The Mother of all Unforced Errors

September 8th, 2011 at 4:35 pm | 75 Comments |

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During the September 7th Republican Presidential debate, healing Gov. Rick Perry of Texas repeated an earlier assertion of his that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme. Read that again: in the age of Bernie Madoff, Rick Perry called Social Security a Ponzi Scheme.

When the GOP nominating season was getting started a few months back, I told everyone that Newt Gingrich was a strong contender for the nomination – and was frequently jeered for it.

Now that Newt’s campaign has imploded, perhaps I deserved to be jeered, but I think I was right in the reason I gave for (what I believed to be) Gingrich’s strong odds: I could tell from his messaging he understood that in order to win the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012, that he would have to win two very different elections and win over two vastly different electorates.

Perhaps not since George McGovern’s annihilation at the hands of Richard Nixon in 1972 has a candidate’s Primary base been so alienated from the center of American political thought as the Tea Party is today. Make no mistake: no candidate who doesn’t convincingly throw the red meat to the Tea Party audiences will have a sliver of a chance of getting nominated.

That probably rules out Romney and Huntsman. Newt and Cain will run out of money. Ron Paul is Ron Paul. That leaves Perry and Bachmann, either of whom should negotiate the Tea hurdle with ease. Bachmann has no resume outside of her incredibly ironic former career as an IRS attorney, so Republicans will probably eventually close ranks behind Governor Perry.

I’m not going to go so far as to predict the result of a Presidential Election that is 14 months away, but I will posit that while “Change we can Believe in” might be a somewhat tired slogan by that point, it sure as hell beats “Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme”.

Recent Posts by Jamie McFadden

75 Comments so far ↓

  • Houndentenor

    I don’t know what the big deal is. I have heard pretty much every conservative I know refer to Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” in the last few years. Perry is only saying out loud what conservatives say in private. Again, a commentator seems surprised by this which makes me wonder how much time the writers for this site spend talking to conservatives outside the Beltway.

    • MSheridan

      +1. I could not begin to count the number of times I have heard that comparison, and not just recently. I don’t know who started this meme, but it has been well established for quite a while.

      • dugfromthearth

        Yes, but like most other right wing memes the base can say it, and the leaders can pander to it – but they cannot just outright say it. Because outright saying it makes an easy soundbite and clip to use against them. Saying “those people” or using odd biblical language does not make for an easy ad against them.

        • Houndentenor

          But now you have hit on the problem with the modern GOP base and candidates like Bachmann and Perry. They are so surrounded by people who believe all these things that it doesn’t occur to them to soft-pedal any of that. They’re saying it out loud. Once upon a time smarter, cooler heads ran the GOP and such things were not said in front of a microphone. Those days are over. Now the presidential candidates all sound like my nutjob right-wing relatives that everyone tries to ignore at Thanksgiving dinner.

        • jamesj


      • balconesfault

        Isn’t declaring Social Security to be a Ponzi Scheme one of the lines in the GOP’s Nicene Creed?

        • blesscurse

          Yes, and even though taxes are the lowest they have been in many decades, part of the creed is that Obama raised taxes and taxes are too high. Another part of the creed is that evolution is suspect, and climate change if it is occurring at all, is not caused by human activity. Also, we can drill our way out of any energy crisis. Another one is that cutting taxes always raises government revenue. Ask any decent economist about Arthur Laffer…..

    • Banty

      Agreed. It’s been the stuff of right wing blogs and local newspaper online comments sections forever. You never can quite get them pinned down on why it’s a Ponzi scheme (and if you try, they wriggle out of it by bending definitions), but it’s been a favorite for some time. Perry just parrots it.

      • Chris Balsz

        Because it will pay people as it takes in money from new entrants, without being able to pay those new members unless it can get more new members.

        We thrashed this out before, and I was told it was not a Ponzi scheme because:

        a) the Clinton Administration and all others who report it’s out of money are just wrong,
        b) sooner or later we’ll have more workers than recipients,
        c) we can always raise taxes to cover it,
        d) we can always print more money,
        e) we can always reduce benefits and extend the date of entry and means-test to deny people their own payments,
        f) no real American could doubt we can solve this problem in time.

        • indy

          Huh. The whole economy is a Ponzi scheme. Who knew?

        • Banty

          Heck, whole societies are Ponzi schemes. Those oldsters having depended on younger harvesters and thrashers for their bread. Such Madoffs they’ve been!

        • Russnet

          Translation: Cash is king.

