The case against playing tic-tac-toe!

MONDAY, JULY 31, 2017

The New York Times helps us pack:
We're off on a mission of national import. The New York Times helped us pack.

But first, we'd like to make the case against playing tic-tac-toe. We'll also continue to make the case in favor of using our words.

What would it mean to use our words in discussing the misstatements of President Donald J. Trump?

It might go something like this:

It could mean that we know there are many more words than simply "misstatement" and "lie."

It could mean that, when we discuss Trump's misstatements, we refer to his "many repeated gross misstatements which fly in the face of apparent obvious fact."

It could mean that we refer to his "many repeated gross misstatements which fly in the face of obvious facts, even when such obvious facts have been widely discussed and reported."

In a related venture, it could even mean that we refer to his "occasional, peculiar statements which seem to expose him, in obvious ways, to possible legal jeopardy."

(It could mean that we don't feel we have to describe such peculiar statements as part of a plan to "keep us off balance," as Virginia Heffernan recently did in her Trumpcast chat with Professor Nyhan.)

It could also mean that we avoid playing tic-tac-toe. Here's what we mean by that:

Imagine that you're the world's greatest chess master. In a match where the prize is a quadrillion dollars, would you agree to play a 10-year-old child in a game of tic-tac-toe instead of playing him or her in chess?

Playing chess, you couldn't lose. Playing tic-tac-toe, you couldn't win. Assuming even minimal competency, every game of tic-tac-toe results in a tie. Why would you choose to play that?

Alas! When liberals insist on discussing Trump's "lies," they're agreeing to play tic-tac-toe. They're abandoning a discussion of his misstatements, a discussion which strongly favors their interests, in favor of a second-order dispute they're very unlikely to win.

Alas! Depending on the skill level of the disputants, we liberals can even lose a debate about Donald J. Trump's alleged lies. Trust us! Kellyanne's eyes grow wide with delight when liberals agree to switch the discussion to this more difficult field.

That said, the skill level in our liberal world has long been extremely low. To cite one highly significant example:

How do you think we managed to lose so many debates, for so many years, about the claim that the Social Security trust fund was just a pile of worthless IOUs?

Our skills Over Here are remarkably slight, our self-admiration remarkably high. Over the course of perhaps thirty years, this has helped give us Donald J. Trump, whose routine, repeated absurd misstatements have proven to be a bit too much for us to overcome.

That said, we're off today on a mission of national import involving a family gathering. We're able to go because a great national newspaper helped us learn how to pack.

We refer to the "Here to Help" feature on page A3 of last Wednesday's New York Times. Due to concerns about packing procedures, we weren't sure we'd be able to make this week's trip. Under the following heading, the Times stepped in to help:
Here to Help
Follow these five basic tips to pack efficiently for any trip.
There it was, on page A3. We'd call it a real life-saver.

In truth, we actually had some initial concerns about last Wednesday's feature.

For starters, its text didn't cite any "experts." Instead, we were asked to take the advice of one "travel blogger" and one "decluttering guru."

This made us feel uneasy, almost filled us with dread.

Beyond that point of concern, some of the advice in the feature almost seemed a bit suspect. In fairness, no one could argue with a prescription like this:

"To help streamline your wardrobe, use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 rule for a weeklong trip."

When that rule was explained, its wisdom seemed unassailable. Still and all, we were unsure about some other bits of advice. Our Advanced Spatial Geometry Team is still unsure about this one:

"You can also roll your clothes—this helps to maximize space and minimize wrinkles."

Really? Does rolling your clothes really mean that they will consume less space? Something tells us that can't be right—but then again, we aren't decluttering gurus.

We'll return to our sprawling campus on Friday night. We don't expect to post again until the weekend.

In the meantime, we anticipate some lively games of Shopkins with a pair of great-nieces, possibly even with a great-nephew live and direct from Dublin.

(As with many parts of modern American life, this particular, home-grown game seems to have no known rules.)

We anticipate winning at Shopkins! Absent this help from the New York Times, would we have been able to pack our bag and leave our campus at all?

For further elucidation: The New York Times' daily Here to Help feature doesn't appear on line.

That said, last Wednesday's feature said we should go to this New York Times site if we need further advice.

The site is headlined thusly: How to Pack a Suitcase. "Packing may seem simple," we're instantly told, "but it is a science with rules that travelers often learn the hard way over thousands of miles on the road."

Is packing a suitcase really a science? We don't feel sure about that.

We do feel sure about this: the New York Times never exactly got around to explaining what was wrong with all those decades of bullshit about the Social Security trust fund, because of which the storied program was supposedly destined to go "bankrupt" by the year [insert random number here].

Tens of millions of people were grossly misled by that long-standing propaganda campaign. It was beyond the skill levels at the Times to unpack that disinformation and blather.

