Saturday, March 05, 2005

Some Opening Comments And A Bit About Social Security Reform

This is the inaugural post of this blog, and I hope it will be one of many to come. As you might surmise from the blog's name and subtitle, this blog will be grounded in common-sense, no-spin reality--a quality I find increasingly rare in the blogsphere as well as in our broader media and social discourse. A bit about me: I am in my late 30's, a resident of New York City, and the founder and president of a Manhattan-based asset management firm. I have a BA from a top-ten university and an Ivy League MBA. I'm a lifelong conservative with a strong independent streak. I'm also a student of history and hope to utilize that knowledge and interest here often. As a sidenote, please excuse the barebones appearance of the graphics on this site; that will change as time allows.

Let's get right to it with some comments on the debate over Social Security. There is some excellent in-depth analysis on the web from many sources including Josh Marshall, National Review Online, and Nouriel Roubini, so I'll try to offer a unique anecdotal perspective. Through my job, I have frequent contact with insiders of public companies, both inside and outside the financial industry. This week, I spoke to an executive at a large publicly-traded technology firm. We talked about the state of his business, the outlook for the future, and the performance of his company's stock. One issue he is extremely concerned about is the FASB-required expensing of employee stock options, which will become mandatory for all public companies later this year. This new accounting rule will have the effect of making the stock of many companies that are profitable appear far more expensive from a price to earnings ratio perspective, and those companies that have no earnings at all--many of which are tech companies--will become even more unattractive to asset managers like me.

This executive sees one shining beacon in the fog of increasingly strict accounting standards and a difficult business environment: The prospect of Social Security reform. He told me that he and many of this colleagues at other companies favor the creation of private accounts, because a new source of demand for his stock will help compensate for the increasing unattractiveness of his company from an investment perspective. This executive also made it completely clear (albeit in casual, friendly terms--which is perhaps the only way he would have voiced this sentiment at all) that he looked forward to private accounts "picking up the slack" that the new accounting rules and increasingly difficult business conditions in general will create. He did not have to explain this to me. He works at one of thousands of public companies that rely heavily on options grants (which ultimately lead to insider selling as options are converted to common stock) to attract and retain employees. He depends personally on options grants as well; according to SEC filings, in the past few years he has sold tens of millions of dollars of stock converted from options. In the absence of any new source of demand for its stock, his company will have to either increase its buyback of stock in the open market--yes, personal stock he is selling-or, all else being equal, watch as the stock falls and employees like him convert large options grants and sell into a weak market at a lower price.

Make no mistake about it: This executive wants private accounts that invest in the stock market and his stock in particular. He sees private accounts as transferring risk from him to the public--risk, he surely knows, that is already being transferred through instruments such as IRA's, 401K's, and the explosion of mutual funds over the past decade. He's profited handsomely from that transfer of risk. From a corporate perspective he wants that transfer to continue, and from a personal one he needs it to continue to support his lifestyle.

One other short anecdote: This week I also spoke to a former co-worker of mine, who works at one of the largest investment banks in the world. We had a brief conversation about the private accounts issue. Predictably, there was no beating around the bush here; executives of investment banks and brokerages are known for direct, often crass language. He said: "I want that dumb public money coming across my desk." It's debatable whether that money would come across HIS desk as well as how much the financial industry in general would benefit from private accounts, but his expectation is clear. And just like my friend at the technology company, my former co-worker is employed by what is considered a "blue chip" company, which would presumably fall under the rubric of "safe" equities in which a private account program would invest.

Where do I stand on this issue? When Bush was first elected four years ago, I was ecstatic because I knew he favored private accounts, and from sources close to his new administration I knew he would make this issue a priority. 9/11 and Iraq put it on the rear burner. Generically, I have long favored private accounts. But recently I've become ambivalent. Perhaps it is the cynical, pure self-interest of friends of mine in the business and brokerage community, or the ham-fisted use of the same "crisis" rhetoric that justified the war in Iraq, or the fact that President Bush refuses to actually put forth a specific plan. This latter point amazes me. What exactly IS Bush's plan to reform Social Security, beyond the creation of private accounts? He won't tell us, and when asked he simply repeats the bromide that he refuses "to negotiate with myself." When you are proposing a radical overhaul of the most popular government program in this nation's history, you must do better than that. If the President believes in the merits of this then he must put his cards on the table, get specific about what he is actually proposing, and trust the public to follow him. Bush's unwillingness to do so shows a lack of leadership, makes him seem cynical, and gives his opponents rhetorical ammunition by allowing them to focus on the few concrete statements he IS willing to make such as the fact that the crisis is decades away--which is not going to make anyone stand up and demand action on this issue now.

One last point: In addition to my belief that Bush's "ownership society" is, at least in the examples of my two friends above, in many ways a program to transfer risk from the "owners" to the public, I have another misgiving about private accounts. I strongly believe that the last thing we need is for the stock market to become an even greater national priority. I believe this on a political, fiscal, monetary and spiritual level. With an even greater public focus and reliance on the stock market, the political pressure to take extraordinary, unconventional measures to boost stock prices--pressure that already exists--will be overwhelming. Contrary to what some might think, constantly rising stock prices are most certainly NOT a good thing, as we learned after the stock bubble burst in 2000. Private accounts cannot repeal the natural business cycle, which includes periodic recessions as malinvestment clears. But when voters' retirements are at stake, I don't trust politicians to let the natural business cycle play out, particularly if the bottom of a cycle inconveniently appears near an election. Stock prices are merely manifestations of an underlying business and larger economy; they are not meant to be a means to a political or fiscal end.

More to come on this and other issues, but enough for a first post.

207 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite interesting to see how those on the "front-lines" of the business and financial community think they will benefit from all that 20-something money. Thanks for that perspective.

3/05/2005 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Thoreau said...

"The political pressure to take extraordinary, unconventional measures to boost stock prices--pressure that already exists--will be overwhelming."

And let's be clear...that pressure, and those measures that are already being taken, benefit insiders immensely already as they sell into the artificially created liquidity.

3/05/2005 5:37 PM  
Anonymous silicon said...

As an employee of a high-tech firm, I can confirm that the new accounting rules that will go into effect later this year are a major concern. But it is still interesting to hear the brazen comments of the exec quoted in the post. It could be any of my bosses.

3/05/2005 7:22 PM  
Anonymous UpperWest said...

