The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I'd be a lot more prone to giving Mickey Kaus credt for some of the better points he makes in his article on the Social Security debate from a few days ago if he hadn't allowed himself to buy into the Big Lie from the Bush/Pozen plan. Basically, the cuts start at (or for you partisan Republicans, "the smaller increases in guaranteed benefits start at) people with incomes of $20,000 or more. I've lived in California for all of my life, and in the Bay Area for most of it. If you're an adult there, and you're making $20,000, there's no two ways about it, you're poor. Especially if you're supporting a family. And when you retire, you'll be a lot more fucked than under the current system.

With that in mind, the big problem with Kaus' piece is quite fundamental: Cuts or not, he buys the Bush line that the people being affected are "middle and upper class" Americans. Having done that, he dwells on the "richer/poorer" dichotomyh throughout the piece. To wit:
What's more, what Bush has proposed is similar to "means-testing"--cutting the Social Security benefits of the more affluent--and I've been in the means-testing camp for decades.

...Currently we're using 12.4 percent of our national payroll to mail Social Security checks to rich and poor alike.

...The Pozen plan is really not a means test at all but rather an adjustment in Social Security's existing benefit schedule, gradually lowering the benefits to which higher-wage earners are entitled, whether they are wealthy or imporverished when they get older (although high-wage workers would still get slightly higher benefits than low-wage workers).
(emphases mine) In throwing this dual model at us, Kaus never mentions where on the income scale the benefit cuts begin under the Bush/Pozen plan.

What makes this dichotomy all the weirder is what Kaus says when he goes after his bearded arch-nemesis Paul Krugman:
NYT columnist Paul Krugman, criticizing Pozen, repeats the old saw that "programs for the poor always turn into poor programs." But even if Pozen did make Social Security a program for the poor, which it doesn't, the old saw isn't true. The disproof: the Earned Income Tax Credit. It's a program for the poor--it goes only to people making less than $35,000. But it's a good program! It works. It's popular. Congress after Congress has supported and indeed expanded it. It's popular because, like Social Security, it's work tested. As its name implies, it only goes to people who've earned some income. If means testing makes Social Security as unpopular as the EITC, Democrats have nothing to fear.
(Emphasis mine) In making this designation, Kaus has made a bit of an overlap, which I will now demonstrate in The Facts Machine's first ever table:
IncomeKaus thinks they're...
$35k and upRich
In his haste in trying to prove Krugman wrong, Kaus has contradicted himself. It's a bit more hilarious when you consider that 35k is pretty close to the median income in this country. Furthermore, using the EITC as an example is a shoddy tactic; after all, in effect it's a tax cut, so it's low on the GOP's list of "welfare-ish stuff to kill". The better example is Medicaid. And guess what? The Republicans just cut it by $10 billion!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home