For decades, that was highly influential right-wing agitprop. Like everyone else, the New York Times pretty much let it go.

In these and many other ways, our elites have created our current world—the world of the many peculiar misstatements of President Donald J. Trump. Insisting that his groaners, misstatements and falsehoods are lies probably doesn't help.


  1. Oh dear. How could you not notice that your 'third way' liberalism, which was invented as bullshit for idiots to begin with, is now collapsing all over the place. It's done, finished.

    Sovereignism is the new game. People have tired of your promises that never materialize, they don't trust your 'policy experts', they hate your globalization, your financialization. They want to control their own lives.

    1. You are a nonsensical troll on an unread blog.

    2. What does this have to do with packing a suitcase efficiently?

    3. Bob's derision of the uselessness of the advice on the Time's page "Here to Help Feature" pales when I think he gets federal tax dollars to as a speaker at federal "training" sessions.

      Hey Bob! Next time you tells us about Maddow millions, tell us how much federal moola you earned as a management trainer without ever managing more than a classroom of kids?

    4. Kids are much harder to manage than adults.

    5. Got to give Mao credit, at least this defender of Bob thought up a handle. Yet, oddly, this person is likely Russian.

    6. Good point Greg.

    7. Don't you think people can extrapolate one from the other?

    8. Greg's Tireless MotherJuly 31, 2017 at 2:06 PM

      "likely Russian" ... "good point"

      Somerby truly is blessed with the most amazing commenters. You CANNOT make them up!

    9. 2:06. I'll smash your face with a toilet plunger jack. Then I'll put my foot on you cheek.

    10. Ha! Always good to get under the skin of my douche doppelgänger.

    11. I'll punch you in the gut.

    12. Hello Fake Greg and Fake Corby,

      I have an important question to ask you:

      If you find yourself in a crowded elevator and you suddenly realize a foul odor, do you:

      a) remain silent
      b) deny any and all involvement in the incident
      c) blame it on the person to your left
      d) claim complete responsibility, even if it wasn't yours

      If you chose option d, then you should most definitely check out my favorite website,

      You will be most pleased. Thank you.

    13. I'll put my toe on your cheek.

  2. Something you will neve read on this blog:

    1. Hello Anonymous,

      I have a very important question to ask you.

      If you find yourself in a crowded elevator, and you suddenly realize a foul odor, do you:

      a) remain silent (but not deadly)
      b) deny any involvement in the incident
      c) blame it on the person to your left
      d) claim complete responsibility, even if you did not produce it

      If you chose option d, then you should visit my favorite website, You will not be disappointed.

      Thank you for your time.

    2. 7:26. I'll smash our face into the credenza. So shut up jerk. Go watch some more Maddow dumbass.

  3. Speaking as an actuary, Bob's confident, but ignorant, discussion of the SS Trust Fund continues to sadden me.

    1. Actuaries have nothing to do with how SD works.

    2. What is SD, Anon? Was this a typo and you meant SS (social security)? The Social Security Administration employs a whole passel of actuaries.

    3. Right, should be SS not SD.

      Actuaries deal with demographic probabilities affecting the payouts but they have nothing to do with the financing of the system, which is what Somerby thinks needs better explaining.

      If I worked as an accountant at a car sales agency, I wouldn't know anything about how the cars worked or how to repair or sell them.

    4. Care to explain, David in Cal? Because it sure seems like your understanding of the SS Trust Fund is backed by all nonsense and lies you usually bring to discussions here.

    5. Sorry, Anon. An explanation would take a chapter, and I am too busy. The person I blame for Bob's ignorance is Paul Krugman. Krugman does understand SS, but he chooses to write misleading articles about it. As a good liberal, Bob naturally believes Krugman. When one is an expert in some abstruse, technical area, it's all to easy to baffle the rubes with bullsh*t. But, I despise Krugman's decision to do this.

    6. Before you despise could you please enumerate the problems with Krugman's discussion of SS. He is after all a nobel prize winner in economics and you are a commenter on a blog and supposedly an actuary (although we cannot read your diploma from here). Otherwise this is just namecalling.

    7. Fair request, but I am just too busy right now to search for the relevant Krugman columns and analyze their faults.

    8. Not too busy to call a nobel winning scholar some ugly things though, like deliberately baffling the rubes -- to what end? I think you should be too busy to comment here if you are unwilling to back up your accusations.

    9. Trolls are never too busy to comment. This troll is simply too shallow to try to back up his tired wingnut bullshit.

  4. “Insisting that his groaners, misstatements and falsehoods are lies probably doesn't help.”

    “Probably.” I see some doubt there, Bob.

