Ponzi and the Politicians

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Laurence, be of stout heart! As soon as the New Republicans finish reading the Constitution, they will undoubtedly pass a resolution admitting that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, and that the “Trust Fund” is actually empty. After that, they might even remove from every bridge, highway, post office, library, and federal building in America the names of any members of congress who surreptitiously spent all the “Trust Fund” money on their pals. After that, perhaps the New Republicans will suspend the Statute of Limitations so taxpayers can actually sue those surviving members who robbed us to recover our losses.

Call Social Security a Ponzi Scheme?  In 1955, on his widely-broadcast radio program, the Manion Forum, my father, who had served in the early years of the Eisenhower Administration, did just that. This caused a wave of outrage from the usual suspects, of course, but his analysis of 56 years ago is spot-on, and applicable today, if you add a mass of zeroes to the amount of our “Trust Fund” that the spendthrift Congresses since then have spent.

Over the past  forty years, I’ve had a number of students who ask if it’s possible to be successful in politics without lying. I’ve always responded, ‘Well, how do you want to “succeed’?  If you mean winning an election, well, that’s quite difficult, even rare. But if you mean saving your soul, well, there’s no choice there: telling the truth is absolutely necessary.”

To tell the truth, there is no more money in the Social Security “Trust Fund” today than there was in 1955. In fact, in the 1980s, a very sharp and intrepid senate staffer finally found the actual Trust Fund. It was a number, updated annually in pencil, written on a piece of paper in the desk drawer of a mid-level federal bureaucrat somewhere in West Virginia.

10:46 am on January 6, 2011