        • Primrose

          There you go again deciding who is a real American and who isn’t. Not your right or power.

          Lifting the income cap on contributions, would balance out the decrease in worker to recipient ration, which is really only a problem during the baby boomer time, and even then is mitigated by illegal immigration, since those people pay in and don’t get back out. Indeed, legal immigration helps too since that addresses our replacement rate.

          That issue will level out and be less of a problem. Perhaps, in time, we might need to form some sort of means testing, but there is no reason it must burst, since presumably the next generation will continue be born, grow up and join the work force.

          So if it is a Ponzi scheme it is the same Ponzi scheme that has always existed between the young and the old. Adults pay for children. Then those children pay for adults. If we take the government out of it, that scheme will continue to exist because the old need to be taken care of.

          Unless your scheme for the elderly is to put them all on an ice flow with a piece of blubber?

        • Emma

          The blubber is an decadent extravagance. Perhaps we can means-test the quantum the blubber. Seems the fair thing to do under the circumstances.

        • Banty

          “Because it will pay people as it takes in money from new entrants, without being able to pay those new members unless it can get more new members. ”

          Yeah yeah that’s what all the “Ponzi scheme” people say.

          Ponzi schemes don’t have real assets, or real investments. The money put into SS is real, the reserves are real. That what oldsters pull out relates to some extend on what youngsters put in, does not make it a “Ponzi scheme”. Else any management structure is a “Ponzi scheme”; any biological society is a “Ponzi scheme”, any standing army is a “Ponzi scheme”.

          That does not mean adjustments haven’t been needed in the past, and aren’t needed now.

          But the “Ponzi scheme” thing is just a catchy phrase that snags the half-educated. A propoganda hook. Like “Death taxes”.

        • greg_barton

          And the $2.6 trillion held by the SS trust fund don’t factor in at all?

    • jamesj

      Houndentenor: I agree that Perry’s behavior is surprising AND I agree with you that most right wing voters (I hate to refer to them inaccurately as “conservatives”) agree with Perry’s statement. It is still surprising because modern day right wing politicians in the US never describe their true views to voters. That would be suicide in most cases. They instead speak candidly only with their own peer group, and then use alternate tactics in public (like scaring uninformed voters into thinking that the president is a muslim terrorist sympathizer).

      This has been true for a decade in my experience and is certainly true of my business colleagues, friends, and family.

  • Oldskool

    An overrated error, imo. We knew for four years that George W Bush could barely speak English and that he would rather climb a tree to tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth. And yet he was re-elected.

    • wileedog

      Yeah but even Dubya didn’t run on killing Social Security (even though he set his sights on it after the election).

      Plus his opponent was Kerry. For all his faults and current vulnerabilities Obama is a much more formidable campaigner than he was.

  • TerryF98

    “The Mother of all Unforced Errors” would be putting to death a totally innocent man and then obstructing the inquiry into the affair. Much more important than a flub on Social Security.

    Read this and please weep.

    • MSheridan

      Terry, they don’t care. At least, most of them don’t. Texas Governor G.W. Bush was notoriously indifferent to the same issues of life and death, guilt and innocence. It didn’t stop him from getting the nomination or getting (s)elected–twice.

      With the Social Security issue there is some self-interest involved. Stick with that. Don’t bother appealing to sentiments that don’t exist.

      • balconesfault

        “Better to err in killing an innocent man, then in failing to kill a guilty man (assuming the former has no special political connections on the right)” is another line in the GOP Nicene Creed, I think.

    • Chris Balsz

      That Esquire link didn’t want to tell me much about the case but did link to another story:

      “Without having visited the fire scene, Hurst says, it was impossible to pinpoint the cause of the blaze. But, based on the evidence, he had little doubt that it was an accidental fire—one caused most likely by the space heater or faulty electrical wiring. It explained why there had never been a motive for the crime. Hurst concluded that there was no evidence of arson, and that a man who had already lost his three children and spent twelve years in jail was about to be executed based on “junk science.” Hurst wrote his report in such a rush that he didn’t pause to fix the typos.”

      The jury has a responsibility to determine What Actually Happened. I notice a lot of crusaders against unjust verdicts don’t seem to care. All they care about is trying to prove that the jury should have been more confused, and failed to convict.

      What does the “absence of motive” have to do with a scientific review of a fire scene? Nothing. (Arson often doesn’t benefit the arsonist at all, and here the victims were relatives of the accused, so it’s just wrong to say “there was no motive ever found. A cop gave one at trial: ‘He wanted to kill those girls’”.)
      Did anything listed in the article disprove arson? No, it just demonstrated arson fires and accidental fires can burn in the same manner.

