Why Does Matt Bai Have a Job?

Matt Bai thinks that Social Security is in trouble because he can’t tell the difference between playing the lottery and owning Treasury Bills. He’s an easy mark for spin doctors.

Obviously not for understanding policy.  In a typically snide and vacuous piece yesterday, he rehearses the typically snide and vacuous Beltway Insider conventional wisdom that Social Security Is In Serious Trouble, criticizing those trying protect the program for being insufficiently bipartisan.  Then he dismisses their arguments that the system is solvent:

The coalition bases its case on the idea that Social Security is actually in fine fiscal shape, since it has amassed a pile of Treasury Bills — often referred to as i.o.u.’s — in a dedicated trust fund. This is true enough, except that the only way for the government to actually make good on these i.o.u.’s is to issue mountains of new debt or to take the money from elsewhere in the federal budget, or perhaps impose significant tax increases — none of which seem like especially practical options for the long term. So this is sort of like saying that you’re rich because your friend has promised to give you 10 million bucks just as soon as he wins the lottery.

Uh, no.  I’m not an economist.  I don’t pretend to have macroeconomic expertise, although those who do have it have not really shown that macroeconomics is anything more than shamanism.  But even I know the difference between winning the lottery and holding Treasury Bills, perhaps the safest form of investment known to humanity at present.  The Chinese have over $1 trillion worth of T-bills — are they counting on winning the lottery?  So do all the big banks — mostly with TARP money.  Are they playing, too?  There’s a reason why T-bills have a low interest rate: the market thinks that they are a very good risk.  If Bai wants to argue that the market makes no sense and is underpricing the risk, then he should make that argument.  But then he’d have to know something.

Bai doesn’t have a hidden agenda: he just can’t be bothered with actually learning anything about what he writes.  So he’s an easy mark for someone trying to spin him.  And boy did he get spun here.

Oh, and incidentally: Treasury Bills are not “often referred to as i.o.u.s”.  They’re often referred to as, well, Treasury Bills.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

32 thoughts on “Why Does Matt Bai Have a Job?”

  1. All that being said, there are changes to need to be made in order to improve the long term outlook for SSA. Even the board of Trustees thinks so:

    http://ssa.gov/pressoffice/pr/trustee10-pr.htm

    One idea off the top of my head is to eliminate State and County/City employee pensions. Currently the City of San Diego (where I live) is faced with the possibility of having to raise taxes in order to hold true on its promised pensions to retiring workers. There is political pressure on one side demanding that no new taxes be created, and pressure on the other side (from City retirees) that the City do whatever it needs to do to come through on those pensions. Why not do away with these pensions and force all State and Local employees to pay into SS? This would also help eliminate what is a significant source of inefficiency in the improper payment of SS benefits. Since 1986, I believe, the Social Security Administration has implemented the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset to eliminate the advantage that retirees who paid into SS but who also paid into non covered pensions used to benefit from. Unfortunately SSA still manages to pay out millions of dollars in benefits every year to these retirees due to the inefficiencies that arise out of this process.

  2. So this is sort of like saying you're secure in having a retirement income because you deposited money in the bank every week for your whole life and you know that the bank won't then refuse to pay you back what they owe you after they have had all this time to wisely invest all that money.

    Do the people contemplating welshing on this contract understand that if the federal government refuses to own up to this responsibility the credibility of USA will be worthless? No one in the world will ever trust a promise made by the American government again. Sadly I think they understand exactly and that is their plan. Crash the US and pick up the pieces for a song.

  3. Even as a non-economist, I expect you know the difference between you or I holding T bills, and the issuer of those T-bills holding them. It's the difference between having somebody else's IOU in your possession, and having your own.

    Here's a clue: No matter how reliable you may be, holding your own IOUs is not an asset. Yes, I expect even non-economists understand that.

    Now, if the SSA held some OTHER nation's securities, that would indeed have been an asset. But that didn't happen.

    If the government had taken those funds, and used them to reduce the outstanding total of T bills, instead of spending them and running the debt up, too, that would have been the effective equivalent of an asset, much as paying down your credit card is a high return investment. But that didn't happen.

