Friday, April 15, 2005

A real calculator

By now, most of you are aware of the Social Security benefits calculator offered by Harry Reid and a host of other persons and organizations who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the approaching train wreck of Social Security solvency. Of course, as can be expected when mixing leftist politics with accounting, the calculator is seriously flawed.

However, the Heritage Foundation has developed a new calculator, and it appears to be fundamentally more honest and accurate than the MoveOn-endorsed product being flacked by the Democrats and the Unions. Check it out.

(Link from Donald Luskin, via Dodd Harris.)

posted at 12:08 PM | permalink | Comments (3)

Nope. Wrong. Donald Luskin is a hack.

While several of the assumptions underlying the calculations, such as the level of future average stock returns and the precise formulation of a plan that does not officially exist, are highly contentious and subject to debate, one such assumption is inarguably misleading. From Heritage's description of its methodology:

Today's Social Security To provide a basis for comparison, the Calculator estimates your likely benefit under today's Social Security. According to the 2004 Report of Social Security's Trustees, the program will be unable to meet its promised obligations after its Trust Fund becomes insolvent in 2042. The Calculator adjusts Social Security benefits to the level that current law requires Social Security to pay after 2042 (74 percent of promised benefits). In the most literal sense, this is the alternative to reform -- doing nothing at all.

In other words, the calculator purports to compare scheduled benefits under current law with benefits under a hypothetical privatization plan, but it cuts 26 percent from scheduled benefits, including those for people as old as 54. But if a worker is 54 years old today and retires in 2018 at age 67, he or she would receive all currently promised benefits for 24 years before the cuts that Heritage assumes would occur in 2042.

Moreover, Heritage's claim that "the alternative to" what it calls "reform" -- that is, the creation of private accounts -- is "doing nothing at all" is specious, since the only "reform" Heritage considers is a plan based on private accounts. Such a plan is not the only alternative to "doing nothing at all"; it's just the only alternative that Heritage chose to include in its calculator.

posted by peltdown on April 20, 2005 01:01 PM

Hmmm. Luskin links to the calculator without comment, so that's enough to discredit it? Give the ad hominem attacks a rest; I am quite tired of the typical lefty response of shooting the messenger, which seems to be the only trick they have left. I guess you think that the people at are hacks, too, because they were the ones who debunked it, not Luskin.

Aas to the calculator, it only examines private accounts and doing nothing because a) that is what the Reid/Union/MoveOn calculator does (incorrectly) and b) the left has not put forth ANY proposal at all, save doing nothing. At least the Heritage calculator provides some sort of comparison, and uses a more sound set of figues than the Reid/Union/MoveOn sham. Additionally, if you put in the correct dates for your age, you will get accurate figures, which change for each age group. The Reid calculator does not account for the drop in benefits (at all) that will occur in 2042.

posted by timekeeper on April 20, 2005 05:29 PM

"the only trick they have left"
"that's enough to discredit it"
No. You're wrong, didn't accurately debunk it. And it wasn't an ad hominem, just a sidenote. Luskin has erred so many times as to discredit him. I know you won't check for yourself, but you should.

And calm down, I wasn't trying to attack you personally. Did you even read the section I pasted in above? Respond to that.

Regardless of hackery from wherever, all of these calculators (on both sides) are going to have fudging in them, mainly because there is NO PLAN OUT THERE on either side besides maintaining the status quo. Bush has said numerous times that he doesn't have a plan yet. Look it up. And there's no reason the Dems should save him on this sinking, unpopular issue by proposing a plan for the Repubs to tear apart. It's his agenda, not their's. Why don't we fix something that's in a lot more trouble, like Medicare?

posted by peltdown on April 20, 2005 06:25 PM

Thursday, April 14, 2005

What party is she IV?

From Yahoo! news via their Miami affiliate, WPLG/10, comes this article:

Report: Senator's Trip Broke Rules, Possibly Law

In this entire 539 word piece, there is no mention of State Senator Mandy Dawson's party affiliation.

In the past, I have complained about this problem with AP writers. In this case, the AP is not at fault. Brent Kallestad wrote a similar article for the AP (also available via Yahoo! News), which clearly states to which party Sen. Dawson belongs. The WPLG article (also posted at their website), carries no byline, but it's not the AP story, and it omits her biographical embellishment (which Kallestad briefly mentions in his story).

