Why is Gail Collins still employed!


Queen of the fragrant begonias: The sheer stupidity of the upper-end press corps is often a thing to behold.

Why are we the people so hopelessly uninformed about major budget topics? Consider the latest grinding nonsense from the pen of Gail Collins.

Yesterday was one of those days when Collins pretends to explore an actual policy topic. Yes, she offered endless references to Williams Henry Harrison’s cold; she burned up roughly half her column with this time-killing bullshit. But as she did, she managed to marble in a few thoughts about the Social Security program—more specifically, about the best way to address its projected revenue shortfall.

She clowned, cavorted and carried on. Eventually, though, she offered us this. This may be the dumbest political assessment currently found on the planet:
COLLINS (3/1/12): The basic answer to fixing the long-term Social Security imbalance is just to eliminate the payroll tax cap, which currently exempts all income over $110,100 a year. Do that, and you have solved the problem. Politically speaking, you would probably have to agree to mix a limited tax increase with one of the fixes desired by fiscal conservatives, like reducing benefits for the wealthy, or changing the cost-of-living adjustment or, yeah, raising the retirement age a little. But the main answer is that cap, and anybody who refuses to even discuss the payroll tax cap is not serious about fixing Social Security.

Romney has already ruled out the payroll tax cap. Also, he once drove to Canada with his dog tied to the roof of the car. End of story.
Are you kidding? Does Collins really believe that, as a political matter, “you” could eliminate the payroll tax cap if you added a couple of sops to the right, “like reducing benefits for the wealthy?”

Does she think that a president—Barack Obama, let's say—could sanely propose such a deal?

Obviously, that is sheer lunacy. It may be the dumbest political assessment currently found on the planet. But so what! In the very next paragraph, we readers got pleasured by the good solid fun of a dog on the roof of a car!

Incredibly, Collins sits at the very top of your “press corps.” (You might say she’s strapped to its roof.) But why is this person even employed? Why is she part of the press corps at all? And why do we “liberals” tolerate this, even for a suburban minute?

Why are we the people so dumb? Some of us read Gail Collins.


  1. Enlighten us: why is elimination of the ss payroll tax cap "sheer lunacy"? It strikes me as a very good idea.

    1. In the current political environment, where those who would bear the brunt of paying the new tax are also those who control the levers of power, it would go precisely nowhere. Even though anyone with liberal values and half a brain wonders why it hasn't already been done, or indeed why there was even a cap to begin with.

  2. Gail Collins is asking us to destroy Social Security, by means testing, lowering the costs of living indexing and raising the eligible ages, besides being a truly offensive congenital liar.

    Collins has however found continually lying about the dog gets her continual attention.

    1. I'm starting to wonder if she mentions the dog incident just to poke at Bob, to get a rise out of him...

    2. You can't blame the nutjob. The disreputable rag she writes for lets her.

  3. "as a political matter"

    It would be portrayed as a huge tax increase, typical Democrat solution, raise taxes without solving the overspending problem.

    That's my guess at Somerby's reason for calling it "lunacy."

    The point being there is a vacuum of (mis)understanding of the program. Without addressing that distortion, any changes to SS are liable to be either A) political suicide
    for the Dems or B) capitulation to the misinformation and gutting of the system.

    1. Well of course it would be portrayed as a huge tax increase. What's so surprising about that? (I'd be surprised if that hasn't already been done.)

      Removing the tax cap is eminently reasonable; it has long been one of the proposed "fixes" for SS. Collins hasn't stumbled onto anything new.

      Yeah, the column was a fluff piece. But there were also some good bits sprinkled in:

      "Romney has several ideas for Social Security, all involving cuts in benefits. He always makes it clear that near-retirees won’t be affected. “For the people who are already retired or 55 years of age and older, nothing changes,” he said in a recent debate. Fifty-four-year-olds, have you noticed that you’re always getting the short end of the stick?"

      "There are some good arguments against [raising the retirement age], only one of which is all the unemployed 20-somethings who would really appreciate it if these people would get out of the way so they could take their jobs."

      "Also, while urging people who are 65 to continue working is a fine thing — presuming the person in question is not a coal miner — I would like to hear Mitt Romney lead a discussion on professional opportunities for laid-off 63-year-olds."

      "But the main answer is that cap, and anybody who refuses to even discuss the payroll tax cap is not serious about fixing Social Security."

      Those are all good points that need to be made.

  4. There is nothing wrong with Social Security but Collins who cannot stop lying telling us that there is somethings wrong and prejudices the argument immediate. Collins wants to ruin Social Security with tax increase and cuts when neither is needs. Collins is a lying monster however which concerns me more than any policy proposal she ever comes up with.

    1. In fairness, there IS something wrong with Social Security: the trust fund created by TipNRonnie in 1983 to cover the Baby Boomers is going to run out at some point in the next 20-30 years, after which SS will only be able to pay 75% of currently-scheduled benefits (or thereabouts). What's being lied about is that latter point. The people who want to kill the program are running around shouting "the sky is falling, after the trust fund runs out the system is flat broke!" Nonsense, but it fits their agenda; and journalists like Collins haven't done enough to educate the general public on the fact that it is nonsense, so they get away with it.

      The biggest problem with Social Security is that the general public doesn't understand how it works. That leaves us vulnerable to flim-flam artists like Paul Ryan, who seem ever so knowledgeable but are in reality modern snake-oil salesmen.

    2. But neither you nor anyone else has a clue what "will" happen in 2036 or so. Commentators right and left simply should not talk this way, because it is grossly deceptive. Projections made by the smartest people in the world are based on assumptions that may or may not turn out to be true.

      I would add that the cap was put in by FDR for a very good reason. Those who cavalierly say we should just lift the cap should read up on it. Remember, there's a cap on benefits corresponding to the cap on taxes. You get according to what you paid. That's the way it was wisely intended from the beginning.

  5. Why is that wise? It creates the idea in my mind that it is still "my money". Is that how support was originally garnered for the program?

  6. The payroll $ cap is there because the intent of the 1982 change was to have the tax affect 90% of total payroll $s in the economy. According to the Trustees' Report, the current upper limit captures about 83% of total payroll. If the limit was eliminated, at current tax rates, SS could collect about $150 billion more per year. (750/.83)
    It might help if pundits mentioned that there are 3 scenarios the Trustees examine and the one most bandied about is the middle case. The optimistic case (higher GDP growth, higher mortality, etc) shows the Trust fund is always available to pay current, inflation adjusted benefits.