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10 August 2013


Paul Emery

Todd, by any chance are you still receiving health insurance as a result of your stint as Nevada County Supervisor back in the 80's?

Ben Emery

The fact you call it a ponzi scheme shows that you are right wing pundit not a person who should be taken serious. I have gone in circles with Mikey on this, who is the Charles Ponzi in the scheme? Social Security Insurance was never supposed to run at a profit there was a huge problem on the horizon in the 80's. The baby boomers weren't going to have anywhere near the same kind of work force behind SS when it was their time to retire. So they were asked to help pay for their own SS benefits. At the moment SS has over $2 trillion surplus that will allow full benefits to be paid out for two decades. The only problem is that big business and our trade and tax policies have devastated those who pay into the program the most. All income earned and unearned needs to be part of FICA. If we were to do this with the exemption of long term investments of 7 years or longer we would have a much more stable economy and we could actually have a entitled pension instead of a insurance program to keep the elderly out of abject poverty.

Here are two excerpts from Thomas Paine's Agrarian Justice. The first excerpt sets up the second, which ties into the SS conversation.

"I have made the calculations stated in this plan, upon what is called personal, as well as upon landed property. The reason for making it upon land is already explained; and the reason for taking personal property into the calculation is equally well founded though on a different principle. Land, as before said, is the free gift of the Creator in common to the human race. Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally.

Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came."

"There are, in every country, some magnificent charities established by individuals. It is, however, but little that any individual can do, when the whole extent of the misery to be relieved is considered. He may satisfy his conscience, but not his heart. He may give all that he has, and that all will relieve but little. It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles as to act like a system of pulleys, that the whole weight of misery can be removed.

The plan here proposed will reach the whole. It will immediately relieve and take out of view three classes of wretchedness-the blind, the lame, and the aged poor; and it will furnish the rising generation with means to prevent their becoming poor; and it will do this without deranging or interfering with any national measures.

To show that this will be the case, it is sufficient to observe that the operation and effect of the plan will, in all cases, be the same as if every individual were voluntarily to make his will and dispose of his property in the manner here proposed.

But it is justice, and not charity, that is the principle of the plan. In all great cases it is necessary to have a principle more universally active than charity; and, with respect to justice, it ought not to be left to the choice of detached individuals whether they will do justice or not. Considering, then, the plan on the ground of justice, it ought to be the act of the whole growing spontaneously out of the principles of the revolution, and the reputation of it ought to be national and not individual."

George Rebane

BenE 1111am - your rebuttals are sufficient evidence that you take these commentaries very seriously, and I thank you for that. In fact, you take them seriously enough to expose your own misunderstandings of such concepts as 'ponzi scheme', and the purported SS "lock box" containing nothing but IOUs that must be redeemed by freshly printed fiat dollars which will be used merely to roll over and shift the government's ownership of the Treasurys in the SS lock box - a perennial source of mind-numbing manna for liberals.

Ben Emery

If you as an individual purchased US Treasury Bonds would you consider them extremely secure investments or IOU's?

I understand a ponzi scheme when it is actually a ponzi scheme. A person would have to accept your IOU idea for this to be a ponzi scheme. If the United States of America actually defaults on its debt Social Security will the least of our problems and I will gladly call the program a ponzi scheme.

Ultimately the question is do we believe in self determination or not? Do we keep program(s) that an overwhelming % of the population like and want or do we ignore the people and have a small few elites determining our society, culture, and futures for us?


George, from a Reuters article:
"A projection by Favreault of Social Security data found that 82 percent of individuals who live to age 85 get back more in benefits than then pay in taxes; about 52 percent of those who die between 75 and 84 come out ahead. Meanwhile, just 21 percent of those who die between 62 and 69 get back more than they put in to the system."

I hope you aren't counting contributions you may have made as an employer, or the half of the contributions made on your behalf by an employer; those belong to the government as the true owner of the body you were renting.

Ben, a Ponzi scheme is any in which the early 'investors' are paid back by money taken from current 'investors' rather than earnings from the 'investments', with the Ponzi spending the money from the early 'investors'. That describes Social Security to a "T". From the beginning, it was pay as you go, with current recipients paid by current receipts.

The Feds spent the excess money that started pouring in when the system changed from pay as you go to a 'soak the boomers to pay for their retirement and pay for expanded benefits to current seniors' system circa 1980. With boomers retiring, the ledger entries owing money to the SS fund are beginning to be redeemed, by borrowing the money from China and other sources.

Ben Emery

That is part of a ponzi scheme and that is also part of how insurance programs work as well. Is all insurance a ponzi schemes?


No, Ben, money paid to insurance companies gets invested in real assets that are expected to increase in value. A solvent insurer can stop selling to customers and pay all claims from the money on hand. Not a Ponzi scheme.

Insurance companies manage the investments to cover expected losses, and work very hard to understand the risks they are insuring and charging premiums that enable them to cover expected losses.

I'm sure that's hard to understand for someone who thinks 1 million is to `100k as 100 is to 0.1, but this number stuff makes the world go around. You might try gaining some numeracy, it might be a real eye opener for you.

Paul Emery

Gregory writes:

" A solvent insurer can stop selling to customers and pay all claims from the money on hand. Not a Ponzi scheme."

Of course that doesn't apply to AIG which received $182 Billion from the Bush Admin to keep afloat in '08


Still the partisan boxer, Paul? Did the Obama administration right that wrong? Were Dems trying to stop the bailout in 2008 or reverse it in 2009?