      I think the jury, and the governor, probably gave some thought to resolving how these people died. The jury heard from witnesses, and they chose to blame somebody present at the scene, with access to the house before the fire.
      You want us to throw that out because in some people’s opinion, it doesn’t matter what happened as long as the jury shouldn’t have felt certain about the guilt of the accused?

      • TerryF98

        The Inquiry which Perry blocked concluded the forensic evidence of the fires cause was faulty and the executed man was Innocent.

        When they brought that information before Perry the Asst DA who investigated was fired and the whole investigation was buried.

        So much for Conservative personal responsibility.

        • Chris Balsz

          No, it said nothing about “innocence”.

          “…The core of the 921 methodology is the application of the scientific method to fire investigation. In the context of fire investigation this involves the collection of data, the formulation of hypotheses from the data, and testing of the hypotheses. Conclusions can only be drawn when only a single hypothesis survives the testing process. None of the investigators employed this methodology. Indeed, in no case was any methodology identified. The testifying investigators admitted on the stand that there were possible alternate hypotheses that were consistent with the facts of the case. In no instance did this cause the testifying investigator to alter his opinions in the least. The overall standard that seems to be in use by the investigator is that his professional opinion with regard to cause was simply the explanation of the case facts that the investigator was personally most comfortable with. Of course this provides no basis for finding reproducible and defensible conclusions, an absolute requirement for rational use of fire investigation in the criminal justice system.”

          “…On cross examination, AC Fogg was asked if Amber [a deceased child] could have started the fire. AC Fogg admitted that he could not rule out this hypothesis. On redirect he sought to minimize the likelihood based upon the patterns found, i.e., his opinion that it was not likely that Amber could have created such a spill pattern. Nonetheless, he could not rule it out. There is no available evidence that an outside individual was considered as the fire setter. It was known that the front door was unlocked. The only basis proffered for Willingham as the fire setter was that had the hallway been subjected to an accelerant spill, he could not have escaped without serious lower body injuries. This of course relies upon the correctness of the pattern interpretation in the hallway.”

          “…At trial FM Vasquez denied that it was possible for a child to have accidentally or intentionally set this fire. He was unaware that the police had collected several cigarette lighters from the home. His rationale for eliminating the scenario was based upon his understanding that an accelerant was spread over most of the children’s bedroom, the front of the hallway, and the front porch. He further opined if anyone other than Willingham had spread the accelerant to these areas, he would not have survived the fire. In the end, his elimination of this cause hypothesis is solely based upon his erroneous understanding of the floor patterns. FM Vasquez did acknowledge that the hypothesis that an outside person entered and started the fire is consistent with the case facts. Nonetheless, it did not change his opinion about cause.”

          “…The investigations of the Willis and Willingham fires did not comport with either the modern standard of care expressed by NFPA 921, or the standard of care expressed by fire investigation texts and papers in the period 1980–1992. The investigators had poor understandings of fire science and failed to acknowledge or apply the contemporaneous understanding of the limitations of fire indicators. Their methodologies did not comport with the scientific method or the process of elimination. A finding of arson could not be sustained based upon the standard of care expressed by NFPA 921, or the standard of care expressed by fire investigation texts and papers in the period 1980–1992.”

          You cannot argue that the inquiry board “cleared” Willingham of arson, when that same board states that “the hypothesis that an outside person entered and started the fire is consistent with the case facts”.

          If the physical evidence allows for a deliberate fire caused by a human being, it is permissible for a jury to determine a crime was committed and that it was perpetrated by one person. The jury is not bound by NFPA 921′s logic that no cause can be chosen unless all but one cause is eliminated as a physical possibility. In fact, NFPA 921 probably treads on the jury’s province as a trier of fact.

          If the jury finds beyond reasonable doubt that the fire was deliberate, and based on ALL evidence was caused by one person, that is sufficient for conviction. And you’re producing information that shows that deliberate arson was physically impossible, so I’m not going to accept the POLITICAL conclusion that no fit governor would have sustained the jury verdict and sentence.

        • TerryF98

          Why then did Perry fire the asst DA and shut down the inquiry into the “crime”? If there was nothing to hide why did he do that?

      • Primrose

        If the jury didn’t feel that the case was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, then in a criminal trial at least, they must not convict.

