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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Social Security is already trashed

Yesterday, I suggested that worrying about social security may not be worth fighting over because the immense short-term financial problems this country is facing are almost certain to overwhelm any long-term plans. I see that Billmon was thinking the same thing:
For weeks I’ve been shying away from writing about Shrub’s Social Security reform obsession – not because I don’t think it’s important or haven’t been following it, but because the whole thing seems so damned unreal.

Surreal might be the better word. I mean, the discussion is rational as long as it’s kept within the framework of the arcane details of federal entitlement policy. But when you pull back and put it in the context of the global financial situation – and the economic train wreck that I think lies just a little further down the tracks – the whole debate starts to seem about as pointless as a bunch of Austro-Hungarian politicians arguing about the future of the Hapsburg monarchy – circa June of 1914.

In other words, once America finally maxes out on its Asian Express Card, and can no longer borrow 80-90% of the world’s available capital flows on concessionary terms, eliminating the Social Security deficit in the year 2041 is going to go from ranking 4th on Brad DeLong’s list of big macroeconomic problems to about 40th. Whether we will even have a Social Security system could be on the table then – a few decades ahead of the GOP schedule.
Okay, Billmon thought it first, and at greater length, and more coherently. But I didn't know that until AFTER my post.

The whole thing reminds me of the sad story about the mentally-impaired guy who was about to be executed in Arkansas or Texas or somewhere. He asked the guards if he could save some of his last meal for later.