    No, what happened was that the extra revenue which was collected on the basis that it would be saved for the future, was spent, and replaced with IOUs. And no matter how you chop it, that's not an asset for the issuing government.

    "Do the people contemplating welshing on this contract understand that if the federal government refuses to own up to this responsibility the credibility of USA will be worthless?'

    What I understand is that, in as much as the SSA is an arm of the government, the federal government will never refuse to pay off Treasury bills held by the SSA. Rather, the SSA will be directed to refrain from ASKING the federal government to pay them off. Payments will be reduced, retirement age will be raised, or SS payments will be subject to some form of 'clawback', in order to keep the Treasury from having to pay off too many of those bills.

    Frankly, nobody thinks you're unreliable if you refuse to pay off on IOUs you've issued to yourself. They just think you're a nutcase for having issued them in the first place.

  4. Brett, what you've identified here isn't a problem with Social Security, but a problem with the overall solvency of the U.S. Social Security, after all, has its own tax, and there's no reason to single out that program to take a cut just because the government decided to blow the money collected for that program on tax cuts for the wealthy and dumb wars.

  5. Yes, it's exactly the same as the proposed analogy- if your friend had the power to coerce the holder of the winning lottery ticket to fork it over, and send the winner to jail at gunpoint if he doesn't comply. So you know, exactly the same.

  6. PF, yes, exactly. The point is simply that those T-bills don't do anything to help, they're just a distraction. If the federal government can afford SS, it could have done so without the T-bills being involved. If it can't afford SS, the T-bills do absolutely nothing to help.

    They are exactly the same as writing IOUs to yourself, and depositing them in a jar, instead of actually saving money for a rainy day. Doesn't help, doesn't hurt. Unless you're gullible enough to think they represent some store of value.

    Which is why anybody who points to the T-bills as evidence that SS is on a sound basis is scamming you. Maybe the federal government can afford to keep the SS promises, maybe it can't. But those T-bills have nothing AT ALL to do with whether or not it can. Forget them, and look at the actual flows of money.

  7. Yes, the US government has to make good on those T-Bills. It is the taxing power of the largest economy in the world, and is considered by many to be the most stable government in the world. They will make good on those T-Bills; if they don't, then everything and everybody is already completely screwed. As someone said here, they will either have to borrow more money or raise the money through taxes. Or, the economy will grow more than the dismal predictions of those who predict disaster. But the pain caucus says that the government has to default on its obligations to its own citizens to prevent a default to others. And that it what it is: anything other than minor adjustments to the benefits is a default to its own citizens.

  8. Also note that anyone who doubts the reliability of the Trust Fund logically should never have trusted it, and so should acknowledge Alan Greenspan and Ronald Reagan's 1986 hike in payroll taxes for that trust fund as the biggest tax swindle ever executed. If they don't think the trust fund is real.

  9. Warren has an important point. We're talking about trillions of dollars that were deducted from middle and lower-quintile wages, with the promise that they would be used to support the retirement of the people paying them (in a distinct departure from the previous model where current generations of workers paid for previous generations' benefits, making the ongoing social contract clear). Taking that money and using it, in effect, to pay only external treasury bondholders, would be an enormous upwards wealth transfer.

    The place where Brett makes his logical mistake, I think, is forgetting that the US government notes held by an entity of the US government are going to be used to pay out benefits denominated in US dollars. If the notes had to be converted to hard currency that would be another matter.

  10. US govt obligations are held in all the federal trust funds: the Highway Trust fund, the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (which provides the majority of FAA's funding), etc. Warren Terra above is right about the great bait and switch that Reagan and Greenspan seem to have pulled off in the mind of much of the public.

    Suppose all the Treasuries held in the trust fund were in some equitable fashion distributed to all the future SS recipients who might receive proceeds from them as a retirement account to be drawn upon at some future retirement event. Other than some risk sharing aspects (due to variation in years of life spent in retirement), would anything fundamental change with respect to the nature of Federal obligations?