The concept of risk dispersal as discussed by TCR is a novel way to see this issue and definitely worthy of further discussion.

3/05/2005 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting blog, looking forward to reading more here.

3/05/2005 7:35 PM  
Anonymous DCinsider said...

One great point I completely agree with: We do NOT need the stock market to become the focus of even more national attention, for goodness sakes. We saw where THAT got us in the late 90's. Never again, hopefully.

3/06/2005 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty interesting comments by TCR, bookmarked the blog.

3/06/2005 4:47 PM  
Blogger Barry Ritholtz said...

I suspect hat the inflow of funds into the market is the true motivation for private accounts -- Indeed, most of the White House tax policy has been inordinately focused on the markets specifically to the neglect of the macro economy generally.

ACDS with no correlating employment tax credit is one example; Cutting capital gains taxes after the world's largest bubble made little sense -- I would rather have seen the deductible loss carry forward raised, or perhaps the IRA contribution raised . . .

3/06/2005 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally feel that the Social Security "crisis" is just a smokescreen. What about the problems with Medicare and Medicaid? If reform was like triage, we would take care of the "sickest" programs before we touch the ones that only need minor care.

It's nice to hear the opinion of someone on the inside, and I look forward to future posts.

3/06/2005 6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw "Hotel Rwanda" the other day. While there are many life-lessons in that film, the common human failing to deal with the imminent, but awful, in favor of taking easy action against the remote comes to mind.

There are horrific things going on in the world right now that demand action. These we ignore. There are signs of potential cataclysmic economic collapse in the near future. These we dismiss. But talk of making money in the distant future by shifting one column of numbers to another? For this, we will promote throughout the land.

Somehow, when blood runs in the streets, the decision makers never see themselves affected. After all, in the movie, every face you recognized made it out alive just fine. And doesn't life imitate art?

3/06/2005 7:43 PM  
Blogger John @ Ariel said...

TCR,

I was a little concerned when you identified yourself as a conservative in the first paragraph, but was very pleased to see you are actually aspiring toward intellectual honesty, as your subheading claims. Thank you for additional examples of how those "in the know" do actually realize and count on the fact that the privatization plan for Social Security will shift some current private sector risks onto the public, which as you clearly stated is already being done in a variety of ways. The attempts by the administration to downplay these issues, and in some cases even deny, I believe, have been intellectually dishonest.

3/06/2005 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading more of your perspectives, particularly with regard to your associates' psychopathology ;)
You seem to have soul sir......
Sooner

3/06/2005 11:23 PM  
Anonymous JolllyBuddah said...

I was a delegate for Bush 41 to my state Republican convention, and I have very little disagreement with the Ten Conservative Principles of Russell Kirk. That is why I despise Bush and the Republican party. The Bush administration has devoured principled conservatism and is crushing the bones of the remaining husk.

I look forward to your comments.

3/07/2005 1:38 AM  
Blogger "Cielito" said...

Thanks for creating a forum for your voice. I hope your audience grows. Beyond the myopic view of idealogy exists our prevailing economic system--with its collusion between government, coroporate and organized crime--which is acid stripping life from our planet.

Keep teaching.

3/07/2005 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point about creating demand for securities is well taken.

I hate to be Chicken Little, but I can't help believing all those who talk about the huge sell-off that's coming when retiring baby-boomers start to cash out their mutual funds.

3/07/2005 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point about creating demand for securities is well taken.

I hate to be Chicken Little, but I can't help believing all those who talk about the huge sell-off that's coming when retiring baby-boomers start to cash out their mutual funds.

3/07/2005 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And in case any new visitors want to read the newest post on this blog from today, click on the blog title at the top of the page, or click the homepage link:

http://cunningrealist.blogspot.com/

3/08/2005 8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice beginning! Refreshing sincerity. I'll be back!

3/08/2005 8:08 PM  
Blogger John Robert BEHRMAN said...

This post today should be read in conjunction with Paul KRUGAMAN today (8.III.5) on Jakob HACKER and risk-shifting generally.

3/08/2005 8:18 PM  
Anonymous Node of Evil said...

Having read your post and looked at the conservative principles espoused by Kirk, I have to smile. Coming from a traditional Conservative background (although now I trend much more towards liberalism) I can understand these principles. It's a shame many modern conservatives have rejected the branch from whence they came. These are actual principles, and one can debate them on their merits. I hope that other conservatives out there, like you, will also start blogs. Heaven knows I'm tired of reading commentators whose main virtue is volume. Great post, and I think it addresses some of the real issues that underlie the outward political debate about Social Security.

3/08/2005 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post that has the ring of truth yet is only anecdotal (how could it be substantiated?). Sidesteps the whole issue that many "conservatives" look at privitization at the chance to dismantle social security (that's not just Social Security).
I've always wondered that if implemented in a blind trust fashion, whether "private accounts" would have any effect other than on the margin, shifting the balance a slightly from bonds to stocks. Some current stock holders would shift to bonds as the price for stocks goes up and SS buys fewer bonds. In the long run, the set point just shifts. It wouldn't be such a boon to these guys as they hope.

JollyBudda - can't let it go by without comment but less than half the Russel Kirk is sane. Seems pretty reactionary otherwise. Guess that's why I stopped thinking I was a Conservative long before W and his Orwellians came along

3/08/2005 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting viewpoint regarding risk analysis and the shifting of the risk. From the view of the seller of the security, it seems that they want privatization in order to pass more of their risks onto the holder of the security. That seems to me to be the problem with the privatization. Privatiation puts the element of risk into the system.

Privatization creates a risk for whomever owns the security. Despite Mr. Bush's assertions, which, by the way, are in violation of the 14th Amendmant (Paragraph 4), the trust fund invests in virtually risk free assets. With privatization, their assets will be invested in riskier investments. That does not necessarily bother me, but what does bother me is that the risk, once created, is then allocated to each of us individually as account holders. If the market takes a dive just before you retire, then tough luck for you, you got burned by the risk factor.

There also seems to be no analysis of cost-benefit of privatization. The basic plan is to divert money that had been earmarked for the trust fund to private accounts, and then borrow money to replace the diverted cash. This is essentially borrowing money to play the stock market in hopes that the return on the market will
be greater than the interest incurred for the additional debt needed to fund the plan. This doesn't seem like a real good managment of risk. (In fact, it seems to me that given the clawback provisions mentioned the government isn't incurring any risk and the sole "owner" of the risk is the account holder.) If borrowing money to play the stock market was such a good idea, why isn't everyone doing it?

