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Social Security: The Phony Crisis
     

Social Security: The Phony Crisis

by Dean Baker, Mark Weisbrot
 

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Is it true that the Social Security system is in serious trouble and must be repaired? As baby boomers begin to retire, will they inevitably, by force of their sheer numbers, bankrupt the system? Is Social Security a big Ponzi scheme that will leave future generations with little to show for their lifetime of contributions? Is the only way to solve the Social

Overview


Is it true that the Social Security system is in serious trouble and must be repaired? As baby boomers begin to retire, will they inevitably, by force of their sheer numbers, bankrupt the system? Is Social Security a big Ponzi scheme that will leave future generations with little to show for their lifetime of contributions? Is the only way to solve the Social Security crisis through radical changes like privatization or bolstering it with massive new taxes?

According to the authors of this important new study, the answer to these questions is a resounding no. In Social Security: The Phony Crisis, economists Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot argue that there is no economic, demographic, or actuarial basis for the widespread belief that the program needs to be fixed.

As the authors emphasize, there is virtually no disagreement about the facts of Social Security's finances, or even the projections for its future. Rather, the Social Security debate has been foundering on misconceptions, confusion, and lack of agreement on the meaning of crucial terms.

The authors also take on related issues: that privatization would help save Social Security, that America has a pressing need to increase its national savings, and that future generations will suffer from the costs—especially for health care—of supporting a growing elderly population.

As New York Times columnist Fred Brock recently wrote, "So-called reform of the Social Security system is looking more and more like a solution in search of a problem." In this accessible and insightful work, Baker and Weisbrot seek to cut through some of the myths and fallacies surrounding this crucial policy issue.

"Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot have no trouble at all demonstrating that even on highly conservative assumptions about economic growth, the much-forecast insolvency of the Social Security system by about 2030 is most unlikely to happen then, if indeed ever."—The Economist
"The authors challenge basic assumptions with vigor and intelligence. . . . An absolutely relevant and important analysis, presented with force and clarity, that asks, basically, what kind of a nation we really are."—Kirkus Reviews

"Proponents—like George W. Bush—of Social Security privatization . . . typically ignore prospects for a stagnant or falling stock market. In Social Security: The Phony Crisis, [Baker and Weisbrot] show how a falling stock market could place pressure on both future Social Security payments and privatization schemes because earnings from the trust fund could actually fall."—Jeff Madrick, New York Review of Books

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
What if the predicted collapse of Social Security is only doublespeak and all the Chicken Little economists' warnings just prodigious flummery? Social Security is truly healthy, say Drs. Baker and Weisbrot, both of Washington's Preamble Center. It simply doesn't need the dire purgatives the putative experts prescribe. There is no dispute about the figures, statistics, or projections cited by the prognosticators when they spy a shortfall along about 2034. But the authors challenge basic assumptions with vigor and intelligence. They question the methodology and even the intentions of those who would renounce the remarkable success of America's great social-insurance program. The advertised deficit in the Social Security fund over the next 75 years, they note, is based on a projected rate of growth that's less than half the last 75. Social Security bookkeeping should be isolated from that of Medicare (which is funded in large part by general revenues). The supposed overstatement of the consumer price index, discovered by experts with their own agendas, may be way off base after all. (At any rate, an adjustment of the CPI would clearly improve the dire predictions for all social programs.) The privatization of the national retirement system—promoted, naturally, by Wall Street—would wreak havoc, based as it is on clearly untenable assumptions over any reasonable period. Demographics show that intergenerational warriors promote a false, poisonous cause. All in all, say economists Baker and Weisbrot, it's not an honest debate. Let's talk about the real problems, they urge. The environment is inexorably deteriorating, the gap between rich and poor is widening, and the rising cost ofhealth care is of paramount concern for the future. So calm down, policy wonks. Let Grandma alone. Your own retirement will be fine if it you let Social Security alone. Its future is brighter than the pundits and politicos would have us believe. An absolutely relevant and important analysis, presented with force and clarity, that asks, basically, what kind of a nation we really are.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226035468
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
09/28/2001
Edition description:
1
Pages:
175
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are Saying About This

Joe Matzzie
… A devastating critique of those who say social security is going broke and that something drastic needs to be done… a succinct, easy-to-read, and fact-packed economic and logical rebuttal to the assault on social insurance.

Meet the Author


Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot are codirectors of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (www.cepr.net).

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