Must shrink government. Must shrink government.

via Digby, from a story at, here’s another example of how a flawed bit of received wisdom (probably originated with  Grover Norquist!) settles into lazy minds to be plucked out as necessary with no further examination required. Schieffer, whom I generally like, has obviously not bothered to inform himself beyond the universal script, but fer Elvis’ sake, Warner is a US Senator. My expectations are apparently too high.

On Face the Nation, Sen. Mark Warner was asked by host Bob Schieffer [what action] his ‘Gang of Six’ would take on Social Security reform . . . Warner gave. . .  the popular refrain that “part of this is just math: 16 workers for every one retiree 50 years ago, three workers for every retiree now.”

. . .  In fact, the high ratio of workers to retirees in 1950 was an anomaly, which resulted from the larger number of workers that were incorporated into the program at the time, such as millions of farm workers and domestic workers. Furthermore, because the program was still relatively new, the first workers to contribute to the program had not yet started to collect benefits. To demonstrate how meaningless the 16:1 number it, consider this: Only five years later [in 1955], the worker-to-beneficiary ratio was halved to 8:1, and by 1975 it was down to what it is today. And just ten years earlier, in 1940, the ratio  had been 149.5 workers for every one retiree!

. . .  The worker-to-retiree ratio has been stable for almost forty years and has not failed to supply adequate levels of benefits.

Betcha didn’t know that.

19 responses to “Must shrink government. Must shrink government.

  1. In his “Letter to Sen. Warner on Face the Nation Comments“, Dean Baker provides the facts and figures showing, “Fifty years ago, there were actually just five workers for every retiree“, not 16 workers. No doubt what Warner said was not intended to be a factual statement.


  2. Pingback: Must shrink government. Must shrink government…Whatever Works… - Politicaldog101.Com

  3. Ms. Holland ,

    ” . . . The worker-to-retiree ratio has been stable for almost forty years and has not failed to supply adequate levels of benefits. ”

    With all due respect, this is a ridiculous argument . Bernie Madoff ran an operation that was stable for years and did not fail to supply adequate levels of benefits, , , until it failed .


    • Mr. Madoff was operating with intent to decieve. But of course you’ll say SS is the same thing.

      Alan, you won’t beleive it no matter what anyone says which leads me to beleive that you just want for SS to be a failure. Well, after almost 80 years, it’s not even failing.

      How tiring to say this for the hundredth time – SS is fine, just needs adjustment. If old Ronald Reagan were around, you could go ask him. He and O’Neill fixed it in the 80’s and knew full well – and said so – that it would have to be addressed again in 25-30 years.

      I think you just don’t like the idea of a social safety net. I find that odd, but what else are we to beleive?


  4. Ms . Holland ,

    ” SS is fine, just needs adjustment. ”

    All Republicans are proposing are adjustments . Your guy President Obama is lying like he always does when he speaks about what Republicans want . You and all of the pre geezers over 55 are not affected by what Republicans are asking . But like any good Democrat, your guy President Obama sure enough goes in from of the retirees and trots out the ancient play book about Republicans stealing their SS checks .

    If your side had not destroyed President Bush’s plan in 2001 to let ” Youngerr ” people take a pittance of their contributions and have them in 401 k type accounts we would not have a problem . Again all of the geezers were not affected . But truth has no meaning , does it ?

    I remember all of the lies told back then from your side . It was just going to benefit Wall Street, Bush’s buddies . Then all of that money would have been lost in the Wall Street crash of 08 . And they show some absolutely pitiful grandma with a sorry look on her face .

    The truth was Grandma was not included in the private accounts . And as far as the accounts losing money, I can tell you from experience that those accounts would have made back all of their losses and would be fine now .

    You are in total denial about SS . Demographics don’t lie . Again you are like the people who got in and out of Madoff’s scheme early . They were fine . The difference is you will be long gone and passed away when the bankruptcy lawyers come looking for the winners to help pay for the later losers .


    • Alan – it’s clear, again, that you are less interested in a discussion of the issue than you are in using the post as an opportunity to bash those who disagree with you.

      I don’t banish people here and I certainly don’t banish you – we have in fact had some good exchanges this year. But I do implore you to use a more constructive tone. You often do have something to add to the conversation.


    • “Your guy”?

      “Your side”?

      Pardon my foreigner’s ignorance, but aren’t you AND Moe both Americans? Aren’t both Democrats and Republicans ALL Americans?

      Listen up, and listen well, Mr. Scott: the psycological division of a society into “us” and “them” is always the first step towards separatism and/or civil war.

      Consider yourself warned.


      • Things like talk radio with the all day Dem bashing, saying liberals are traitors that leads to tribalism. I worry about it too D.I.D.


        • The gross irony in all of this is that those who wrap themselves in the flag of a nation always seem to be the first to sow division.

