The Cato Institute's Michael Tanner was up first, followed by Paul Krugman, who should need no introduction to Kossacks, at least those who've been following the SS debate.
The show just completed, at least in my Chicago broadcast. The site links are available. But the actual audio will be available only around 3pm today.
When the transcripts are available, I will buy them and provide more detailed excerpts.
For now, I want to hone in on just a couple of key points from the debate. Apologies to Krugman, Tanner and Terry Gross if my representations from memory are flawed:
Tanner acknowledged that some of the existing examples of private retirement accounts, namely Great Britain, proved to be failures. But he blames this on mismanagement and faulty program design.
He prefers to cite the Federal Thrift Saving Plan (TSP) available to Postal and Federal employees.
However, this Feb 6th report from the SF Chronicle details some problems with that comparison.
And the Democratic blog disables this comparison quite effectively, pointing out that yes American workers, federal or private sector, should invest in such savings plans (many already do through defined contribution plans aka 401Ks), but that these should be part of a multi-legged retirement, rather than shifting retirees security all to a risk based plan.
It's wrong for the President to hold up one part of a three-part retirement plan and say "this is what Social Security should be," when in reality Social Security is what allows federal employees to take the risks associated with the TSP in the first place. And while he may have painted it as "voluntary," the benefit cut needed to fund the $2 trillion needed to switch is not. With George Bush's Social Security plan, privatizing your account may be voluntary, but you're paying for it no matter what.
"As long as you're dying off earlier..."
The other aspect of this issue emerging in this debate was the impact on Black America.
Tanner claimed that the current system in effect creates an average transfer of income of about $23,000 from black men to white men.
Krugman disputed this, stating that the bulk of the difference in life spans was due to higher death rates for blacks in infancy, teen and in the 20's, before any significant contributions were made to the system.
Furthermore, blacks who die as the primary income earner do provide substantially more survivor benefits, which are pay out at a far higher rate with respect to prior contributions.
Incidentally, the security provided by survivor and disability benefits basically disappear under Bush's plan, or at least diminish to the point of insignificance.
Moreover--and this is the point I also made in an earlier diary when Scott McClellan first offered this point--it is incredibly cynically for the administration to look 40-50 years in the future and say we are not going to conquer the national scandal of poor health and life expectancy for Black America.
Again, this is only a snip of the substance of this debate. I hope you take an opportunity to listen to the audio or the transcript when available.