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Our Many Insecurities

FICA of the century. The merlot thickens. SUV comes to shove. Plus much more.

2.6.05

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GO FICA IT OUT
Re: David Hogberg's Insecure Arguments:

Social Security will still be a bad deal. Reform must require that the full 15.3 % be handled like a 401K with plenty of choices of conservative investment options. This would ensure that even lower income taxpayers will have the necessary savings.
-- G.B. Hall
Marietta, Georgia

I've always had a problem with how the federal government handles the excess FICA. Everything I've read indicates that the excess is loaned to various branches of the government, and underwritten by T-Bills. For example, let's say Veterans Affairs needs more money than is budgeted, and subsequently gets the added money from Social Security. The VA, or someone, issues a T-Bill. The only problem I have is: who the hell pays the interest on the T-Bill? If the federal government issues the T-Bill, isn't the interest paid by the taxpayers, or am I missing something?

Maybe you can tell me: is the Federal Government lending out money in which the interest is paid by somebody other than the taxpayers? I've always thought that money from the government was actually obtained from banks, and just underwritten by the Federal Government. It would seem to me that if the Federal Government actually was in lending business, the banking and credit union lobbies would have gone ballistic by now, and be in orbit. The American Spectator could do a great service to us ignorant Americans if they could explain how the Federal Government gets a 1-2% return on FICA money.
-- John C. Chapman

For all the posturing about Social Security reform the Opposition misses a few salient points:

What about my children? What do I want to see for them? A system that is solvent and free of political whims or collapse? I personally would prefer that my progeny have the knowledge that should life turn against them they have at least some safety net. What better promise could I give than that? I remember the Dems touting "Do it for the children." for lavishing federal largess on educational expenditures. Seems to me the concept applies here too, only I want the children to be able to use their own money.

Which brings us to the dwindling worker payment base. If current projections are correct then by 2040 or thereabouts there will be two workers for every retiree paying into the system to support them. Well OK, but that is my son and daughter. So why don?t I just cut out the middleman and move in with one of them? Talk about eliminating administrative costs, I just eliminated the need for the Social Security system altogether. Have the bean counters factored that one in? (And back to the multigenerational household of 70 years ago?.) Or better yet why not just have 100% of payroll go to private accounts? We eliminate the need for Social Security on a phase out basis so that in about 50 years there are no administrative costs at all.

And talk about inequity, I find it farcical that the Democrats would in their pursuit of 'equality' would deny to everyone else who is not a federal employee the same right that federal employees have of electing to have a portion of their payrolls go to private accounts. Somebody get me a lawyer! I smell a Supreme Court case, Amendment 14, et al. Or at least a GS-11 job somewhere.

To the Democrats that sat on their haunches during the State of the Union address the challenge is before you. Bush is accepting answers from all comers. Start dishing up a better idea or get behind the one that is being proposed. This single political event will define whether there is a Democratic Party by 2016.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

Mr. Hogberg's article, "Insecure Arguments" reminds me of those segments in the television series "Victory At Sea" where the Destroyers are deployed around the perimeter of the Fleet to establish smokescreens that will protect the flagship from attack. He, along with various Republican pundits and talk show hosts, have been deployed to "blow smoke" about the impending doom of the Social Security system in order to hide the flagships inaction on Immigration Reform, Tort Reform, Supreme Court Appointments and to keep the public from discovering that crazy aunt in the attic that the government likes to call Federal Pensions, which will ultimately cause the treasury to go belly up long before Social Security will.

Here are a few cases in point. Asbestos Class Action Law Suits: If the Tort bar has its way they will continue until the Second Coming! More than 60 bankruptcies have been caused by them with great losses to the pensions the companies were holding for their employees and for the Pension Funds that had the misfortune to invest in those companies. Wait till these Tort Lawyers, these leeches in the rectum of the America Body Politic, start sucking the blood out of the Drug Companies with their class actions. Where will the pension funds invest their monies then? Who will invest in these companies? Who will make the medicines for our children and grandchildren?