3/08/2005 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plan 1: Have government borrow $2 trillion or so and invest it in the market in the hope that the returns will so exceed overhead as to fund full Social Security benefits. If the hoped-for returns do not materialize, insitute bailout.
Plan 2: Cut future benefits now. Borrow $2 trillion or so to pay current benefits as younger wage earners divert part of their Social Security taxes into the market in the hope that returns will be sufficient to offset benefit cuts. If, for idividuals, those returns do not materialize, tough.
Clearly, if one were truly confident about investing borrowed money in the market, plan 1 would make more sense, given economies of scale and lesser vulnerability to short-term downturns.

3/08/2005 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I work next door to a small mutual fund company, and I tried to explain to somewhere there that SS privatization would essentially transfer wealth from the bulk of the population to that small percentage of people who are granted stock options. He didn't see it as significant. So it's nice to see it spelled out so clearly by someone speaking from your perspective.

3/08/2005 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What others have said - fascinating commentary from one of the front lines of this issue.

I have one question, however. Near the top you write:

"This new accounting rule will have the effect of making the stock of many companies that are profitable appear far more expensive from a price to earnings ratio perspective, and those companies that have no earnings at all--many of which are tech companies--will become even more unattractive to asset managers like me."

- But is this a realistic expectation? Surely the new FASB requirement changes nothing about the reality of this firm's earnings or its prospects. I had always assumed that this man's concerns were directed more at the retail market, which could be expected to be swayed by a headline.

Is it really the case that you, a highly-qualified analyst, would find the same company "even more unattractive" as a result of this rule change? And if so, why?

3/08/2005 9:07 PM  
Blogger Roberta1 said...

I am glad to see you here. I too am an Ivy/gilded MBA investments professional, been at it for over 20 years, and I don't understand why the words economy of scale haven't been used more often. Having been on the institutional sales side, I know how low on the totem pole the retail investor sits.
Privatization has been a bad idea from the get-go in terms of providing people better real returns.

Thank you for your vox clamantis in deserto

3/08/2005 9:09 PM  
Blogger From inside his cave, yelling said...

So let me get this straight.....

The new rule on Expensing Stock options is intended to address the thoroughly dishonest practice of hiding them in footnotes so investors and analysts will "think things are better than they really are", and invest. With risk.

And now that risk is going to get passed on to us little people???????? Because Investors and analysts might just have a hard time getting used to "thinking things actually are the way they really are", and invest. With risk. Appropriately???

Suck it up buttercup. Nobody's going to bail you analysts out. You all made your choices. Deal with it.

BTW, Thanks for the blog, You are soooooo on my list!

3/08/2005 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One post and you've already subverted the dominant-link blog hierarchy, a link from Josh Marshall, the gold standard of blogging. Now get to work and pay the dues that a million other bloggers would just to get a leg up like that.

Bust ass or buzz off.

3/08/2005 9:31 PM  
Anonymous tmcotter said...

Josh was right, another perspective. Relative to the risk shifting, see the Toles cartoon of 3/7 or 8. The cards will fold big time, and there will not be capacity in the system to cover the bets. The big (fixed) casino has got to go on, but the cost will be crushing. Hey, those 2001 and 2003 cuts look better every day. Down with the death tax! Oh, and string up Grover, metaphorically of course.

3/08/2005 9:32 PM  
Blogger Silence Dogood said...

Although a first level look might see merit in the
logic of the high tech exec, if you believe in a rational market(at least in
the long term) it is impossible to see how Bush's plan will benifit the market.
New inflows into the market from private accounts would be matched with outflows
into bonds to finance the same (stupid) private accounts.

You really make the
same case when you talk about PEs being impacted by stock option expensing.

Why would a professional investor be willing to pay a higher PE the S&P becuase
of private accounts?

Put another way- Even though over the last 5+ years there have been large
new flows of money into Vanguard and other Index funds, this still didn't keep the
market at its bubble prices. There is no reason to beleive that Social Security
money would change that.

I think of Social Security as the ultimate Index fund. The reason a S&P 500 index
fund is a great investment over time is that America is a great investment. Social
Security can be likened to a S&P 1,000,000 fund since it claims a share on EVERY company
in our economy. The current Social Security system gives a 12.5% divident wage earnings of
the American economy every year. As long as America does well, Social Security does well.

I do agree with you point that in the short term, the privatization would make
the market more prone to political influence. Chalk that up as just another reason
to be against privation.

3/08/2005 9:32 PM  
Anonymous shadowknows said...

The Cunning Realist has another good read that he posted today, access by clicking on the title/ header at the top of the page.

3/08/2005 9:35 PM  
Anonymous dryfly said...

I hate to be Chicken Little too... but think how badly the markets will do when ALL those boomers and early Xers are selling off simultaneously...

...401Ks, mutual funds, pension fund managers and personal stock portfolios... and then add the 'privatized SS' on top of that... who the hell is going to be buying them? And at what discount?

3/08/2005 9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great start. Let's hope your "realism" becomes part of the Social Security debate nationwide and more people hear about your website. Our country needs thinkers like you who clearly express these ideas.

3/08/2005 9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a finance professional, but the proposed privatization plan strikes me as a pyramid scheme. As one born before 1950, my Social Security benefits are "safe" according to W. What happens if I invest my non-social security dollars in the same "safe" investments W & company select when the program starts, and then pull them out 10 or so years hence? My returns are almost guaranteed since it's the younger folks social security dollars that will drive my investment up. As an early entry, I win, and the poor suckers pouring money into a fund they can't touch for decades will probably lose. Those who get in on the ground floor reap the biggest rewards, and those who follow reap smaller and smaller rewards. Sounds like a pyramid scheme to me.

Great site - thanks and keep going!

3/08/2005 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great sight. The idea of a conservative being willing to have an honest and open discussion/ debate about social security is truly encouraging. Even though I am currently strongly against president Bush's version of privatization I would sit down with this guy to try to find a compromise any day. This sight puts Bush and his dissemblers to shame. I will visit ofen.

3/08/2005 10:21 PM  
Anonymous tristero said...

Oh, I get it now!

