Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The great Social Security debate, part one

Update: please see part 1a, where I talk about getting Krugman's autograph! This was too good to wait until tomorrow.

Another update: part 2, where I detail the debate itself.

Update, 3/24/2005: NYSEC corrected at least two things in their transcript, without mentioning that they did so.

I didn't get back home to Westchester until pretty late. The cab ride back to Grand Central was quick, but my train didn't leave for another half-hour, and it wasn't an express. Now after a bit to eat and resting for a while with Glenmorangie (my favorite Scotch), I'm making this first entry. Tomorrow I'll talk more substantially about the debate.

After crossing the street from Central Park, I knew I'd found the building. I was immediately accosted (no exaggeration, they were practically right in my face from the start) by people asking if I wanted to "help save Social Security." You have to see their signs to believe they're real:

(If the pictures didn't show before, they should now. If not, please try clearing your browser cache and then refresh this page.)

The first picture is ok, but I apologize for the blur in the second. All I had was my camera phone (a mere 1.2 megapixels), but you can at least see the gist of the signs. The second one shows Bush in an old-fashioned outfit that I didn't recognize offhand, so I asked, "King George?" The person replied, "Napoleon."

These people are from the Lyndon LaRouche Political Action Committee, which claims to be "not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee." Obviously, though, they're Democrats. Go to Political Moneyline and check out the LaRouche PAC's expenditures: they're like a Mini-Me Soros who spent (wasted) untold sums last year against Bush's campaign, and they've even spent money for anti-Tom DeLay bumper stickers? Actually, they're worse than Democrats. Certainly not all Democrats are statists, but every one of these LaRouchers was definitely a statist.

My bull**** detector went off once I saw this on the back of a "brochure" (if you can call it that): "MOBILIZE AMERICA to defend Social Security -- defend America's Constitutional commitment to the General Welfare." What rubbish! It reminds me of a political science professor I once had. For a Ph.D. in history, she surely knew damned little about Constitutional law. She actually had the ignorance to claim, right there in class, "The Constitution gives Congress the power to tax and spend to promote the general welfare."

You know what I find ironic? These LaRouchers compare Bush to Napoleon and Pinochet, and George Schultz to Hitler and fascists. Yet LaRouche has a LaRouche Youth Movement. It's right there on the website; that's their name for it. Now who's more like Hitler? Call me a "digital brown shirt" for liking Bush, but what about these indoctrinated youth? Few of them probably know nothing substantial about any of the issues, except for the lines that parents, teachers and mentors have taught them to parrot.

For those unfamiliar with Friedrich Hayek, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Road to Serfdom. I mean that literally, as it's one of the most wonderful books ever written. Pay particular attention to chapter 10, "Why the Worst Get on Top": Hayek explained how dictators come to power by manipulating the gullible, especially the young. Now take a look at the very name of the LaRouche Youth Movement. I rest my case.

All you need to know about LaRouche's politics you can glean from this speech, where he spouted horse**** like, "Roosevelt saved the United States from becoming fascist. The United States would have become fascist in the middle of the 1930s, but for Franklin Roosevelt's election, and the actions he took, beginning the day he entered office in March of 1933." That is unequivocally a lie or pure ignorance of history and politics. Roosevelt was a statist who succeeded another statist. It doesn't matter if you call it fascism, where you think you own private property but the state effectively owns it by exercising full control, and socialism, where the state admits it owns it all. Statism is statism.

Then LaRouche bragged about what he claims is an upcoming global crisis, "And I had to stop it. I had to be the equivalent of Franklin Roosevelt. Because there was nobody else in a leading position in the United States, or otherwise, who was qualified to do what I had to do." Gee, what modesty! What was that again, what Hayek wrote about individuals having only imperfect knowledge, that total knowledge is dispersed throughout society? In other words, no one person knows it all. Until now! Now we have a self-prophesied, self-annointed political Messiah in Lyndon LaRouche! Forgive me if I spit in disgust at that thought.

Oh, and LaRouche also said in the same speech, "Therefore, I was ruthless, as ruthless as required, and as ruthless toward myself, as toward others around me, and toward the Democratic Party and its leadership, and other relevant institutions..." I don't recall that Hayek specifically said in The Road to Serfdom that a dictator must have megalomania, which LaRouche certainly has. Hayek did say, though, that dictators must have a comparative advantage in ruthlessness, among other things.

All right, enough about the wackos and their fearless leader. I found the debate itself was overall...unconstructive. It reminds me of a Star Trek line, "We could talk all night and not convince each other." Social Security is just one of those issues. Tanner, Krugman and Marshall were all excellent and put forth great arguments, except that Krugman more than once used bad analogies. It was the same rhetoric we've heard all along, though. For example, I sent Donald Luskin a link the other day that I stumbled across. This article is from the November-December 1996 Mother Jones magazine, and though Krugman hadn't yet come on the scene, the article had Michael Tanner and Cato, the Economic Policy Institute, AARP, Chile as an example of privatization, and all the same rhetoric we hear today. In that article, Michael Tanner warned that there's really no trust fund, others said the trust fund will grow to nearly $3 trillion by 2018, and the EPI warned that investing fees are more expensive for low-income workers.

