More Social Security Follies

Reader David Kent pointed out a howler in this Molly Ivins column. Ivins’ theme is that the administration is a bunch of liars; she begins:

I wouldn’t go calling anyone a liar, but as we say in our quaint Texas fashion, this administration is stuffed with people who are on a first-name basis with the bottom of the deck.

She goes on to say that the administration is “misleading us,” engages in “misleading, fudging, distorting and phony statistics games,” that “”you can’t trust a word they say,” and they “misinform people.”
Given all of those epithets, one would think Ivins would be careful to get her own facts straight. Nope. She writes:

President Bush says “the crisis is now” and Social Security will go into the red as of 2018. Eeek, just 13 years from now — we might actually live that long. Except … nobody else says that. The Social Security trustees, paid to be professional gloom-mongers on this subject, say it’s good until 2042, and the conservative estimate by the Congressional Budget Office is 2052 — not before Social Security goes broke, but before Social Security has to dip into its trust fund. Get a grip.

Turns out, though, that it’s President Bush who has his numbers straight. Here is what the Congressional Budget Office wrote:

[A]nnual Social Security outlays exceed revenues starting in 2019, and scheduled benefits cannot be paid beginning in 2053.

The CBO even provided a handy graph for those, like Ivins, who may have had difficulty with the numbers. And, of course, this doesn’t even begin to get into the fact that the Social Security “trust fund” contains no assets, so that “dipping into the trust fund” means either reducing benefits or raising taxes.
A suggestion to Ms. Ivins: Get out of that glass house before you resume throwing stones.
UPDATE: Reader Rich Waldis points out that in September 2003, Ms. Ivins was singing the opposite tune, bewailing the “looming crisis” threatening Social Security:

Meanwhile, the economy is in the toilet; even the optimists who think it will recover are predicting a “jobless recovery.” Won’t that be nice — we can certainly look forward to whatever that is. And when we get our “jobless recovery,” the government’s in the hole for $500 trillion this year and most of the upscale Bush tax cuts haven’t even kicked in yet. As we march bravely toward oceans of red ink (leaving behind no problem for future presidents or future generations), we also face a looming crisis in Social Security.

This is typical: whether or not there is a Social Security “crisis” depends, on the left, on who is trying to fix it.
Oh, there’s this, too: the economy was hardly “in the toilet” in September 2003. In fact, it was in the midst of the best quarter in nearly twenty years:

U.S. Economic Growth Sizzles
U.S. economic growth surged in the third quarter at the fastest pace in nearly two decades, the government said Thursday….
Gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of economic activity, grew at a 7.2 percent annual rate in the quarter after growing at a 3.3 percent pace in the second quarter, the Commerce Department reported.

What liberals say about the economy rarely bears any relation to the economy.
AND FINALLY: As a number of readers have pointed out, Ms. Ivins’ reference to the federal budget deficit is off by a factor of 1,000, as “500 trillion” would be many times the gross domestic product. It would be possible to be a worse columnist than Molly Ivins, but it wouldn’t be easy.

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