Left, Right, Social Security

Why Are Democrats Intent on Alienating Young Workers?
James Lileks
Newhouse News Servic
http://www.newhousenews.com/archive/lileks120804.html

Borrow, Speculate and Hope
Paul Krugman
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/10/opinion/10krugman.html

Why the Left Should Favor Social Security Privatization (and the Right Should Oppose It)
Arnold Kling
http://www.techcentralstation.com/121004A.html

Wall St Group Says Social Security Reform No Feast
Herbert Lash
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=reutersEdge&storyID=7045258

Another right-wing rant from the Newhouse Network…

Everyone knows the system will explode in a shower of shredded promissory notes at some point. Every year the drop-dead date gets massaged and moved around, but you have a great number of people who read the new Projected Year of Doom, run the numbers in their head, and think: Well, I’ll be dead.

… except, Paul Krugman agrees

First, financial markets would, correctly, treat the reality of huge deficits today as a much more important indicator of the government’s fiscal health than the mere promise that government could save money by cutting benefits in the distant future.

After all, a government bond is a legally binding promise to pay, while a benefits formula that supposedly cuts costs 40 years from now is nothing more than a suggestion to future Congresses. Social Security rules aren’t immutable…

But then again, Krugman might not be too reliable…

Second, a system of personal accounts, even though it would mainly be an indirect way for the government to speculate in the stock market, would pay huge brokerage fees. Of course, from Wall Street’s point of view that’s a benefit, not a cost.

v. the “right wingers” at Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Plans to reform the U.S. Social Security system by allowing people to invest in stocks are unlikely to result in a feast for Wall Street if a retirement plan for federal workers is copied, a report on Thursday said.

If investment choices are limited to a small selection of index funds along the lines of the Thrift Savings Plan, those accounts will generate a modest $39 billion in fees over the first 75 years, the Securities Industry Association said in a report.

That represents just 1.2 percent of estimated revenue for the entire financial sector during that span of time, said Rob Mills, director of industry research at SIA, in the report.

Perhaps a compromise from Tech Central Station?

To be fair, Krugman and other economists on the Left would like to see Social Security paid for in part by “general revenues,” meaning income taxes. If that were done, it would serve to reduce the regressivity of Social Security.

However, there is one important difference between keeping Social Security as it is and switching to privatization. Under the current system, Social Security’s liabilities will continue to be funded by payroll taxes. However, under privatization, the transitional debt would be repaid using — guess what? General revenues! In other words, privatization is a vehicle for changing Social Security’s medium-term funding mechanism from payroll taxes to income taxes. It is exactly what the Left presumably wants, and what the Right presumably opposes.

Creating private accounts for social securities allows young workers to actually receive their benefits, protects older workers, and gives us a much more stable pension system. Nations and corporations with “defined benefit” systems, such as France, Russia, and the dying steel mills, are in terrible shape. I’m thankful we have a Ppresident like George W. Bush who is willing to take risks to give us a better way.

The Next Iraqi Government

The New York Times reports on the United Iraqi Alliance, a grand coalition that will certainly be the dominate voice in the new Iraq.

It includes The Dawa Party, The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, The Mahdi Army (remember when they staged their “uprising”), and The Iraqi National Congress (whose leader, Ahmad Chalabi, is the uncle of the first procsecutor against Saddam for war crimes). For good measure the United Iraqis have some token candidates from minority groups as well.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 8 – Iraq’s leading Shiite political groups agreed Wednesday to unite under a single banner, a move that could help them win a dominant share of votes in the coming national elections.

The agreement came as several Sunni parties, including one that led a broad movement to delay the elections for six months, registered to field candidates.

Shiite Arabs, representing 60 percent of Iraq’s population, have long been dominated by the Sunni minority, and they see the elections as a chance to turn their majority status into political power for the first time.

