Social Security: As Scott Bruun waffles, Jim Huffman brings the dork robot to town

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Even now, after the meltdown of the global financial system, there are candidates for high office running in Oregon that believe we should invest Americans' Social Security funds in the financial markets.

Hard to believe, but it's true.

On Friday, Senate candidate Jim Huffman hosted publishing heir and two-time vanity presidential candidate Steve Forbes, who endorsed him. As reported on KOIN-6, "Forbes and Huffman both would like to eventually replace Social Security with private savings accounts."

And that capped a week in which OR-5 candidate Rep. Scott Bruun wiggled and waffled around the issue. Last March, he said that "we have to have a private element of Social Security to make it work." Then, last Saturday, he told [KGW Straight Talk], "I do not support privatizing Social Security."

Pressed on the issue, he clarified and expanded his position for the O's Jeff Mapes...

Bruun also said he thought the country would have been better off if Congress had enacted some version of Bush's plan. "Absolutely, because every year you wait it becomes harder," he said.

Social Security, of course, is a system designed to provide a secure safety net under personal retirement investing -- to make sure that our older people are not impoverished due to bad investment returns.

Not only is it dumb financial management, it's even dumber politics. In 2005, when President Bush was stumping on the idea, just 35% of Americans approved - and the more he talked, the more the numbers dropped. And that was before the financial meltdown.

As Maggie Gallagher, a former editor at the right-wing National Review, put it last month:

You can get a chunk of Americans to say they support privatization. But the people who vote on Social Security are going to be the people who depend on it, and they do not favor dramatic change.

So, Jim Huffman and Scott Bruun, keep preaching that gospel. I'm sure everything will work out fine.

Oh, and Jim, next time you want to bring a symbol of inherited wealth and ego-centric profligacy to Portland, could you make it Paris Hilton?

At least Time magazine has never called her a "comedy-club impression of what would happen if some mad scientist decided to construct a dork robot."

  • (Show?)

    Full disclosure: My firm built the campaign websites for Ron Wyden and Kurt Schrader. I speak only for myself.

    • (Show?)

      Two years ago the date the Trust funds would run dry was estimated at 2043. today for the first time ever SS takes in less in payroll taxes than is paid out to recipients (not 2016 as recently estimated). Bill, we agree that privitization is a non-starter.

      What fix would you suggest, a 1% increase across the board for employees and employers or some other idea?

  • (Show?)

    Here's what the fall campaign needs to highlight, the GOP plans for Soc. Sec. and Medicare:

  • (Show?)

    When I was a freshman in college in 1983, I challenged a Congressman that came to talk to us about Social Security solvency. I have known since I was a teenager that Social Security would not exist when I reach 65. I knew there was no "trust fund" and that the money was spent along the way, even when the citizens were being told otherwise.

    Meanwhile my defined-contribution plans that I have contributed to since I was in my 20's have already done much more for my retirement security with a much higher return than my forced dunning to FICA has ever made. I wish I had the option to take that same amount I have paid for 25 years, and which was spent along the way by both Democrat and Republican Congress'.

    I suspect the real reason Democrats are so against user-defined accounts is it would force Congress to tell the truth about how it used Social Security surpluses to hide how bad budget deficits REALLY were for the past 45 years.

    But instead of solutions, I see a bunch of scare-mongering tactics, like telling senior citizens that Republicans want to take your Social Security money away.

    You all know full well that the proposals offered were voluntary and would start with people 20 years or more away from retirement.

    But telling the truth doesn't scare old people into voting for Democrats, does it? You all must feel so proud. By any means necessary, right?

    • (Show?)

      Wall St. is a gambling casino run by crime bosses. My 401k would be nearly gone if I hadn't shifted it to a CD just before the crash. But if I had to rely on my 401K I would now be utterly destitute. Try finding a job if you're in your 60s or 70s. My older brother is trying to supplement his Soc. Sec. with employment. Even though he has excellent credentials in computer science and electronics they won't even look at him. Social Security is what keeps him and me from utter destitution in later life. The middle class know the scam that Wall St. and the GOP are trying to pull. They just need to be reminded of it. You and and the right wing are the real fear mongers.

      • (Show?)

        And you didn't address a single one one my points except to use the term fear mongers in an ad hominum attack.

