Chronicle of the Conspiracy
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Okrent blames everyone but himself here. The top dog he blames very delicately, with a double negative -- Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. shouldn't not do something about it. Readers -- the people he's supposed to represent -- he's harder on. He calls readers like me "Krugman's enemies," and says we are "ideological" -- the very same term Krugman himself uses to describe us. But what's the difference for these purposes if we disagree with Krugman's politics or not? We're the ones who relentlessly drew Okrent's attention to Krugman's "shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers." It's Okrent who failed over and over to get Krugman to correct those numbers, or, in most cases, failed to get Krugman's direct boss Gail Collins to even return calls. So Okrent lashes out. He has a habit of doing that.
So ends Okrent's 18 months of shame. Good riddance.
Thanks to reader Jill Olson for the link.
Update [5/22/2005]... A further thought. There's a cover-up going on here. Okrent queues up this topic as one of "13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did," but the reality is that he did write about this very thing in his March 28, 2004 column concerning the Times' columnist corrections policy. By failing to mention that, Okrent is covering up the fact that the policy he helped put in place has failed -- because he was impotent to enforce it.
Update 2 [5/22/2005]... here's Robert Musil's take: "Pay $49.95 for that?"
Update 3 [5/23/2005]... Thanks to Power Line for the attaboy.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:02 PM | link
Friday, May 20, 2005
Uh, just to put this in a bit of context...
Thanks to James Bianco for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:18 PM | link
FURTHER PROOF THAT THE HAYEK RELIGION IS BETTER THAN THE KEYNES RELIGION The Cafe Hayek blog questions the logic in Paul Krugman's column today, which spins the conspiracy theory that Chinese lending to US federal deficits is fueling a US housing bubble.
Thanks to Peter Mork for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:09 PM | link
Thursday, May 19, 2005THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE If a Democrat falls in the forest and the liberal media doesn't report it, does it make a noise? Apparently that's the theory with Florida congressman Robert Wexler, who broke ranks with fellow Democrats Monday by offering a plan to reform Social Security. Amazing! After months of party-line stonewalling, a gesture of bipartisanship. And yet there hasn't been one solitary word about it in the "paper of record," the New York Times.
This is big news. So why the silent treatment from the liberal media?
Could be the liberal establishment is hoping that if they pretend that Wexler's initiative doesn't exist, it will just go away -- and the Democrats can get back to business as usual by boycotting President Bush's efforts at reform? Or it could be that Wexler himself is seen as a bit of a liability at the moment -- it having recently been revealed that he has been among biggest recipients in the House of Representatives of lobbyist-paid travel (the same thing Democrats are persecuting Tom DeLay for doing less of).
More likely, the reason is that the substance of Wexler's Social Security reform proposal itself is an embarrassment to the Democratic party. You see, Wexler's proposal consists of just one element: raise taxes -- 6% on anyone making more than $90,000 a year. Yes, normally Democrats aren't embarrassed about wanting to raise taxes. But in the case of Social Security, higher taxes have some special problems.
First, Social Security is already running a surplus, taking in more in taxes each year than it will pay out in benefits (it will do so until 2017). Raising taxes today will just make that surplus larger. That's a problem because that surplus isn't being saved for the sake of the system's future needs. The so-called Social Security Trust Fund uses the surplus to buy special-issue Treasury bonds -- which is to say, it hands the surpluses over to the federal government to spend.
The federal government is not itself doing any sort of savings in order to retire those bonds when they come due. So when they inevitably come due decades in the future, taxes will have to be raised again. That's right -- the more taxes are raised now, the more they'll have to be raised again in the future.
Second, even blithely assuming that today's tax revenues could somehow be saved toward future Social Security benefit payments, is Social Security as we know it really something we want to raise taxes for? Aren't there other priorities? For instance, the Democrats have been fond of saying that Medicare is a bigger fiscal crisis than Social Security -- and they're right about that. And of course they have a long wish list of federal initiatives all requiring higher taxes.
It comes down to a penetrating question posed by economist Michael Boskin:
But wait -- isn't Social Security supposed to be a program designed to keep the elderly out of poverty? No: that's what the Democrats are always saying, but the reality is that everyone, rich or poor, gets Social Security benefits. Visualize this: at this very moment Warren Buffet receives Social Security benefits.
Instead of raising taxes, President Bush has proposed the idea of "progressive price indexing" of Social Security benefits. The idea is to cut back the rate of scheduled benefit growth for the highest wage earners, while increasing the growth of payable benefits for lowest wage earners. The combination of the two goes a long way toward restoring fiscal balance to the program, preserves and enhances the safety net for the neediest, and addresses Boskin's question about taxing the well-off to provide benefits for the well-off.
For all that, the Democrats are attacking the idea of progressive price indexing as an attempt to slash benefits for the middle class. But that's simply a lie. According to Social Security Administration models, for the middle 20% of average lifetime wage earners -- surely that defines the "middle class" -- progressive price indexing would increase benefits payable in 2050 from $1,208 (in 2005 dollars) to $1,380. And that doesn't even include the additional increase in benefits that would accrue from investing in personal accounts. And the benefit improvement is even greater for workers below the middle class.
The Democrats are ignoring those figures. Instead, liberal think tanks (like the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities) and liberal pundits (like Paul Krugman) are focusing on the purportedly middle class $60,000 wage earner, whose benefits -- they claim -- would be lower under progressive price indexing. The claims are false, because these opponents ignore the fact that, under current law, benefits will automatically be slashed across-the-board after 2041 when the Social Security Trust Fund's assets are depleted.