He uses the starts off with the fatuous cliches about "commonsense" and "no-spin" that other conservatives slop around. So you think the site's legit and we're gonna read the same old trash about how we liberals hate America 'cause we refuse to fellate George Bush on command. But then you read further, it's clear that whomever wrote this actually appears to have an independent brain capable of reason. WOW! A conservative that actually thinks! A miracle!!! I can't remember the last time I read something intelligent penned by a conservative.

But you slipped up, you know. I mean, like, effusively praising the "excellent" posts of Joshua Marhsall. I mean they're good and all, but...

So y'can't fool me, Josh! You "cunning realist," you!

Cute, tho, masquerading as a conservative, who after thoughtful consideration, comes to exactly your conclusion. And clever, in a pomo sort of way, y'know turning the right wing fake blog sites around to bite them.

But next time, don't be so quick to praise yourself, Josh. Bad form, you give the game away too soon.

3/08/2005 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Robert Green said...

haha tristero.

here's what i don't understand--mr. anon, you sound like someone who went to fancy schools, made yourself (and a select group of others) a shitload of money, but you managed all of this without having the first clue about the actual world as it actually is. very similar in a way to an academic poking his/her head into the world and saying, "huh, this theory is put into practice? Weird."

if you really have had to come to some sort of crisis of conscience to figure out what a crock of shit this privatization scheme is, the money spent on your education was wasted. while i'm glad you manage to grasp simply economics concepts that a non-ivy league educated monkey like me figured out about two seconds after said concepts were laid out, i'm not impressed. "shocked, shocked" that people like mankiw and greenspan are hacks? shocked that they would do whatever power demands of them that they keep their sinecures and worldly power? pathetic. feel free to proselytize the Masters of the Universe while you all go to Scores to cherchez les femmes after a hard night of insider trading, but keep the faux "my eyes are open" shit to yourself. everyone wants to live in a big house with a nice car and a hot wife (or husband). if they have to sell their souls to do so, they will. if this surprises you, you are either one of them or stupid.

3/08/2005 10:52 PM  
Blogger Jared said...

good post. your blog's going in my bookmarks bar. That angle where you say the government will have extra incentive under private accounts to interfere with the market is one I've never seen and is very interesting. Rather than buy subsidies for cotton farmers the government would use its capital to manipulate the price of cotton on the market or whatever else the social security money was in. If that happened you'd have the government responsible for not only causing the problem but policing the problem, and down the spiral we go.

3/08/2005 11:07 PM  
Blogger ankh said...

http://panopticon.csustan.edu/cpa99/html/merino.html

The Rhetoric and Reality of the American Dream:
Securities Legislation and the Accounting Profession
in the 1930s


Excerpts:

in his later works, Jefferson ... hoped the conditions in the cities of the "old country," where a dependent wage class had lost their independence and lived in misery, could be avoided. He was well pleased that there was not such a large gap in wealth between workers and owners in the United States as he found in the cities of Europe. He attributed this to the fact that most of the laboring classes in the U. S. possessed land and could demand fair wages from their employers. If treated badly, he noted, workers could leave; there were vacant lands ... this enabled workers to retain their independence ....

"Jefferson perceived a basic conflict between capitalism and democracy because capitalism, if not curbed, would lead to concentrated wealth and widespread poverty. He concluded this would destroy democracy. Greed, in Jefferson's view, did not increase morality, he wrote that "in general, men's honesty does not increase with their riches."

New Deal regulation should be viewed "as a means of producing a harmony of interests."... an effort to restore trust in the existing economic order.... One of the preconditions for acceptance of this model is trust.

... "you can't take advantage of someone who does not trust you."
...
" ... framers of securities regulation viewed enactment of legislation as a necessary condition to generate sufficient trust to render the economic system operable. ... Only if all Americans had an equal opportunity to became stockholders (owners), could the discrepancy between concentration of wealth and democratic values be reconciled. Once again, all Americans could aspire to achieve the American Dream..... to create the appearance of a "fair game" so that trust in the economic system would be restored. We note that the accounting provisions of securities legislation need not be implemented for the legislation to be effective.
...
"the depression... threatened the principle logic underlying the democratic system. ...With 95% of the population working for wages, the only way to achieve the Jeffersonian vision of an independent, middle class was through stock ownership.

"Truth in securities" served as a powerful metaphor to assure the populace that they would not be fleeced by unscrupulous financial capitalists."
...
"... the "American Dream" had reduced democratic freedoms to formal legal/political freedoms for the populace, not the "real" freedom that Jefferson believed could come only with an equitable distribution of income among the nation's citizenry. Securities legislation was far less threatening to the monied interests. It did not have to be implemented to be effective."
...
" both the accounting profession and corporate management would reject efforts to implement uniform standards .... If one views the accounting provisions of the securities acts as symbolic, i.e., designed to still public outrage and restore the public trust, then implementation is not necessary for legislation to be considered effective.

Uniformity, combined with public audits not only conveyed the impression that financial reports would be "truthful;" the political sector could send the message that the market was a "fair game" so all Americans would have an equal opportunity to achieve the American dream through stock ownership. If the masses could be converted into capitalists (owners), then the threat that an unequal distribution of income posed to the body politic, would be mitigated. Market and democratic values would once again be consonant. ..."
....
"... development of such a capital market requires a certain degree of fair play and decency of the various groups of security holders to revive that intangible called confidence."
...
"... If the majority of the nation's citizens became "owners," than the question of distribution of wealth could be ignored. In order to promote the vision of citizen/owners, the political sector had to convince the public that the "monied interests" were under control and that financial reports would provide "truthful" data that could be relied upon for investment decisions. Widespread stock ownership became the new American frontier."

Excerpts quoted from: http://panopticon.csustan.edu/cpa99/html/merino.html/

Which I highly recommend in full to anyone wondering how this happened and what's behind it.
______________________

When these people in the business are talking to each other, they're brutally honest.

Business 101 -- let someone else build the wealth, then take it.

3/08/2005 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My feeling is that we are ignoring several important issues we need to face by embracing the GOPs framing of this issue.

They are

*New-technology-driven unemployment, which is soaring.
*Baby Boomers looking to cash out their investments at approximately the same time
*US manufacturing industries exporting jobs and technologies to make a fast buck
*The soaring cost of healthcare which represents a huge wealth transfer from the middle class to the corporate world. Thats the money that would otherwise be used to fund a generation's education.

3/09/2005 12:22 AM  
Anonymous Boomer said...

