Wednesday, January 26, 2005

'Do the Math'

The first of our posts on the president's news conference today is on doing math. He was asked a question abot Social Security that I will include in the quote, and he gave a long answer with many false assertions (read lies) to mislead people. I'll bold-face them so that they are easy to spot.

Q A question on Social Security, if we may, sir. There has been, as you move forward to making your plan -- your ultimate proposal, growing concern among Republicans on Capitol Hill. We had Chairman Thomas last week with some concern about the process, and Senator Olympia Snowe on the other side suggesting that she's concerned about an absentee guaranteed benefit -- excuse me. Are you prepared today to say that those who opt into a potential private account -- personal account could, in fact, have a guaranteed benefit, as well? And what do you say to Republicans who are beginning to worry? THE PRESIDENT: I am looking forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats to advance a plan that will permanently solve Social Security. There is -- I met yesterday with members of the United States Senate, I'm meeting today with members of the House of Representatives to discuss the need to work together to get a -- a solution that will fix the problem. And here's the problem: the -- as dictated by just math, there is -- the system will be in the red in 13 years, and in 2042 the system will be broke. That's because people are living longer, and the number of people paying into the Social Security trust is dwindling. And so, therefore, if you have a child -- how old is your child, Carl? Q Fourteen years old. THE PRESIDENT: Yes, 14. Well, if she were -- Q He, sir. THE PRESIDENT: He, excuse me. (Laughter.) I should have done the background check. (Laughter.) She will -- when she gets ready to -- when she's 50, the system will be broke, if my math is correct. In other words, if you have a child who is 25 years old, when that person gets -- gets near retirement, the system will be bankrupt. And therefore, it seems like to me -- and if we wait, the longer we wait, the more expensive the solution. So, therefore, now is the time to act.
I'm not even going to point out that he continued to say "she" after being corrected (oops, I just did). The system will NOT go bankrupt in 2042. The Trust Fund will have no more money in it in 2042 (or 2053 depending on which report you read). We kind of expected that, since we are going to quit paying into it in 2018. But he followed in a later question about Social Security with
Q Mr. President, on Social Security, you say the math clearly shows -- as you know, most of us became reporters because of our deep affection for math -- if the math clearly shows it, why are you having so much trouble on the Hill getting some to share your urgency? Do you think they're looking at the numbers differently, honestly, or are they running from the third rail? THE PRESIDENT: Glad to have you here. (Laughter.) I am going to continue to speak directly to the American people about this issue and remind them about the math; and remind them that if you're a senior, nothing changes; and speak to the younger folks coming up about the forecasts. I mean, if you're a 20-year-old person and you look at the math, you realize that you will inherit a bankrupt system, which means either there will be significant benefit cuts or significant payroll tax increases in order to fund that which the government has laid out for you as a part of your retirement.
Did you notice any key phrases? Yes, well, I've done the math and so have the CBO and the Trustees of Social Security, and they don't see a problem in their projections. On a really funny sidenote, Jesse over at Pandagon also did the math at the Heritage Foundation Web site. It tabulates earnings for traditional SS and with private accounts, usually showing that the private accounts will make us all millionaires. Jesse did some calculating and, because we're the same age, I can say that I'm already a millionaire using their calculations. Whoohoo, pass the champagne... oh wait, I'm not. Damnit. It seems to me those that actually do the math find that the numbers don't jive. That's probably because 2-2 doesn't equal 4. But I was never a C student at Yale,so who am I to criticize this man's ability to add numbers at a 5th Grade level.


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