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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dear Politi"fact" Wisconsin

by folkbum

Sirs,

It has come to my attention that you have recently deemed two Democrats worthy of "pants on fire" status. This is amusing, no doubt, to those who find immolation to be a hoot-n-a-half. But beyond the offense that may be taken among the pre-immolated and the professional firefighting community, the awards--to Julie Lassa (via the DCCC) and Rep. Steve Kagen--betray a frightening amount of willful ignorance on the part of the, I think you call them, "fact checkers" at your employ when it comes to Social Security.

To wit, a small but not insignificant portion of this morning's laugh riot:
Here is what [Up Nort' candidate Reid] Ribble actually said, based on a longer video of the same statement posted on YouTube. We’ll highlight where the new words pick up.

"Somehow we have to establish a phase-out of the current Social Security system to a new system. And that will have to happen over time. It could happen in a single generation."

Ribble goes on to discuss how the life expectancy of Americans has grown since Social Security was established in the 1930s, and its effect on the system.

"It has to change," Ribble said of Social Security. "It will bankrupt this country if it doesn’t change."
It is remarkable to consider that your application of the "pants on fire" label was not awarded to this very statement itself. For you see, Mr. Ribble--are you sure he's not a Muppet?--is spinning quite the tale about bankruptcy.

The numbers, unlike Mr. Ribble, do not lie. If you believe, as the right-wing hand-wringers do, that the moment Social Security starts dipping into its trust fund, the sky will shatter and fall impaling us all with sharp daggers of fiscal doom, then 2015 is the big date. 2037 is the other big date. Over the course of those 22 years, the Social Security Trust Fund will pay out about $4.2 trillion in interest and principal on the treasury bonds it holds. Or an average of $191 billion a year.

This is a lot of money. It is more money than you or I put together can ever hope to make in a lifetime. It is, however, small potatoes comparatively. The Pentagon's annual budget is nearly four times that, for example. And the total federal budget today is 18 times that. To suggest that such a small number is enough to "bankrupt" us, particularly when no such claim is made about hugeanticon defense budgets or the ginormous hole favored tax cuts would leave in the budget, is a bald lie. Indeed, expiration of all the Bush tax cuts, on schedule for the end of the year (but possibly to be stopped in a lame duck session that may or may not still let them expire for the very wealthy dear jebus just shoot me in the head now the Democrats are blowing this one too) would cover the Social Security Trust Fund and then some.

After 2037, when the fund would be exhausted, there would still be a shortfall of about 22% of promised benefits between income (in the payroll tax) and outflow. This would amount to $5.4 trillion through 2084. Over those 47 years the annual cost to cover that shortfall is a mere $115 billon, even less than the non-bankrupting amount already discussed.

In short, sirs, the technicality by which you ascribe liarliar status to anyone who accuses Republicans of wanting to dismantle Social Security ("they'll replace it with something!" you cheerily wave into the ether), is a mere whiff of smoke compared to heaping mounds of burning Dockers Republicans have been shoving at Americans for decades. Social Security is not going broke. It is not going to bankrupt the country. It is not going to disappear before you or I or your grandkids retire unless Republicans destroy it.

Which they will. Mr. Ribble says he wants to replace Social Security with "something"--perhaps pixie dust and bottled genii. Rep. Paul Ryan wants to give people "guaranteed personal accounts," whatever that means, which is "a good starting point," according to Reality TV wunderkind Sean Duffy. Now, you want to talk about bankruptcy, Ryan's plan will do it. In spades.

Howso? Because Ryan is promising the same dollar to two people. You and I are paying into Social Security right now, and that money is going out to grammy in her monthly check. Ryan wants the money you and I pay to go into a "guaranteed personal account" and in grammy's monthly check, since he promises currently and nearly retired folk won't see their benefits change. Suddenly, the shortfall goes from almost nothing in 2011 to hundreds of billions, years earlier than expected. By the time currently and nearly retired folk finally keel over and stop soaking up the gummint largesse--say, 25 years from now, maybe--the cumulative new debt from the transition would be somewhere on the order of an additional $4 or $5 trillion!

And remember, Paul Ryan is the serious numbers guy!

So, sirs, in the future, please be certain that you aim your pantsafire judgments squarely at those telling the greater falsehoods. Mr. Ribble, Sean Duffy, Paul Ryan, and Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson have all been spreading lies about Social Security and need to be called to account. And, as you have appointed yourselves arbiters of all that is true or false in the world, get to work on that, please.

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