  11. "[H]e rehearses the typically snide and vacuous Beltway Insider conventional wisdom that Social Security Is In Serious Trouble…".

    Even though its situation isn't nearly so bad as that of Medicare, and it's better off than state and local pensions, not to mention the federal budget, according to the experts, Social Security *does* have serious issues.

    CBO: "Social Security is the federal government’s largest single program, and as the U.S. population grows older in the coming decades, its cost is projected to increase more rapidly than its revenues. As a result, under current law, resources dedicated to the program will become insufficient to pay full benefits in 2039, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects. Long-run sustainability for the program could be attained through various combinations of raising taxes and cutting benefits; such changes would also affect the Social Security taxes paid and the benefits received by various groups of people."

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/115xx/doc11580/07-01-S

    Bruce Bartlett: "What really matters is how much revenue comes in from the Social Security tax compared to benefits paid. According to the trustees’ report, the growing imbalance between these two rates is the basic problem that must be dealt with. Although the tax rate is fixed, the cost rate is rising from 13.09 percent of taxable payroll this year to 16.73 percent in 2035. In essence, the payroll tax rate would have to rise by almost four percentage points over the next 25 years to keep Social Security’s finances stable."

    http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Issues/Budget-Impac

  12. "If Bai wants to argue that the market makes no sense and is underpricing the risk, then he should make that argument. But then he’d have to know something."

    That calls for a touche

  13. I'm glad no one here is tossing around the "Social Security is just a big Ponzi scheme" canard. There is a substantial difference between Social Security and a Ponzi scheme, and that's taxing authority.

    Ronald Wilson Reagan, may his soul rot in hell for eternity, raised SS taxes for most of my career. Aside from the two years I worked for USDA and while I was back in grad school for my doctorate, I have paid those taxes all of my working life. We were told this was necessary to make sure that SS was there when my generation retired. Well, we're going to retire: it's time to start taking those T-bonds out and cashing them in.

    That's going to mean raising taxes, and they'd damned well better be raised on the people who got the bulk of the Bush tax cuts.

  14. Bellmore identifies the issue; are the Treasury Bills held by Social Security different, or will they be treated differently, from other Treasury Bills? My guess is that if the government tries to do this, they'll be hit with a whole bunch of lawsuits, and then we'll see.

  15. "There is a substantial difference between Social Security and a Ponzi scheme, and that’s taxing authority."

    Yes, the difference between an armed mugger and a scam artiest.

  16. "[T]he Treasury Bills held by Social Security different, or will they be treated differently, from other Treasury Bills?"

    First, to be clear, we're not just talking about T-bills. We're also talking about Treasury notes and bonds, though they are all obligations of the U.S. government.

    The SS trust fund is an accounting device used to disguise the importance of general revenues to the maintenance of Social Security benefits. People want to think that there is a clear correlation between what they pay in and what they receive in benefits ("It's what I've earned"). The trust fund holds treasuries only, so its "earnings" simply represent budgetary authority to permit general revenues to be used to cover the difference between Social Security tax revenues and benefits paid (and, for the first time, benefits are now exceeding revenues). Therefore, the trust fund is essentially irrelevant to the health of Social Security except in a very narrow legal sense. If the trust fund were ever actually exhausted, it would take about a nanosecond for the Congress to vote to permit explicit general revenue financing of Social Security.

  17. "As someone said here, they will either have to borrow more money or raise the money through taxes."

    Or they can of course print money wildly to pay it.

    The thing that irritates me about the discussion is the T-bills just don't matter. People who write things like "Uh, no. I’m not an economist. I don’t pretend to have macroeconomic expertise, although those who do have it have not really shown that macroeconomics is anything more than shamanism. But even I know the difference between winning the lottery and holding Treasury Bills, perhaps the safest form of investment known to humanity at present." are just being silly.

    First, loans to yourself don't count as assets. This is true whether or not it is you personally, or you 'the government'.

    Second, loans to yourself don't really mean anything.