    Could it be a little something called historical evidence that’s causing the doubt? How about a Republican Congressman yelling "You lie!" to the POTUS during a national speech? The result? Republicans went on to a massive landslide and captured Congress. Yours is strategy for surrender and defeat, Bob. That’s why lying Koch-troll D in Cal loves your advice to liberals.

  5. Um, just call what DT says bullshit and leave it at that...

  6. "How do you think we managed to lose so many debates, for so many years, about the claim that the Social Security trust fund was just a pile of worthless IOUs?"
    Well, gee, could it be 50 years of massive right-wing propaganda, repeating statements just like that? This propaganda has been listened to by people who refuse to entertain any contrary ideas. How do Democrats get through that? Having a civil "boring" discussion about the merits or the structure of SS doesn't seem to attract them. So what then? How do you counteract the flashy BS at Fox? With CSpan-like programs? How do you present liberal arguments when most of the media outlets are owned by right or right-leaning corporate entities? This doesn't necessarily justify anything on MSNBC (for example), but the need for ratings is a big reality.

    1. I usually shut it down by offering 3 cents on the dollar for those "worthless IOUs", backed by the U.S. Treasury. Then I point out that not one person who SAYS U.S. Treasury bonds are worthless will trade something "worthless" for the U.S. currency I'm offering. From there, it's an easy road to "someone's lying to you, are you sure your name isn't Mark?"

    2. Dave the Guitar PlayerJuly 31, 2017 at 1:15 PM

      I think Bob is pointing our that countering right-wing propaganda with left-wing propaganda is playing to a draw (tic-tac-toe). Just because you know you are right does not convince anyone else that you are indeed right. That takes boring discussions of facts. When do we start?

    3. I think Bob has to be willfully ignorant of reality, if he still doesn't realize facts don't matter to these people.

      IMHO, the best way to debate right-wingers is to agree with them. Here are a few example:
      They want prayer in school? Great, their grandkids can start praying to Allah tomorrow.
      They tell you the richest country in the history of mankind is too broke to provide it's citizens healthcare. Perfect. I agree. We'll just have to fight ISIL with my good looks, since we're broke.
      They're against corporate taxes? Great. We already have a solution. Don't incorporate your business, and you don't have to pay corporate taxes.
      They're for small government? Cool, no need for Wars, which are huge government programs.
      They want government out of housing, because it's skewing the market? Perfect, we'll do away with their tax deduction for their mortgage interest payments.
      Agree with them, and watch them cry, whine, and play the victim. Because frankly, whining, crying, and playing the victim are the only things the right-wing has left.

    4. "Because frankly, whining, crying, and playing the victim are the only things the right-wing has left."

      That and control of the house, senate, and executive branch. And domination of state houses and governorships.

    5. Good point about how the things Bob decries "us liberals" from using works, 2:26 PM.

    6. Republican control is a reflection of people's uncertainty about a rapidly changing world and their personal safety in it. It is a desire to believe false promises and return to past that seemed more controllable. Dems cannot give them that and won't make false assurances. In crisis they look for a strong man but got a caricature instead. Very sad.

  7. Here's a Krugman quote from 2013 that's true, but misleading:
    "So there’s a strong case for expanding, not contracting, Social Security. Yes, this would cost money, and it would require additional taxes"

    In fact. it will require a lot of additional taxes just to keep SS benefits at current levels.

    Here's one from 2015
    "Social Security does not face a financial crisis; its long-term funding shortfall could easily be closed with modest increases in revenue."

    I guess it depends on what you mean by "modest". The official estimate of the increase needed is around 25%. But, there's good reason to believe that this figure is optimistic. It ignores future increases in longevity and it assumes very optimistic rate of increase in wage levels --a rate far above what we have actually been experiencing.

    1. Words have meaning, Too bad you refuse to understand that basic fact, but that's how trolls roll.

    2. Right. So what is the cap for taxing SS? I believe it stands at 250K. In other words, any income above that level is not subject to SS taxes.

      See how easy it could be? I doubt you do.


    3. For 2017, the cap on earnings subject to the SS tax is $127,200, or only about half of the $250K figure you cited. However, raising the cap as a mechanism to solve the projected shortfall in available funds in order to pay full benefits to participants does raise some issues. For most recipients, the amount of their monthly benefit is based on the amount paid in during their working career. Given that the current SS tax on workers is the same 6.2% regardless of income, benefits are essentially in proportion to income. If the cap is raised on high earners, requiring them to pay more into the system, they would expect to get higher benefits in return. That wouldn't fix the problem, since the additional payments into the system would need to be spread out among recipients at all income levels.

      Of course, the SS program already features many situations in which benefits received aren't in proportion to taxes paid in. These include provisions for surviving spouses and children, disability payments, people who pay in during a lifetime of work but get nothing back because they die before reaching retirement age, and people who live for many decades after retirement and get back much more than they paid in. But raising the cap on the highest income earners specifically to ensure payment of full benefits to lower income earners would undoubtedly meet with considerable resistance from those individuals.