And the Democrats' claims are false because $60,000 in Social Security wages is anything but middle class. Remember, your wages used for calculating Social Security benefits are an average of your 35 best years. If that average is $60,000, chances are it included a number of years when your earnings were considerably less. With that in mind it should be no surprise that, according to the Social Security Administration actuaries, only 15% of Social Security beneficiaries have $60,000 or more in average earnings. Yet Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi calls such people "solidly middle class."
So what's up with the Democrats? When President Bush's plan for progressive price indexing enhances benefits for the true middle class and below, and moves Social Security a long way back toward solvency? Why do they want to tax the well-off to fund benefits for the well-off?
Simple -- it has nothing to do with Social Security at all. They're against Bush's idea simply because it's Bush's idea. And they're in favor of raising taxes for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks -- because that's where the money is.
Congressman Wexler had the courage to come out and say it. But if the liberal media gets its way, you won't hear him.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:52 AM | link
WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS Or more, if they are the words of journalists.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:50 AM | link
Wednesday, May 18, 2005WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA? Dick Morris writing for The Hill:
... Newsweek has published an inflammatory story that has led to massive anti-American demonstrations in Afghanistan -- the first since the war -- protesting the seeming defilement of sacred texts. Sixteen people are dead because Newsweek got the story wrong, and the image of the United States is damaged in the Islamic world. And Newsweek refuses to hold anyone to account for this outrageous error, least of all its own senior management... But when the same reporter who wrote the current story filed the first disclosure of the Monica Lewinsky affair with his editors at Newsweek, the magazine piously refused to run the story.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:47 AM | link
EMPIRICISM WINS AGAIN A gonzo consumer research lab takes on that little matter of flushing the Quran down the toilet. You be the judge.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:40 AM | link
Tuesday, May 17, 2005LOW-CLASS ACT Leftist economist Brad DeLong's web site has corrected his outrageous misquotation of Warren Buffett and potential plagiarism of a blogger from whom he lifted the misquotation, as delivered in a presentation opposing Social Security reform to the Democratic Policy Committee last week. Of course there's no indication anywhere that an error had been made, or that a correction had been lodged upon the text displayed. I'd say I'm disappointed in the integrity and candor of the opponents of reform, but I'm not -- I knew all along they were this way.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:20 AM | link
Monday, May 16, 2005IS IT SO SURPRISING THAT HE CAN READ? Check out this speech by historian John Lewis Gaddis, cited over at the Chapomatic blog:
It goes on, and gets even better. Check it out. Thanks to Irwin Chusid for the link.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:40 PM | link
A CASE OF WHAT I LIKE TO CALL IN-SOURCING James B. over at Chief Brief has a question...
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:34 PM | link
OOPS So DC Comics has dumped it's old Milton Glaser logo, and replaced it with this new one:
What are they thinking? It looks like a monochrome variation on the famous shield of Captain America -- one of the classic brands of arch-rival Marvel.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:19 PM | link
GAG ME... OR START CHARGING $49.99 A YEAR (YOUR CALL) Jim Glass has a great one...
Paul Krugman:.. the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies ... At this point, the echoes of Vietnam are unmistakable ... Meanwhile, America's strategic position is steadily deteriorating ... America has been taken hostage ... the American military isn't just bogged down in Iraq; it's deteriorating under the strain. We may already be in real danger ... something has to give. We either need a much bigger army - which means a draft - or we need to find a way out of Iraq ... [5/16/05]Paul Krugman:I do not think of myself as an all-purpose pundit. I remember once (during the air phase of the Gulf War) seeing John Kenneth Galbraith making pronouncements on TV about the military situation, and telling friends that if I ever start pontificating in public about a technical subject I don't understand, they should gag me. [4/1/99]Man, it's tough when your friends let you down!
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 6:20 PM | link
THE TIMES FORTIFIES ITSELF AGAINST BLOGGERS According to a story in this morning's Wall Street Journal, the New York Times intends to begin charging an annual subscription fee of about $50 for web access to "columns by more than 20 writers from the Times and the International Herald Tribune, including columnists Maureen Dowd, Tom Friedman and Frank Rich." This will have the consequence (unintended?) of making it far more difficult for bloggers to dissect Times columns. Hey, Folks! I wonder how this will affect "Bobby" over at the online Krugman shrine? Will the suits from W. 43rd Street start cracking down on him after years of online content piracy?
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:50 PM | link
GOOD TAKEDOWN of Paul Krugman's column today, over at the Chief Brief blog, posted by an Army National Guardsman who has served in Operation Enduring Freedom, and with SFOR in Bosnia. Check it out.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:15 AM | link
FDR'S LEGACY Social Security reform opponents are so fond of invoking the mystique of its founder, FDR, in order to confer upon the program the inviolable saintliness of FDR himself. But you don't often hear them talk about FDR's Social Security bait-and-switch. Here's Noel Sheppard:
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:12 AM | link
SOUNDS OF SILENCE The Wall Street Journal editorial page on Democratic congressman Wexler's plan to save Social Security -- by doing nothing but raise taxes.
Indeed. Funny thing, though -- the New York Times hasn't run a news story on Wexler's plan. Hasn't even mentioned it. Perhaps the Times thinks that if a Democrat breaks ranks in the forest and there's nobody there to hear it, it won't really make a sound.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:00 AM | link