    Lets say that there are these T-bills, held by the US government and issued by the US government, in a vault somewhere as 'assets' to 'pay' Social Security.

    When it comes time to pay them, the government can raise taxes to cover the money, print more money, cut other programs, cut benefits, or some combination of those choices.

    Now, lets say that the government never stored such T-bills. Now what are the choices when it comes time to pay? Now it can raise taxes, print more money, cut other programs, cut benefits, or some combination of those choices.

    The interesting thing about those choices is that that they are EXACTLY THE SAME.

  18. Goodness. The "loans to yourself don't count as assets" thing is a great idea. I'll take all the money that I earn, lend it to myself, and then declare bankruptcy. My creditors won't be able to touch a penny. Oh, wait.

  19. Basta! Enough of this idiotic "IOUs to yourself" meme.

    The Social Security Adminstration is NOT the US government. Let me repeat that: THE SSA IS NOT THE GOVERNMENT. For the benefit of the metaphorically-minded, the SSA holding IOUs from the Treasury is like a father owning IOUs from his son. They are not strangers to each other; they are related by blood; but THEY ARE NOT THE SAME PERSON.

    Warren Terra is absolutely right: those who shout "the IOUs are meaningless" need to exhume the corpse of Ronald Reagan and shout their accusations at it.

    Brett Bellmore is, as always on this issue, good for a laugh: wage-earning Americans, he tells us, would have been better off if the SSA had used surplus FICA revenues all these years to buy French or German or Chinese government bonds. Because of course, when we retire, we have a much better chance of holding the French or Germans or Chinese to their promises than we have of holding the government WE elect to ITS promises.

    –TP

  20. Brett,

    Exactly what would it have meant for the SSA to "save" the money rather than invest in Treasuries? Presumably you don't think they should have just stuck a lot of $100 bills in tin cans, so the money was going to be invested somewhere. Where is that?

    Sebastian,

    When it comes time to pay them, the government can raise taxes to cover the money, print more money, cut other programs, cut benefits, or some combination of those choices.

    Or it can pay them out of normal tax revenue. Your essential complaint is not with SS, but with our fiscal policies. If you believe the US is headed for a fiscal crisis, then SS is very far from the only cause. Quite frankly, since a big part of any potential crisis is the bill of goods the public has been sold on taxes, my plan for fiscal soundness involvesfirst getting serious on ths point. Alas, we have one party that has told fairy stories so effectively it now believes them, and another that is reluctant to challenge the fantasy, and will in any case be trounced if it does.

  21. "The Social Security Administration is NOT the US government. Let me repeat that: THE SSA IS NOT THE GOVERNMENT."

    You can repeat it a thousand times, and it won't be any less false. Wildly, blatantly so.

    Why does nobody have a choice, BY LAW, about participating in Social Security? Because the SSA is part of the government.

    Why does Congress set SS taxes and payouts by statute? Because the SSA is part of the government.

    Might as well claim the FDA or Treasury department aren't the US government.

    "Warren Terra is absolutely right: those who shout “the IOUs are meaningless” need to exhume the corpse of Ronald Reagan and shout their accusations at it."

    He's wrong. He's wrong because, when live dudes are shouting lies at you, you don't ignore them to dig up some dead guy who told the same lie decades ago. You tell the dude lying to you NOW that he's lying.

    "Exactly what would it have meant for the SSA to “save” the money rather than invest in Treasuries? Presumably you don’t think they should have just stuck a lot of $100 bills in tin cans, so the money was going to be invested somewhere. Where is that?"

    Guess I wasted my electrons citing two examples of places the SSA could have put the money, that actually would have constituted savings; The securities of some other government, or paying down existing debt of our government.

    But what does not, in any universe, constitute savings, is spending the freaking money while going deeply into debt.

  22. Brett doubles down: SSA could have put the FICA surplus "in the securities of some other government". Cool. SSA could have bought Chinese government bonds, so the Chinese government could have had even more dollars to buy US Treasury bonds with. Ironclad logic, right there. Send our money on a round trip to Beijing. Problem solved.

