Rick Perry’s limited, modified honesty

Perry’s op-ed on Social Security, boldly headed “I am going to be honest with the American people,” calls boldly for “a conversation” on Social Security without actually being bold or honest enough to contribute anything to that conversation but some predictable talking points.

Perry’s op-ed on Social Security, boldly headed “I am going to be honest with the American people,” calls boldly for “a conversation” on Social Security without actually being bold or honest enough to contribute anything to that conversation but some predictable talking points.

Gov. Perry never says whether he thinks that Social Security is Constitutional. In his book Fed Up – which is campaign is desperately trying to shove down the Memory Hole – he writes that the program was established “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.” If that’s right, then why is Perry talking about fixing it rather than getting rid of it? Doesn’t his oath (as Governor) to uphold the Constitution mean anything to him?

Mr. Perry also never says what he’d actually do “so today’s beneficiaries and tomorrow’s retirees really can count on Social Security for the long haul. Note that there are precisely two options: increase revenues or cut payouts. Which is it, Governor?

Footnotes

1. Actually, of course, there are three options: we could also increase the rate of economic growth so that paying benefits to future retirees will put less of a strain on future fiscal balances. But that’s something the people trying to scare younger workers with “Ponzi scheme” talk would prefer not to mention.

2. Not clear whether Perry’s ghost-writers are lying or just unclear on the concept, but the idea that if the program isn’t shored up it will only be able to pay out 76% of currently planned benefits in 2037 is not in any way equivalent to the idea that “investors” in Social Security have lost “24% of their money.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Rick Perry’s limited, modified honesty”

  1. Mark–Take a look at any of the annual reports of the trustees.

    First, it is not at all clear that the “middle” calculation used by the trustees is correct. By way of example, in the mid-90’s, the middle calculation estimated that the trust fund would be depleted in 2028.

    Second, there are several things that we can do to avoid the fate of the middle calculation. Increase immigration to this country. (Perry’s winking at illegal immigration in Texas has actually helped create his so-called “Texas miracle.”) Pass a strong stimulus program (that is, increase economic growth). Revise the contribution ceiling so that it covers 90% of all compensation earnings, as was the assumption in 1983 when the current structural reforms were added.

  2. The fourth option, too un-American to be mentioned in polite company, is to do nothing. Wait ten years – the Trust Fund will be growing until 2022 – see how things turn out in the interim, and make the (modest) fixes then.

    Is there any other area in which it’s seen as vital to solve problems today that can be comfortably addressed years ahead? Who’s asking today whether the US should start building a aircraft carrier in 2020 to replace whichever Nimitz-class carrier will reach the end of its life in 2025? Contrast climate change, where every year’s delay raises the costs of stabilisation and the risks of catastrophe. Perry is happy to kick that leaking can of poison gas down the road for our children to pick up.

  3. I hadn’t read the Perry op-ed before I responded. It contains a statement that is, at best, a gross misrepresentation, if not outright dishonest. Specifically, Perry says “Last year, annual Social Security outlays exceeded annual revenues for the first time since 1983.” Well, no.

    That statement is true if you consider as revenue only the FICA/SECA tax contributions to the fund. When you consider interest earned on U.S. obligations held by the trust fund, the trust fund will have net positive revenues for several years to come. A Congressional Research Service paper published last year showed that the fund would continue to grow until at least 2018, reaching a surplus of almost $3.7 trillion by that point. See http://bit.ly/pHN8x1, table 5 at pdf page 16.

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