        How typical. So when the pyramid scheme collapses it is my problem because you won't be around anymore?

        I'm glad you didn't lose money on your 401K, but you always have the choice to roll it over into an IRA. You take ownership of your retirement funds.

        Here's an exercise for you: look up the historical returns in the S&P 500 or even in CD's compared to social security's payout from the same contribution. Based on what you are saying about Wall St., Social Security's returns must be much higher? Look it up. Here's a peer-reviewed article and a place to start:

        So if you want to call me a fear-monger (obviously profiling on your part), then come up with some facts. Any adolescent can say "nu-huh, you are!"

        I think you proved my point. The only thing the Democratic party fears on this topic is the truth.

        • (Show?)

          More bloviating crap that Social Security is a pyramid scheme. The second anyone starts into with rhetoric like that, it proves entirely that they 100% unserious about the topic.

          • (Show?)

            Wow, you can say and spell bloviating!

            And, having picked out a phrase that you can take issue with, you can now extrapolate a conclusion about my points that relieves you of the responsibility of actually thinking about them.

            Nice work. That way of reasoning doesn’t work for me, but I have this stubborn belief in listening to people whom I don’t agree with and actually thinking about what they say. But I have been an iconoclast in that and many other ways my whole life.

        • (Show?)

          What you've proven is that the Republican Party has failed to undermine the confidence the American people have in the most successful government program for the middle class in American history. It has been successful for 75 years and will continue to be successful for another 75 years. The Republican Party hates Social Security, and wants to destroy financial security for middle class American seniors. The GOP has failed for 75 years, and will to fail for another 75 years as long as we are vigilant and confront the deceptions and fear mongering of people like you and Scott Bruun.

        • (Show?)

          Uh, Earth to Ken:

          The political party that raided the Social Security trust fund to cover their LIES (that tax cuts would pay for themselves through increased economic activity, aka "trickle down economics") was the GOP! The party who's candidate received the most votes for President in 2000 (and would have received the most Electoral College votes if the SCOTUS hadn't decided to put Party before the counting all the votes) wanted to take advantage of his administration's BUDGET SURPLUS to END this accounting trick. Instead, the GOP candidate appointed to the Presidency by said SCOTUS (rhymes with "scrotus"--worth mentioning because the originator of "there's a pubic hair in my Coke" cast one of the 5 deciding votes) went on to prove that tax cuts do NOT pay for themselves by turning a record surplus into a record deficit... in record time!!!

          If all incomes paid a "flat" social security tax (Remember Forbes' "flat tax" proposal? Too bad. I'm sure he'd rather we'd all forgotten.), there would be NO social security shortfall. Period. Done. End of story. Got a reason why high incomes should pay THE SAME (Not more, mind you. This isn't some Teddy Roosevelt-style Republican progressive tax scheme.) as everyone else? Well, good luck, 'cause there aren't enough of us stupid enough to vote for it.

          But thanks for playing!

          • (Show?)

            But there are enough people out there to believe the lie that there was only one party raiding SS. An intellectuly honest person would at least admit that both parties since LBJ have used the Trust funds as their private piggy bank. In fact almost the single issue they have been bipartisan on over the past 40-50 years is raiding SS.

          • (Show?)

            I know you all can't let the election of 2000 go, but I suggest you read the Constitution. If the Electoral College doesn't provide enough votes, it goes to the House of Representatives.

            The only reason it was even in the Supreme court was the Gore campaign chose to sue. If he hadn't done that he still wouldn't be President. Even the New York Times says so, but this issue is the Democrats conspiricy analog to the birther loons.

            It worked out pretty well for him, considering he is now a Multi-Milionaire from his ownership of carbon-credit trading outfits.

            • (Show?)

              Of course Jay's absolutely correct on the facts of the 2000 election decision, but whether or not he can "let it go" is not addressing his central argument.

              Tax cuts do not and never have "paid for themselves" a point on which actual economists, right or left are in near unanimous agreement.

        • (Show?)

          "Here's an exercise for you: look up the historical returns in the S&P 500 or even in CD's compared to social security's payout from the same contribution."

          Dude. Economics 101. Higher returns come from higher risk. The while point of Social Security is lower risk, by definition, lower returns.

          Again, the point of social security is to be a societal safety net -- not maximize investment returns.