    –TP

  23. Brett,

    "Paying down the debt" of the US implies running a budget surplus, or at least, as you see it, spending less than non-FICA taxes bring in. You can't pay down the debt by pulling money out of one pocket while borrowing and putting the proceeds in the other. So again, what you are complaining about is a general fiscal problem that is no more specifically connected to SS than it is to the Defense Department.

    As for investing in foreign bonds, or other securities for that matter, it would make no difference. When the day comes that the Treasury does not meet its debt obligations, do you think China, or anyone else, is going to meet theirs to SS? Do you think that any stocks or corporate bonds SS may have invested in are going to be worth more than their value as toilet paper?

    You think the government spends too much and is headed for a crisis. OK. Fine. But don't pin it on SS. That makes no sense.

  24. Actually, I'll side with Brett here, to a very limited extent: in a perfect world, paying down US debt, so as to have better borrowing capacity later, paired with an ironclad, unbreakable guarantee that this paying down of the debt will later mean Social Security benefits at least as good as those offered by the Trust Fund (and, for the purposes of this Thought Experiment, that's a fully honored Trust Fund, no pretending it goes poof), might well have been the better option – perhaps even if it were still funded by the same regressive taxes.

    Meanwhile, back here on Planet Earth, we saw what happens when the awful specter of "paying down the debt" raises its ugly head: immense tax cuts, mostly benefiting rich folks (or, in the case of the cuts in and transient abolition of the estate tax, only benefiting rich folks, and dead ones that that), paired with deliberately dishonest sunset clauses. So – given that the experiment has already been done – perhaps Brett will pardon me if I don't think that using a regressive payroll tax to pay down the national debt is likely to provide a path towards better, more secure Social Security benefits.

    Besides, all this discussion of Social Security is silly, and is playing into the hands of the liars and the innumerate: even if the Trust Fund disappeared in a cloud of mendacity, Social Security could still pay 75% of projected benefit levels (at least, that was true when I heard the numbers a few years ago, when things still weren't great but the calculations weren't complicated by mass unemployment). Medicare is a much bigger issue, because medical inflation is high, and because we can do more to prolong life these days. And the actual federal budget, the part that isn't Medicare or Social Security and isn't supposed to be funded by payroll taxes, has problems – but I'm not especially interested in discussing those problems with people who won't consider raising our taxes from their current historical lows.

  25. Actually, Brett, people do have a choice about participating in Social Security. The choice is called choosing your employer. If you don't want to participate, then take a job with an entity that doesn't participate. My brother has not contributed to Social Security since he left the Air Force: he has spent his career working in an exempt position in a California municipality. My wife has accepted a faculty position at a school that does not participate in Social Security. I didn't contribute to SS when I was in grad school on a GA stipend, nor did I contribute when I was employed by the USDA. The GA loophole still exists, but I don't recommend it: being a GA isn't a terribly lucrative job and it carries pretty stiff academic requirements along with it. Employees on the Federal General Schedule now must contribute to SS, your Reagan deity managed to do away with the Federal Civil Service retirement plan. Now employees on the GS have SS as the defined benefit part of their retirement plan along with the Thrift Savings Plan which amounts to a defined contribution plan.

    Both my brother and my wife pay a price: their retirement contributions are rather higher than mine. I will collect a SS pension eventually, or at least I certainly hope to. It's an integral component of my retirement planning. Of course, if you and your buddies get your hands on it, I'll likely be screwed out of 40 some years of contributions. On the other hand, I guess I should be happy. SS is now the sole defined benefit component of a GSer's retirement. If I were still working for USDA I'd be pretty concerned right now.

  26. Warren Terra, remember the fun Republicans had ridiculing Al Gore's "lockbox"?

    Brett is confused. How would the SSA "pay down the national debt"? The national debt consists of Treasury bonds "held by the public". Paying down the debt means buying back those bonds from "the public". So Brett thinks SSA should have bought Treasury bonds from the public? THAT's his bright idea?? That SSA should have loaded up on Treasury bonds instead of investing FICA surpluses in … all those worthless Treasury bonds???