      Basically, such a solution would require making the SS tax more of a progressive tax, similar to the income tax. That could be done by raising the cap on high income earners without increasing their benefits, or by changing from a flat SS tax to a graduated one.

      Although many detractors of the existing SS program refer to it as an entitlement, in its current form, it's not a handout from the government, but rather a forced retirement savings program using the wage earner's own contributions, and those of his/her employer. (Strictly speaking, it's the contributions from the previous generation of wage earners, but the concept is the same). Raising the cap on earnings subject to the SS tax could solve the problem of the projected shortfall, but would make SS more of a true entitlement program, based on a transfer of wealth from high income earners to lower income earners. That may indeed be the way to fix the system, but it wouldn't necessarily be an "easy" step to take.

    4. "Given that the current SS tax on workers is the same 6.2% regardless of income, benefits are essentially in proportion to income."

      This is not correct. On income of $1 million the SS tax is not 6.2%, it is only 6.2% of the first roughly $100,000 - whatever the exact cap is. A millionaire will pay $6200 in SS tax, .62% of his income, a tiny portion. An above average worker making $50k will pay $3100, 6.2% of his income - a ten fold increase in proportion of income. And yet the millionaire will get a higher benefit. Raising the cap is one of the easier solutions. Means testing is another, there is no reason why a millionaire should take SS benefits they do not need, much less expect higher benefits.

    5. Anonymous 8/2 at 3:43 PM here.

      What I meant is that the current SS tax isn't graduated within the range of incomes for which it's assessed. Whatever one earns in income up to the cap is taxed at the same rate. There are no brackets as there are for the federal income tax.

      Anyone earning $127,200 or more pays in the same absolute amount (6.2% of that amount, or $7886.40 in a year). The person earning $1 million a year will pay that amount, but will not receive any higher benefits than the person earning exactly the cap. It's absolutely the case that the $1 million dollar a year earner pays SS tax as a smaller percentage of their total income, but it's also the case that they don't receive a benefit that's in proportion to their income, only in proportion to the amount on which they paid SS tax (i.e., the cap amount).

      For 2017, the maximum SS monthly benefit anyone can receive is $3,538. That would apply in the case of someone who had SS taxable income at the level of the cap (or more) for at least 35 of their active earning years, and who deferred receiving any benefits until age 70. The person earning exactly at the cap for all of those years, and the person earning 2x or 10x times the cap would have paid in the same amount, and would qualify for exactly the same benefit.

      If the system was changed such that participants didn't receive credit on their personal accounts for everything they (and, if not self-employed) their employers had paid in, it would mark a fundamental change in how SS works. The system would explicitly be asking higher earners to subsidize SS payouts to lower earners. Again, I'm not saying that shouldn't be an option under consideration, I'm only saying that there would probably be substantial resistance to such a change.

      Regarding means testing, I suspect that would be an even bigger can of worms. Who would decide what the standard of living should be for a retired person? This would not be like means testing for federal welfare programs such as Medicaid or SNAP, which are paid for out of general tax revenues that every taxpayer contributes to. SS accounts are personal accounts. The SSA tracks how much you as an individual and your employer(s) have paid in, and then calculates how much you get back when you retire based on those contributions. Everyone who's paid into SS has been promised that if they live long enough, they'll get back at least a portion of what they and their employer contributed, after they retire.

      To then tell people that the government thinks they can live adequately on whatever other assets they have, and that the hundreds of thousands of dollars they've paid into SS to partially fund their own retirement was actually a gift to other retirees would not, I can assure you, go over well.

    6. I disagree. Some workers pay SS taxes and never get any benefits - because they do not work enough years or earn enough or citizenship status, etc. Also, SS already does involve redistribution of wealth.

      Wealthy people do not care about SS taxes or benefits because it is not a significant amount of money to them; however to most people it is a very significant amount of money.

      Raising the cap would not even affect the system in the way you suggest. Raising taxes to cover the Trust Fund projected shortfall would be minimal. Means testing is also not as dramatic a problem as you present, your concerns are not pertinent.
      Resistance from Republicans operatives has to do with a knee jerk negative response to raising any taxes regardless of the benefits. People are generally open to higher taxes that yield a good benefit:

  8. D in C,
    As usual, you deliberately ignore certain details, such as a ceiling on contributions, relatively low income taxes on the wealthiest citizens, and the reason wages don't increase with productivity or business profits. Paul Krugman knows these details, as does Dean Baker, James Kwak, and millions of others. You have had these details explained to you over and over, but, as they say, there are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see.
    Aren't I polite?