In my hometown a European company closed. Two hundred jobs paying more than $20.00 an hour in salary and benefits were lost. It is being replaced with a Mexican Company from Monterey, Mexico which will pay 100 new employees $7.00 to $9.00 an hour to make corn chips. They will hire a lot of the new Hispanic immigrants to our area. Many of these are illegals. Nobody is checking.

Can someone tell me how the Federal government invests the monies in its pension funds? That is, if it has any specific funds or any investing strategy. Are they putting any of these monies into the private market like they want to do with part of the Social Security funds? Remember Senator Albert Gore Sr.? He left office earning $40,000 a year. When he died his pension was paying him $140,000 a year. Is this good investing or fiscal insanity? I knew a woman who retired from the federal government in 1956 at age 54. She received a pension of $2200.00 a year when she retired. When she died in 1995 her pension paid her $21,000 a year! Are there any other pension plans like this in any country that is not a kleptocracy? There are millions of federal pensioners that are getting this largesse from the taxpayers and we are worrying about a piddling fund like Social Security that is funded largely by private citizens and businesses! And what makes it worse is that people who should know better, like Hogberg, Limbaugh, Hannity are operating the smoke and mirrors for the government.
-- Bob Keiser
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

If the problem is a declining number of workers supporting a growing number of retirees, how is this fixed by allowing young workers to opt out? Wouldn't this reduce the number of contributors even more?

The solution should be the opposite -- getting more workers into Social Security. This means members of Congress and federal employees. Their inclusion would save the system!
-- G. Ferguson

FREEDOM'S FAINT OF HEART
Re: Patrick O'Hannigan's What I Should Have Said With the Merlot in Hand:

Mr. O'Hannigan may have had an I-wish-I-had-thought-of-that experience but I would counsel him to not trouble himself too greatly about it. For if?those who still cannot?understand why we must strive to bring freedom to all the world?are deaf to those who?cry out for?its blessings, they are most certainly deaf to our voice.
?
There seems to be three main groups that object to Bush?s freshly re-minted policy of encouraging, pushing and, should the patient require, twisting an arm here and there to bring freedom to those parts of the world where it flourishes not. They are the old-Europe Europeans, despots of whatever ilk, and the new and left-over lefties wherever in the world they be. Most everybody else, in every country liberated in the past fifteen years, or those individuals who?ve escaped from a place not yet free, seem all for the idea.

How can anyone claim to have a hint of compassion for their fellow human beings if they listen not to those who have suffered under brutal and oppressive dictators and governments? Those who cannot hear the voices of those still chained? To whom do the naysayers listen? Certainly not Sharansky who once languished in a Soviet "hospital" nor Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet currently languishing in Cuba. Not the Iraqis nor Afghanis. Not the former members of the Warsaw Pact. Not the Ukrainians. To whom do they listen?
?
Apparently, only themselves. They have suffered not. And listen to them we will not. We listen to those who cry for freedom. America and her President hears their voice.
-- Dennis Sevakis
Bloomfield, Michigan

It's even a simpler argument than that. We, as a free people, have a moral responsibility to free the world. Just as we, a wealthy people, have a moral responsibility to feed the world. Would you let a hungry man starve because it's not your responsibility? Would you let a slave remain shackled for any reason?
?
We may fail, but to fail is to lose our own freedom.
-- M. Andreasen

SKIP THE TOY CARS
Re: Eric Peters's Unsafe at Any High Speed:

In my last twenty vehicles the last one that was a car was a Citation in 1980. It has been a procession since then of full size vans, Astros, S10s, Suburbans, Tahoes, 1500 series pickups, 3500 pickups, etc.

Never have I come even remotely close to a capsize! Any competent driver can feel the reaction of his vehicle in plenty of time to forestall it tipping over. A sailor will tell you they can sense it whenever they are "driving" the boat too hard and are about to put it down. Same thing for vehicles. On the other hand let me describe two interesting incidents.

My wife was on a highway driving her full size Chevy Van, when a TransAm broadsided her from a side road. The TransAm was totaled. The van had $290 of collision damage (It hit on the point of the frame behind the drivers side front wheel).

