Friday, September 24, 2004
Social Security scare: National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru follows up on Sen. John Kerry's dubious Social Security scaremongering that I noted earlier this week.
The campaign has backed off its claim that Goolsbee's study tells us anything about benefit levels under a Bush-style reform. They have also gotten rid of all the language that claims that today's retirees would see their benefits cut — since there's no way they can make that claim honestly. Instead, they are using somewhat ambiguous language that implies the claim. When the campaign says that he will protect seniors from benefit cuts, it's up to the reader to understand that it is referring to the seniors of future decades, not to today's seniors.
What are the Kerry campaign's assumptions? The campaign analyzes one of the three plans that the president's Social Security commission put forward and calls it the president's plan. It relies on a Congressional Budget Office study that found that this plan would involve benefit cuts if individual investors got no higher rate of return than a Treasury bond. That's sort of a no-brainer. If you're trying to eliminate the entire long-term deficit of Social Security and not to raise taxes and there are no investment gains or tax increases, then benefits are of course going to go down. But this is not the only possible outcome, and the CBO does not say that it will come to pass. The Social Security Administration and the president's commission on Social Security have concluded that under more optimistic, but plausible, assumptions, it is possible to fix the program's deficit while also leaving future retirees better off.
It's the political season, so none of this should come as any surprise, but go and read the entire thing.