The new coalition, called the United Iraqi Alliance, brings together many of Iraq’s best-known political figures, including the renegade cleric Moktada al-Sadr and Ahmad Chalabi, the former exile once championed by the Bush administration. It is composed mostly of Shiite parties, but also includes Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmens and tribal leaders from across Iraq, in what the organizers hope will be seen as a diverse ticket with broad national appeal.

Relatedly,

News of the agreement came as fighting continued in at least two cities. In Mosul, far to the north, one commando with the Iraqi Interior Ministry was killed and six were wounded in a gun battle that broke out when insurgents attacked a convoy, officials said.

If they wish to reimpose apartheid, the Sunni terrorists need to stop this. The people of Iraq are united for freedom. The Sunni terrorists are on the wrong side of history.

The Monsters (2)

Japan to Suspend Aid to North Korea,” Digital Chosunilbo, 9 December 2004, http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200412/200412090050.html.

Developments and fallout on the previous post.

Daily Chosunibo has a different take on North Korea’s new criminal law

N.K.’s Revision of Criminal Law Reflects Instability

North Korea amended its Criminal Law in April by reinforcing penalties for acts that threaten to undermine the regime and incorporating a horde of new articles to regulate new crimes, hinting at immense change that the regime is struggling to control.

The revision reflects greater change in the reclusive state than was previously imagined, suggesting that people’s lifestyles, ways of thinking and the speed with which information is circulated are all transforming rapidly.

With no sign of improvement in the North’s escalating financial and food crises, the populace has to find extra-judicial ways of surviving. A collapsing system of food rationing has led to the rampant spread of illegal money-making enterprises, with 80-90 percent of the population making forays into the black market to support themselves. As a result, the new Criminal Law attempts to impose greater state control of the populace.

If this is true, it is great. One reason for making laws more severe is that chaos is growing. Beware of wishful thinking, but if up to 90% of North Koreans are economic criminals, we are seeing a stalinist state in dire decline.

In the same paper,

Japan to Suspend Aid to North Korea
The Japanese government has suspended its plan to ship 125,000 tons of food aid and US$3 million (W3.17 billion) in medicine to North Korea after DNA tests revealed the remains of a Japanese kidnap victim turned over by Pyongyang were false.

Asia Times elaborates

A week ago, sanctions seemed highly improbable, now they seem like a real possibility. This is a development that is worrying for the leadership in both countries, and alarmingly, neither is fully in charge of the forces driving the debate.

If Japan can help collapse North Korea, it marks the return of the Land of the Rising Sun as a real player in the region. Go get ’em, Nihon!

Removing the I.V. from Tyrants

OPEC Poised To Cut Oil Output Despite Consumers’ Pleas
Erik Burns and Simeon Kerr
http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/news/38865.html

Why the Future is Hybrid
The Economist
http://www.economist.com/science/tq/PrinterFriendly.cfm?Story_ID=3422941

Fly Me to the Moon
Tom Friedman
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/05/opinion/05friedman.html

Results 1 – 10 of about 3,440 for Saudi terrorism
Google News
http://news.google.com/news?q=Saudi+terrorism

The Saudis are worried

Despite the pleas of the leading oil-consuming nations to keep the taps open, OPEC looks poised to commit to cutting existing production levels, with the prospect of more to come next year.

Fearing a further fall in prices after they dropped by a quarter in recent weeks, ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries arriving here in Cairo ahead of Friday’s meeting said there was a growing consensus the first step would be to rein in output to the current quota ceiling of 27 million barrels a day.

After meeting with Saudi Arabia and ministers from two other Gulf producers, Kuwait’s Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said he estimated overproduction of around 1.7 million b/d.

Al-Sabah said all OPEC members were committed to stricter compliance with the self-imposed output cap, adding that since most crude deliveries are already settled for January, the retrenching could begin from Feb 1.

OPEC would then meet again in February to assess market conditions and decide whether a more drastic move — lowering the ceiling — would be necessary.

