Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Soaking (and means-testing) the wealthy won't fix Social Security


Allan Sloan gives us a warm-up on the debate on Social Security for the 2016 presidential season on p. A12, Economy and Business, of the Washington Post on Tuesday morning, link here, title “Soaking the ‘rich’ won’t fix Social Security” (or, online, “Blaming and fleecing the ‘rich’”). 
  
He reviews Chris Christie’s plan to means test richer Social Security benes now, and notes the $73 billion deficit for Social Security in 2014.  He also analyzes his own contributions and his wife’s, and says the couple gets an under-return of about 25% from what it should have gotten from a private annuity. So the rich are already subsidizing social security.
  
  
Note there are arguments for taking Social Security benefits early as a hedge against possible means testing from politicians in the future.

My own benefit seems fair enough.  I took it out at age 62 and my break-even age is 77.  I had good reasons, and cannot complain. 

But we have to stop acting like we will expropriate benefits people thought they had earned while working, even if they are “better off” than others.  That’s still why I like Cato-style privatization, and treating and debating tax-supported welfare separately, and honestly.
  
The means testing argument, when applied to me, would imply, I should go out calling people to sell them things, like everyone else has to. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Vox seems to support Social Security means testing, opposing raising retirement age


Vox Media has been pretty progressive on most issues, but I was a little taken back by the raw collectivism and “groupthink” in Ezra Klein’s “Why raising the social security retirement age really does hurt the poor the most”, link here.
  
Of course, it’s true, the poor don’t live as long, and have a harder time working enough to maintain a Social Security wage base.
  
Still, in the main, in my experience, my own benefit is something I “earned” (like swallowing a fly and “putting it in The Proles” – an old Army joke at Fort Eustis back in 1969).  At worst, it is still something that politicians can, at a whim, expropriate from me by “means testing” and giving it to someone else, playing Robin Hood.  That’s offensive.  That’s not OK.  This one lays an egg. That’s why I like the idea of privatization, as difficult as the interim accounting should be,

The penultimate implications of the Vox argument (for me) are startling.  I don't "need" my benefit if I listen to solicitations and go out and "earn" by money by hucksterizing my own background in life insurance. 
    
Then, make welfare, for the needy, seniors or not, a separate issue and debate it on its own terms, separately.  I’m not saying, get rid of Medicare and turn it into vouchers.  I’m not saying, get rid of Obamacare – although I do think a private solution to health care issues works IF you reinsure (with a quasi-government corporation) the anti-selection risk for those with pre-existing conditions.  YES, everyone should be able to get reasonable health insurance, and even Donald Trump has been saying that.  (In a sense, you could look at Medicare as “reinsurance”.) 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

GOP New Jersey governor Chris Christie proposes means testing Social Security for retirees even now


GOP governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, informally running for president despite toll-gate, now has a modest proposal worthy of Jonathan Swift.  Phase out Social Security benefits for retirees making over $80000 a year in other income.  Charles Lane has the story in the Washington Post today here. You could propose this based on total assets, too.

  
Normally, the GOP handles Social Security by suggesting that high earners pay FICA on all their wages, just like everyone else.  But of course that gets them more benefits later.
  
Robbing wage earners to pay for retirees doesn’t make sense when some retirees are wealthy. So why not go to gradual privatization?  Why make something I paid in to subject to expropriation, ex post facto?  Of course, you have to pay for the transition.
  
Remember, John Boehner had whined during the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, “We don’t have the money.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Fight for 15" rallies address wages of home health workers


The “Fight for 15” rally at the Martin Luther King Memorial near the Tidal Basin in Washington DC this evening (April 15, 2015) made a good point about home health workers (as caregivers). 

The gathering was rather small, but interesting.  There were some people with T-shirts reading “Home Care Workers Fight for 15”, including men. 
In 2009-2010 I (that is, my mother’s trust) normally paid $18 per hour for my mother’s home health care, which became 24x7 in the last ten weeks.  On holidays it was $27 per hour. I don’t know the exact amount that the caregivers were paid. 
 
Probably, with a minimum of $15 per hour, an agency would charge more like $21 or so.  So 24x7 would cost about $13000 a month.  Nursing home rates (already about $7000 a month in many areas) would go up, as would assisted living. 
  
But more families might have to hire the care workers directly, and deal with the W-2 withholdings and other legal exposures – they would have to become direct employers.  This is not good. 
  
Of course, home health workers are doing jobs that family members (especially non-spouses, like adult children) do not want to do and would have imposed on them.  Family responsibility isn’t always just about making wise choices.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

NBC Today show reports on life after death


On Thursday (and apparently before on Good Friday), the NBC Today show reported more “afterlife” experiences, as documented at this link.
  
Maria Shriver interviewed Anita Moorjani, who had aggressive lymphoma tumors visible as lumps all around her head and neck.  She slipped into a coma and had a NDE and was told it wasn’t time yet, But the tumors disappeared.
  
Then the report related the story of Annabelle Beam, who was born with a severe digestive disorder that prevented her from eating normally. One day she had an accident and fell into the hollow of a tree and “died” and saw heaven, then returned.  Her digestive disease mysteriously resolved on its own, Her experience is documented in the book “Miracles from Heaven”.  
   

Sunday, April 05, 2015

On Easter Sunday: technology offers rich people 150-year life spans soon, but do you want spray-on skin? String theory may show that the Afterlife really happens


The Washington Post has a detailed front page story by Ariana Eunjung Cha, “Tech Titan’s latest project: Defy death”, link here. Technologies are there now or will appear for people with enough money.
  
3-D printed internal organs, maybe like the pancreas and liver, are proposed.  So is spray-on skin.  But the bodies people are “born with” to grown into become meaningless – everything that made sexuality interesting!

Will social chaos result?  Maybe from the inequality.  If people are productive enough, maybe employers will want them until age 140 or so.  People won’t “need” to have children. 

On the other hand, we can’t afford just to keep people alive forever.  I felt insulted if asked if my own goal was to keep my mother alive until 100.  That isn’t something I accomplished. 

And then, this morning, at an Easter sunrise service, the pastor says, “we were meant for beauty, not sentiment. We were meant for relationships, not just to create our own way.”

My own idea of heaven is that there are seven dimensions in string theory we don't use.  I'm convinced that the Afterlife resides in these.  I pick up messages from my mother in dreams all the time, and see scenes on other planets all the time.  I think we have access to these dimensions somehow when we sleep and enter REM sleep. 
    
A few years back, Barbara Walters had a special on ABC, “Live to Be 150” (TV Blog, April 1, 2008).  Both she and Jimmy Carter have done rather well.  

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Alzheimer's Association display attention-getting banner: not preventable, not curable


“Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death in the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed”.  That’s the rather shocking capstone, in purple, the Alzheimer’s Association’s webpage, which it has recently displayed on syndicated ads (and which may show up on your computer or phone if you allow tracking).  Here’s the desperate home page
  
  
Two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s are women, partly because women live longer than men.
  
Actually, some researches think lifestyle changes and anti-oxidants may slow it or even prevent it.
   
Otherwise, families are left with a moral responsibility for caring for the inevitable.  And women do most of the caregiving. And most of my own ethical structure involves the idea of prevention.