Saturday, December 18, 2004

Social Security

Edmund Andrews has a great Economic View in the Times which debunks the Social Security "reform" scheme:
Stephen Goss, the Social Security Administration's chief actuary, has endorsed the assumption of higher returns. In evaluating the major proposals for putting some payroll taxes into personal investment accounts, Mr. Goss estimated that even people who hedged their risk by mixing stocks and bonds could expect an average return of 4.45 percent.

But that logic is as flawed as a perpetual motion machine. If it were true, the government could erase Social Security's entire projected deficit by selling bonds at 3 percent and buying stocks that yield 7 percent.

Why doesn't the government do just that? Because higher returns are inseparable from higher risk. No risk, no reward. And if the goal is to enhance security, if people are to have a solid reason to expect a particular level of wealth at retirement, the risks have to be relatively low.

"The entire argument is absurd," said William C. Dudley, chief United States economist at Goldman Sachs. "These returns weren't free. You are getting these returns precisely because you are taking on risk."

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