Remark of the Week
Posted by Eliot Weinstein on September 5, 2010
This week’s Remark of the Week comes from economist Arnold Kling, who previously won Remark of the Week in June of last year. Kling writes, regarding the Social Security and Medicare trust funds:
In fact, we could immediately put $100 trillion gazillion dollars in the trust funds from the general budget, and then they would have enough money to pay Social Security forever. Supposedly.
The trust fund is a measure of what we are promising to pay future Social Security recipients. To me, it is nothing more than that. But what is going to fund Social Security down the road is not the promises that we pour into it today. It is the taxes that people will pay in the future.
Kling simply and eloquently makes a point that I have often found myself struggling to articulate–that the trust fund is an accounting fiction. As for Kling accusing Paul Krugman of not understanding the overlapping generations model, remember that–to paraphrase Thomas Sowell–no entity, not even the government, can borrow and save the same money simultaneously.
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