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Social Security Under the Gun: What Every Informed Citizen Needs to Know About Pension Reform Hardcover – January 4, 2003


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Social Security Under the Gun: What Every Informed Citizen Needs to Know About Pension Reform + Social Security: The Phony Crisis + The Battle for Social Security: From FDR's Vision To Bush's Gamble
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; 1 edition (January 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403961220
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403961228
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.4 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,562,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Reforming Social Security is one of the most important and complex issues facing the country, and one of the most misunderstood. This well-written and well-argued primer should help dispel the myths and misinformation surrounding the debate. Benavie, an economist and author of Deficit Hysteria, casts a skeptical eye on the alarmism about Social Security's eventual bankruptcy, noting that minor adjustments to the system, like small tax increases and benefit reductions or raising the cap on taxable earnings, would make the system solvent for the foreseeable future. He then turns to the two major reform proposals: privatization, which would let individuals place some of their payroll taxes in private investment accounts, and what he calls "diversification," which would let the government invest some of the Social Security trust fund in the stock market. Neither plan is guaranteed to give better returns to retirees than the current system, he argues, and both entail serious risks: privatization would sharply increase administrative costs and put individual retirees at the mercy of the stock market and unscrupulous investment advisers, while diversification would embroil the government in the affairs of private corporations to an unprecedented degree. Benavie gives a lucid account of the dollars-and-cents details underlying the controversy, while arguing that the real issue is not financial, but ideological-whether we wish to abandon the ideals of social solidarity and providing for the poor that are enshrined in the current system in favor of individual autonomy and potentially high returns.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

From a noted economist-author (DeficitHysteria, 1998) comes a reasoned look at Social Security, demystifying a lot of the rumors surrounding this U.S. public pension. Will Social Security be bankrupt soon? Aren't privatization or diversification two plausible panaceas? What have other countries experienced during pension reform? The answers, says the author, are not necessarily cut and dried. Allowing part of the monies to be invested in the stock market, for instance, may just as easily decrease retirement income as increase it. Though Social Security will need additional revenues, perhaps beyond the payroll tax base, it's not likely to go belly-up. Finally, Benavie points out some little-known benefits of this much-maligned system: it's portable, provides automatic protection against inflation, and features low-cost administration. A book to be sent to every member of Congress. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chris P. on March 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author does a great job educating the citizen about the myths and truths of socal security. His goal is to present both scenarios and let the reader decide which alternative best suite them. I recommend as a simply presneted bi-partisan coverage of the current debate.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Martha Carmichael on July 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The amazing thing about this little book is that it's such a quick, easy read, and yet I feel I've absorbed so much crucial information about "reforming" Social Security. I started out thinking privatization might be a good idea. By the end I was convinced it would be a disaster. Yet Benavie's tone is calm and non-hysterical, If all economists could write as clearly as he does, it would be a lot easier to keep informed on vital issues like this one.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. Paul Lindsay on June 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If you want to understand how social security works, what its problems are, and the major proposals for fixing it, read this book. It is rare to find such a clear and concise analysis of an important public policy issue.
The author explains objectively the alternative proposals for social security reform and their consequences, so readers can decide for themselves. He clarifies issues often muddied by political rhetoric and superficial media converage.
The main text is only 102 pages, with 40 pages of notes, references and index for those who wish to explore further.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Buckminster on May 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In the Introduction, Arthur Benavie tries very hard to make the case that this book offers a fair and balanced analysis of Social Security reform. It does not.

Chapters 1 and 2 are designed to present the cases for and against privatization of Social Security. In Chapter 1 (Fixing Social Security) he presents the case for saving the system through a long list of tax increases and benefit reductions. The opposing side of the argument is not presented at all.

In Chapter 2 (Should We Privatize Social Security?), he starts out by presenting as many cons as he does pros for the privatization point of view. For every item he describes what the supporters of privatization espouse, he provides a rapid response in attempt to discredit the idea. By dedicating one chapter each to the "higher taxes/lower benefits" and the "privatization" viewpoints, he must think he is being "balanced".

Bottom line...this book is advertised as a balanced analysis of Social Security reform. But it comes down clearly on the side of being against any reform designed to privatize a portion of Social Security.

This may be a good book for you if you want to read an author make the case against privatization of Social Security. If you want to truely understand the trade-offs associated with privatization, this book will be a big letdown.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gordon on November 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Although the notion of an objective, unbiased source for Social Security information is welcome and even encouraged, Arthur Benavie's "Social Security Under the Gun" does not meet that test. It is clear from the beginning, despite Mr. Benavie's contention that he does not want to steer the debate in a particular direction, that he has something against the notion of allowing younger workers to devote a portion of their Social Security taxes into personal retirement accounts.
There are a lot of frivolous objections that Mr. Benavie makes. One of the most eggregious objections is the notion that privatizing Social Security would abridge our collective social contract to establish this particular social program. This is complete nonsense. No one in their right mind would even know what he is talking about. Although Social Security has been around for 68 years, people do not have this notion of their being involved in a "social contract" with their other fellow citizens. I fail to see how privitizing Social Security would result in people feeling more disconnected from one another.
In fact, I see just the opposite. I notice, for instance, that in my own investing, I often think of myself as an integral member of our system, part of the corporate network with fluctuating stock and bond prices. When working, I really do not see how I am connected to others when I see my wages deducted to pay for Social Security, for instance. I see a greater connection with stocks and bonds, however.
Mr. Benavie appears to believe that Americans ought to be forced to do particular things because, according to his elitist, intellectual view, Americans are either too incompetent or too stupid to save enough for their own retirement.
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