America’s highest-profile fetishist of intellectually dishonest pseudo-technocracy <3s the personification of intellectually dishonest pseudo-technocracy? Shocking!
Link (click it if you must, but this isn’t an endorsement)
In the Marx Brothers movie that is the Republican presidential race, Mitt Romney is Zeppo. He doesn’t spin out one-liners. He’s not the rambunctious one. He’s just the earnest, good-looking guy who wants to be appreciated.
David Brooks appears to live in a bizarro world in which Mitt Romney can be described as earnest outside the context of an absurdist joke’s punchline. When I think “earnest,” I think of Anne Frank. Mitt Romney is nothing like Anne Frank.
Last week, while the Twitterverse was entranced by Herman Cain, Romney delivered his most important speech yet. It was politically astute and substantively bold…
Substantively bold? Do elaborate…
Romney grasped the toughest issue — how to reform entitlements to avoid a fiscal catastrophe — and he sketched out a sophisticated way to address it.
Sophisticated, you say?
In his speech, Romney proposed some sensible Social Security reforms: gradually raise the retirement age and slow the growth of benefits for richer retirees.
Raising the retirement age is a great idea because who would want to free up jobs for 20% unemployed under-25s? Also, about the supposed social security crisis everyone’s so eager to solve, here’s Krugman writing last year:
Legally, Social Security has its own, dedicated funding, via the payroll tax (“FICA” on your pay statement). But it’s also part of the broader federal budget. This dual accounting means that there are two ways Social Security could face financial problems. First, that dedicated funding could prove inadequate, forcing the program either to cut benefits or to turn to Congress for aid. Second, Social Security costs could prove unsupportable for the federal budget as a whole.
But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger. Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 — and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come.
Meanwhile, an aging population will eventually (over the course of the next 20 years) cause the cost of paying Social Security benefits to rise from its current 4.8 percent of G.D.P. to about 6 percent of G.D.P. To give you some perspective, that’s a significantly smaller increase than the rise in defense spending since 2001, which Washington certainly didn’t consider a crisis, or even a reason to rethink some of the Bush tax cuts.
He goes on to make the point that workers in the bottom-half of the income distribution haven’t seen the life-expectancy gains that have served as the moral rationalization for raising the retirement age. For a large portion of these people, withholding access to Social Security for an extra five years essentially means five years of pain, dependence on family, or possibly destitution, and in all likelihood, very little retirement time at all.
But what was that second thing Romney mentioned? “…slow the growth of benefits for richer retirees.” I call WAR ON WEALTH on that idea!
But we haven’t talked about Medicare yet:
Romney proposed keeping Medicare just as it is for everybody currently in or close to the system. But he would slowly introduce a premium support system, with less-affluent beneficiaries receiving more support than more-affluent ones.
Medicare actually runs cheaper on a per-patient basis than the private insurance market, and its costs have been rising considerably more slowly (at one third the rate of private insurance, according to S&P data analyzed by Reuters). Will Republicans really put the government on the hook to pay for full coverage in a private market that runs that much more expensively than the existing public system? No. Romney’s proposal depends on patients being incentivized to price-shop, which reads to me like a built in rationalization for only providing seniors with an amount of money falling considerably short of the market rates, essentially fucking seniors out of care, if they choose that option. If they offered even close to the market amount needed, this wouldn’t result in a cost savings, but a massive inflation of the budget.
Thankfully his rhetoric, as of now, suggests that Medicare will be left intact for those who opt to stick with it. But what about people coming into the 65+ age bracket? Do we really believe they’ll be given the same option? I guess we’ll just have to see….
There are several points that Romney made that go unmentioned by Brooks. For example:
“Now there’s some programs that I just don’t like, which will be easy to eliminate, like Obamacare,” he said, to applause, citing a savings of roughly $90 billion.