        If new evidence suggests that there is significant doubt, then You absolutely can not say you respect justice if you are willing to knowingly convict, let alone execute, an innocent person.

        If you think that despite new evidence, it still shows that the person did it without doubt, then the appeals court will no doubt agree. Plenty of people lose appeals. If you believe in the court system, then you believe in the court system.

        As for the cheering, to feel that the death penalty is right and meet, and just is not the same thing as rejoicing in another’s death, in another’s failure to value what is good. From those whose loved ones have been victims of said crimes, we understand this lapse. However, these people were clapping on principle about situations they do not know.

        And nobody, but nobody, who claims to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, is permitted to revel in another’s death. Christ requires those who believe in his way to forgive those who trespass against them.

        Not everyone, myself included, can forgive to that extent, but then they must not call themselves followers of Christ.

        That Mr. Perry and his claque think they can take on the mantle of Christian righteousness without its responsibilities should offend every true believer. And it should make us doubt his moral capacity in general.

        • Chris Balsz

          I read that inquiry report, and they basically said “A fire investigator should not have testified Mr. Willingham was the arsonist when it was physically possible for an unknown person, or one of the victims, to have set the fire.” A jury may decide it is not REASONABLE to entertain those hypotheticals, and convict the surviving resident of the house at the time of the fire.

        • TerryF98

          The forensic evidence itself was deeply flawed.

  • Textex

    Here’s someone worse than Madoff. Read then forward this link to everyone you know, so they don’t get scammed:

  • medinnus

    I think that giving the Liberals and Democrats a potential wedge issue for the AARP crowd was unnecessary and stupid, and will only benefit Obama; the GOP is doing what they’ve made fun of the Democrats (and rightly so) doing for years – losing control of the narrative.

    • icarusr

      Out of curiosity, what is your view on the Ryan Budget?

      • medinnus

        I don’t have one – I’ve read through it online, and my knowledge of the issue isn’t sufficient for me to have an informed opinion. In the absence of an informed opinion, I try not to flash my ignorance in open forums.

        While I don’t know enough to evaluate it on its merits, however, I do know its not politically possible absent a total rout of Democrats and Obama in 2012. Given that, its a piece of political theater for show, like so much of the current GOP legislative agenda. In 2010 they ran on fixing the economy and unemployment, and spent the time since with symbolic legislation from the House of Obstruction.

    • Houndentenor

      Especially when seniors are the only age group that the GOP won in the last presidential election.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    “That probably rules out Romney and Huntsman” I dunno about that, many states have open primaries and with Obama running unopposed independents in those states have a big incentive to vote for Romney or (if he unexplicably collapses) Huntman. If Romney wins the blue states early on then he has a path to the nomination as someone who has crossover appeal and people might just hold their noses and vote for him later on.
    And I can’t imagine this will help Perry in Florida.

    I also have to say I actually find what Perry said refreshing, he is saying what he honestly believes and no one could claim surprise if he were elected and proved to be as radical as he is making himself out to be. At the very least it will be a real choice instead of Obamney versus Rombama

  • icarusr

    To describe Perry’s repeating his earlier assertions, in his book, an “unforced error” is like kinda like saying Clinton being caught with his dick in an intern’s mouth was an “unforced error”. Res ipsa loquitur, the nature of the beast, that sort of thing. But while Clinton only diddled with an intern, Republicans propose to fuck the country. Again. With a chancre ridden dick. Without lube.

  • Kingofthenet

    How about your on your own, Adios Mofo’s!

  • economicmaverick

    Seems all the authors on FrumForum are really good writers, especially with dry wit and pithy posts!

  • valkayec

    McFadden has a point about over reach. I’ve just finished reading Ramesh Ponnuru’s latest column for Bloomberg.

    Ponnuru posits that Obama’s weakness has led the GOP to over reach, going for ideology over electability which could lead to Obama being re-elected. After reading a number of the comments on Ponnuru’s column, I think he’s right. By and large, the comments celebrate the notion of going all out for ideology, dismissing Ponnuru’s warning in their belief that the majority of voters are with them and that the Dems and Obama are so weak and dispirited that taking over Congress and the White House will be a cake walk. Thus, they believe they now have the chance to fulfill all their dreams of rolling back the New Deal, the Great Society, everything Obama has done, and even TR’s progressive policies.

    Given the vast number of low information voters, how the media covers, explains, and portrays the ideological and policy differences between the two parties and candidates may well determine how the election goes.

    • balconesfault

      Thus, they believe they now have the chance to fulfill all their dreams of rolling back the New Deal, the Great Society, everything Obama has done, and even TR’s progressive policies.

