It is one thing (what thing that is we are not sure, but we have heard others say it, so like all good lemmings we will say it too) for Rick Perry to call Social Security a ponzi scheme. After all he is some crazy, foaming in the mouth conservative, as uber-Keynesian liberal Paul Krugman may call him. And that’s fine. What confuses us, however, is why Social Security would be called a ponzi by the same liberal noted previously: none other than Paul Krugman himself.
Exhibit A, from a distant 1997, which perhaps one would have expected to remain buried (source):
Social Security is structured from the point of view of the recipients as if it were an ordinary retirement plan: what you get out depends on what you put in. So it does not look like a redistributionist scheme. In practice it has turned out to be strongly redistributionist, but only because of its Ponzi game aspect, in which each generation takes more out than it put in. Well, the Ponzi game will soon be over, thanks to changing demographics, so that the typical recipient henceforth will get only about as much as he or she put in (and today’s young may well get less than they put in).
This coming from the same person who a year ago said the following much anticipated truism, and has in the interim become a caricature of himself:
So where do claims of crisis come from? To a large extent they rely on bad-faith accounting. In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don’t count — because hey, the program doesn’t have any independent existence; it’s just part of the general federal budget — while future Social Security deficits are unacceptable — because hey, the program has to stand on its own.
It would be easy to dismiss this bait-and-switch as obvious nonsense, except for one thing: many influential people — including Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the president’s deficit commission — are peddling this nonsense.
And having invented a crisis, what do Social Security’s attackers want to do? They don’t propose cutting benefits to current retirees; invariably the plan is, instead, to cut benefits many years in the future. So think about it this way: In order to avoid the possibility of future benefit cuts, we must cut future benefits. O.K.
What’s really going on here? Conservatives hate Social Security for ideological reasons: its success undermines their claim that government is always the problem, never the solution. But they receive crucial support from Washington insiders, for whom a declared willingness to cut Social Security has long served as a badge of fiscal seriousness, never mind the arithmetic.
And neither wing of the anti-Social-Security coalition seems to know or care about the hardship its favorite proposals would cause.
The only question we have for the Nobelist: is some form of affective disorder a necessary and sufficient condition to espouse the virtues of government dumping endless capital in what said Nobelist himself calls a Ponzi scheme, and just how would the overlord, John M. Keynes, fell about this?
h/t John Poehling