Then I was broadsided in my 3500 Chevy Dually, by a midsize Olds. The front end of the Olds was crushed, but when the vehicles were separated mine had almost no visible damage. A parking light lens was cracked, the screw holes on the grill was cracked, the bumper had tiny nicks in it, and there was an oil can dent the body repairer listed at $100. Since the vehicle had only 4000 miles they insisted all parts, even barely scratched, should be replaced, and the insurance repair bill was $900.

I drive these vehicles for load carrying capacity and safety. I long ago lost my enthusiasm for toy cars and looking up at semi-truck tires!
-- G.B. Hall
Marietta, Georgia

This is an excellent piece and it is so very true that folks drive SUV's at speeds far exceeding their design limitations; not to mention set speeds that exceed the highway design speeds used by highway and street designers.
-- Patrick R. Spooner
Windham, New Hampshire

I wonder about this dimension: not only is there a certain amount of prestige in owning an SUV, but there is the feeling of power that overcomes the driver. There's something about sitting up high and feeling that engine power that does something to people. I've been "bullied" by SUVs on the road many times. When I was single, I tended to date guys and cowboys that chose to drive big pickups and that was often a mentality I encountered, even, when they were buying the pickups when they didn't have a horse trailer or ton of hay to haul around. :-}
-- unsigned

I agree with Mr. Peters that a new law is not the solution to SUV safety issues. But he misses the main point that a current law is the cause of the problem.

Mr. Peters' Nader-like scolding about "auto-makers need to do this" and "drivers need to respect that" is foolish. The reason SUVs are so popular is that they are a way for auto-buyers to avoid the CAFE standards which prevent auto-makers from manufacturing vehicles large enough to address Americans' legitimate safety concerns. The bigger and heavier my vehicle, the safer my family in the event of an accident.

Repeal the CAFE standards and let American automakers make the big sedans and big station wagons that American drivers prefer.
-- Steve Perkins
Jamestown, North Carolina

REMEMBERING MASS MURDER
Re: Lawrence Henry's How I Met the Holocaust:

I read the excellent story entitled "How I met the Holocaust" by Lawrence Henry with great attention and compassion for the Auschwitz survivors. However, there are some facts which are quite puzzling. The author says that his in-laws spent six years in Auschwitz. I find this quite impossible because Auschwitz camp was built much later than 1939 and the first camp prisoners were not Jews but Poles. If my memory serves me well, it was not until 1941 when first Jewish prisoners were transported to Auschwitz (I could be wrong on this). Author also mentioned numbers tattooed on the forearms of his in-laws. This numbers should be quite low (in the range of hundreds) since there are still Auschwitz survivors with low numbers, like 400's. Except for these minor points, the story is very moving and sad, showing how human lives were affected by this great evil perpetrated in Nazi camps like Auschwitz.
-- Zenon Rajfur

Lawrence Henry replies:
As I recall, my former in-laws' numbers were five digits. And I certainly could be wrong about the six years being at Auschwitz. It was just what I was always told about the length of their imprisonment.

JOSEY WALES LIVES!
Re: George Neumayr's Hollywood Homicide:

George Neumayr's "review" of Million Dollar Baby is precisely the sort of moral party line masquerading as serious film criticism that we've come to expect from James Bowman. It's all there -- the same?generalizations about "Hollywood," the same incapacity to view cinema from the context of the artist, and the same raw envy hiding behind a?veneer of Virtue.?Bravo, Clint Eastwood. Next time Mr. Neumayr should review the movie, not the motive.
-- Carl F. Horowitz
Ashburn, Virginia

IMPORTANT TO BE EARNEST
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell's Jon Coogler Stewart:

Jon Stewart's America may not be a great book, but it is far from the bird-cage material published by past awardees.