How earnest of him to disparage a program that actually falls on the conservative side of the program he implemented in Massachusetts as governor, and present a cherry picked savings number taken so far out of context that it’s utterly misleading. From ThinkProgress:
They pointed us to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the GOP’s repeal bill, which does find on page 5 that eliminating the law would reduce federal spending by $95 billion in 2016. But page 6 of the same document also notes that the government would lose substantially more in revenue — $219 billion over the period of 2012 to 2016 — resulting in an increase to the budget deficit of $85 billion. Overall, repealing the law would “cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $210 billion over the 2012-2021 period,” the CBO found.
Brooks also gives Romney a lick for, with impressive political astuteness, spinning a grand yarn about navy ships….
In World War II, the Navy commissioned 1,000 ships a year and had 1,000 employees in the purchasing department. Today, Romney said, we commission nine ships a year but have 24,000 employees in the department.
How bloated government has become! Unless it’s a steaming pool of diarrhea straight from a fat, choleric bull’s ass (the WaPo…)
Meanwhile, this month we also awarded two Pinocchios to former Massachusetts governor. Mitt Romney for repeating a tall tale about “enormous waste” in the military. We checked into the story, which came from former Navy secretary John Lehman, that during World War II, the Bureau of Ships had 1,000 people to build 1,000 ships and now the Navy has 25,000 people just to build nine ships. We found that the actual number today is closer to 500 people, not 25,000.
Lehman forwarded our e-mail exchanges to current Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who in turn sent us a copy of his reply. Here’s a copy of his letter, which includes updated numbers on the personnel at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the entity that now includes the functions of the former Bureau of Ships.
Thanks for forwarding your exchange with the Washington Post. As you would expect, with the focus on reducing our cost of doing business – particularly in the current and foreseeable fiscal environment – we have placed a great deal of attention into reducing unnecessary overhead in all of our headquarters. Your observation that NAVSEA headquarters has grown five-fold runs counter to this effort, so I made it a point to run the real numbers to ground.
As you’ve pointed out, on average, 16-17 ships per year were authorized/appropriated over the period of 1981 – 1987. For this workload, which comprised a relatively low number of new start programs, NAVSEA headquarters averaged 4,854 employees (including personnel now resident in our PEO* structure). At the same time, the total NAVSEA workforce including field activities, warfare centers, Supervisors of Shipbuilding, and shipyards totaled, on average, over 107,000 employees.
Today we procure about 10 ships per year, with all but the DDG 51** program either currently building or recently delivering its first of class (within the past 5-6 years). For this workload, NAVSEA headquarters currently employs 3,127 (including personnel in the affiliated PEOs). Moreover, this sized headquarters has absorbed a number of functions through various consolidations as the total NAVSEA workforce has decreased by about half, from 107,000 in the 1980s to today’s total of just under 55,000. These numbers have varied somewhat with workload. For example, in 2007, NAVSEA Headquarters was at its lowest point in the last 20 years (2,275 employees), consistent with the fact that 2006 was our low-point for ship authorizations/appropriations (6 total that year).
The truth of the matter is that the workforce associated with NAVSEA headquarters and NAVSEA overall has been reduced considerably since the 1980s. This reduction was not all good. In fact, a series of critical independent reviews has pointed to the downsizing of NAVSEA headquarters through the mid-1990s as a key causal factor to the history of cost growth experienced by new ship programs launched during that period.
I took the opportunity to also scrutinize the Department’s contractor support. Here, too, we have been steadily drawing down our reliance on outsourcing certain technical and programmatic expertise and authority that belongs within the government. Since 2009, contractor support to NAVSEA headquarters (as well as other systems commands) has been reduced by about 12%, from 5800 to 5100 contractors, and I’m pushing to make continued concerted reductions that are in line with our overall efforts to reduce our cost of doing business. While anecdotal information suggests today’s level of contractor support at headquarters is on par or even below that of the 1980s, I can’t draw that conclusion simply because we don’t have adequate records on support contractors from that time (not for an apples to apples comparison, at least).
We have a long way to go to balance our cost of doing business with fiscal reality, but we’ve made meaningful progress and are pointed in the right direction. Along the way, we also need to tighten our grip on the expertise we need in-house to tackle the significant technical, contractual, financial, and programmatic challenges that come with being the greatest Navy in an ever-dangerous world.
We share this same cause and I always welcome your insights to such end.