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The Conscience of a Realist
November 13th 05:44:28 PM

Paul Krugman, a columnist for the New York Times and economist at Princeton, goes after Senator Obama's Social Security plan in a recent "Conscience of a Liberal" blog post.  Krugman isn't concerned about the economic effects of raising the payroll tax cap, or the fact that eliminating the cap does not solve all of the funding shortfall. 

No, Krugman is upset because Obama is making Social Security an issue.  That's right, Krugman does not want presidential candidates to talk about Social Security.  Or rather, the candidates can talk about the issue, just as long as they don't talk about it too much. 

Here are three points that summarize Krugman's post, with comments in italics:

1. The bigger entitlement problem is health care, so why bother talking about Social Security?

There is a scene from the movie Sicko in which Michael Moore becomes outraged when a hospital patient with two severed fingers is asked which of his fingers he wants reattached.  That is, the patient is given the option of saving one finger or the other, but not both. 

Notice any similarities?  Why is Krugman asking us to choose between Medicare and Social Security? 

2. With the help of "progressives," the 2005 reforms stalled in Congress.  The issue of Social Security reform is therefore settled, and we should never revisit the program's funding problems.

Setting aside the issue of whether the "progressive" label really ought to apply to people who oppose changing a system from the 1930s, doesn't this logic suggest that Senator Clinton should not be talking about the universal health care coverage that Krugman supports, since Clinton's plan was roundly rejected in 1994?  

3. Obama is talking about Social Security because he is "desperately seeking approval from Beltway insiders."

This really would be interesting.  Instead of votes, what Obama really wants is the approbation of people in Washington who recognize the Social Security crisis.  And those people, if I understand Krugman correctly, are all Republicans.  Does this mean Obama is going to run as a Republican? 

You get the point -- Krugman's post is ridiculous.  And if you don't believe that, one of the NYT readers was kind enough to point out a book review from 1996 in which Krugman sounded the alarm about both Social Security and Medicare:

In short, the Federal Government, however solid its finances may currently appear, is in fact living utterly beyond its means. While the present generation of retirees is doing very nicely, the promises that are being made to those now working cannot be honored.

At the beginning of that post, titled "Demographics and Destiny," Krugman offered a portentous book synopsis.  Here is his summary, with his capital letters:

"When the baby-boomers retire, we are in BIG trouble."

How conscientious of him.

Posted by Ryan Lynch


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