      Not only do they believe they have their chance … but I think there’s a segment of the GOP that’s become impatient enough for these things that they believe that anything short of that would be not worth electing a Republican for.

      They don’t want a political creature like GW Bush, who ends up expanding social spending for electability purposes. They certainly don’t want a guy like GHW Bush who was willing to put policy over ideology and sign off on tax increases. They want a sledgehammer, and they think they have that in Perry. They probably view Romney as something between the Bushes, and that’s unacceptable … they’d probably rather have Obama remain in office, the same way some Naderites felt it was better to have GW Bush in office than Gore.

  • sinz54

    In his book, “Fed Up,” Perry went much further even than calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme.

    He wrote that SS was “a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal,” “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government”. And then he said SS was like a “bad disease” (his words) that has continued to spread.

    Unlike Reagan, who appointed a commission whose recommended reforms helped ensure SS’s solvency, Perry isn’t trying to reform SS. He hates it as a bad idea from its inception. You don’t reform a “bad disease,” you get rid of it if you possibly can.

    I’ve never heard that kind of rhetoric about SS coming from any past GOP nominee, from Eisenhower to Bush 43.

    • blesscurse

      Much of the Republican mainstream has come to embrace the fringe ideas and teaching of Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Beck – that FDR’s programs during the New Deal were a failure and “made the Depression worse.” Actual historians understand that the recovery faltered when FDR started retrenching his recovery efforts. Unfortunately, many of the persons who lived through The Great Depression are no longer around to discuss how the programs FDR instituted helped them fend off starvation and hopelessness, while educating, training and employing hundreds of thousands of able-bodied Americans.

      • valkayec

        While I never talked to my parents about how the New Deal helped them, I did talk to my parents about the Depression. My father was born in 1916 and my mother in 1919 so they lived through the Roaring 20s and the Depression.

        My father’s story first. The Depression broke up the family. My grandparents were hit so hard by the Depression that they put their 7 kids in a Catholic children’s home for a couple of years in Waco Texas. When the family came together again, they moved to Kansas City where my grandmother got a nurse’s job to help support the family. My mother’s mother lived with them after her husband died, depending upon them for her entire support, and helped take care of the kids. My grandfather was a plumber by trade, but he also farmed the family land to feed the family: garden, chickens, cow. When my father was 15 or 16, he dropped out of school and road the rails, looking for work. I think he said he did that for about a year. At around 17, he begged his mother to help him join the Army, even though he officially was too young, by lying and saying he was older than he really was. She did and he joined the Army. Later, he transferred to the Army-Air Corp and trained as a Flight Engineer. During WWII, he flew bombing missions over North Africa. My Dad finally got his GED while in the Air Force as well as his A&E license.

        Mom’s story. When the Depression hit, my grandfather lost his butcher shop in Spokane and then the family home. The family moved in with a cousin and lived in the cousin’s barn. My grandfather finally got a job selling spices, door to door. He walked all the roads of eastern Washington, selling spices. No car. That was gone too. Gone for weeks at a time and making little money. He took up drinking as a compensation (or to relieve his guilt?) which nearly broke up the family. My mother and grandmother canned everything they could, to the point that when I was growing up my mother flatly refused to can anything. She fed the chickens, then plucked feathers for Sunday suppers. She milked cows and churned butter. My grandmother finally got a job at a store as a seamstress, and the family moved into their own home. At some point, my grandfather’s mother moved in with my mom’s family and lived with them until she died. Mom didn’t have to drop out of high school, but after she graduated she had to go work. She was told she had to get a job to help support the family and to help put her younger brother through college. Because of the poverty in which my mother lived throughout the Depression, she became obsessed with having enough money to afford a good lifestyle, i.e. keeping with the Joneses, and having plenty of savings. She often lied to my father about how much money she’d saved so he wouldn’t be tempted to spend it. That money was her security against ever having to deal with that kind of poverty again. She often cried poverty when she had a several thousand dollars stashed away (this was in the ’50s and 60s).

        I can’t believe that anyone who has ever heard stories like these would willingly choose to go back to return to that kind of life. Thank heaven for the earned social safety net we have which prevents us from having to deal with the hardships my parents and grandparents endured.

        • hlsmlane

          Both my mom and dad were born in 1906. During the depression, they managed to buy a small farm. There wasn’t much money, but the garden and livestock kept us fed. It’s a very common story. What I think about is this: if times were to get that hard again, how many of us have the skills to do that, let alone finding a patch of ground?