AIG wasn't solvent, Paul, and didn't understand the risk they were taking on. They appeared to think they'd just found a goose laying golden eggs and the event they were insuring couldn't happen. They should have gone Chapter 7/11 but the voices calling for it were outvoted.

George Rebane

PaulE 205pm - Let's not forget that TARP was passed by a Democratic congress to the beseeching howls of our Keynesian cohorts.

BenE 1146am - "If you as an individual purchased US Treasury Bonds would you consider them extremely secure investments or IOU's?" 1) If I bought them from the feds for short term, then they would at best be a marginal investment - interest rate risk and all that. 2) If I bought bonds from my wife, then the purchase would be financially moot. It would be family money going from one pocket to another. 3) If I could buy her bonds with money that I could print and that she/we could spend outside our household, then I would continue buying such bonds forever.

The rest of your comment makes no sense whatsoever. The US is NEVER going to default on its national debt (this is a notion promoted by liberal idiots and demagogues) since it can pay off any amount of its dollar denominated nominal debt with newly printed fiat money in the prescribed nominal amounts - all of which may not be able to buy you a loaf of bread a la Weimar. And your silly notions of "self determination" as the trump argument for justifying bankrupt policies is totally consistent with your established ideology, and also beyond my ability to grace with a coherent response (blood pressure, etc).

Paul Emery


It was signed and supported by Bush and also supported by guess who? Paul Ryan


In the choice between signal and noise, it does appear Paul has chosen noise.

Ben Emery

George and Greg,
Maybe this will help you get headed onto the path of actually understanding how SS works, god knows you need the help.

On the insane right wing myth of IOU's

"Money flowing into the trust funds is invested in U. S. Government securities. Because the government spends this borrowed cash, some people see the trust fund assets as an accumulation of securities that the government will be unable to make good on in the future. Without legislation to restore long-range solvency of the trust funds, redemption of long-term securities prior to maturity would be necessary.

Far from being "worthless IOUs," the investments held by the trust funds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U. S. Government. The government has always repaid Social Security, with interest. The special-issue securities are, therefore, just as safe as U.S. Savings Bonds or other financial instruments of the Federal government.

Many options are being considered to restore long-range trust fund solvency. These options are being considered now, well in advance of the year the funds are likely to be exhausted. It is thus likely that legislation will be enacted to restore long-term solvency, making it unlikely that the trust funds' securities will need to be redeemed on a large scale prior to maturity."

Let someone who is working with the program directly.

Bernie Sanders on Social Security.


Far from being "worthless IOUs," the investments held by the trust funds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U. S. Government.

This being the same government that you posited was likely to collapse earlier this afternoon?


"the investments held by the trust funds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U. S. Government."

Ben, a hint: that's the ability of the US government to tax, borrow, or print money when it's time to pretend to move money from the "trust" to the account the SS checks are drawn on. It isn't a worthless IOU because, unlike Wimpy, the feds will always be able to produce dollars.

"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." -Wimpy J. Wellington, famous fictional Depression era moocher.

Ben Emery

As I said if the United States of American defaults on its debt than all bets are off and Social Security is the least of our problems. Until that day comes social security is solvent.

Go back and look at your logic and then tell me where it is flawed.


My logic is doublechecked and verified, Ben. Even you, by describing SS as a debt the USA should pay, have it in the same basic category as Wimpy's promise to pay. There is no asset backing SS besides the power to tax, create money or put the pain forward into the future by borrowing from someone else. Not gold, silver, land, a basket of securities or commodities. Just a promise. IOU.

George Rebane

This posting was updated on 15 August 2013.

Ben Emery

Was this action justified and do you think the color of skin had anything to do with it?



Was this action justified and do you think the color of skin had anything to do with it?

Nope! Probably! But Ben you should know that cops across the nation are finding themselves perplexed by the explosion of cameras and with a little research you'll find that it's not just blacks feeling the wrath of the thin blue line!

Concern troll grade: C/C+

Ben Emery

I was harassed as a young man big time, it is about intimidation. Without justification I was handcuffed, slammed, searched, vehicle searched, threatened, and then let go with a warning because it was my lucky day at least two or three dozen times. I was never charged or arrested with any crime in all those stops. What I will say is my brothers and sisters of color had it way worse. Just look at the NYC stop and frisk bullshit. Camera's aren't the problem unless you view the problem as police being caught doing this kind of stuff.

Is it a crime if somebody isn't caught doing it?


Camera's aren't the problem unless you view the problem as police being caught doing this kind of stuff.


You play the race card out of the gate. I respond by saying that skin color probably had some influence but that cops in general are reacting poorly to being recorded....in this instance I believe that white or hispanic kids would have provoked a similar display...from the...ahem... officer.

At no time do I say or imply that cameras "are the problem".

I realize that as a progressive, logic is difficult for you.

Michael Anderson

Someone needs to talk to this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_de_Mohrenschildt

Bill Tozer

Mr. Fish replied to my Brother Ben "You play the race card out of the gate." (17 Aug. 8:47pm)

Mr. Fish, progressives see EVERYTHING through the prism of race. A known fact for decades. No surprise here.

But, with that said, I am beginning to come around to Ben's POV. He may be right. Look at that Treyvon Martin hullabaloo. It was indeed a racist event. Racial. All about race. Didn't even involved one white guy. Yep, everything through the prism of race.

Bill Tozer

more racism against a black employee:


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