As a conservative, I say Stewart's section on the Sunday morning political talk shows makes up for any jibe he makes against conservatives. As an educator (I teach Electrical Engineering), I find his satire of modern textbooks to be spot on. A Citizen's Guide to Democracy is first of all a satire of a textbook for Civics or Government class, and as all modern textbooks, it is short on text, long on illustrations, chopped up by "side bar" articles, and prone to the shibboleths of the academic establishment. But next to what passes for a serious Civics or Government textbook, A Citizen's Guide to Democracy is first-rate scholarship.

My opinion is that the Coogler Award should be reserved for writing so earnest that it becomes funny, or writing that attempts to be funny but ends up being earnest in a sort of preachy, unreadable way. A Citizen's Guide to Democracy is entirely whimsical and equal-opportunity in whom it lampoons, and it is the best spoof of a school textbook I have seen, and we all know the education establishment needs its knuckles rapped with a ruler.

I ask that the unprecedented step be taken of withdrawing the Coogler Award and awarding it some work that is much more deserving. I don't name any because you will think I have an agenda, but there are many out there.
-- Paul Milenkovic
Madison, Wisconsin

SPREADING THE WORD
Re: Christopher Orlet's Where Would Jesus Advertise?:

A good friend of mine, recently deceased, frequently used to say something to the effect "Jesus used to preach to the sinners. The trouble with the church is that the good people took over." He was a retired pastor and meant much to me. What better places for advertising a Bible than in Rolling Stone and other modern publications? That someone would decide to pull the ads does not surprise me. Would it have happened if the "good people" hadn't taken over the church? We have so many people who propose to speak for God, and I have to wonder if any of us are smart enough to figure out with accuracy what He really said, what He wants, and why He said it. I have faith that most of us have at least a bit of it right, maybe enough. If I find myself some day standing before The Man, I truly expect to be surprised by many things -- perhaps by who else is there, by what really didn't matter, and by what did. I think we should be careful about being the person ready to throw stones -- and that goes for both sides of the issue. Perhaps if we didn't throw so many stones, Rolling Stone and its board and clientele would be more likely to hear us out -- and that would be good.
-- Mike Hunter
Athens, Ohio

LOSER PAYS
Re: William Tucker's Tort Reform's Ground Zero and Jane Marshall's letter ("Judicial Hellholes") in Reader Mail's It Gets Worse:

William Tucker's January 5, 2005 article on Tort Reform misses the boat like virtually all other articles on the subject. There is only one solution to the litigation lottery in the United States and that is the loser pays all costs involved in the litigation including the winners legal fees. This might not do much to solve the Malpractice Insurance problem but it will bring a halt to the practice of law as a legal crapshoot! The lawyers involved will have to be damned sure they have a good case before they file it!

Tort reform, as the Bush administration has structured it, is a farce. Our local radio talkshow station is running ads by the legal community against the reform while the Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity shows are on the air!
-- Bob Keiser
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

After reading Jane Marshall's ridiculous and inaccurate take on tort reform the only conclusion I can draw is that she is either a trial lawyer herself, works for one, or has a job at some political activist group against common sense.

The fact she is "insulted on behalf of people dear to me whose lawsuits were not frivolous" isn't a valid argument to keep the out of control jury awards from putting doctors good doctors out of business. Sure, bad doctors should be punished and insurance companies should pay for selling them premiums to insure them, but it's wrong and unnecessary to gouge the good to protect people.

The fact she uses silly anecdotal evidence and demagogues everyone else tells me she's nothing but a typical left wing zealot. Didn't think there were a lot of them in Clarksville, TN given the fact so many people living there are in or support the Army at Ft. Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne.
-- Greg Barnard
Franklin, Tennessee

BEEN THERE, LOST THAT
Re: Gary Johnson's letter (under "Smart Moves") in Reader Mail's It Gets Worse:

Reader Gary Johnson of Madison, Ala. writes:" Give the president line item veto authority!"

That is fine as a suggestion. The problem is that it has already been done and the Federal Courts have ruled it unconstitutional. The ruling was, in effect, that a President may veto "a bill" or sign it. He may not veto only specific line items and sign the rest of the bill.

Check it out, Mr. Johnson. We have already lost the battle on this account.
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

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