    • anniemargret

      It’s because Mr. Perry does not live in the real world. Very few of Congressmen and women do. They are too far removed from the real problems Americans face everyday. People are struggling and it is simply wrong and pathetically arrogant for this guy to try to now proclaim his distaste for social program that is so badly needed for so many people, especially now in these economically perilous times.

      The man needs to get out more often and out of his bubble.

    • valkayec

      Regarding SS, here’s what I wrote under the Goldwater article:

      When Goldwater was nominated, most of the GOP – and the rest of the country – were pretty moderate. Remember, Eisenhower was still the party leader. The guys, led by F. Clifton White, pushing Goldwater – almost against his will – built up an organization by appealing to disaffected social conservatives – today’s version of evangelicals – first in Orange County, CA, then going southeast to the southwest. They counted on all those socially conservative southerners who had migrated west during the Depression to be their base and actively courted them. They aligned so some extent with the John Birch society, incorporating much of that group’s ideology. Moreover, they infiltrated the party’s delegate and nominating process to the point where they nearly controlled it. So, even though Goldwater lost to Johnson, these “movement conservatives” still retained much of their control of the party’s processes.

      The original movement conservatives, which Eisenhower called a “tiny splinter group” of reactionary conservatives who wished to abolish the New Deal reforms and propel the country back into the Gilded Age, the era prior to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the great societal reforms, became the nexus of the modern GOP following Goldwater’s defeat. From that ideological beginning – part libertarian, deeply anti-communist, and part rejection of both the New Deal and high taxes on the wealthy to pay off the huge debt left over from WWII – there exists a direct line not only to the modern GOP but to Rick Perry. That original faction of the GOP is now the majority of the GOP – it is the Tea Party and all those who agree with the Tea Party.

      Footnote: For more information on the Movement Conservatives and their take over of the GOP from Eastern Conservatives, such as George Romney and Nelson Rockefeller, download the pdf at

  • blesscurse

    The intent and sole purpose of a Ponzi scheme is to defraud. Investors ultimately receive nothing, their investment being stolen.

    Since the 1930′s millions of Americans have received Social Security; millions depend on it; a lot of these persons are voters.

    Government projections have Social Security exhausting its reserves by 2037, absent any changes, but show that the payroll tax revenues coming in would cover more than three-quarters of benefits to recipients then.

    So, if NOTHING is done, persons would still get 3/4 of their benefits until 2037.

    And if the system is reformed, persons will get full benefits.

    This is NOTHING like Ponzi’s or Madoff’s schemes, either in intent, operation, or results.

    So the “monstrous lie” is Rick Perry’s.

    Are any Republicans willing to challenge his lie? The Democrats certainly will.

    • Chris Balsz

      Didn’t the President tell us a couple of months ago, if we weren’t allowed to keep borrowing, he couldn’t guarantee the Social Security checks would keep coming?

      • DifferentFrumer

        No. He said if the budget ceiling wasn’t raised the government couldn’t guarantee the checks. We **already** obligated the government to pay those bill and when they came due, the Republicans, like a bunch of deadbeats, didn’t want to pay them. Recall the outcome of the Republican refusal to pass the debt ceiling. Standard and Poor downgraded the country’s credit rating and the stock market DIVED 300 POINTS.

        • Chris Balsz

          So, we always had the money to pay those social security checks without borrowing more? The debt ceiling only stops us from borrowing.

        • TerryF98

          Social security itself is on a sound footing until 2037. The fact that Bush fucked up the general economy so badly we are somewhat short of money is another story. The fact that the SS trust fund has been raided by both the GOP and Democrats is yet another story.

        • valkayec

          Chris, I’m not sure what you’re trying to argue.

          Regarding the debt ceiling: Congress spent the cash via legislation. More money was spent than existed in Treasury accounts so Treasury had to borrow the additional money to pay the bills Congress incurred. The debt ceiling had to be raised so Treasury could borrow enough money to pay all the bills Congress incurred. That has nothing to do with SS.

          Here’s what does. After Reagan got his SS deal, he had Congress revise the law so all SS money went into the General Fund at Treasury so the deficit didn’t look so bad. Treasury, then, gives the SS special non-transferrrable, non-saleable bonds, which only Treasury can redeem, to cover the amount transferred to the general fund. Congress continually spends those transferred SS funds on whatever, just as if they were normal tax revenues. Currently, $2.4 Trillion of SS funds have been spent by Congress on whatever. With boomers retiring more rapidly now, Treasury is going to have to pay off those bonds more rapidly which means Congress is going to have to come up with the money to pay back those bonds – or Treasury is going to have to go out in the open market to borrow that cash. Or Congress can just cancel SS altogether, and keep the owed money.