Our ability to spend our childrens money, polute their air and leave them to clean up after we are long gone is a power we do not seem to be able to control. Fooling them into funding a stock bubble for us Baby Boomers to retire on is one more example of self interest gone mad.

3/09/2005 1:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pundits seem to forget that Social Securitiy is an INSURANCE program -- not an INVESTMENT program. Would you choose your auto insurance carrier on the basis of the highest return on your investment? Or would you look for the insurer that would pay out on your claim most quickly and completely?

Transferring the risk of retirement funds from big companies and individuals to all of us in the public is the hallmark of "privitization" of Social Security.

The unfortunate outcome would be the loss of any insurance for the significant portion of our retirees and disabled citizens who RELY on Social Security to pay for rent and food and medicines.

P.S. My husband -- whose company does not have a retirement plan, aside from a limited-match 401K -- spent 2 years attempting to "beat" the market by investing our retirement funds. He NEVER came out ahead -- despite reading all kinds of investment publications. Thank goodness for Social Security WITHOUT privitization. We need it!

3/09/2005 1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's suppose privatization comes to pass and there's new demand from retail accounts for your tech "friend"'s company's stock. But the Treasury has to borrow incrementally to make up for the diverted SS contributions, meaning interest rates rise. What does your tech "friend" think that will do to the price of his company's stock and the value of his precious options?
I liked your post and will check back....

3/09/2005 2:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments are interesting and insightful. Unfortunately, they are proceeded by unnecessary, self-aggrandizing nonsense. To claim you are unbiased (no-spin) and reality-based and then reveal yourself as a politically-conservative, financial asset management executive seems a bit incongruous.

If you actually believe that your political belief system and station in society (Ivy-league-educated financial executive) do not influence your view of "reality", then you are truly delusional.

If you had simply stated that you were biased from the start, your musings would be more credible. Whenever I hear the term "no-spin", I immediately brace myself for lots of spin.

In the future you would be better served by simply admitting that being a wealthy, conservative, financial services executive in New York biases your views. Consider that your "reality" would be different if your were a union plumber in Cincinnati or a politically-liberal biologist in Monterey. Admitting your biases and dropping the "no-spin" nonsense will add a lot of credibility to your claim of intellectual honesty.

Cheers.

3/09/2005 2:43 AM  
Blogger BenefitsMatter said...

How refreshing to hear someone in the investment industry being honest about what privatization means. As a private pension administrator, I've seen the erosion of retirement benefits as the shift from Defined Benefit plans to 401(k) plans becomes complete. Following the Bush path to privatization requires a giant leap of faith and dependence upon the leviathan called "the market". History proves the folly of such dependence.

Thanks for your remarks. I'm looking forward to more.

3/09/2005 4:11 AM  
Blogger Harold Ralphson said...

Dear Cunning Realist, Good luck with your blog. About your first post - no shit, really?

3/09/2005 4:57 AM  
Blogger Harold Ralphson said...

Dear Cunning Realist, Good luck with your blog. About your first post - no shit, really?

3/09/2005 4:57 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Interesting. Your executive is implicitly assuming that American business can not build value in the economy, so for the value of stocks to rise there has to be an imbalance in the available funds in the market.

Instead of building value he has to use the government tax authority to force more money to be put into the market so that stock prices will continue to rise.

He definitly wants a Stock bubble.

3/09/2005 8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The unnamed executive in your post is just reflecting what a look at valuations tells us: the market is pumped up again (though not at 1999 irrationality), and stocks are once again mostly too expensive to buy by historical norms. Who wouldn't want to see whopping bucketfulls of new government cash come flying in to push valuations higher?

By the way, as a poor, ordinary, individual shareholder shocked by what executives are paid in options, the fact that management is howling about expensing stock options seems to me a good sign.

3/09/2005 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anbody clear something up for me. There has been a trend, even if somewhat marginal, for stockholders to demand social and environmental responsibnility from the companies they invest in. How will privatization effect this trend? I'm quessing it would dampen it.

Thanks for speaking bluntly about the transfer of risk.

3/09/2005 9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody gets it!

/subscribed

3/09/2005 9:57 AM  
Anonymous David said...

richard, I think you're overreading -- point is that with the "dumb public money" stock values would be bid up to levels higher than they would have been otherwise. All the other sources of growth remain as possible sources of growth (and the interest rate/crowding out issues from additional federal borrowing that others have mentioned would also matter)

good luck with the blog -- I'm reminded of Michael Lewis' (I've forgotten the name of the book) accounts of the Salomon Bros MBS traders who ate the lunches, dinners and bedtime snacks of the Midwestern S&L rubes who tried to trade with them during the 80s (which helped to lead to the S&L crisis, at the close of which Lewis Raineri, head MBS guy at Salomon, cleaned up on the other side by picking up zombie Texas S&Ls on the cheap). anyway intersting post

3/09/2005 9:58 AM  
Anonymous tommywonk said...

The fallacy of this argument--that using SS payroll tax revenue would make billions of dollars available for investment in the stock marke--lies in overlooking the diversion of private capital to cover the extra debt to finance privatization.
No new investment dollars are created.
One can go back and read Robert Rubin on how reducing debt enhanced investor confidence in U.S. markets and increased overall investment. Of course, the Bushies use the word “Rubinomics” as a pejorative.

3/09/2005 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Romdinstler Jones said...

The "cunning" realist? Are we at the point where the only way to be "intellectually honest" is to be "cunning"?

3/09/2005 11:35 AM  
Blogger Cali-Boomer said...

If you want to see the wrong-headed and dangerous end game of "privatization" of confiscated money, you need to look at the history of CalPERS (the California public pension fund) or LACERS (the City of Los Angeles public employees pension fund) or that of LA County or the other 39 public pension funds just in California to see how the accumulated wealth of many can be manipulated by politicans and appointed or anointed individuals and groups to the detriment of the hapless contributors. Rather than given choices, the bloated size of these funds limited the size of the companies that they can invest in and thus become easy prey to lying behemonths such as the ENRON's, AT&T's and MCI's of the world. We must not fall for the fallacy of public ownership of private risk. Did we not learn anything from the S&L debacle or the growing "private pension" liability crisis?

3/09/2005 12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome to the B'sphere, look forward to many more posts like this one!