  9. Here's false AND misleading (at a minimum):


    "JAKE TAPPER (HOST): To be clear, of course, the statement that Don Jr. issued that was dictated by the president, according to the [Washington] Post, was misleading. It did not even remotely acknowledge the purpose of the meeting, which was Donald Trump Jr. wanting to meet someone billed as a Russian government lawyer with one specific purpose, to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton. A meeting attended, by the way, by Jared Kushner and campaign chair Paul Manafort. Now you, as a citizen, you should expect a much higher standard of truth than the one that the White House press secretary just enunciated. If a meeting takes place so campaign officials can get dirt on a political rival from the Russian government describing that meeting as being about adoption and not mentioning the purpose of the meeting, it's not true.

    It's inaccurate. It's so misleading as to be a lie. And you as a citizen, you have every right to wonder, why would the president hide the truth and be inaccurate about this? Why would he want to hide from you the facts of this meeting which they insist was innocent?"

  10. For those who really want to understand, the best official source is the current Trustees Report, prepared by the SSA actuaries. It's at

    Note that is says, "The Trustees project that the combined [Social Security] trust funds will be depleted in 2034."

    My knowledge of the methodology problems comes from discussions with two former Chief Actuaries of Social Security, Robert Myers and A. Haeworth Roberson. Based on these discussions, I believe the year 2034 is optimistic.

    The Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is in even worse shape: "The Trustees project that the HI Trust Fund will be depleted in 2029."

    gravymeister -- could you please explain how the factors you mention affect the solvency of SS?

    1. David you misunderstand, the SS Trust Fund is not what funds SS. It is additional money to cover what SS taxes do not under certain circumstances, like the increase in SS eligible population from the Baby Boom.

      SS benefits are paid to retirees by taxes from current workers. SS is funded by workers. SS will never go bankrupt as long as there are workers.

      The 25% SS payment shortfall is the middle assessment, not even the most optimistic one; however, with Republicans preventing good economic policies, the 25% shortfall perhaps is more likely with the current political landscape. Were Democratics able to enact their policies, there might be no Trust Fund shortfall for at least the next 100 years.

      Even with the 25% payment shortfall in 2034 or so, in real dollars the SS benefits paid would be higher than current benefits - again that's in constant dollars.

      Wage increases will dwarf the shortfall, however, due to Republican policies, most of the wage increase has been going to the few at the top the income distribution which then limits SS revenues.

      The increase in revenues needed is not 25%, you misunderstand. From the report you link to:

      "The projected 75-year actuarial deficit for the OASDI Trust Funds is 2.83 percent of taxable payroll, up from 2.66 percent projected in last year's report. This deficit amounts to 1 percent of GDP over the 75-year time period"

      1% of GDP, 2.8% of taxable payroll. Nothing close to the cost of our Bush wars.

      The baby boom issue is finite, it goes away. Longevity is not an issue as far as SS is concerned - in fact longevity has barely increased in the last hundred years and may in fact decrease (most of the increase is due to lower infant mortality).

      David, are you worried about a possible SS payment shortfall in the future and how it will affect those that need it? In that case we should raise taxes - particularly on the wealthy who can easily afford it, and hats off to you for showing concern about others. I suspect however, you are actually worried about a tax increase, something you have been conned into automatically disdaining. The frenzy you display over SS is fake, reveals a character of low integrity.

    2. You left out a lot in your typically-jaundiced opinion about a government program that you probably despise simply because it is a government program. Maybe the omissions are a result of your hectic calendar as a retired actuary now actively trolling for the wingnut-o-sphere.

      The OASDI (combined Old Age Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance) trust fund is projected to continue growing through 2021, which means the trust fund RESERVES should not even come into play until the program's total cost exceeds its annual income starting in 2022. The RESERVES will then be drawn down until the RESERVES are depleted in 2034. Anyone who is honest about the subject will note that it is the trust fund RESERVES and not the trust fund itself that will be depleted in 2034.

      The OASDI pays full benefits until 2034, when the OASDI trust fund RESERVES are depleted. From then until 2091, Social Security will pay 77% of benefits if no adjustments (such as increasing the payroll tax approximately 2%, or removing the current payment cap at an annual income of $133k, or a reduction of benefits by 17% over 75 years) are made.

      Given our grifter of a President and the malevolent Republican majority in both houses of Congress, your belief - that the Trustees' opinion that the RESERVES deplete in 1934 is optimistic - is understandable.

      Neither Krugman nor Somerby has suggested that Social Security is fine as it is.

      Your add-on regarding Medicare is simply moving the goalposts, something you do with frequency.

      Glad you keep in touch with the homies.

    3. "The Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is in even worse shape: "The Trustees project that the HI Trust Fund will be depleted in 2029.""

