02 May 2005

My e-mail to Andrew Sullivan.

Andrew Sullivan, who's pretty good lately on social issues and foreign policy, continues his troglodyte politics on bread and butter issues. He posted a virtually content-free support for Bush on social security "indexing," with a gratuitous attack on Paul Krugman (see below). Here's my e-mail to him:
Your pro-Bush comments about means-testing social security are baffling and insubstantial, as is your attack on Paul Krugman, which amounts to nothing but an ad hominem. It should be fairly obvious that the issue of means testing is pretty meaningless without some parameters. There is a huge difference between a means testing regime that cuts benefits for almost everyone (like Bush's proposal) and one that (as an example) would continue social security in its role as minimal old age insurance for most working people while removing or limiting the benefit for those with such abundant resources that they are not needed. Such a scheme, were it to be proposed, might even win some bipartisan support, whereas the Bush plan is so lopsided it clearly will not.

Far more logical, in my view, is the idea of increasing the social security tax to include higher income levels, and capping social security benefits, so that they reach a maximum payout amount based on contemporaneous median income (i.e at the time benefits are paid out, not while the tax is being paid in). There could also be a sliding scale drop off after a certain level of current income, (i.e. retirement actual income, as opposed to wage history), so that those who truly have essentially no need for the benefits would not receive them. Something like this could be engineered to completely remove the fiscal problems the program faces, but this clearly is not anything like the plan Bush advocates, which is, just as clearly, a disguised incremental phase-out of social security for the middle class for purely ideological reasons.

Your attack on Krugman is completely unspecific. His article is clear, and his points have not been refuted in any way by anything you said.

I think as a "big league" commentator and blogger, you should be willing to back up your comments on economic issues with economic analysis of some kind. I've found none in your supposed justification for supporting Bush on this issue. Perhaps economics just isn't your strong suit; if so, perhaps you should spare us your unsupported opinions on these subjects.

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