A big problem with the current debate is that it ignores the fact that we already have plenty of opportunities for "private accounts" in the form of 401(k)s and the various permutations of IRAs. I have never been under the impression that SS would take care of me in my retiremment; it will be there, but only account for maybe a quarter-to-half of what I will "need" to retire. The SS debate obscures the real crisis of low participation rates in these existing vehicles, the manipulation of pension plans/401(k)s to manage corporate earnings, and the 20+year general trend of risk shifting from employers to employees (except of course for the few at the top...).

3/09/2005 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Tom Bishop said...

So... Hiring?

3/09/2005 1:26 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Tristero's paranoia notwithstanding, thanks for your perspective, whoever you are. If you really are what you claim to be, then it's good to hear from someone who's close to the corporate-banking heart of this beast.

3/09/2005 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for starting this blog. As an independent who has grown increasingly alarmed with the Republican free-lunchers in the Bush Administration, it is truly refreshing to see a conservative who brings reason and behind-the-scenes insight to this debate.

3/09/2005 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Matt Hogan said...

Welcome to the debate. This is one of the most refreshing -- and lucid -- pieces I've read about this issue. Looking forward to more of the same.

3/09/2005 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As it exits today, Social Security represents the largest transfer of private risk to the public. In fact, the perverse incentives in the system require taking as much as possible out today, and transferring the costs to the future. That is why things are indeed in crisis. If you do not think that someone in their 40's who has little time or room to plan for a 30% or more decrease in anticipated benefits, or being forced to pay even higher payroll taxes for the next 25 years, is a crisis, then you should ask for your money back for that Ivy League MBA.

3/09/2005 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As it exits today, Social Security represents the largest transfer of private risk to the public. In fact, the perverse incentives in the system require taking as much as possible out today, and transferring the costs to the future. That is why things are indeed in crisis. If you do not think that someone in their 40's who has little time or room to plan for a 30% or more decrease in anticipated benefits, or being forced to pay even higher payroll taxes for the next 25 years, is a crisis, then you should ask for your money back for that Ivy League MBA.

3/09/2005 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As it exits today, Social Security represents the largest transfer of private risk to the public. In fact, the perverse incentives in the system require taking as much as possible out today, and transferring the costs to the future. That is why things are indeed in crisis. If you do not think that someone in their 40's who has little time or room to plan for a 30% or more decrease in anticipated benefits, or being forced to pay even higher payroll taxes for the next 25 years, is a crisis, then you should ask for your money back for that Ivy League MBA.

3/09/2005 3:58 PM  
Blogger Media In Trouble said...

I like your post and I wish you great success on the sphere.

One of the things I liked best was:

Where is the plan?

I remember conservatives trashing kerry during e-season for always touting a plan but never giving the details of such plan.

They constantly bashed him with it.

It is a wonder why the Democrats aren't reciprocating.

3/09/2005 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Astounding!Love it. I'm non-ideological, but enjoy a good socio-poli-economic blog with insight. While I'm sure I'll come across something you post that I won't agree with, you have now been bookmarked.

On a side note, I've been thinking about this for a while; retirement assets have been on my front burner now that I'm transitioning my 401(k) to my new job. I've thought that risk-aversion and cushioning must be at the heart of this sellout of the public interest.

I think about all the investment advice my father has given me; he is of a different era, where his blue-chip company's pension accrued after 35+ years of service is augmented by social security. I take his advice with a grain of salt; given the profound ignorance of labor (and even though I'm white collar, I now know exactly where I fall on the spectrum) and the acquiescence of all of us who live on paychecks, this is going to be one ugly couple of decades to come.

The string-holders have convinced their employees to shoulder their individual responsibility of retirement, and now they want society to forget its fundamental interests and do something similar. Everyone is on the take, which is a good thing if you have some leverage.

Not to sound too cynical, but no one I interact with on a personal or professional has anything approaching leverage.

I just turned thirty, and I can see a very cynical financial landscape. For seven years my former employer threw worthless options at us small fry to pat themselves on the back and say to us 'you have your carrot,' meanwhile the guys in the boardroom were vested at significantly lower quotes.

Then, three months ago, the CEO of this Fortune 500 company came to the cafeteria in the operational headquarters for a 'mandatory' meeting for all of his staff. The subject, an altruistic appeal for us to donate to the United way.

Sounds nice, don't it?

Well, two weeks later we had another mandatory meeting; one that announced that 500 of us could expect to be laid off within the month. Curiously, CEO wasn't there. What chutzpah!! This man has two private jets, a yacht (not a boat) a mansion on every continent, and yet he appeals for us little people, the ones who put the gas in the yacht and make 1/500th of his salary, to make a charitable contribution to the charity of his choice LITERALLY BUSINESS DAYS BEFORE HIS MINIONS FIRE US!He's getting his though, our jobs went to India. Helping out the minions who replaced me and others like me, it looks like someone in Business Development sold a lie, and in my industry, corporate honor and reputation are paramount.

Thank you, sir weblogman, for demonstrating that someone in the realm of capital may have a soul.

A bit of advice, Donald Luskin has a blog of his own. A month ago he allowed comments, I replied on one of his posts to politely correct his shoddy math.

That hack stopped allowing comments that night, and now he is a hack without a chorus.

OK, I worked until 1 am on Sunday night, 1 am Monday night, and 5:30 am last night. I'm well past fifty hours logged, and Wednesday isn't over. I must return to helping my new CEOverlord fill his private jet's gas tank.

Thank you. You are bookmarked and I will enjoy returning to your blog.

3/09/2005 5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TCR,
Your candor is deeply appreciated! You also have chosen an easily remembered "handle". I imagine I will continue to check out what you have to say.

(BTW, the comment made about you getting the brass ring with your Josh Marshall link on your first post sounds just about right to me.)

- oddjob

3/09/2005 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done. In two posts, you've managed interesting topics, insightful and focused commentary, and some very good writing. Further, you've garnered feedback that reflects varied views--too rare in blogdom. Above all, you've already written what I wish I had. I'll be back.

3/09/2005 6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I winced at the words no-spin zone. You do realize that Bill O'Reilly has co-opted that phrase and he is neither no-spin nor true conservative, just a rightwing hack? I hope you're not a Trojan horse. Interesting post, but I would love your insight and opinions into what you think normal middle-class life is like and how its been affected by the corporate takeover of America. I have no sympathy for poor widdo financial service people having a new law that maybe might make them less money. Tell that to your CEO who makes millions while we're struggling to pay our fuel and medical bills, and god forbid send our kids to college. If you as you say are a true conservative, what is conservative about the middle class being squeezed until they pop, that our environment is being trashed, that civil rights are trashed etc. I challenge you to explore the way that the middle class and poor have lost ground in the last 10 years and how you as a conservative would fix these problems.