      You left out "one year later than projected in last year's report. At that time, DEDICATED REVENUES will be sufficient to pay 88% of HI [Hospital Insurance Trust Fund]costs.The Trustees project [if no adjustments are made] that the share of HI cost that can be financed with HI dedicated revenues will decline slowly to 81% in 2041, and then will rise gradually to 88% in 2091."

      You were dishonestly attempting to leave the impression - as you tried to do in your Social Security gloom-and-doom - that the HI would have no funds to meet costs in 2029. Yet you hypocritically complain that Krugman is disingenuous.


  11. Now, this Krugman column from 2010 is really bad. It's at You would probably need to be a Times subscriber to read it. It's rife with errors.

    "But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger. Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 — and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come."

    Well, yes the trust fund will last another 20 years or so, so it's not a "clear and present danger". But, that's not the standard actuaries use. SS is promising benefits that it won't be able to pay under current program terms.

    The chance that the SS Trust Fund won't run out of money is IMHO less than the chance that it will run out money sooner. Anyhow, it's irresponsible to make plans based on assumptions much more optimistic that those considered reasonable.

    BTW evidence of the optimism is found in the projected date of fund depletion. In 2010 the official estimate was 2037. Today, the estimated depletion date is three years sooner -- 2014. That shows that assumptions used in 2010 were optimistic.

    "In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don’t count."

    This is a clear error. Krugman has already acknowledged that surpluses SS had been running will turn into deficits. That's why the Trust Fund will become depleted. For him to mention past surpluses here is a way to fool those without a technical background in this field.

    He goes on to express policy preferences. That's his privilege. But, he misleads about SS solvency, because unreasonable optimism helps justify his preferred policies.

    1. WHAT is a clear error? You stated the entire article was rife with errors. Which one(s)? and why is it in error? Where are your arguments?

      As I mentioned in reply to another of your silly posts, just one simple solution to the depletion of the trust fund would be to raise the cap on SS taxes.

      Tell us what YOU think we should do about SS. Let's hear what a supposed actuary like yourself would propose. Surprise me.


    2. You have to keep in mind, Comrade DinC is a dick.

      He is dedicated to undermining SS benefits for future retirees even though he has bragged many years ago that both he and his wife are each collecting maximum SS benefits, and he doesn't even need them.

      Here he is labeling SS a Ponzi scheme.

      David in CalSeptember 23, 2011 at 2:07 AM

      I'm an actuary. SS isn't illegal, but in other respects it is a Ponzi scheme. If you buy a retirement annuity from a private insurance company, the company keeps your contributions. Your contributions and investment income on those contributions are used to pay your benefits. In a Ponzi or pyramid Scheme, your contributions are used to pay current beneficiaries. When you retire, the only way to pay you is to get money from new entrants into the system.

      Somerby says that SS payments will continue even when the Trust Fund is used up. I assume he means that SS payments can be made from the general fund. In principle that's true. However, the current budget has a deficit of $1 1/2 trillion.

      That is who you are arguing with. He is hard core ideologically opposed to SS. His reasons are fluid and everchanging. It's a Ponzi scheme, hyperinflation with devour his humongous retirement savings (recently he bragged that he pays enormous long term capital gains taxes in CA, every fucking year!), people are living longer. Whatever it takes, Comrade DinC will use it.

    3. Wait until David finds out we haven't funded the Department of Defense through next July, nevermind 2032. I guess, any actuary worth his salt will be calling for shutting that boondoggle down yesterday.

    4. Leroy -- i don't know what we should do about SS, but I can tell you that we will do one or more of the following:
      1. Cut benefits quite a bit
      2. Raise the FICA assessments quite a bit
      3. Use money from the general fund to prop up SS (But, this will increase the federal deficit which is already projected to return to stratospheric levels.)

      But, the can can be kicked down the road for 15 or 20 years, so it's easy for politicians to do nothing. But, they longer they wait, the more brutal the inevitable adjustment will be.

    5. "But, this will increase the federal deficit which is already projected to return to stratospheric levels."

      Time to bring in more revenue. Bringing the tax rate on highest earners back to what they were in the good old days, when the last decent Republican was in the White House (Eisenhower), should set your mind at ease.

    6. David is wrong in his assessment:

      1. Wrong - even with the shortfall, benefits will be higher in real dollars, so no benefits cut

      2. No, the Trust Fund deficit is 2.8%, raising assessments would be minimal and only need to be raised on the wealthy

      3. No, this is not even possible

    7. DinC thanks for your civil - if wrong - analysis.

      Revisiting the comments today made me happy. So many responded to the SS argument with more factual eloquence than even I could have hoped to achieve, and I’ve been following this issue for a long time.

      Your postings do result in a certain amount of push-back of course, which is to be expected. In the process, we all hopefully learn something. I know I do.


    8. "DinC thanks for your civil-if wrong-analysis."

      The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.

