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Social Security: The Phony Crisis New edition Edition

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226035468
ISBN-10: 0226035468
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Editorial Reviews Review

The sky isn't falling on Social Security, say economists Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot in this readable but sophisticated defense of America's popular government-run retirement program. The public suspects Social Security won't be solvent in the 21st century, they continue, because of "an avalanche of misinformation, disinformation, and powerful political and financial interests." The authors are both liberal economists, and they believe that the privatization of Social Security favored by many libertarians and younger Americans would involve great risk and possibly destroy a system of entitlements that has rescued millions of retirees from spending their golden years in poverty. Although they admit the stock market has averaged a 7 percent rate of return over the last 75 years--much higher than anything Social Security can claim--there is no way to predict what will happen in the future; mandatory private investment programs favored by many free-market reformers therefore offer false promises. Only Social Security, say Baker and Weisbrot, provides a guarantee of income for the elderly. Along the way, Social Security: The Phony Crisis discusses the history of Social Security and evaluates several of the reform proposals now on the table in Washington. A constant drumbeat in favor of the status quo will guarantee this book's popularity among liberals. --John J. Miller --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Baker and Weisbrot take issue with widespread dire predictions that the 64-year-old Social Security system will not be able to provide financial security for the aged and disabled in the future. Baker, a senior research fellow at the Century Foundation and the Preamble Center, and Weisbrot, a research director at the Preamble Center, project that Social Security will remain viable for at least 30 more years--longer if the U.S. economy continues to grow at its current pace. Concerns about a shortfall that will transform economic class warfare into "intergenerational conflict" are outright lies, according to the authors. Doomsayers have misinterpreted demographic trends and mistakenly lumped together Medicare and Social Security when estimating the financial burden on the government, the authors claim. Baker and Weisbrot offer an interesting viewpoint in the controversial debate about Social Security--one that is certainly more welcome than the typical predictions of a shortfall. Vanessa Bush --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Phony Crisis
  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; New edition edition (September 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226035468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226035468
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,517,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Shaun Snapp on June 2, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are some reviews listed by people who seem to be under the spell of the illusory "free markets." They seem to think that putting "must-have" money into risky investments like the stock market is a great idea. They are missing an important statistical fact when they quote the return on the US stock market, and that is that any average you calculate for a given period will be less for non-elite investors. Through insider trading and superior knowledge, better off investors do far better than non-elite investors. This has been conclusively demonstrated by research into 401k returns and is called the "yield disparity." It is one major reason, in addition to companies contributing less to 401ks than they did to pensions, why so many people's retirement in the US is at risk. Furthermore, all the major investment banks know this, and they are still pushing for to take over the social security system for their own purposes.

As far as calling the authors left wing or crackpots. I can tell you the work done by Dean Baker and by the Center for Economic and Policy reseach is some of the best economics done in the country. They are one of the few economic institutes of note who have not sold out to large power interests. If you sit in the top 2% of wealth in the country, go ahead and call them names. You need to, because their facts can not be argued away so easily. However, the rest need to wake up. If you are part of the rest of population (the other 98%) of the country in income and agree with Social Security "reform" you either don't know what is intended for Social Security (i.e. handing it over to wall street) or did not understand the arguments expressed in this book.
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Michael Brennan on May 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a very welcome antidote to claims that Social Security is fiscally unsound and would well be privatized. The authors, economists, cite relevant facts to support their cogent arguments. The usefulness of this book in making clear some major Social Security issues compares very well with books by Robert Eisner (Social Security, More Not Less, and The Great Deficit Scares: the Federal Budget, Trade and Social Security) and with Countdown to Reform, by Henry Aaron and Robert Reischauer. Baker and Weisbrot's book also has valuable information and arguments on health care and other important issues.
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52 of 63 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Social Security PRIVATEERS tell us that in 2029.or 2050 (notice that the date has to be constantly readjusted BACK every year) it is "calculated" by a Government advisory commission that Social Security won't have enough income to cover more than 75 percent of the benefits it must pay to aging baby boomers.
But the authors point out, the specificity is illusory, all lever-pulling and smoke-blowing from the Wizard of Oz. The projections aren't economic but actuarial extrapolations based on assumptions that the all the actuaries know are fictitious at best. Tweak them ever so slightly--lift real wages by a quarter- or half-percent per annum, or immigration by a little--and the so-called "crisis" disappears entirely. But according to the apparat-niks at the CATO Institute and the attack dogs at the OUT-Fox-ed Network--you might think the numbers have come down from Moses. They haven't. Social Security isn't in trouble and the criticisms of it are not logical as the authors of "The Phony Crisis" point out.
First of all, Social Security is an INSURANCE System, not an "investment". When you factor in the cost of buying disability and survivor insurance and "invest the difference"...the performance "advantage" of equity markets gets razor-thin at best. It turns out that Social Security yields the same as nice safe government bonds, which any intelligent investor knows should form the basis of an investment portfolio.
Secondly, the so-called performance advantage of the markets has a whole lot of IFs that the PRIVATEERS conveniently fail to mention.
Forget hyper-collapse 1929-style for the moment. Since the Crash of October 1987, U.S.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By David A. Ventimiglia on December 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have a very high regard for the quality of Baker's and Weisbrot's work and professionalism after reading this book (and subsequently, other publications of theirs). My only complaint is that, having been written in 1999, it is a tad out-of-date and needs revision in order to keep pace with the state-of-the-art anti-social-security spin. For instance, the reviewer from Greenbelt, MD invokes what is now a hoary old chestnut but which was a novel if misguided argument in 1999, that the social security trust fund "does not exist" because it consists of IOUs that the "government has written to itself". In other circles, these "IOUs" are known as treasury bonds and are sold to many other individuals, banks, businesses, and nations, besides being sold to social security beneficiaries by way of the trust fund. These other investors do not doubt that they will be repaid. Why should we?

Furthermore, a blinkered analysis that regards debt instruments such as bonds as fundamentally riskier than "real assets" such as (I presume) real estate, stocks, and other equities is not only to ignore cases where land values crater, stock markets collapse, and companies go bankrupt, but also to willfully invert the relationship between risk and reward. No investment counselor would do this, for instance.

In any event, Baker's and Weisbrot's book illuminates issues like these with a bracing clarity (albeit with a little dryness). I highly recommend it.
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