This is really beyond belief. I've been a little behind working my way through last week's New Republic. The cover story was a point-counterpoint on Social Security. Shilling for Bush's "plan" is Harvard economics professor N. Gregory Mankiw. Here's the opening, which had my eyeballs sproinging out of my skull:
"Harvard University is, by some measures, one of the most left-wing institutions on the face of the earth. So you may be surprised to hear that it has endorsed George W. Bush's proposal for Social Security reform. Literally, of course, that is not true. But the retirement plan Harvard has set up for faculty members like me bears a striking resemblance to what the Social Security system would become under the president's proposed changes.
Harvard's retirement plan is essentially the nonprofit sector's version of a 401(k). Each year, the university puts a certain percentage of my income into my retirement account. I then invest this money. . . "
This is just the first fragment of the article, but it already contains so much misinformation and spin that you'd think the guy was the chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. Oops-- he was
the chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.Bogus Argument 1: Academia is a radical socialists-only club
If Harvard's faculty includes players in the most right-wing administration of the last century, exactly what "measures" make Harvard so left-wing? The conservative-leaning president, Lawrence Summers? Harvard isn't even considered the most left-wing of the Ivy League. Not by a longshot. But by "some measures," which are conveniently left unexplained by Bush crony Mankiw, it stands right next to Fidel Castro's government.Bogus Argument 2: Liberals are hypocritical elitists
Isn't nice how he indicts "left-wing" professors as secretly loving Bush's privatization plan? (Incidentally, the word 'privatization' doesn't appear once in this article-- good to know he's still sticking to the talking points.) What Mankiw fails to point out, of course, is that Harvard's program is private. Professors aren't exempt
from Social Security laws-- the University is offering something above and beyond. And at no time has Bush proposed supplementing
Social Security payouts in any way.
In fact, Daniel Patrick Moynihan suggested a little something called "Social Security Plus," which would enable people to add to their retirement income with voluntary contributions. What Bush is suggesting is taking on some ten trillion dollars in debt-- while refusing to raise taxes-- to reduce Social Security payouts, whether by lowering benefits or raising the retirement age. And he acknowledges that after incurring all that debt, his system would lose money. In other words, Harvard's plan looks nothing at all like Bush's plan, and if a private business did
adopt a Bush economic plan, they'd be called Enron.
You'd think a Harvard economist would know the difference between a federal program and a business' private employee retirement plan. Of course Mankiw knows the difference-- he's just hoping that it doesn't occur to you...
(The article isn't available at TNR's website, so no link. It starts on page 16 of the March 21 issue.)