The reason is clear

When did the Soviet Union collapse? When did reform take off in Iran? When did the Oslo peace process begin? When did economic reform become a hot topic in the Arab world? In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. And what was also happening then? Oil prices were collapsing.

In November 1985, oil was $30 a barrel, recalled the noted oil economist Philip Verleger. By July of 1986, oil had fallen to $10 a barrel, and it did not climb back to $20 until April 1989. “Everyone thinks Ronald Reagan brought down the Soviets,” said Mr. Verleger. “That is wrong. It was the collapse of their oil rents.” It’s no accident that the 1990’s was the decade of falling oil prices and falling walls.

The technologies exist

While it is uncertain whether the car will be mass produced, it is clear that a diesel-electric hybrid would make for an extremely frugal vehicle. A study by the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which looked at energy use over the course of a vehicle’s life, predicts that by 2020, diesel hybrids could achieve the same energy-efficiency and greenhouse-gas emissions as fuel-cell cars powered by hydrogen made from natural gas. The difference is that diesel-hybrid technology is available today.

The challange is formidable

So why are diesel hybrids taking so long to appear on the roads? Hybrid diesels impose a double price premium, explains Lindsay Brooke, an analyst at CSM Worldwide. Combining a diesel engine, (which costs around $2,000 more than a petrol engine) with a hybrid powertrain (which adds another $3,000 or so) would make for an expensive proposition. Systems to treat the exhaust would impose further costs. The prospects for diesels and diesel hybrids are particularly dim in America, where regulations in California (and, from 2007, nationwide) require diesels to be as clean as petrol-driven cars. Some progress has been made: particulate filters can now eliminate more than 90% of diesel soot. But traps for nitrogen oxides remain a challenge.

But we have done great things before

If President Bush made energy independence his moon shot, he would dry up revenue for terrorism; force Iran, Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to take the path of reform – which they will never do with $45-a-barrel oil – strengthen the dollar; and improve his own standing in Europe, by doing something huge to reduce global warming. He would also create a magnet to inspire young people to contribute to the war on terrorism and America’s future by becoming scientists, engineers and mathematicians. “This is not just a win-win,” said the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum. “This is a win-win-win-win-win.”

We need to end the huge never-ending subsidy that is foreign oil. To stable, free, and civic societies, like Norway or Alaska, oil is a nice cushion. But in the barbary states it retards progress, corrupts governments, and creates a terrorist society. A $5,000 federal tax on new vehicles, fully refundable if spent on hybrid-diesel or similar technology, would be an incredible step forward

It would dry up terrorist states. It would cause reform. Heck, it would help our balance of payments. It’s the right thing to do.

The Open Air Prison

Returning Fallujans will face clampdown,” by Anne Barnard, Boston Globe, 5 December 2004, http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2004/12/05/returning_fallujans_will_face_clampdown/ (from Democratic Underground).

Life in Fallujah…

The US military is drawing up plans to keep insurgents from regaining control of this battle-scarred city, but returning residents may find that the measures make Fallujah look more like a police state than the democracy they have been promised.

Under the plans, troops would funnel Fallujans to so-called citizen processing centers on the outskirts of the city to compile a database of their identities through DNA testing and retina scans. Residents would receive badges displaying their home addresses that they must wear at all times. Buses would ferry them into the city, where cars, the deadliest tool of suicide bombers, would be banned.

This is the bloody end of apartheid. More and more, Sunni Arabs are realizing that they have lost. Their actions have alienated the Kurds and the Shia (even the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani didn’t condemn the Fallujah assault), and their political fate is bleak. In South Africa, the Afrikaaners were able to join the ANC and loose influence quietly. Imagine them, but more hated.

In 1946 Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland expelled their German resisdents. In Iraq, we’re just creating perpetual prisons.

