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Social Security repair wizards insist that we
implement the problem to solve the problem

“There was a case for paying down debt before the baby boomers began to retire, making it easier to pay full (Social Security) benefits later. But George W. Bush squandered the Clinton surplus on tax cuts and wars, and that window has closed. At this point, ‘reform’ proposals are all about things like raising the retirement age or changing the inflation adjustment, moves that would gradually reduce benefits relative to current law. What problem is this supposed to solve?

“Well, it’s probable (although not certain) that, within two or three decades, the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted, leaving the system unable to pay the full benefits specified by current law. So the plan is to avoid cuts in future benefits by committing right now to . . . cuts in future benefits. Huh?”

—Paul Krugman,, economist, author and Nobel Laureate,
in a New York Times column, The Dwindling Deficit,
Jan. 17, 2013.

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Speaking common sense to power: Interestingly, this telling point was made as a side note to Krugman’s larger message. That message is that while we have a deficit problem — as opposed to the universally flogged and erroneous term “crisis” — there is no good reason to tackle the whole thing now. The fiscal situation of the 2030’s can probably be better handled by the public officials of the 2020’s.

Krugman winds up this excellent column with a bit of wisdom that should be embroidered in bold olde script, framed and placed on President Obama’s Oval Office desk.

“But neither the current deficit nor projected future spending deserve to be anywhere near the top of our political agenda. It’s time to focus on other stuff — like the still-depressed state of the economy and the still-terrible problem of long-term unemployment.”

Amen.

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7 Comments

  1. Solving the immediate problems makes solving future problems much easier. It’s common sense.

  2. Tom Harper says:

    Paul Krugman’s moment of common sense has been very refreshing. Our top priority definitely needs to be “the still-depressed state of the economy and the still-terrible problem of long-term unemployment.”

  3. Dave Dubya says:

    The “still-terrible problem of long-term unemployment,” is why the the economy is so depressed, at least for most of us. The “trickle up economy” is doing fine. That’s why the Right’s elites care so little about the real problem and only want to impose austerity to keep us anxiety stricken and in line over their debt manipulations and hysteria.

  4. jim marquis says:

    As usual, PK makes a whole lot of sense. We tend to forget that a big reason Clinton was able to balance the budget was because unemployment was practically non-existent in his second term and all those working people were paying taxes.

  5. S.W. Anderson says:

    Jerry, horse before cart does work much better.

    Tom, Dave, Jim, we’re all obviously on the same page here. I went to the White House Web site not long ago and put my 2 cents’ worth in a message there. Please, all of you, do the same. It takes only a few minutes, can’t hurt and might help. Buzz does seem to matter.

  6. Jack Jodell says:

    Great to have you back, S.W.! I have long held both Robert Reich and Paul Krugman in the highest esteem. They have both correctly diagnosed potential problems well in advance, and, in Krugman’s case, he was completely correct in asserting that our original stimulus was too small to really lift us completely out of the economic depths that George W. Bush’s unrestrained Wall Street had put us into.

  7. demeur says:

    Ah yes nothing like a little blood letting to cure someone bleeding to death eh?