Saturday, February 16, 2002

Murphy Brown's lockbox

Liberals had a blast making fun of Dan Quayle when he made reference to Murphy Brown in a speech some years back. It is true that Murphy Brown is a fictional character. But she's not quite as fictional as this silly "lockbox" thing that was mentioned by the subject of my last rant.

In the beginning FDR said "We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program".

An interesting phrase. FDR intended that the payroll taxes (not "contributions") were to create a legal, moral and political right to collect the bennies.

The rest of the context isn't available at the link. But it sure sounds like FDR wasn't concerned about sufficiency of the funding via the taxes even then.

Notice that it was "my social security program". FDR of course was a politician, and it's clear who he intended as a beneficiary. As long as the funding would last long enough for him to get out of town, it served his purposes. (For now we'll ignore the merits of letting a "damn politician" create something "no damn politician" can scrap).

Now let's just suppose that the govt actually had a lockbox. Suppose there were big silos full of cash somewhere marked "For Social Security Only". Never mind the too-literal implementation - would that make any sense?

No. If you have money, you should be investing at least some of it to get a return. Besides the occasional public work that has a net positive value to our economy and perhaps some loan programs, the govt does not do this (and should not).

For this reason it makes absolutely no sense for the govt to run a surplus. In other hands the money could have invested it in ways that make the economy grow faster. And it's this economic growth that provides the wealth that can be tapped to provide govt revenue in increasing amounts even when marginal tax rates are lowered.

The best thing the govt can do with funds in excess of current needs (besides a rebate to the people who paid it) is to retire debt, so at least they won't be paying interest. Of course funds for essential services that are permitted by the Constitution and can only be provided at the federal level, such as missile defense, aren't "excess".

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