I’m going to save you the trouble of reading all 218 pages of the Social Security Administration’s “2007 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees” by summing up the dizzying details in six words: Social Security is still going broke.
The benefits of personal accounts over the current system can be illustrated with a numerical example. Let’s take a hypothetical 25-year-old male earning $32,000 a year with average wage growth. Under the current system, he will receive $2,780 per month when he retires, or a measly -0.72 percent return on his contributions (according to the handy calculations of the Heritage Foundation). Now imagine that our hypothetical worker invests the retirement portion of his payroll taxes in a bundle of stocks and bonds, earning a modest 4.9 percent return. When he retires at the ripe age of 67, he will have an account with his name on it worth $1.1 million, or $9,546 per month, ready to be spent on that cabin in the mountains he always wanted.
So the debate over Social Security comes down to one simple question: Would you rather have $2,780 a month in your retirement or $9,546 a month?
The funding crisis highlighted by the 2007 report presents us with an opportunity to fix our broken retirement system. But patching up Social Security with an old rag and a hastily sterilized needle will have us back in the same situation ten years down the line, and the worse for wear. Fixing Social Security means not only funding it, but creating the best retirement system possible given our limited resources.
Of course, the Democrats will oppose personal accounts, and will no doubt resort to the same kind of demagoguery they used in 2005 to sink any attempt at reviving the proposal. If Republicans are serious about achieving real, market-based Social Security reform, they will have to effectively communicate to the American people that the only real solution is personal accounts, while the boogeymen are the politicians who don’t trust the people enough to make their own decisions.
Reform Social Security now!
Impeach at the Beach pics
Sporting the Gitmo orange with pride.
What would Gandhi do?
Or is that V?
Bush and Cheney make an appearance.
Full of holes. Get it?
The photographer's helicopter.
Filling in the peace sign in the O.
Groovy tunes by a band apparently called Saoza.
UPDATE: Aerial pictures here and video here.
Hell freezes over
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank on Wednesday said he will introduce a bill this week to lift a ban on online gambling.
"Why anyone thinks it is any of my business why some adult wants to gamble is absolutely beyond me," Frank told a community bankers group conference.
Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he will introduce the legislation on Thursday.
Internet gambling in the United States was effectively banned last October when President George W. Bush signed legislation outlawing gaming financial transactions.
While Reuters tries to blame the ban on President Bush, it was really the work of the disastrously incompetent Senator Bill Frist, who sneaked the ban into a port security bill.
I said at the time that Frist was driving hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of poker enthusiasts away from the Republican Party. The typical online poker player is male, independent, intelligent, educated, and decidedly not socialist -- in short, a huge block of swing voters who ought to lean Republican. Frist rejected these people in favor of campaign donations from gambling interests. Barney Frank is picking up Frist's fumble.
Suze (despite the ditzy spelling, it rhymes with "floozy," not with "cooze") Orman is a cheesy huckster who lied about her bio, but she's teamed up with TD Ameritrade to give you free money.
The plan goes like this: open an account, deposit $50 every month for 12 months, and then TD Ameritrade will give you $100.
Click here to sign up. Use 701 as the promotion code.
Back to the Beach
Viva Las Vegas
LV housing slump worsens
Prices plummet as existing-home inventory hurts new-home sales
The price of new homes has tumbled nearly 10 percent this year, the inventory of existing homes has reached an all-time high and bank repossessions accounted for a greater percentage of existing home sales in Las Vegas, according to the March housing statistics.
The ongoing weakness in the housing industry was reflected in numbers released Tuesday by Larry Murphy of SalesTraq. The housing research firm reported the median price of new homes sold in March was $308,471, down nearly 10 percent from $341,990 in December.
Against my advice, Old Zeke recently put in an offer $30K below asking price on a Vegas home. The sellers and realtors jerked around with him for a while, so he walked away. The sellers ended up coming back, begging to sell at Zeke's offer price. No deal. A couple months later, that house is still on the market... at a reduced price.
John Doolittle, betrayer of the Reagan Revolution
Today, OpinionJournal chronicles Doolittle's fall, most recently culminating in Abramoff-related FBI raids.
As a libertarian/conservative, I don't feel any kinship with or responsibility for Doolittle (who got a 46% rating from the Club for Growth, worse than many Democrats).
