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Monday, February 21, 2005

Social Security As Welfare or Social Insurance 

Mark and I don't often disagree,* but I think one point of contention between us is whether Social Security old-age (not disability or survivors) benefits should be means-tested.

Means-testing is efficient; it is a little silly to send rich old people Social Security checks every month if the point of the program is to reduce elder poverty. But, and this is the rub for me, the communal, shared aspect of Social Security keeps it from being lumped into other, far less popular entitlement programs like Food Stamps and welfare (yes, yes, welfare is no longer an entitlement but a block grant, but that's a bad thing!).

It's the same with Unemployment Insurance--sure it's sick to read about laid-off investment bankers spending their UI checks on fancy meals and cigars--but the very fact that UI is open to everyone who works makes it much more politically palatable.

Kevin Drum argues that private accounts will destroy the social solidarity that has made Social Security so much more politically popular than what meager means-tested programs this country has created.

Basically, I am willing to sacrifice a great deal of efficiency in wealth-transfer programs like Social Security in order to keep them politically viable. Of course I wish we lived in a world where Americans cared about the least fortunate among us and were willing to offer robust benefits, but--then again--I also wish I had a pony.

*Yes, I am going to start every post I make with the words "Mark and I."

-Ziggy Stardust  14:04 EST | |

About us:

This weblog is an ongoing, if periodic, effort by several friends to stay in touch, in reading material, and in ideas.

Lucky Luciano is a former Italian Stallion real estate hustler and Benedict Arnold CEO turned shady lawyer-to-be. He lives in Denver.

Ben is a Paramedic and would-be philantropist who lives in Denver. He knows everything about nothing.

Fuzzy Dunlop lives in Manhattan. He is more than capable of standing up to the stresses of a high crime urban environment.

Jess is a teacher. But have YOU given her an apple? No, you haven't. You should be ashamed of yourself. This crazy feminist currently rests her copy of Awakening in Jersey City.

Matt is a pariah, iconoclast, and professor of gambling living in Oakland.

Miguel Sanchez is not Lionel Hutz.

Daddy Brooklyn lives in Brooklyn. He hates Republicans, though he wouldn't mind being ensconced in the landed elite of New York City.

Paul just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette.

Ziggy Stardust has no past.

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