The Monsters

From Digital Chosunibo, via NK Zone

N.K. Falsifies Remains of Abducted Japanese National
DNA tests have revealed that the alleged remains of a Japanese national kidnapped by North Korea decades ago that were repatriated under a recent bilateral agreement in Pyongyang are in fact the mixed ashes of several other corpses, fuelling calls for further sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom and a suspension of food aid.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hosoda Hiroyuki said Wednesday afternoon that DNA tests on what North Korea claimed were Yokota Megumi’s remains revealed them to be a mixture of several other people. North Korea has admitted to kidnapping Yokota in 1977 and claimed she hung herself.

Secretary Hosoda expressed regret over the test results and criticized North Korea by saying that the Communist state’s investigations into abducted Japanese nationals had been falsified.

Yokota vanished in Niigata on Nov. 15, 1977, at the age of 13, prompting Japanese media and investigating authorities to suspect that she had been abducted by North Korea.

The Northern leadership later confessed, explaining that Yokota had married in 1986 and given birth to a daughter named Kim Hye-kyung. She was hospitalized for depression and allegedly hung herself after telling friends she would take a stroll on Mar. 13, 1993. North Korea said that her husband, Kim Cheol-jun, cremated Yokota two and a half years after she committed suicide.

Yokota’s parents were enraged about the test results and demanded Japan impose economic sanctions against North Korea.

The DPRK must be destroyed. They are not humans. They are monsters in human form.

It’s trivial in comparison, but the DPRK is also “modernizing” North Korean property laws

Changes in North Korea’s Criminal Law to Protect Private Property
North Korea made significant revisions in both its criminal and civil rights law back in April to apparently reflect the changes it expects to see in the future. The latest revisions in North Korea’s criminal law are the first in five years. Among the notable changes are those related to strengthening regulations to protect private property.

Under the new guidelines, an individual found guilty of illegally seizing another’s possession will be sentenced to more than 10 years of hard labor from the current less than 10-year period

Sickening.

Teh Bgi Kdis Aint Guud Eethur

It’s not only schoolchildren who are behind.

News.com reports the functional illeracy of professional adults is a multi-billion-dollar a year problem.

A recent survey of 120 American corporations reached a similar conclusion. The study, by the National Commission on Writing, a panel established by the College Board, concluded that a third of employees in the nation’s blue-chip companies wrote poorly and that businesses were spending as much as $3.1 billion annually on remedial training.

An example:

“I updated the Status report for the four discrepancies Lennie forward us via e-mail (they in Barry file).. to make sure my logic was correct It seems we provide Murray with incorrect information … However after verifying controls on JBL – JBL has the indicator as B ???? – I wanted to make sure with the recent changes – I processed today – before Murray make the changes again on the mainframe to ‘C’.”

wtf???

Now, I’m well known for g41m15m5, so I won’t be hyper-critical. But it’s a good thing to know the United States doesn’t have a corrupt monopoly controlling public education.

That would be a disaster.

Hat tip slashdot, Tom Barnett.

US Public Schools — Still Terrible

The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development has released their latest rankings of US schoolkids.

Combined Mathematics Literacy: 24, below Poland, Hungary, and Spain
Space and Shape Skills: 24, below Hungary, Spain, and Ireland
Change and Relationships Skills: 22, below Slovakia, Norway, and Luxembourg

It goes on, and on, and on, but its actually worse than this. Non OECD countries aren’t ranked, but Hong Kong, Liechtenstein, and Macau (?!?) are better than us too.

But at least we don’t have a public education monopoly to blame or anything.

Hat-tip Democratic Underground, Newsday.

I told you Aaron

About three weeks ago, I was eating Chinese with Aaron when I made a breathtaking prediction.

“In about three months, people will be calling Bush a liar and Republicans will be defending him. Bush will say we need to reform taxes and social security to help our dollar. Some will call this lying, because more debt will be needed in the meantime, and the short-run effect will be to make the dollar even weaker. Bush will be telling the truth long-term, but won’t explain the difference.”

It begins.

The tDAxp eXPerience