Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Social Security

Can someone clear up the Social Security debate for me? I'm confused. As I understand it, the Social Security "payroll taxes" run a surplus each year. These payroll taxes amount to a 13 or 14 percent flat tax on the first $80,000 plus of earned income. From this income, the Social Security Administration meets its obligations to the program. Since more money is taken in than is expended each year, there is a yearly surplus.
That surplus gets invested in Treasury bonds or something like that. That is to say, the US government borrows the surplus from Social Security and spends it the same way it spends our income tax. The current accumulated taxpayer debt to Social Security is somewhere on the order of three trillion dollars. If left untouched, this system would continue in this condition until the year 2018 or so. At the rate we're going now, in 2018 the Social Security payroll taxes would just about equal Social Security expenses. Since it is projected that Social Security will continue to run an annual surplus till 2018, the big nest egg which is now three trillion dollars would be more by that time. However, after 2018, that nest egg would need to be tapped. It is projected that as the system now stands, that nest egg would expire sometime in the 2040s. This is how things would work if the current laws are kept in place and the current rates and benefits are left unchanged.
But President Bush is saying that Social Security will reach critical mass in 2018 and after that date, Social Security will be in trouble.
My question is, if there is a three or four trillion dollar nest egg of US government bonds that can be cashed in after 2018, why is 2018 a critical time for Social Security. If anything, I would think it would be a critical time for the taxpayers because taxes would need to be raised to pay back that debt to Social Security. Is President Bush somehow suggesting that taxpayers should escape having to pay their debt to the Social Security recipients?
Could someone who understands this situation explain it to me in plain English?

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Speech Bush Should have Given


Monday, January 24, 2005

Rumsfeld's Spooks

I just heard a short report on Public Radio that the Pentagon today announced the formation of special military intelligence teams that would be deployed with special operations forces around the world. According to the reporter, these newly formed intelligence groups have already been operating in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia, but would be deployed in many other nations in the future.
What I find curious about this is that it seems to essentially establish and legitimate the very forces that were denied by the Pentagon just last week in this little give-and-take:
Pentagon blasts article alleging reconnaissance missions in Iran
The reporter covering this new announcement was not able to say whether the newly established intelligence chief would have any oversight over these units, nor was he clear on just how long the existing units had been operational. He did say, though, that the Pentagon did not believe that it required any additional authorization in order to establish these operational units.

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe that we are away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War (500 BC)

From The Sorrows of Empire, 2004, Chapter 9, page 255
I would suggest that we have learned some new tricks in the past 2,500 years.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sesame Street on Sunday Morning

Can you believe it? Both my wife and my oldest son Jake just criticized me this morning because I was sitting in front of the TV watching Sesame Street. Big Bird had just resolved a stressful situation involving change and the Cookie Monster was trying not to eat the letter for the day, an oatmeal cookie with a big D on it.
My wife criticized me because she just criticizes everything I do unless I am doing it specifically for her. My son, though, thought I could be spending my time better watching some Sunday morning sports (as in hunting/fishing) program. I had said that I thought Sesame Street was a much better program than CBS News but Jake argued that CBS News wasn't on. I would have expected Sunday morning church broadcasts so I hadn't even looked, but in our house the choices are simple. We get PBS and the CBS affiliate, Channel 5 from Bangor.
But I get the last laugh... My wife is sitting in front of the TV now watching Sesame Street and enjoying it. Jake, on the other hand, is packing his bags to go ice fishing in the frigid cold.
Op! I spoke too soon. I hear the sports chatter now...