PHDeeze nuts

I ran across this article today. It's a little supplemental information to my rant about jobs a few months ago. I'm glad I decided to stay out of academia.

Y'all should really read it. It's good.

U.S. Tsunami aid

Bush has increased America's relief pledge by $600 million for nations affected by the December tsunami, making the total amount of aid $950 million. That combined with the estimated $800 million given from private sources is nothin' to sneeze at.

Similarly, I'd wager it's good news that the EU has decided to alter its tariff "preferences". This quote, was telling:

British charity Oxfam welcomed the move, but warned that more action was needed.

"The European Commissions decision to bring forward a new system of trade preferences for poor countries will help reduce poverty by improving market access, but the gains will be limited as many protectionist measures persist," the aid agency said in a statement.

Hmmnn. Improving market access helps developing countries? You don't say!? Protectionist measures on the part of rich, powerful countries, harm struggling economies? Sounds like Oxfam may have figured it out, now it's our turn. The Daily Times of Pakistan frames it thus:

There is also need to keep an eye on how much of the trade relief requested by the tsunami-affected countries will take effect. Sri Lanka, which lost nearly all its coastal fishing fleet, requested tariff relief for its textile and apparel exports. Thailand and India have done the same regarding shrimp exports. But the requests have already triggered fierce opposition from US textile manufacturers and shrimp farmers unhappy at being asked to open their markets further. Any change in import tariffs would require congressional approval, and Congress is hesitant to provide trade assistance to tsunami victims. Given the clout of the textile industry in Congress, any effort to extend trade relief will meet with fierce opposition.

If goading had anything to do with the U.S. increasing the sheer dollar amount given, perhaps it's time to consider charging congress and the President with the task of purging existing subsidies and the like. Trade policy that puffs up failing industries at the expense, in this case, of fishermen and textile workers half-a-world away (trying to get by on comparatively little) trying to recover from arguably the worst natural disaster in history is stupid. Axing said policies will do more good than cash chucked around higglty-piglty (though, by all accounts we're doing better at giving money this time than ever before). Just think, we get to help folks annnd buy cheap shrimp and clothing. Ohh, the invisible hand of capitalism...


I'm game (so far)

I found this article from "Reason", a libertarian monthly magazine and website, about the case for Social Security privatization. An interesting point: "The Democrats object that allowing workers to put some of their payroll taxes in personal accounts will worsen Social Security's financial condition, since the diverted money would not be available to pay benefits for current retirees. Although much depends on the final details of the plan and the number of people who participate, the administration estimates that making up the difference would cost $754 billion during the next decade.

But this cost will be offset over the long term by lower demands on payroll taxes, as future retirees draw more on their own accounts and less on standard benefits. Another way of looking at it is that establishing private accounts simply makes explicit some of the system's existing liabilities. It may not reduce them, but neither does it raise them."

There's reason (heh) enough to be leery of numbers as big as $754 billion coming from this administration, considering the way they sold Medicare reform. But, I'd be happy to give Socoal Security reform a chance simply to buck a system that seems more than a little antiquated. It turns out that FDR, the "father" of social security, supported the idea of voluntary personal accounts in 1935. Money quote: "In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, noncontributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps 30 years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

There should be no sacred cows where other people's lives are concerned. That Americans are used to Social Security working the way is does is no reason to keep it that way. Ideally, our government has a responsibility to enact it's programs in the most morally and financially efficacious fashion possible (that may sound redundant for some folks). If that means throwing what amounts to a tradition out the window, so be it.


Social Security

Just wondering what you think about Bush’s personal account proposal in conjunction with Social security reform. I think it’s an interesting issue because it’ll eventually affect everyone and even those I know who are under 40 and strongly dislike Bush are all for having more personal control of their retirement $$’s. I think regardless of your political inclinations, the vast majority of people now trust their own decision making over the government’s. Despite this, I'm fairly certain they'd oppose whatever Dubya throws out simply because he proposed it. This sentiment is highly visible in the differences in how the media handled Clinton's efforts of reform and Bush's current proposals -- even though they're both based on the work of Democrat Patrick Moynihan. Are there valid arguments against working on reform now or is it just political posturing?