    Brett's idiotic notion of investing FICA surpluses in Chinese government bonds makes more sense than THAT.

    –TP

  27. "Or it can pay them out of normal tax revenue. Your essential complaint is not with SS, but with our fiscal policies. If you believe the US is headed for a fiscal crisis, then SS is very far from the only cause. Quite frankly, since a big part of any potential crisis is the bill of goods the public has been sold on taxes, my plan for fiscal soundness involvesfirst getting serious on ths point. "

    I'm not sure how that differs from the raising taxes choice.

    Which is fine, we certainly need to raise taxes (although I have a sneaking suspicion that when the time comes the actual choice is going to be just print the money).

  28. Sebastian,

    I’m not sure how that differs from the raising taxes choice.

    In its framing. The implication of your comment is that somehow SS is leading us to a fiscal crisis that will require one of the courses of action you list. That's not true. It's not true even if we run into fiscal problems.

    I think the biggest issue in the whole SS debate is the refusal of its critics to recognize the simple fact that, taken in isolation, it is a well-designed, financially sound program. It may need some tweaks (or maybe not) but no major overhaul. Further its investments are not "just a bunch of IOU's" but rather the safest financial assets in the world.

    If in fact the Treasury ends up having trouble paying its debts to SS, that will have absolutely nothing to do with SS itself. It will have to do with fiscal irresponsibility across the board. If I hold GE bonds in IRA, and GE finds itself, at some future date, unable to meet the payments, it would be idiotic to say that I am responsible for GE's troubles. Same thing here.

    It's not unreasonable to worry about the finances of the country. It is unreasonable to focus on SS as the cause. How big a cut in defense would be needed to avoid the problem?

  29. "That SSA should have loaded up on Treasury bonds instead of investing FICA surpluses in … all those worthless Treasury bonds???"

    Yes, that's right: The SSA could have used the excess SS taxes to buy up T bonds that were already out there, instead of putting the money in the general fund to be spent, in return for MORE T bonds being issued. Perfectly analogous to somebody paying down their credit card, instead of banking the money, because the interest on the card is higher. When you're in debt, paying down the debt is often your best form of savings.

    Instead the extra money was spent, while the government went on borrowing, too. The extra revenue didn't get saved, it didn't reduce borrowing, it simply financed higher spending.

    I don't know if Reagan was a crazy optimist to think anything else would happen, or just spinning a line to get his hands on the extra revenue, but it doesn't make much difference, given that what was happening was obvious, and he didn't complain about it.

    Just don't try to tell me those bond held by the SSA make it easier for future benefits to be paid out. I really had being BSed like that.

  30. The SSA could have used the excess SS taxes to buy up T bonds that were already out there, instead of putting the money in the general fund to be spent, in return for MORE T bonds being issued. Perfectly analogous to somebody paying down their credit card, instead of banking the money, because the interest on the card is higher.

    And then what, Brett? The government would sell more Treasuries in the market to finance its spending, since it wasn't borrowing from SS any more. Things are still going in circles.

    The bottom line of your argument is that the arrangement to have SS buy Treasuries somehow stimulated government spending – that excess spending is somehow the fault of the Social Security system. I don't think you can support that to any significant degree.

  31. Brett said:

    I don’t know if Reagan was a crazy optimist to think anything else would happen, or just spinning a line to get his hands on the extra revenue, but it doesn’t make much difference, given that what was happening was obvious, and he didn’t complain about it.

    'scuse, but I think the answer to that question is obvious. Your Great Communicator Deity was spinning a line to get his hands on more revenue. Of course, I had the opportunity to observe the Alzheimer's poster-grandparent when he was Governor of California. I used to be unhappy that Governor Moonbeam's signature was on my diploma, but all-in-all, I prefer Jerry Brown's signature to Ronnie Raygun.

    I learned an important lesson from watching Governor Reagan. During college bull sessions, we used to speculate on how nice it would be to share Reagan with the rest of the country. The lesson: be very careful what you wish for. You might get it.

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