          In my scouring of Western politics, it is also interesting that it seems that those who adhere to the so-called ‘right’ are always more prone to this than the ‘left’. Maybe the left is just better at disguising it, but I have always associated this sort of political tribalism largely with the right.

          Heck, you know that I am quite argumentive at times, but there is only one blog that I have ever been censored from, and that was one of the Conservatives’ fans. I have debated with libertarians, Marxists, and conspiracy theorists, but at least these factions were willing to actually have a rational discussion…


          • Well, Alan is not banned – I told him he is always welcome. But . . .
            you are not doubt familiar with the old Sinclair Lewis quote:

            “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.”

            Absolutely the right is more tribal – they are not receptive to other cultures/races/religions. Just look at the demographics of the two political parties and the proof is there. GOP is mostly white, middle class and nativist. Dems are more multicultural and multiracial.

            The ones who want to stick with their own kind and keep out ‘the other’ are by definition tribal.


          • I know you wouldn’t kick out Alan, and that is great because while the guy might have some combative ideology, he uses reason to support most of his positions and is quite fun to debate with.


  5. D.I.D. ,

    ” he uses reason to support most of his positions and is quite fun to debate with. ”

    I thought you didn’t like me ?

    ” Consider yourself warned. ”

    The last time I was warned in that tone of voice was to stay away from somebody’s wife on a late night call . The shame of it was I didn’t know him or his wife and didn’t know whether she was worth the beating he wanted to give me . Fortunately he discovered that it was one of my close relatives he wanted .


    • There is a difference between not liking the position and not liking the debates or even the person who holds the position.

      As for the second bit, LOL. But, in all seriousness, yeah, it is quite dire. Any society that is institutionally unified but has divided itself into “us” and “them” normally doesn’t remain unified for very long….


  6. D.I.D. ,

    I am sorry for the length of this answer, but I was not able to condense it and still make my points .

    ” As for the second bit, LOL. But, in all seriousness, yeah, it is quite dire. Any society that is institutionally unified but has divided itself into “us” and “them” normally doesn’t remain unified for very long…. ”

    I most humbly disagree . As long as we are not committing intimidation and physical coercion to shut each other up , the free competition of our ideas is what makes us Americans . We get that from our English shop keeper forebears .

    I presume by your conversation that you are well read and you may therefore be familiar with the writings of Voltaire . In exile to England, he sought to analyze why the English were so much more tolerant of multiple religions than his native France . He noted that the Church of England was just as intolerant as the Catholic Church was in France .

    Voltaire argued that the unique free market in England was the reason . ” Go into the Exchange in London, that place more venerable than many a court, and you will see representatives of all the nations assembled there for the profit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian deal with one another as if they were of the same religion, and reserve the name of infidel for those who go bankrupt. ”

    Granted I am comparing religion to politics , but I argue that since the two are the most the most divisive subjects human beings can fight about , it is a fair comparison .

    To take it one step further , I submit that as long as there are multiple ” us’s ” and ” thems ” remaining unified shouldn’t be a problem . I again cite Voltaire’s observation on religion in England . ” If there were only one religion in England, there would be danger of tyranny; if there were two, they would cut each other’s throats; but there are thirty, and they live happily together in peace. “


    • I am not saying that dissenting ideas should be silenced, just that in a civil society politics should not reduce one’s ability to live with someone with different views. The expressed notion that an opponent’s political opponents are ‘evil seditionous traitors’ and the reinforcement of this view reduces the ability of the opposing factions to compromise or even have civilized debate is dangerous and generally leads to political extremism. Remember that pogroms are always first started by a rumor.


  7. D.I.D. ,

    I presume by going after me, you are on the ” them ” side . As if my side ” us ” are uniquely guilty of demonizing the other side . Also why not try to disprove what I actually said . Either I am right or I am the liar .

    I gave a quite detailed statement . It should not be difficult for you to determine which one I am .


    • “I presume by going after me, you are on the ” them ” side . As if my side ” us ” are uniquely guilty of demonizing the other side . Also why not try to disprove what I actually said …..”

      I wrote earlier in this thread that it is merely an observation of mine that the political ‘right’ faction seems more inclined to accentuate political divisions. Also, I am an amateur in the observation of American politics; so the so-called ‘left’ may be just as predisposed to this divisive tribalistic behavior, it is just that I do not sense it as much. I will concede that there is among the so-called ‘left’ a tendency to paint the rich as the evil ‘them’ that must be resisted by ‘us’, but there has never been, at least to my knowledge, mainstream ‘left’ doctrines that presupposes that the political opposition is an evil enemy and is to be resisted at all costs.

      Your and Voltaire’s mutual position that the prescense of multiple ideological schools, whether they be in the political or religious realms of thought, and, as you said, two of the most divisive things in human society, mitigates and can even avoid conflict due to the prescense of multiple ideologies, is well taken.