          • (Show?)

            And my point is that the original proposal was to allow self-directed investment on a portion of your FICA withholdings.

            Economics 102 dude. Even a completely risk-free investment like CD's outperformed the return from Social Security.

            And if you read my original post I said both parties are culpable in the misfeasance of the FICA funds. However, the Dems are the ones who have been blocking reforms for the past decade or so.

            • (Show?)

              Of course, an actual retirement account can run out of money -- you can, in short, outlive your investments.

              But not Social Security. If you live to be 115, you'll keep getting those checks.

              I have no idea how one accounts for that when calculating "return on investment", but it seems to be a critical element when evaluating risk vs. return.

              • (Show?)

                I suggest starting with the peer-reviewed document I linked to, done through the Federal reserve.


                • (Show?)

                  In 2005? With a bibliography including: Diamond, Peter A. and Orszag, Peter R. Saving Social Security. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2003? Well, that really settles it.

      • (Show?)

        Please have your brother send me his resume!

        Bill, don't you think you would have more savings if you had put the same amount of SS money into a secure investment (like a CD).

        And, if you believe that Wall St. is a gambling casino run by crime bosses, what the heck are you doing giving them your money via a 401k?

  • (Show?)

    ‎"Simply applying the Social Security payroll tax to all incomes would correct this inequity and bring in enough funds to keep the system strong for the next 75 years." Bernie Sanders

    (Could we ask people who are not progressives to NOT get on progressive sites, bark out degrading stuff, all the while, in my view anyway, being totally wrong.)

    • (Show?)

      I see. You would prefer only KoolAid drinkers allowed?

      Well I am here because I enjoy intellectual discourse.

      Occasionally I even find it.

      One of the problems with the outspoken in both major parties is their tendency to cloister in groupthink nodes, never running the risk of running into a contrary thought. I see that this is a condition you wish to perpetuate.

      • (Show?)

        Ken, it was not my intention to attack you personally, but to say in a diplomatic way that you are merely engaging in smart talk. As Bill said and I said, and probably some others above, there is a simple solution. If you know of some reason other than the rich do not want to pay progressive taxes why this would not be a good and simple way to address the problem, then please speak up and engage. That's one scenario. But this other mouthy stuff is not intellectual, it's tiring.

        I am an unaffiliated voter. Why would you ever think progressives have not heard the conservative side of the story, or have not tried to discuss it. Experience has shown that an extended attempt is pointless. I just hate seeing all that energy going into something pointless.

  • (Show?)

    One reason why drive-by right wingers like Ken are so ineffective on social security is they rehash the Bush "chicken little" argument that social security is doomed because there is going to be a shortfall in the future (78%). And their solution is to take even more money out of the system and divert it to Wall St. which will only create a greater shortfall and sooner.(Insurance systems work only when everyone in the pool contributes.) They hope they can convince younger people that it is doomed and give up entirely on what has been and will continue to be a successful safety net program into the future. They reject the fixes like lifting the FICA taxation limit on higher incomes because basically they want social security to fail. They are, and always have been and always will be unalterably opposed ideologically to a social insurance retirement system that provides a safety net for middle class Americans. So there is a fundamental dishonesty in their argument. And they try to claim because the social security system holds treasury notes, that is not real money. Although if private citizens hold those same notes, it is real money. Total dishonesty. So what we get is name calling in the end.

    It's frustration on their part. They have been losing the factual argument and the political argument for 75 years and will continue to lose it, as long as we are vigilant to their dishonesty.

    • (Show?)

      Bill, I agree with your analysis. Most of us at some point have read Atlas Shrugged and have the image of the elite few turning their backs on the overwhelming majority burned into our memory. The dirty word was "need."

      Starving the beast has been the strategy against all kinds of initiatives. The simple truth is that progressive taxation is fair and the real irresponsibility is in those who think they are too elite to pay their share.

    • (Show?)

      Finally! A post with some facts.

      However, if you call me a "drive-by 'anything'" you are not correct. You will find that I have posted substantive work for some years on BO.

      Now to your post. I disagree that Republicans are opposed to Social Security. Maybe if you were making that claim in 1950 there would be some truth. Maybe even in 1970. I daresay I know more Republicans than you, and I have yet to run into one who thinks the SS system could or should be revoked.