  12. BTW since I'm criticizing Krugman, here's some non-SS related Krugman dishonesty:

    In an op-ed published Monday, Krugman accused Republicans of repeatedly failing to pass a new healthcare bill because of their "dishonesty" in their criticism of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

    "Given this history, the Republican health care disaster was entirely predictable," he wrote. "You can't expect good or even coherent policy proposals from a party that has spent decades embracing politically useful lies and denigrating expertise."

    He said that by contrast, Obama was "remarkably clearheaded and honest about its policies. In particular, it was always clear what the A.C.A. was supposed to do and how it was supposed to do it — and it has, for the most part, worked as advertised."

    Obama's promised repeatedly, from 2009 to 2013, that the new law would not disrupt the insurance coverage many Americans already had and were satisfied with.

    "If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it," Obama had said.

    In 2013, the fact-checking website PolitiFact said that promise was the political lie of the year because, the website said, "the promise was impossible to keep."

    "[T]his fall," PolitiFact wrote in 2013, "as cancellation letters were going out to approximately 4 million Americans, the public realized Obama's breezy assurances were wrong."

    Obama himself apologized for the unkept promise.

    1. By the way, let me move the goalposts again.

    2. Jesus weeps for you David, I am sure.

      "If you like your health plan you can keep it" was not a lie or a misstatement, it was a fact. All current plans at the time ACA was enacted were grandfathered in.

      Politifact actually initially rated the statement as true, and it's change to false is a mendacious twisting of facts:

  13. I suppose there is a certain danger in using the word “lie.” The one that comes immediately to mind is a lie by Trump actually turning out to be true. If that happens, it will result in a touchstone for Trump supporters.

    “See? The Liberal Media called Trump a LIAR, but he was telling the truth!!”

    That stated, it is amazing how many times you hear Trump described as a liar. It detracts from the more salient fact – that Trump is somehow deranged.

    So Bob is right. Those involved in “the chase” could couch their observations this way:

    “Trump has repeatedly said things that were demonstrably untrue. Even after the real facts were laid out in detail, he refuses to back down.

    “Is there something wrong with President Trump?”

    But the fact is, that ship sailed long ago. Bob knows it, because he knows the msm all too well. Doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be critical in his arguments about the term “lie,” and when to use it.

    I agree with Bob, but I don’t think his arguments will make much difference. I wish they could.


    1. Trump lied when he knowingly altered the description of his son's meeting in June 2016, whether or not he's deranged.

    2. As the reports detail, Trump’s staff had argued for a truthful statement. He overruled them. That was a conscious, deliberate decision on his part (not an oversight, not from ignorance of the facts) to conceal and deceive. By Bob Somerby’s own definition, a lie. Yet Somerby still stretches and contorts, even further, to excuse it. It appears he is fully committed to protecting Trump from the appellation of “liar”, no matter what. What a sad come-down for The Daily Howler.

    3. Hello to you sir or maam,

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      Do not eat it a punjab cricket. If eat it a punjab cricket you might have it a bad smell gas.
      One time my lady friend name Smupa eat it a punjab cricket. She then have it a bad smell gas for 3.5 days.
      For this time she not have it a bed fun time with me.
      Not good my friend.

  14. Krugman is a clown.

    As for the 'trust fund', it's really a distraction. The oligarchical establishment can always cut the benefits, so that less money is paid out than is collected. Which is - most likely - what they are going to do.

    And what it means that a portion of the money collected by this grotesquely regressive tax is going finance - as it has been all the years of its existence - wars, corporate welfare, and other atrocities.

    And that's the only purpose of the 'trust fund' - to make the overall tax system more regressive. Otherwise, it would obviously make perfect sense to collect as much in SS taxes every year as needs to be paid out that year.

    1. "The oligarchical establishment can always cut the benefits, so that less money is paid out than is collected. Which is - most likely - what they are going to do."

      Sounds scary. What to do? Oh yeah, stop electing Conservatives.
      What other existential problem can I solve in one sentence for you, Mao?

    2. Krugman weeps for you Mao, you are the saddest clown. Poor baby, let's cheer you up with some info!

      The Trust Fund is not a distraction it is money paid out to people in need.

      SS tax does not fund anything other than SS, by law. To say otherwise is ignorant and not factual.

      The purpose of the Trust Fund is to enable more SS taxes to be collected than needed currently, so that when the baby boomers collect SS, their benefits will be covered. We actually DO collect more SS taxes than needs to be paid out.

      Mao, stick to opinions, where your rage induced ignorance is of no consequence.

    3. "Otherwise, it would obviously make perfect sense to collect as much in SS taxes every year as needs to be paid out that year."

      ...or, for that matter, to kill the FICA atrocity altogether, and simply finance the old age/disability programs out of the (still slightly progressive, unless you consider the so-called 'capital gains') income tax revenues...

