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Merton and Joan Bernstein
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Blog Entries by Merton and Joan Bernstein

Feldstein's Folly on Social Security

(150) Comments | Posted August 12, 2011 | 9:56 AM

Professor Martin Feldstein's recent Wall Street Journal article, "Private Accounts Can Save Social Security" is a false alarm. He declares:

There are now three employees paying Social Security taxes to finance the benefit of each retiree. That number will fall over the next three decades to only two...
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To Trim Medical Costs, Reduce Physician Conflicts of Interest

(30) Comments | Posted June 21, 2011 | 12:09 PM

There really are ways to cut medical care costs without shrinking Medicare or insurance coverage and without fattening deductibles and co-payments. Topping our list: eliminating physician ownership interests that distort care and inflate costs, thereby saving billions a year, tops our list. An analysis by McKinsey Global Institute...

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Feldstein's Folly

(12) Comments | Posted May 10, 2011 | 2:30 PM

Professor Martin Feldstein's recent Wall Street Journal article, "Private Accounts Can Save Social Security," raises a false alarm. He declares:

There are now three employees paying Social Security taxes to finance the benefits of each retiree. That number will fall over the next three decades to only...
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Upcoming Budget Battle: The Stealth Social Security Benefit Cut by "Chained Cola"

(64) Comments | Posted April 25, 2011 | 12:28 PM

Social Security adjusts benefits to keep pace with price increases. Otherwise, benefit purchasing power would erode. In the 1970s, Congress legislated yearly "cost-of living adjustments" (COLA) to regularize benefit boosts and provide predictable and objective criteria for them. COLA is an invaluable feature of Social Security. Practically no private pension...

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Deficit Commission Chairs Change Tune: No Longer Assert Social Security Causes Deficit

(13) Comments | Posted January 21, 2011 | 4:30 PM

Immediately after appointment to chair the Fiscal Commission, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson opened fire on Social Security. Their theme: reining in the federal deficit requires reducing Social Security benefits. Bowles assured North Carolina bankers that the commission would battle the deficit "cancer" and "mess" with Social Security. Former Senator...

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Remembering Ted Sorensen: A Dedicated Advocate for Social Insurance

(0) Comments | Posted December 8, 2010 | 5:16 PM

Last Tuesday Ted Sorensen's family held a memorial for him at Lincoln Center. In the wake of his recent death, much of his stirring writing is being recalled. It seems worthwhile to mention one book that is less well known, Why I Am a Democrat (published in 1996). It repeatedly...

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Simpson's Program, Not Social Security, Victimizes the Young

(2) Comments | Posted December 2, 2010 | 6:26 PM

Ruben Navarrette, Jr., a CNN contributor, reports today that his former teacher, Alan Simpson, taught that "For too long younger workers have been taken apart" by Social Security because they do not vote in adequate numbers. In the Simpson view, Social Security is a "massive intergenerational transfer of...

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Washington Post Budget Hocus Pocus

(76) Comments | Posted November 28, 2010 | 12:44 PM

Possibly the most amazing aspect of the Commission on Fiscal Responsibity's drive to reduce the federal "deficit" are proposals by its chairs and others to cut benefits payable by Social Security, although the program pays its own way and has generated robust annual surpluses, now totaling $2.4 trillion and projected...

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Mistake About Social Security Distorts Sunday New York Times Budget Exercise

(54) Comments | Posted November 15, 2010 | 2:47 PM

Sunday's New York Times, focused on national deficits, introduces its section on Social Security with the statement that, "Social Security is projected to run a deficit by 2015..." There follows a menu of Social Security proposed reductions to avert such a dreadful outcome. You'll be relieved to hear that the...

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Beware of Financial Firms Bearing Advice on Social Security

(20) Comments | Posted October 29, 2010 | 1:26 PM

Just in time for Halloween, the financial services firm Standard and Poor's offers a "study" designed to scare us into raising the Social Security retirement age. "Global Aging 2010: An Irreversible Truth", warns that age-related public spending is "Unsustainable without policy change." The report declares that "No other...

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The Sour Politics of Epithet and Government by Tantrum Brews Chaos

(0) Comments | Posted October 25, 2010 | 3:26 PM

"Hunger makes the old grandmother trot" was a 19th century slogan attempting to justify England's harsh poor laws. Recent Republican and Blue Dog opposition to extending unemployment insurance benefits to the long-term jobless bespeaks the same sour spirit . And it appears to animate the proposal to raise Social Security...

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Fiscal Commission Mistakenly Targets Social Security for Cuts

(47) Comments | Posted September 27, 2010 | 6:12 PM

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, charged by President Obama to recommend ways to reduce the federal deficit, appears fixated on Social Security. The commission co-chairs and several members have advocated reducing benefits and raising the retirement age, another benefit cut. The question is why? Could it be because Social...

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Our Response to Alan Simpson

(46) Comments | Posted September 2, 2010 | 5:24 PM

Former Senator Simpson, co-chair of President Obama's Fiscal Responsibility Commission, calls our Huffington Post blog opposing Social Security benefit cuts and raising retirement age "a remarkable spew of drivel" and "an "extraordinary screed." His letter with that attack (below) invited our comments. Here they are.

All that...

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Raising Social Security Age Reduces Benefits While Increasing Risks

(13) Comments | Posted July 29, 2010 | 11:40 AM

It takes colossal gall to propose, during a period of near-record unemployment, forcing older people to work longer by cutting their Social Security benefits and calling that "reform." Yet that is precisely what Alice Rivlin, one of President Obama's appointees to his Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and others propose. Their...

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Social Security "Reform" Doesn't Protect the Young, Hurts Us All

(14) Comments | Posted May 28, 2010 | 11:37 AM

Social Security "reform" advocates like former Senator Alan Simpson claim they will shield young people from future tax burdens. Simultaneously they assure seniors that they would be exempt from benefit reductions. If that were true, only benefits to those below age 55 or 57 or 60 (Simpson uses all three)...

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