I'm a bit surprised that this woman keeps getting elected, but politics in Broward County are never dull. Some of the voters may be dull, but that is another story altogether. She's had several capable challengers in the primaries in the past, but somehow she manages to pull off a victory, despite the string of questionable behavior.

posted at 10:57 AM | permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Comcast and customer disservice

For the past three days, we have been having a problem with a flkay DNS server in my service area, and connectivity has been spotty at best. When I first called (on Monday), I was on hold for about ten minutes before I was prompted to leave my phone number for a callback. After an hour and a half wait, they finally called back, and told me that they weren't sure when it would be fixed, but it should be just a few hours. Well, I suffered through it for two days. When I called back again today (because I'm still experiencing the same problem), I went through the voice mail prompts (four layers), and was then told by the voice mail system:

We're sorry, but we are experiencing a higher than normal call volume due to outages in your area. All of our customer representatives are assisting other customers; please try your call again later. which point I was disconnected.

Needless to say, I am *not* happy right now.

This is one of the primary reasons I dislike governmental regulation; if Comcast didn't have a geographical monopoly (through governmental regs), I'd have a choice, and I'm willing to bet service would be better.

When I lived in Chula Vista (California), it was the only city in San Diego county that had real comptetition; Cox and a smaller company, ultronics, both had access in the area. Whenever Cox rolled out a new service, Chula Vista was the first to get it. (Cable internet in 1997, expanded basic cable with 70+ channels in 1994, and so forth), and lower rates(about 40% lower than the rest of their area). The rest of their coverage area was theirs alone, but they had a competitor in Chula Vista, and it was obvious that they were responding to the competition by providing new services as soon as they were available.

posted at 06:43 PM | permalink | Comments (2)

I feel your pain. I suffered with Comcast "disservice" for several years until I finally moved out of the area.

One thing Comcast CAN'T regulate is satellite reception. I suggest looking into DirectTV's service. Decent reception, decent bandwidth. Just need to deal with pesky weather related outages.

Terry Dexter

posted by Terry Dexter on April 14, 2005 05:24 AM

Some information here: Computer World

Interesting site that offers some temporary solutions: Broadband Reports

(Edited to convert to hyperlinks)

posted by Steve Gigl on April 14, 2005 10:56 AM

Hidden taxes, and the politicians who love them

This entry at QandO started me thinking about taxation (reasonably enough, since it is on the subject of a VAT), and two links at the end of the column discuss the ups and downs of various consumption-oriented taxes.

In this post, the second of the two links, Dale Franks points out that a VAT is a form of a hidden tax, since it is integral to the retail price, rather than tacked on after the purchase has been made. It is similar, then, to taxes on items such as liquor, cigarettes, and gasoline, which have various federal, state, and local taxes built in, before the effects (if any) of a sales tax are factored in, and ridiculous taxes tossed into your phone, electric, and cable bills.

I don't care much for the idea of a VAT, because of the potential for abuse. However, Franks agrees with columnist Froma Harrop that the US is going to have a VAT, sooner or later, which is what kicked my brain into gear, with my desire for government transparency. There oughta be a law...

What I propose is a law that requires all retailers to display the cost of goods with both the price and the amount of the price that is the direct result of tariffs, excise taxes, "sin taxes", or any other type of revenue generation. (Note that I'm not addressing indirect cost increases, such as over-regulation or payroll taxes, only direct and easily identified "revenue enhancers".) This would only affect a few items now; with a VAT, it would be far more extensive. In any case, if people realized how much of their expenditure is going towards hidden taxes, in addition to sales taxes (state, county and local), income taxes (federal, state, and local) and property taxes (state and local), perhaps we'd see a greater cry for reigning in the bureaucracies in Washington, DC and in the various state capitals. I doubt the bill would gather enough support in congress to pass, but one of the more ardent budget hawks might propose it and see who scrambles to kill it. It might be interesting to see some of the alleged anti-tax types or the self -styled good-government advocates jumping through hoops to make sure such a bill never makes it to the floor for a vote.

posted at 05:47 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

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