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 |