But the Doolittle saga is a warning to Republicans: you've still got rats in your own house. Clean your own house before going after the Democrats.
Bonds 5, Bus 0
Economics degree in five minutes
Thanks to Housing Panic.
No subprime bailout!
Dumb: Buying a house you can't afford with no down payment and a loan whose monthly payments will explode in a few years.
Dumber: Lending money to people who can't afford a traditional mortgage, especially when they have lousy credit ratings and don't substantiate their income.
Dumbest: Bailing out dumb and dumber, especially with taxpayer money.
Ask and ye shall receive
OK. What's up with not firing Alberto Gonzales? Why do you pronounce "nuclear" like a friggin' retard? What was the deal with nominating Harriet Miers and Heckuva Job Brownie?
Father of the Year
An enraged Alec Baldwin unleashed a volcanic tirade of threats and insults on his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland, calling her a "thoughtless little pig," and bashing her mother Kim Basinger...Here's the audio.
After Ireland failed to answer her father's scheduled morning phone call from New York on April 11, Alec went berserk on her voice mail, saying "Once again, I have made an ass of myself trying to get to a phone," adding, "you have insulted me for the last time."
Switching his train of thought, Baldwin then exercised his incredible parenting skills and took a shot at his ex-wife, declaring, "I don't give a damn that you're 12-years-old or 11-years-old, or a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the ass who doesn't care about what you do." The irate Baldwin went on to say, "You've made me feel like s**t" and threatened to "straighten your ass out."
"This crap you pull on me with this goddamn phone situation that you would never dream of doing to your mother," screamed Baldwin, "and you do it to me constantly over and over again."
Before hanging up, Baldwin warned the child, "You better be ready Friday the 20th to meet with me."
The Prince of Papers, Now a Frog
On a flight out of New Mexico on Friday, I had a chance to read my colorful, downsized copy front to back—and learn afresh what degradation has befallen this paper.
In the lead article, we get the inside scoop on the fall of Don Imus. “The reaction moved at warp speed as the Internet circulated his racist words to millions of PC screens,” the authors tell us. And regarding the press conference featuring the Rutgers basketball players: “Without a hint of professional polish, their remarks came across as heartfelt.”
Racist? Heartfelt? Is the front page still for news, or did the trio of female reporters (dunder-headed ho’s, as Imus might put it) somehow hijack it for their editorial purposes? Tell you what: you folks stick to the facts, and let us decide what’s racist and what’s heartfelt.
Later in the article, we learn what “a American Express spokeswoman says.” Well what did the copy-editor say? Was it the same guy who edited the story on the departure of Monster’s CEO? (“Mr. Pastore’s couldn’t be reached for comment.”) Or the Naomi Schaefer Riley column on the Taste page? (“The problem is not their own dependency but their willingness to let other depend on them.”) And for good measure, on the banner atop the front page: “Record Home? A $125 Million Listing in L.A. W1.” The story is actually on W8.
I once adored you, you mangled beast.
I love it when a plan comes together
Gun control at work
A bill that would have given college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus died with nary a shot being fired in the General Assembly.
House Bill 1572 didn't get through the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety. It died Monday in the subcommittee stage, the first of several hurdles bills must overcome before becoming laws.
The bill was proposed by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, on behalf of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Gilbert was unavailable Monday and spokesman Gary Frink would not comment on the bill's defeat other than to say the issue was dead for this General Assembly session.
Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
Or maybe not. I'm sure those students being methodically executed in locked classrooms felt better that self-defense wasn't allowed on campus.
Linked from AIR.
Feed my Frankenstein
When the kids turn out to be flesh-eating zombies or Children of the Corn or Damien or something, don't say I didn't warn you.
Good night Kurt Vonnegut
Ye olde English humour
A 1924 entry in Evelyn Waugh's diary states that an English High Court judge presiding in a sodomy case sought advice on sentencing from Lord Birkenhead. "Could you tell me," he asked, "what do you think one ought to give a man who allows himself to be buggered?" Birkenhead replied without hesitation, "Oh, 30 shillings or £2; whatever you happen to have on you."
Your War on Drugs
Economy still cranking
The unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage point to 4.4% last month, matching its lowest level since May 2001. Average hourly earnings increased six cents, or 0.3%, to $17.22. That was up 4% from a year earlier, suggesting wages remain an inflation risk.
