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Sarah Palin, speaking today in Florida, wanted to reassure elderly voters that their entitlement programs are safe.

And John McCain and I will protect the entitlement programs that Americans depend on – and above all, Social Security.

Leaving alone what, exactly, we should take “protect” to mean, the McCain campaign has still boldly asked “I can has Medicare cut?”

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Why Privatizing Isn’t Good

A commenter correctly points out that McCain has proposed optional private accounts for Social Security, not wholesale privatization of the program. Quite right, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great idea. Here’s Christian Weller and David Madland from the Center for American Progress.

[Private accounts] also are financially irresponsible. Because privatization schemes divert money from the Social Security Trust Funds into private accounts, they require massive additional government borrowing to pay current beneficiaries, which decreases national saving and places additional burdens on future generations. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research estimates that these costs could be as high as $200 billion a year (almost 2 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product) over more than 30 years.

Magic Proposals

Marc Ambinder reports the McCain campaign is less than pleased about Obama’s recent ad tagging McCain a “Big Spender”, specifically calling Obama a liar for failing to name a single McCain “spending item” and of course ignoring the fact that a tax cut is if not in name, at least in fact, government spending. Anyway, the most amusing part of the response, as Ambinder notes, is this:

JOHN MCCAIN HAS MADE NO SPECIFIC SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM PROPOSAL, SO IT HAS NO COST

Sophistry of this caliber is impressive, even for the McCain campaign. Anyway, with the elderly vote always a key demographic, look for questions on McCain’s proposal. He has supported privitiazation, which is exceedingly unpopular among the elderly, and even more so in light of recent stock market woes.

More Mind Tricks

Yesterday in a fit of eristic “balance”, Michael Scherer attempted a Jedi mind trick by critcizing Barack Obama’s characterization of McCain as social security privatizer while plainly admitting that John McCain supports privatizing social security. Anyway, in case there was any doubt about John McCain’s support of privatizing social security, please read “McCain defends retirement accounts amid stock dive.” 

Wall Street turmoil left John McCain scrambling to explain why the fundamentals of the U.S. economy remained strong. It also left him defending his support for privately investing Social Security money in the same markets that had tanked earlier in the week.

Anyway, it’s sort of easy to see why Scherer would be confused when the Republicans themselves try to use the same Jedi mind tricks when describing the program.

“He’s not ever talked about outsourcing Social Security into the private sector,” senior adviser Steve Schmidt told reporters Thursday. “What people talk about with regard to personal accounts is giving the American people an ability to have a greater return on an investment – it could be bond funds, for example.”

Look, I don’t care how you shake it, taking funds out of a public trust and putting them in private investment accounts is privatization. And again, the CBO estimates Social Security will remain solvent through 2049 — this is not a pressing problem.

The Non-Problem of Social Security

A friend mentioned to me the other day something to the effect that Social Security is essentially failing and that it can’t be expected to be there in the future. This is a rather common perception, and often encouraged by the press, so it’s tough to fault anyone for this belief, but it’s basically completely untrue. Here’s Dean Baker.

The Congressional Budget Office projects the program to be fully solvent through 2049, more than 30 years after the latest date that the next president can leave office. Social Security is an issue like U.S. relations with Denmark, it’s not a problem, however much the Post might like to make it one.

Here’s the CBO’s report.