Greedy Blog

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Ivins Logic
I've avoided reading Molly Ivins for a while, but I needed something to do while playing online poker (I only won like $9.51 due to some dumb play, some by me but mostly by others who then got very lucky).

She says:
Bush used another common disinformation claim out of Washington -- we are not cutting the benefits, we are merely slowing the rate of growth in the benefits. This is a perennial form of government lying.

"Of course we are not cutting Head Start. We are spending more money on Head Start than ever -- look, here's this figure in our budget, it is more than it was last year, and so that is an increase."

Except, since there are ever more kids who qualify for Head Start (even at the lowest level, the program has never been fully funded), when the increase in funding is way too small to cover the increase in the number of most needy kids, what you have effectively done is decrease the spending per child in the program, and that is, in fact, cutting the program. It will not work as well. That this old dog still hunts is a shame on the arithmetic teachers of America.

As usual, horrible logic by Ms. Ivins. If X was $10 last year and $11 the next year, $12 the next year is still an increase, even though the rate of growth wasn't the 10% it was in the previous year.

I think there are two easy examples that are even more difficult to rebut.
First, pay raises are due to job performance and economic circumstances of the company, not due to the employee's costs. She would have a hard time arguing that her raise should be higher because she bought a new house or had a baby during the evaluation period. Dragging the analogy further, Head Start is the type of program that doesn't deserve a raise and the company (government) is in no position to be charitable.
Second, the cost of oil hasn't risen every single year, even when costs have gone up. Would she complain if it went down to $1.50 next year? That's a real cut, not just a slower rate of growth. There's no more reason that government programs should automatically receive more money every year (and a larger percentage increase than the previous year -- increasing the dollar amount, like up to $12.01 in the first example, will still get the "cut" treatment because 9.2% is less than 10%) than there is for the price of every good to rise similarly every year.

As for the second-to-last paragraph, we definitely need to solve Social Security before Medicare, but I'm a bastard for saying so. She isn't calling me one, but most readers probably are about to. Here's why: If Social Security falters, old people will have less money. They'll eat worse and can't afford things like medicine for themselves. This will strain Medicare even further. If Medicare falters, old people will die sooner and Social Security will have less of a burden.

Needless to say, it will probably be at least another year before I read her again.

For the record, I'm also not in favor of progressive indexing. A good rule of thumb is that I'm against anything with the word "progressive" in it. I'll repeat my Social Security plan: Let me opt out at the age of 40 and I promise to never ask for benefits. Something I've learned from Donald Luskin is to never believe Brad DeLong, even if he has numbers.

Posted by Gel 12:55 AM Post a Comment

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