Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Dean Baker upbraids Bill Keller

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Dean Baker is a respected economist, Bill Keller is the former NY Times editor who was a cheerleader for the war in Iraq and who withheld the story of the wholesale illegal domestic surveillance ordered by the Bush Administration until after the election, thus helping to enable Bush to squeak into office for a second term. (The Supreme Court must be credited with an assist as well, but if the story had been released, several close states may have gone the other way; Bill Keller apparently did not want that to happen, so he sat on the story until another paper was about to break it (after the election was safely over).)

At any rate, Keller weighs in with a column today about how important it is to cut Social Security and Medicare—and I imagine the fact that he doesn’t need either plays a significant part in his opinion. And so does Dean Baker, who writes:

The effort by the rich to take away Social Security keeps building momentum. Today Bill Keller urges his fellow baby boomers:

“FELLOW boomers, we have done more than our share to make this mess. It’s not our fault that there are a lot of us, but we have resisted any move to fix the system. We should make a sensible reform of entitlements our generation’s cause. We should stiffen the spines of our politicians, and push lobby groups like A.A.R.P. to climb out of the bunker and lead.”

“Lead” in this context means supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare. That is really brave for Mr. Keller to stand up and call for sacrifice from his age cohort. Does Keller know that the typical near retiree has total wealth of $170,000. This includes everything in their 401(k), all their other financial assets and the equity in their homes. Another way to put this is that the typical near retiree (between the ages of 55-64) could take all their wealth and pay off their mortgage. After that they would be entirely dependent on their Social Security to cover all their living costs.

Does this situation describe Mr. Keller’s finances? My guess is that it doesn’t. If that is true, how does Keller claim to speak for people who are in a hugely different financial situation than him? Is he really that ignorant of the issues that the NYT gives him a column to write about or is he dishonest? Readers will have to debate that in the months and years ahead.

This is not the only place in the piece where Keller lets ignorance and/or dishonesty get the better of him. At one point he calls for a change in the indexation formula for Social Security’s cost of living adjustment that would be the equivalent of a 3.0 percent across the board cut in benefits. (We know, got to do something about those high living seniors.)

Keller describes this 3.0 percent cut in Social Security benefits as:

“They also include technical fixes like aligning the automatic cost-of-living formula with reality.”

Is that right? Has Keller studied the cost-of-living for the elderly? Did he evaluate the Bureau of Labor Statistics elderly index, which generally shows that senior citizens experience a higher rate of inflation than the index used for making the annual cost of living adjustment for Social Security.

If he did, he shows zero evidence of this fact in his piece. It sure sounds like he is just repeating pablum that passed for wisdom in Washington elite circles, but rightly gets ridiculed everywhere else.

While Keller appeals to arithmetic it is not on his side. The arithmetic says that . . .

Continue reading. A good case can be made that Bill Keller is not very smart, but that doesn’t mean that he’s honest.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2012 at 11:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

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