  • anniemargret

    Bravo Jamie.

    It is appalling what has happened to a once-truly ‘conservative party.’ They are just the party of anger and hate, so much hate that they would rather Americans suffer than allow this President to do his job. They’re now nihilists, cheering on negativity and regressive measures, rather than progressive measures . We need as a nation to go forward, not backward.

    C’mon, GOP…join us in the 21st century, not try to take us back to the 15th! Your kids and grandkids deserve better than what you offer.

    I’ve believed for a long time now that Republicans are their own worst enemies. They enabled the wrong people and gave them too much power and too much attention. When they had opportunities to speak out and drown out the nihilists, they instead gave them jobs on national news stations or cheered them on talk radio, making those talking heads the true leaders of their parties, instead of their elected leaders.

    Pretty pathetic when highly paid radio performers are more powerful than elected officials.

    Hell, the country needs good people now. I will vote for Obama again ,not doubt of it, but I also as an American who cares deeply about this country, want to see the GOP rise from their knees giving kudos and ‘red meat’ to a bunch of know-nothings and angry embittered people in the Tea Party who prefer a pre-50s America and who almost brought us to an economic tsunami.

    Shame on them. Quo vadis, GOP?

  • rockstar

    I thought the plan was to import boatloads of undocumeted so that they can magically grow the economy and contribute to SS.

    • Jamie McFadden

      Just for the sake of argument, why shouldn’t we do that? Grant them amnesty, and let them pay income taxes like we citizens have to.

      • TerryF98


        • rockstar

          Because its preposterous to think that we need immigrants when we have 16% unemployment in this country.

      • jjack

        Dude, they are brown and are hatching TERROR BABIES in sleeper cells who will destroy America by speaking Spanish. Need I go on?

        • rockstar

          Yeah, U of Arizona is going to become the next Stanford thanks to the Salvadorans.

  • valkayec

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ponzi scheme my Aunt Fannie!

    My parents paid for my Grandparents’ SS; I paid for my parents’; my children pay for mine; my grandchildren will pay for their parents’. What’s the big bloody deal? Would you prefer to help pay for parents SS so they can live independently, on their own…or would you rather they lived with you, in your home? Ask you spouse if he/she wants either or both sets of parents living in the same household as you two and your kids? Or maybe you’d like to just shuffle them off to some old folks home to die alone and forgotten.

    It’s time to get real. Unless you’re a heartless SOB concerning your parents, you’re going to help support them one way or another. You can do via SS so they can live on their own, in their own home, or you can have them live with you, under your roof. Your choice. Think about it.

  • Demosthenes

    @Chris Balsz

    Assuming the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm — without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself — the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

    — Catechism of the Catholic Church, III.5.2267 (emphasis mine)

    (sorry this is about Perry’s heinous disregard for human life as governor, not about his statements on SS, though the two are of course related)

  • WillyP

    I’m not going to go so far as to predict the result of a Presidential Election that is 14 months away, but I will posit that while “Change we can Believe in” might be a somewhat tired slogan by that point, it sure as hell beats “Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme”.

    OK, your side-by-side of soundbites aside, allow me to suggest that Governor Perry, if nominated, is poised to utterly destroy Barack Obama in the general election. His policies have crippled the people and the resistance is palpable. Obama’s agenda is politically impossible, with gridlock ruling the day.

    The generic Republican is up 8% in a new poll.

    Over 40% of the countries identifies as right-of-center, with another 35% moderate and 20% Liberal.

    Obama is without a doubt the most liberal president since at least Jimmy Carter, who he rivals in ineffectiveness. The only thing he has done effectively is begin to institute – clumsily – a giant overlording federal government full of bureaus and unionized bureaucrats. In this he rivals FDR.

    Rick Perry has an outstanding economic record in Texas. The best of any governor in the country in many respects. He is a disciplined, on target, experienced governor of a huge state. If he is nominated, Obama doesn’t even stand a chance.

    Incidentally, there are reason to even dread Perry from my perspective, given his Bush-like illegal immigration views. I would have a very hard time voting for a Republican who did not take growing lawlessness seriously. It represents an egregious dereliction of duty, in my opinion. Nonetheless, there is not a question in my head of who I would vote – Perry, because is all of that and worse on immigration, and bad on everything else.