3/09/2005 7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, please, what a bunch of drivel all this is. NOT ONE MENTION IN THE PIECE OF THE FACT THE FED GOVT. HAS NO RIGHT TO BE IN THE RETIREMENT BUSINESS.

Can someone please tell me why I earn my money, then must, by law, give it to the govt. to invest for me. What part about MY MONEY does no one seem to understand?

3/09/2005 11:00 PM  
Anonymous CAP'N CAPS LOCK said...

IT IS USUALLY THE CASE THAT WHEN SOMEONE HAS NO CASE FOR THEIR ARGUMENT, THEY RESORT TO SHOUTING. IN THE WORLD OF 1s and 0s, THIS IS ACHIEVED THROUGH THE GRATUITOUS USE OF CAPS LOCK.

"NOT ONE MENTION IN THE PIECE OF THE FACT THE FED GOVT. HAS NO RIGHT TO BE IN THE RETIREMENT BUSINESS."NOR DO THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO TAKE MY MONEY TO SUBSIDIZE THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY, OFFSHORING CORPORATIONS, OR HALF-BAKED INVASIONS BASED PURELY ON FANTASY...

troll.

3/10/2005 10:04 AM  
Anonymous CAP'N CAPS LOCK said...

IT IS USUALLY THE CASE THAT WHEN SOMEONE HAS NO CASE FOR THEIR ARGUMENT, THEY RESORT TO SHOUTING. IN THE WORLD OF 1s and 0s, THIS IS ACHIEVED THROUGH THE GRATUITOUS USE OF CAPS LOCK.

"NOT ONE MENTION IN THE PIECE OF THE FACT THE FED GOVT. HAS NO RIGHT TO BE IN THE RETIREMENT BUSINESS."NOR DO THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO TAKE MY MONEY TO SUBSIDIZE THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY, OFFSHORING CORPORATIONS, OR HALF-BAKED INVASIONS BASED PURELY ON FANTASY...

troll.

3/10/2005 10:05 AM  
Anonymous CAP'N CAPS LOCK said...

IT IS USUALLY THE CASE THAT WHEN SOMEONE HAS NO CASE FOR THEIR ARGUMENT, THEY RESORT TO SHOUTING. IN THE WORLD OF 1s and 0s, THIS IS ACHIEVED THROUGH THE GRATUITOUS USE OF CAPS LOCK.

"NOT ONE MENTION IN THE PIECE OF THE FACT THE FED GOVT. HAS NO RIGHT TO BE IN THE RETIREMENT BUSINESS."NOR DO THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO TAKE MY MONEY TO SUBSIDIZE THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY, OFFSHORING CORPORATIONS, OR HALF-BAKED INVASIONS BASED PURELY ON FANTASY...

troll.

3/10/2005 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somebody please point me to the "excellent in-depth analysis" on NRO. Please. Somebody.

Max(Speak)
http://maxspeak.org/mt

3/10/2005 4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Not One Mention..." There is a fundamental ignorance displayed here - government has no business being in the retirement game if society deems it unnecessary. As it turns out, society has decided that individuals can't manager their own money well enough to pay for things like clean air, healthy forests, clean drinking water, policemen, teachers, firemen, army men and women, border patrol, etc...We decided that securing basic financial health of our elder population was a priority best managed and administered at a national level. If society determines that this is no longer the case, so be it.

3/10/2005 5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Said troll also fails to understand that there are kinds of social insurance that have been in place for over a generation because they benefit the common good, regardless of what a minority of right wingnuts have thought of propriety of same.

SS isn't a retirment investment, it's an anti-poverty vehicle.

Duh......

3/10/2005 6:15 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Bookmarked! Excellent reading!

3/12/2005 8:57 AM  
Blogger James Finkelstein (Ga.) said...

(here's the letter I wrote after reading this website)

Dear Editor,

The average person might believe President Bush when he says that the status of the Social Security Trust Fund is a present day "crisis" because, based on current projections, by the year 2042, the fund will be "bankrupt." What President Bush doesn't say, because it would defeat his proposal- the specifics of which is still a secret he won't share- is that in his dictionary, if the Trust Fund can only pay you 99 percent of what it owes you, then the system is "bankrupt." Of course, the "crisis" could easily be fixed simply by removing the current $87,000 cap on income taxed for Social Security and by requiring the superwealthy living off their interest and capital gains to pay their fair share of taxes. Currently, a billionaire who doesn't work a minute a year and who annually earns $100 million in interest or capital gains will not pay a penny in Social Security taxes. (As a sidenote, if President Bush gets his way, they also won't pay a penny in Federal income taxes.) In stark contrast, a manual laborer who works 50- 60 hours a week and earns $40,000 a year, will pay over $6,000 a year into Social Security. Should the laborer die before his 65th birthday, he will never get back a dime of the tens of thousands of dollars he contributed to the system.

If you are wondering why the President thinks that Social Security is a "crisis" needing fixing because in 38 years it may not be able to pay back 100 cents on every dollar owed, but he has no plans to resolve either Medicaid or Medicare spending (Medicare's trust fund will really be broke in less than 15 years) or the current federal budget shortfall of over $400 billion every year, you only have to talk to investment bankers and CEO's who hold stock options from their publicly traded companies. Here's two quotes, courtesy of "The Cunning Realist" website (cunningrealist.blogspot.com), from President Bush's financial backers who are the real motivating factor behind his push for Social Security "reform:"

"I want that dumb public money coming across my desk."

"This executive sees one shining beacon in the fog of increasingly strict accounting standards and a difficult business environment: The prospect of Social Security reform. He told me that he and many of this colleagues at other companies favor the creation of private accounts, because a new source of demand for his stock will help compensate for the increasing unattractiveness of his company from an investment perspective."

Now, if you still think the President has your best interests at heart when he says private accounts is the best solution to the "crisis," ask him where he plans on getting the money to make up the immediate shortfall in Social Security taxes if his privatization proposal (whatever it is) is put into effect. Answer: the government will have to borrow the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to pay its current obligations to Social Security recipients, increasing our dangerous budget deficit to even higher levels.

