Monday, January 31, 2005

Chile's retirement plan delivers a surprise

The first workers retiring under Chile's much-vaunted privatized retirement system, the model by which the Bush Administration's aims to reorganize Social Security, are getting an unwelcome shock. While their accounts have reported incomes of as much as 10 percent a year, they are drawing less retirement income than they would have under the old system they left 25 years ago. Larry Rohter lays it out in the New York Times: Chile's Retirees Find Shortfall in Private Plan

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Where W got his ideas

The man and the money behind the Bush campaign to dismantle the Social Security system. They Invested Years in Private Accounts

Friday, January 14, 2005

They tried it...

The Brits already tried replacing their social safety net with a private-savings scheme, as the new Bush administration is hoping to do. How'd it turn out? A Bloody Mess, says this Financial Times writer in The American Prospect. Thanks to Paul Krugman for the tip. Both pieces are worth your attention.

Here's a glimpse at how the Bush-Rove bunch are organizing their effort.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

It's the ideas, not the numbers

I'll let Paul Krugman make his own argument here (The Iceberg Cometh) in another of his excellent pieces about the current effort to turn Social Security from a social safety net into a national roulette wheel.

What I want to offer is a footnote on the quote that Krugman and, earlier, the Wall Street Journal, attributed to Peter Wehner, an aide to W Bush's muse, Karl Rove. Wehner wrote: "For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win." So much for the claim that Social Security has to be reorganized simply because of the disproportion in the numbers of retirees over the next 20 years, compared to the number of expected workers. If this has been a battle for six decades, it is a battle that began when Social Security was a toddler and the baby boom hadn't yet happened. It is a battle about ideology, not about numbers.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Who remembers when compromise was good?

Congress certified the 2004 presidential election results this week, and that was part of the discussion today on The Diane Rehm Show. A phone-in participant recalled the pleas in Congress last year to create a paper audit trail in some of the big states that were moving rapidly into electronic voting. You probably remember that the Republicans put up a solid front against that effort. In retrospect, I don't think they had much to fear from the opposition in terms of winning the election. But they followed what seems to be Rule 1 of the Republican playbook: Whatever the Democrats want, they can't have.

This automatic opposition has been practiced by both of our major political parties, but the Republicans seem to have made it the invariable rule in their legislative program. Last year's efforts to extend Medicare coverage to prescription drugs are a case in point. The president's proposal could have gone through a lot sooner if the party leaders had been willing to rely on Democratic crossover votes -- votes that could have been had at a modest price in revision of the bill. But the leaders wanted an all-Republican bill to campaign with.

Whatever happened to the idea that politics was the art of the possible? When exactly did it become absolute war? Is there anyone who thinks our country is stronger or better because of this change?

IBD spots Firefox's gains

It's not just computer enthusiasts who are noticing what Firefox can do. Some pretty hard-headed folks at my second-favorite business paper, Investors Business Daily, put this on their front page:

Microsoft's Mighty Web Browser Starts to Look a Bit Vulnerable

Tweaking Firefox's tail

Not everyone is as sold on Mozilla's Firefox as I am. George Ou, in a piece headlined Firefox has much to learn, passes along the points that Peter Torr of Microsoft raised as flaws in the new browser.

The Ou/Torr critique is offered here in a spirit of fairness. My appreciation for Firefox is growing still. The only hitch I've encountered is that the browser locks up when I try to back out of an Acrobat pdf. The guru at Mozilla recommends that XP users get v. 7 of the Acrobat reader, and since I downloaded from Adobe yesterday it looks like smooth sailing again.

Here's to the Fox!