      Reform is a different story.

      You and I come from two fundamentally different worlds. I don't mean ideology, I mean generationally. If you poll a significant number of people under 50 about Social Security, you will find a lack of belief in the system and a lack of belief that Social Security by itself is adequate for retirement. These studies have been done in the past and I doubt the faith in the system is greater than it was 10 years ago. You can blame it on Republicans all you want (shooting the messenger), but the fact is that people are smart enough to spot BS when they see it and they see a system that has very few contributors compared to when the system was designed. Plus a bunch of people about to start drawing from the system. You can deny it all you want, but the public sees the truth. Selling the public a bill of goods is not how you will win this debate, but I guess time will tell. From my perspective, I hope you keep it up.

      I would hope you know this already, but the Social Security Wage Base, which is $106,800 for 2010, is not only a cap on where taxation ends, but also a limit on how much income benefit is paid out. You are leaving out half the story when you only talk about "lifting the FICA taxation limit." So, in the interest of fairness, does that mean you also support lifting the cap on incomes used to calculate benefits? Because that is why the cap is in place.

      As to retirement age calculations, those should be based on actuarials, not politics. People are living longer. the retirement ages were set arbitrarily in the beginning. People who are close to retirement should be able to start drawing their benefit under the assumptions they made. But, there is no reason my retirement age shouldn't be 67 or 68. If Social Security is extant when I reach that age (of which I am highly dubious), then then the age I start drawing benefits shouldn't be based on how long people lived in the 1960's.

      As to who will win the hearts and minds of the voting public, we'll see. I don't think you are correct, but that goes without saying.

      I come from a different background. One of the reasons I realized years ago I didn't fit in the Dem party anymore is that I fundamentally disagree with the philosophy that government should be all things to all people. I agree far more with John Stuart Mill than with Huey Long.

      So we'll see in November who the public agrees with. If its you, then so be it.

      But I don't think so.

  • (Show?)

    Raising the existing tax by 1% on the employee and employer would gain the same stabilizing effect for SS that removing the income ceiling does. However it does less to feed into some people's emotional needs to punish corporations and 'the rich'.

    • (Show?)

      Punish? Whose logic has an emotional overlay? How about fairness as a standard? Isn't progressive taxation the most democratic way to raise revenue?

  • (Show?)

    How about fairness as a standard? Is it 'fair' that over 48% of the earning population paid n federal taxes? So no progressive taxation is not a small d democratic way to raise revenue. It is however a cap D Democrat way to raise revenue.

    But this discussion is specifically about Social Security. A 1% tax on the employer and employee preserves the status quo for an additional 75 years. Raising retirement ages also preserves the status quo as does removing the earnings cap altogether. We both know that the last one is a non-starter, so what mix of alternatives will our anemic congress be able to pass? Or will they do what they are so good at and punt?

    • (Show?)

      So we are not there on the same page. I am not a Democrat, BTW, but I am a firm believer of progressive taxation. The single most important thing we need to do is get in more revenue, then consider cuts as otherwise reasonable.

      I do not think that removing the earnings cap is a non-starter so don't count me with you on your assessment.

  • (Show?)

    Here we go again...

    That 48% figure doesn't take into account FICA etc.

    Also when defining the 'earning population" they count anyone including college students and high-schoolers.

  • (Show?)

    Theresa I agree that we are not on the same page. We may not even be in the same book. We do agree that Social Security is in need of more funding. So, then comes the method.

    Raising the earnings cap may be an alternative, but as mentioned above that is a dual edged sword as the benefits equation then is also raised. Removing the cap in its entirety is a non-starter; analogous to privitazation at the other extreme.

    I understand and appreciate that you state you are not a Democrat. You are however not looking at viable alternatives if you seriously think removing the cap is a viable political outcome.

  • (Show?)

    Do you all know there is no ss lock box. Every penny of the ss tax deducted from all the pay checks over all the years including the employer match has been spent by the fed government. It is gone, all of it. It is not an investment, ss has become a ponzy scheme. The demonization of anyone who suggests letting people have a little control of their own money and destiny is outrageous. The only difference between Bernie Madoff and incumbent Democrats: Bernie is spending the rest of his life in prison, and the Dem who has spent all the ss money is on you ballot for re-election.


connect with blueoregon