      ...which is not gonna happen, obviously, so all you liberal trolls are left to obsess about is this mythical 'trust fund'...

    4. Aren't you the precious snowflake.

      The only people obsessing about the Social Security trust fund are republican trolls - like you - who want to eliminate the program so the rich - your shotcallers - can have their tax cuts.

  15. It does matter how you pack a suitcase. There is also a mathematics of fitting objects inside other objects. Somerby tends to think that things are silly when he doesn't know anything about them. He also mocks the practical skills involved in housekeeping, largely because he doesn't understand that there are better ways of doing anything. It comes across as mocking the things that women are generally relegated to do, which makes him seem sexist when he is probably just ignorant. Not knowing him, he could be sexist too. There is usually a reason why someone remains single and childless into old age.

  16. From "The Rectification of Names":

    "What are we supposed to do with Trump's extravagant lying? I don't think there's a lot of political value in just exposing it, as if his supporters would suddenly turn around in shock and abjure him, or the press would start refusing to report anything he says unless they can find two corroborating sources ("Good morning, folks," said the president, but The Times was unable to confirm that). But I can't let them go. Maybe it's important to just keep analyzing them, to come to a better understanding of what we're up against.

    But then we come up with those imaginary phone calls, lies he could not have imagined would be believed, and you can't even speculate on what he thought he was trying to accomplish."

    Aug 3,


  18. Eduarto Porter writes in the NY Times Business Section:

    Virtually every economist contends that paying for current Social Security and Medicare benefits into the future will require not just higher taxes on the rich, but also more money from everyone. There are fewer workers paying taxes for every retiree collecting benefits. The choice is between slashing the retirement package and raising taxes on the young.

    1. What do they say about the Department of Defense? Is that budget still $0.00?

    2. Come to find out Reagan was just bullshitting you when he said we can gash tax rates and still provide for the general welfare of the people.
      What to do now? Learn to spot right-wing bullshit easier, and try not to make the same mistakes in the future.

    3. As long as the troll wants to do non-sequiturs, here's what Eduardo Porter recently tweeted:

      "People around the world are starting to think about access to healthcare as a human right. Republicans, meanwhile..."

  19. Off topic, for those who deny that illegal immigrants are voting

    Four state Registry of Motor Vehicle clerks and two other people have been charged with conspiring to help illegal immigrants get false identifications — some of which were used to register to vote in Boston

    1. Oh look, Comrade DinC is lying again. You really are a dishonest piece of shit troll, Comrade DinC.

      Carris said federal authorities have notified the secretary of state’s office about the illegal voter identities that were obtained. State authorities said they have no evidence that anyone voted illegally.

      “Based on the limited information provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, it appears that none of these individuals have voted,” Debra O’Malley, spokeswoman for the secretary of state, said in an email.

      The RMV indicated that it already has taken steps to immediately suspend the licenses of those who ­received them.

      Yet you ignore your party systematic coordinated unrelenting voter suppression efforts going on all over the country where hundreds of thousands of legal voters are being improperly suppressed.

      Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,748)

    2. California has 11 Counties With More Registered Voters Than Voting-Age Citizens: Registered Voters 144% of Eligible

    3. Thanks, Comrade DinC. I don't generally track that racist organization, Judicial Watch. Nice to know, you do.

  20. There are few things more boring than to hear Bob quibble over whether Trump is "lying" or just pathologically ignorant and demented.

    1. Particularly in the wake of this release about Trump’s editing the Donald Trump Jr. statement and overriding his staff’s explicit pleas to keep it honest — which shows that his dishonesty was a conscious, deliberate choice; an unambiguous lie. How can Bob Somerby continue to evade this any longer?

  21. All this was inspired by the principle — which is quite true within itself — that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.

    It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

    Mein Kampf

    Thus perhaps a Bob Somerby of the 1930s or 1940s would steadfastly have insisted that poor Adolf was not, as some malign media might have unfairly accused him, ‘lying’ (even if they quoted his passage above), but rather some more benign explanation, such as that he was merely mistaken on each and every occasion, or chronically deluded. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

    1. "Thus perhaps a Bob Somerby of the 1930s or 1940s would steadfastly have insisted that poor Adolf was not, as some malign media might have unfairly accused him, ‘lying’ (even if they quoted his passage above"

      Oh dear. You don't realize that your quote is, in fact, an accusation? He's accusing others of propagating 'big lie', and you believe that it proves somehow that he is a lier?

    2. Oh dear, you're a wingnut at the wrong blog. That must mean you're merely lost and not a troll or trollbot.

    3. Mao Cheng Ji defends poor Adolf from the accusation of being a [big] liar with the same enthusiasm that Bob Somerby defends Donald Trump from the same accusation. Why am I not surprised?

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