      The ability to conduct commerce and trade between different ideological communities is indeed crucial to social cohesion, and I agree here as well. However, your example was in an environment where ideological differences do not explicitly matter, as long as the rules of the trade are agreed upon. What about in a situation where such differences do matter?

      Case in point: when making laws that affect the entirety of a commonwealth. Here, political divisions do explicitly matter.

      For the sake of illustration, let’s say that there is some generic problem in an unspecified nation, and that you and I both lead evenly-balanced ideological factions as elected legislators. To confront the issue, we must reach a consensus of some type, or defeat our opposing faction, to pass the remedial legislation that one or both of us feel will best address the situation.

      In every scenario like this, there are two things that will invariably affect the outcome:
      1) The degree of severity of the situation,
      2) The willingness of the opposing factions to debate, concede, or compromise.

      If the situation is relatively minor and does not pose serious menace to the well being of the society to which we are both responsible, then we can afford to be at ideological loggerheads with each other and any political deadlock will not be so threatening to society. This tends to be common in Western, and particularly American, politics today.

      What if, though, the situation is major?

      If we are willing to have a reasonable debate and are both willing to compromise or even concede to the opposing faction if they present the most cohesive argument in favour of their program, then action can be taken swiftly and if the policy suceeds, well then great. If it fails, then it is our duty to swiftly determine the reasons for failure and to devise a more satisfactory policy, regardless of ideological leanings.

      This above scenario depends on the political factions being able to negotiate and compromise. We have to still be able to realise, despite our political differences, that the other faction and its leader are trying to do what they think is best for the society as a whole. Our shared social bond must still exceed in strength our political differences.

      On the other hand, if ideology is so dogmatically entrenched into the minds of every (or at least most) members on either side of this debate to the point where we cannot agree to even compromise out of fear that the other faction is somehow out to get us and/or destroy and/or radicaly transform our society is when deadlock sets in on a major issue. Sometimes, either faction is so convinced of the perfection of its own dogmas that it is blind to the merits or points of its opposition, and will not even consider compromise. If the situation gets worse in the insuing political impasse, we might very well begin to blame the other side and accuse them of trying to undermine society. This is where things can lead to violence, depending on how volatile the situation becomes.

      Cases in point:

      – Russian Revolution/ Civil War (Communists couldn’t agree with the Provisional government; Bolsheviks couldn’t agree with the Mensheviks)
      Result: Bloody civil war, establishment of dictatorial Communist state.

      – American Revolution ( the British Parliament and the American colonies couldn’t agree about the imposition by the British Parliament laws and taxation on colonies that had no say in their formulation, resentment of mercantilism)
      Result: Civil war, political revolution, establishment of the American republic (federal in 1787)

      – American Civil War ( Southern states and northern states unable to agree on the issues of slavery and the division of powers between federal and state governments, impasse over the true government of “Bleeding Kansas” causes political deadlock that leads to political fragmentation and the attempted secession of the southern states)
      Result: most destructive war on American soil, destruction of the Confederacy and of slavery, theory of states’ sovereignty weakened, subsequent north-south and racial tensions.

      – Canadian constitutional crisis, 1982-present (Québéc and the various English Canadian regions cannot agree on an adequete division of legislative powers between the federal/provincial governments, and dispute the nature of Canadian society)
      Result: Québec independence movement, Western alienation.

      – latest Belgian governmental crisis, 2010-now ( Flemish and Waloon parties cannot agree on the structure of the state, Flemish resent wealth transfers to the poorer Waloons)
      Result: proposed partition of Belgium (yet again), separatist sentiment rises in Flanders, situation ongoing.

      In every case, the inability to compromise between factions lead to dramatic political changes and challenges, and often violence.

      There can be divisions into an “us” camp and a “them” camp in the field of politics and religion within a peaceful society, and there can be many camps, but it is when this political division becomes more important in the minds of the people of a society than the social and political bonds that hold them together is when trouble starts.

      “I most humbly disagree . As long as we are not committing intimidation and physical coercion to shut each other up , the free competition of our ideas is what makes us Americans . We get that from our English shop keeper forebears .”

      This is what I responded to in the last post, and on this I agree with you entirely, and many nations now share this same philosophy.

      “…Either I am right or I am the liar …”

      “I gave a quite detailed statement . It should not be difficult for you to determine which one I am .”

      This is assuming that there is only one right answer, only one truth in all things. Personally, I agree with part of what you said and disagree with the other parts, as I hope I have made clear. Sometimes, and especially in politics, two positions can be equally valid so long as they are grounded in facts that are known to be truths. The only false positions are those grounded in ‘facts’ that are certifiably false. It is through trial and experimentation and the cost-benifit analysis that we determine whether or not they are true and valid. I disagree with you on some notions, but I do not believe that you are a liar, I believe instead that that is how you percieve the world.


  8. D.I.D. ,

    I am sorely tempted to write an even longer reply and answer you point for point . I believe I should leave the conversation where it is .


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