kick the can" is simply not the credo of this President. He wants to do what needs to be done for genuine repair of Social Security.

But when you listen to Bush its all about the fabulous power of the private accounts and compounding interest.

Why are the private accounts so important? We'll go back to Peter Wehner first:

For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win -- and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country. We have it within our grasp to move away from dependency on government and toward giving greater power and responsibility to individuals.

That's why I say that conservatives have been waiting some sixty years to destroy social security. They see it as a moral wrong, government meddling in the true goodness of the market. The world of the 1920's was a utopian paradise, low taxes on the wealthy, few consumer and worker protections, and rampant corruption in the market. It was a rich man's playground and it all fell apart. The conservative agenda is nothing more than going back in time nearly eighty years.

Let's look to another conservative at Cato, José Piñera, Chile's former secretary of labor and social security.

Today, all workers in Chile are capitalists, because their money is invested in the stock market. And they also understand that if government tomorrow were to create the conditions for inflation, they would be damaged because some of the money is also invested in bonds -- around 60%. So the whole working population of Chile has a vested interest in sound economic policies and a pro-market, pro-private-enterprise environment.

The real benefit of private accounts is that it aligns the concerns of the working class with the investor class, with the wealthy holding all the cards and the workers living in fear that they'll lose everything if they ask for too much. Its all stated quite clearly. I'm not even quoting hostile sources! I don't have to make this up. They see it as a fundamentally good thing to create a pro-business environment that strips away all government protections and guarantees. I don't.

Should you? I think that's the better question. Should you be a conservative?

Consider this equation:

Revenue - Costs = Profits

If the majority of your income comes from your wages then you live on the left side of this equation. You are a cost of doing business, your wages, your insurance, your benefits, your social security, get in the way of higher profits, just like the cost of wood, oil, steel etc. You are a member of the working class. If the majority of your income comes from investments then you live on the right side of this equation. You are a part of the investor class.

I think some people get confused. They think that if they have some money in a 401K plan, or own some stock in their company that they are now somehow part of the investor class. Not so. If you cannot live off the value of your investments then you are still a worker. I don't care how well paid you are.

(Short story, I onced worked for a company that had a employee stock plan, you would get a small share of company stock after several years with the company, not becoming fully "vested" until nearly five years, meaning you didn't actually own the stock till you worked there for five years. I looked up the on the web the number of shares owned by employees, it was less than 0.1%. The company president and his brother owned the controlling majority. But that didn't stop the company from pushing "ownership" of the company to its employees, and even the belief by some employees that their small "ownership" was going to make them richer someday.)

It seems strange to me that we are only a few years past the Enron Debacle, and the lessons most clearly learned by that event have nearly been lost yet again.

A spokesman for Gillette, one of the offenders, [using stock to make 401K contributions] told the Journal that his company "believes it is important that employee interests be aligned with company interests."

Do you recognize the language, the basic concept?

Maybe at this point that little light in your head goes off and you think, "Wow, with all of us dependent on the market for our retirement we'll feel pressured to supporting a strong pro-Wall Street policy and hesitant to believe naysayers that might try to warn us of rampant corruption and wrongdoing."

The Republicans, the official party of the investor class, see George W. Bush's re-election as proof that they have the political capital to push through their agenda. Of course the investors who own the lion's share of the market see it as a wonderful idea that workers see the advancement of their wealth as being in their own benefit. And the useful shills who are well paid to push the wealthy's agenda think its a grand idea as well.

But is it a good idea? I think you should be asking yourself that question. Do you really think that its a good idea that we should go back to putting so much of our fate in the hands of Wall Street, like we did in the 1920's?

If so, feel proud in calling yourself a conservative.

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About Me

35 yr old
Highlands Ranch
Recording Engineer
Voted for Kerry
Voted for Obama
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22.3% Less Smart

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