I sigh because over these last eight years, very little about the Social Security debate is really new information. We still know the "trust fund" will have to be dipped into starting in 2018, but Cato is still repeating the warning that the "trust fund" was invested in Treasury bonds, so they'll have to be redeemed either by higher taxes or unchanged taxes with spending cuts. We had eight years to start doing something, and our leaders blew it. I'll cut Bush a little slack, because he's had a lot of foreign policy to keep him busy. But what was Clinton's excuse in the late 1990s, when the U.S. economy was sizzling? He should have taken real leadership, even if it was to continue Social Security as it is. But he didn't, partly because he was too "occupied" in the Oval Office, if you know what I mean.

Back to the debate itself. The crowd at NYSEC, for the most part, was a bunch of liberals who, judging by when they cheered and applauded, wanted to preserve Social Security's status quo. I saw a lot of elderly, no doubt senior citizens who believe Democrats' lie that Social Security privatization means a cut in current retirees' benefits. There were also a lot of young people, and I had this feeling they were all so well indoctrinated in liberal statism, that they were there to hear why Social Security should remain as it is. The segment of society I didn't see many of: people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, i.e. the ones with the most to gain by Social Security privatization, and the most to lose when the "trust fund" must be redeemed by higher taxes.

The moderator, being from NYSEC, was completely liberal and not very good at all. Some, like me, had reservations about Bob Schieffer moderating that Bush-Kerry debate; in the end, I thought he did excellently. For crying out loud, though, this "Vered Mallon" was just pathetic. It was bad enough that her introduction did little more than extol the virtues of this liberal NYSEC organization: they want a "kinder, just world," "civil rights" and "women's reproductive rights." She said, "We are a community of faith -- our faith is in people," and added that they want to "pursue justice for everyone." Her bias was so evident that you couldn't have done worse asking Dan Rather to moderate during the 2004 presidential election debates. She gave credit to Democracy Now, The Nation and for supporting the debate. She even called them "vital organizations" -- what more evidence does one need of her and NYSEC's bias?

She mentioned that next month they're doing some event about Wal-Mart, no doubt bashing it. Geez. But I knew I was really in for it when she introduced Michael Tanner as from "Cato, a conservative think tank." I scribbled that in my notebook so furiously that the tip of my pen almost sliced through the page (I love the Uni-ball Signo RTs with the ultra-fine .38 mm tip). I was pleasantly relieved when Tanner got up to do his introduction, declaring that Cato is libertarian, not conservative.

Each of the three panelists was allowed five minutes for an introduction and summary of their positions. Krugman had an inscrutable look as the moderator babbled on, and his expression didn't change as Tanner got up for his intro. Krugman kept writing something and gave only a couple of claps of polite applause, which was really rude.

It's getting late, so may my readers forgive me that I need to call it a night. Tomorrow I'll talk about what was said in the debate. What I'll conclude with tonight is the completely bogus Abraham Lincoln quote that Mallon referred to, and several times.

She claimed that Abraham Lincoln said, "Government should do for people what they cannot do for themselves," and that "Public good transcends private interest."

I'm no Lincoln scholar, but I like to think I know my history more than the average person. I cannot find any source for either of these alleged Lincoln quotes, and until someone points me to one, I dismiss Mallon as fabricating a LIE or just citing an urban legend. Google the first, and you find a lot of leftist websites saying, "I believe, as Lincoln did, that..." Nothing, however, points to where Lincoln ever said such thing. I think I'll e-mail Thomas DiLorenzo. If anyone on the planet would know the veracity of those quotes, he would.

The closest thing I can think of: Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations did say certain public works must be the responsibility of the government, but only because their size means no single person can afford them. With things like Social Security, why can't an individual person save for his or her own retirement? I was pleased that Michael Tanner made this point in the debate, but he should have gone further:

Why must the central government make others' retirement contingent on your current payroll taxes, and later make your retirement contingent on the next generation's payroll taxes?

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Anonymous done said...

you should know that lyndon larouche is a long time extreme right wing conspiracy theorist and perennial political candidate...not a democrat at all..

Monday, April 18, 2005 8:52:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

Ah, I hadn't seen your comment because you had made it a while after the post.

Larouche is basically a Democrat/liberal in the things he advocates: the welfare state, government spending money to "revitalize" our heavy industry, and protectionism. Granted Republicans/conservatives don't always do the right thing either, but Larouche is definitely far left of center.

Thursday, August 25, 2005 9:52:00 PM  
Blogger kcor1953 said...

"She claimed that Abraham Lincoln said..."
Check "Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln," Abraham Lincoln Association publisher, Volume 2, Fragment on Government. Page 220 in my copy. Available online, too.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008 11:01:00 AM  

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