March's payroll gain exceeded Wall Street expectations of a 142,000 rise. Economists had expected a 4.6% unemployment rate and 0.3% rise in wages.
The jobs data should ease fears that a recent soft patch in data will turn into a more severe economic downturn. Gross domestic product grew 2.5% during the fourth quarter, and recent data including weak housing and business investment suggest growth could be below 2% in the first quarter.
However, with the jobless rate at six-year lows and wages on the rise, consumers should remain well supported in coming months. Consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of GDP, so even modest growth there can offset sizable drags in other sectors.
The article is mostly right, except that consumer spending will be hit soon by the end of the housing ATM. The low unemployment and high wage inflation makes a near-term rate cut very unlikely, meaning more pain for housing speculators and cash-out consumers.
This is an amazing unemployment picture, though, thanks both to the Bush tax cuts and the easy Fed. Too bad the Democrats will be crushing the economy (and tax revenues) by letting the Bush tax cuts expire.
We're Number 1 !!!!
Imagine my surprise when little ol' W.C. Varones came up #1 on Google search!
Things you would have foreseen if you weren't the dumbest economist on Earth
U.S. service industries grew at the slowest pace in almost four years in March, leaving the economy more exposed to slumps in manufacturing and housing.Services? You mean the group that includes realtors, mortgage brokers, and homebuilders? Why would anyone think they would be hurting?
The Institute for Supply Management's index of non- manufacturing businesses including banks, builders and retailers slid to 52.4, lower than economists anticipated.
Will wonders never cease
The Other War: Democratic Candidates are Deafeningly Silent on the Drug War.
A man after my own heart
Fun with telemarketers
[Pick up call from unknown number]
Telemarketer: "Hello, may I please speak with Zeke?"
Z: "No hablo ingles."
T: "Ah...puedo hablar con Zeke?"
Z: "Sorry, I don't speak Spanish either."
Canada Needs a Punch in the Nuts
More for the rest of us
Marijuana is not kosher for Passover, a pro-cannabis advocacy group says, advising Jews who observe the week-long holiday’s special dietary laws to take a break from smoking the weed.
I don't think Christians have to give it up during Lent, do they?
Your Party of the People at work
Can't fool the people? Career politicians have a back-up plan: get the California Supreme Court to throw out the people's will.
The sleazy peerage-for-lifers behind this plan, Ron Calderon and Fabian Nunez, can be reached at (916) 651-4030 and (916) 319-2046. Publicly or privately, the other Democrats in the legislature support this as well, so feel free to look up a few more of them and give them an earful.
San Francisco in spring
I've shot three so far.
Bill Gross on the housing bubble
It will not be loan losses that threaten future economic growth, however, but the tightening of credit conditions that are in part a result of those losses. To a certain extent this reluctance to extend credit is a typical response to end-of-cycle exuberance run amok. And if one had to measure this cycle’s exuberance on a scale of 1-10, double-digits would be the overwhelming vote. Anyone could get a loan because shabby credits were ultimately being camouflaged within CDOs that in turn were being sold to unsophisticated foreign lenders in need of yield as opposed to ¼% bank deposits (read Japan/Yen carry trade). But there is something else in play now that resembles in part the Carter Administration’s Depository Institutions and Monetary Control Act of 1980. Lender fears of potential new regulations can do nothing but begin to restrict additional lending at the margin, as will headlines heralding alleged predatory lending practices in recent years. After doubling over 18 months between 2005 and the first half of 2006, non-traditional loan growth has recently turned negative, and lenders’ attitudes are turning decidedly conservative as shown in Chart 1.
Bulls and bears argue over websites as to the percentage of all lending that subprime and alternative mortgage loans provide but while important, the argument obscures the critical conclusion that tighter lending standards and increased regulation will change the housing outlook for some years to come. As past marginal buyers are forced to sell their home to prevent foreclosures, so too will future marginal buyers be restricted from buying them.
Body Count goes to Vegas! Ernest Scherer III was a Vegas loser who fancied himself a professional poker player. Doesn't that photo tell ...
UPDATE: Edited to remove the guy's name. I hope nobody harasses him or his employer. He was good-natured and his sign was innocuous a...
Maybe teaching racial division and hatred wasn't such a good idea after all
Doctor cycling in California run down, stabbed by driver screaming about ‘white privilege’ : A doctor cycling along the Pacific Coast Highwa...