    Mr. McFadden, all this politicking aside, thank you for your service to the country. (If I recall correctly you served as an active duty military. If not, please ignore!)

  • Steve D

    Paul Samuelson nailed the real issue: Population growth is the real Ponzi scheme. As long as SS is being funded by a growing population, recipients can get a lot more than they pay in. But nothing in a finite world can grow forever. Conservatives who dismiss overpopulation as an issue because they want a growing labor pool and more payers to fund SS are the real Ponzi schemers.

    • Frumplestiltskin

      nope, you are fundamentally wrong because you miss one key ingredient. Productivity growth. What used to take 33 farmers a century ago can now be done by 1. Granted productivity gains are not that equally spread out about the economy, but it is enough and depending on robotics and other technologies might make the burden down the line far less.

    • WillyP

      Paul Samuelson nailed nothing. He created a mess of political economy that has led to bailout after bailout, inflation after inflation. He taught economics from the perspective of an engineer, not a humanist. He turned then-incomprehensible and inconsistent Keynesian thought into an academic juggernaut, and today we see what deficit spending must have felt like in the 1930s. He was also a big fan of the USSR and wrote about it in his textbooks.

  • advocatusdiaboli

    Why don’t all states have open primaries and keep the parties at bay? what are the politicos in both parties afraid of? I think we know: democracy instead of party politics. Heaven forbid free men making free choices. Oh the thought.

  • Smargalicious

    Interesting pic, Jamie.

    Are those the same goggles that Joseph Smith wore to read the golden tablets??

  • ottovbvs

    The Republicans whether they want to or not are going to be compelled to run on a platform of scrapping Medicare/Medicaid. To this will be added “SS is a Ponzi scheme” if Perry is the candidate. And anyway it is indeed an article of faith on the Republican right that this is so as you can tell from the routine nonsense spouted by the usual suspects like Balsz. No matter that this means every SS in the world from Bismarck’s introduction of the first program is and has been a Ponzi scheme. It’s completely futile arguing with them about it and ultimately not very important. What matters is what average Americans think of this characterisation given that for 80% of American seniors SS represents over 50% of their income. I think I know the answer, but go for it Rick.

  • jakester

    Watching Hannity’s dog and pony show tonight, and he had Fathead Luntz out there trying to focus group the cons on their fave token Cain. Cain wants a 9% flat rate income tax and that resonated well with his base base.

  • Rossg

    If Gov. Perry believes it beneficial to damn a plan that is solely intended to help ensure the financial stability of aged folks, that is his business. I want none of that in the White House!

    On a related matter concerning the recent debate, I found it odd that the good Governor would reassert his belief that the science behind climate change is, as yet, incomplete and unproven, and offer as seeming support an aside about Galileo once being on the wrong side of accepted thought. I mean, come on Governor, we know how that one turned out!

    And on another related matter, Congresswoman Bachmann is pledging, if elected President, to return gasoline to less than $2.00 a gallon. Is she in possession of some new economic and/or market-based theories that could make this happen? If so, is it righteous for her to hold the nation (or the world, for that matter) hostage until she is put in the White House?

    How can anybody think that Perry and Bachmann are going to be the front-runners on the GOP side? In any event, this is a nightmare scenario!

  • Rob_654

    This was not at all an “Unforced Error”.

    Rick Perry is telling what he believes in the truth.

    In fact, it is was many, many Republicans \ Conservatives have been saying for a long time – Perry just happens to be one of he Conservatives who has the cojones to actually say it during a run for political office.

    It has long been a Conservative dream to privatize Social Security to drive all of that money to Wall Street and their big money contributors.

    Of course here is what will happen if we ever do privatize Social Security.

    - The first time the market dives and lots of Old Voters take a huge hit – they will start demanding that the government “do something”.

    - Elected politicians – including Republicans will freak out because they know that if they don’t appease the old folks they may very well find themselves without a job.

    - Enter “Social Security Part 2″ where an “Emergency Government Funded Social Security Program” will be created to ensure that old voters get enough money from the government to make up for losses in their “private” accounts.

    - Then Wall Street seeing a grand opening will say “Since we now have a “stop gap” why don’t we allow old folks to invest their money in riskier options to help make up for their shortfalls”.

    - And before you know it – we have a full blown Government Funded Social Security Part 2 that the government will take care of – while we keep the “original” Social Security privatized to protect Wall Street’s profits…