James Finkelstein
Albany, Georgia
March 12, 2004 9:16 A.M.

3/12/2005 9:16 AM  
Blogger James Finkelstein (Ga.) said...

(here's the letter I wrote after reading this website)

Dear Editor,

The average person might believe President Bush when he says that the status of the Social Security Trust Fund is a present day "crisis" because, based on current projections, by the year 2042, the fund will be "bankrupt." What President Bush doesn't say, because it would defeat his proposal- the specifics of which is still a secret he won't share- is that in his dictionary, if the Trust Fund can only pay you 99 percent of what it owes you, then the system is "bankrupt." Of course, the "crisis" could easily be fixed simply by removing the current $87,000 cap on income taxed for Social Security and by requiring the superwealthy living off their interest and capital gains to pay their fair share of taxes. Currently, a billionaire who doesn't work a minute a year and who annually earns $100 million in interest or capital gains will not pay a penny in Social Security taxes. (As a sidenote, if President Bush gets his way, they also won't pay a penny in Federal income taxes.) In stark contrast, a manual laborer who works 50- 60 hours a week and earns $40,000 a year, will pay over $6,000 a year into Social Security. Should the laborer die before his 65th birthday, he will never get back a dime of the tens of thousands of dollars he contributed to the system.

If you are wondering why the President thinks that Social Security is a "crisis" needing fixing because in 38 years it may not be able to pay back 100 cents on every dollar owed, but he has no plans to resolve either Medicaid or Medicare spending (Medicare's trust fund will really be broke in less than 15 years) or the current federal budget shortfall of over $400 billion every year, you only have to talk to investment bankers and CEO's who hold stock options from their publicly traded companies. Here's two quotes, courtesy of "The Cunning Realist" website (cunningrealist.blogspot.com), from President Bush's financial backers who are the real motivating factor behind his push for Social Security "reform:"

"I want that dumb public money coming across my desk."

"This executive sees one shining beacon in the fog of increasingly strict accounting standards and a difficult business environment: The prospect of Social Security reform. He told me that he and many of this colleagues at other companies favor the creation of private accounts, because a new source of demand for his stock will help compensate for the increasing unattractiveness of his company from an investment perspective."

Now, if you still think the President has your best interests at heart when he says private accounts is the best solution to the "crisis," ask him where he plans on getting the money to make up the immediate shortfall in Social Security taxes if his privatization proposal (whatever it is) is put into effect. Answer: the government will have to borrow the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to pay its current obligations to Social Security recipients, increasing our dangerous budget deficit to even higher levels.

James Finkelstein
Albany, Georgia
March 12, 2004 9:16 A.M.

3/12/2005 9:16 AM  
Blogger James Finkelstein (Ga.) said...

Sorry about the double post. And the date is, of course, March 12, 2005. At least it isn't December 3, 2005, which is still 9 months off (you gotta fix that date/time stamp!)
Jim

3/12/2005 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baby-boomers own a lot of stocks and bonds. They will be selling these stocks and bonds. There will be an overabundance of stocks and bonds.(Remember 1929) Here comes the government to the rescue. Not to the rescue of Social Security, but to the rescue of the economy. Get private money from young people to replace the money being drawn off by the elderly.

The 1920's bubble was caused by an insatiable desire for stocks and the crash was caused by a sudden overabundance. Let's get that bubble back to its inflated size.

3/12/2005 9:32 AM  
Anonymous ab said...

Mr. Finkelstein gave me a good (if momentarily delayed in processing) chuckle with his date/time stamp observation.

I had heard that Hotlanta was a swingin' town, and Plains has had its moments, but I admit to surprise upon learning that Georgia is so progressive that it has adopted the Euro dating standard.

arrogantbastard
Tongue-on-Cheek, Condescendifornia

3/12/2005 3:28 PM  
Blogger JoanBasil said...

Bush is asking the public to trade Social Security for a pig-in-a-poke. "Clawbacks," "Life expectancy indexing," "wage indexing vs. price indexing," --- all part of the issue but none committed to because there is no real plan on paper, so they always have deniability. The people who count the most, the over 50's, see through it. They need those checks for 20, 30, 40, more years and Bush will be gone in 4 years. Him saying, "You're going to get your checks" means nothing once we allow him to have his plan that quite obviously undermines Social Security's finances.

3/13/2005 9:01 AM  
Blogger OskarShapley said...

UpperWest said...
The concept of risk dispersal as discussed by TCR is a novel way to see this issue and definitely worthy of further discussion


The concept has been discussed by Chomsky years ago, but we are not hearing about it, because he is "out of the mainstream".

Chomsky observed that "the government is socialising the risk and privatizing the profits".

3/13/2005 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This site is the best! The concern about politicians manipulating the market to help re-election campaigns seems to be a real one. How will we ever get rid of the "top-down" thinking, that genius leaders at the top have to make decisions for us? What happened to the belief in "genius comes from the common people," (Eric Hoffer) Let us have control of our own money. Let us choose our investments. If we fail, we are resilient and resoureful enough to protect ourselves. Get the politicians who tightly control, try to control our lives and decisions, out of the way. How do we do that? To begin, don't give them the money. Let us keep the money we've earned and let us manage it.
One of my friends is an immigrant from Russia, who survived the old system under communism. He is constantly amazed that natural diasters happen here and the economy keeps working, chugging along with incredible force. That's our freedom. That's our strength that the corrupt government keeps trying to interfere with, get a piece of. Eventually, I'd like to see social security phased out completely. Blooming Rose from Maryland March 28, 2005

3/28/2005 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's May 4th, my friend. Let's blog or shut it down. You're not that interesting

5/04/2005 12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Expensing stock options: a great example of the power of money in Washington and how it affects our brain dead, ethically-challenged politicians.

Clifford Asness had written a good article for the FA Journal called,
"Stock Options and the Lying Liars Who Don't Want to Expense Them". He says no one should, "spend lobbying money to get financially addled members of the U.S. Congress to legislate that 2 + 2 = 17."

I knew politicians had trouble with math, and now they are using it on SS.

5/09/2005 12:19 PM  
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7/20/2010 5:32 AM  
Anonymous Penny Stocks said...

That's really awesome.. I hope I can see more of this.. I am looking forward for your next post..

9/14/2010 1:41 AM  

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