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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Joespin also known as Joementum (angular)

Joe Lieberman said that "every year we do nothing about Social Security's coming insolvency we add $600 billion in unfunded liabilities."

He was off by $ 300 billion. Of course his claim would mean nothing if it were true.

Brad Delong and Paul Krugman (at this link that lasts) point out that this is nonsense. The increase in the present value of the shortfall does not imply any need to make reforms harsher in order to eliminate it, unless such reforms included tax increases or benefit cuts in the year which just past (as no proposed policies do). The present value future tax increases or benefit cuts increase by exactly the same factor as the present value of the shortfall.

The present value of liabilities would have increased $ 600 billion this year only if the trustees forecasts were perfect.
In the latest report " The trustees said that Social Security's unfunded obligations total $4 trillion over the next 75 years, an increase from last year's projection of $3.7 trillion in unfunded liabilities" so over the past year the present value increased by $ 300 billion not $ 600 billion. An increase of $ 600 billion implies no increase in the difficulty of obtaining actuarial balance. Noting the difference $ 300 billion is another way of noting that this years new evidence shows that last years report was too pessimistic extending the trustees streak. This in spite of blatant attempts to make the numbers look as bad as possible as noted by Brad Matthew Yglesias and Brad Plumer (who is even younger than Yglesias).

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