March 04, 2004

The Biggest Risk-Arb Transaction Ever

I am midway through a survey of serious economists who have thought about the issues seriously, and I now have eight back-of-the-envelope point estimates of the amount of money that could be raised to save Social Security through the Lindsey-Feldstein-Samwick plan for saving Social Security. that underlay much Bush campaign thinking (and that Glenn Hubbard's CEA and Paul O'Neill's Treasury worked hard to block in the Bush administration). The plan, you remember, was for the federal government to sell a huge number of Treasury bonds, invest the proceeds in stocks, distribute the stocks to individuals as their Social Security Private Accounts, and use the equity premium--the average spread on the return on stocks over the return on Treasury bonds--to reap immense profits and save Social Security.

Of the eight back-of-the-envelope point estimates:

Two say zero: even though there was a substantial equity premium in the past, there is no compelling reason to think that the risk-adjusted equity premium will be large in the future. And policy should not be made on the gamble that it will.

Two more say zero: even though there is compelling evidence that the equity premium is excessively high from the government's perspective--that the government is so risk-tolerant an institution that the expected risk-adjusted profits from the government's going short Treasuries and long stocks--the Lindsey-Feldstein-Samwick plan transfers the risk that the stock market will tank from the government back to Social Security beneficiaries, and there is no compelling reason to think that beneficiaries have enough risk tolerance to make this a good tihng to do.

Two more say zero: even though there is compelling evidence that the equity premium is too high and that there is lots of profit to be earned by long-run bets that go short Treasuries and long stocks, enactment of the Lindsey-Feldstein-Samwick plan will cause an immediate jump in the stock market. Current owners of stock will profit massively as people's expectations of the massive future demand from Social Security Private Accounts. The equity premium will shrink quickly. And there will be little profit captured by beneficiaries and little money to save Social Security. (However, the falling equity premium will boost corporate investment, real profits, and real wages by eliminating the Harberger triangle currently created by the market inefficiency underlying the excessive equity premium.)

One says that you might make $2.4 trillion in present value--that price pressure from the demand for stocks for Social Security Private Accounts will eventually shrink the excess equity premium to close to zero, but that will take a generation. And in the meantime, as the excess equity premium is still there (but shrinking), you do profit from the wedge caused by the fact that the private stock market grossly overprices systematic risk.

One says $12 trillion. In his view Lindsey-Feldstein-Samwick are probably right. The world capital market of the twenty-first century will be much bigger than the U.S.-centered capital market of the twentieth century. The equity premium appears to be a persistent structural feature of the world economy. U.S. Treasury bonds will be an immensely attractive investment to the rich of industrializing Asia (as a form of political risk insurance if nothing else). Given these considerations the Lindsey-Feldstein-Samwick belief that the Treasury can go short $4 trillion of Treasuries and long $4 trillion of stocks and earn huge profits does not look unreasonable. He says that you might well make $12 trillion in present value profits on this most mammoth of risk-arbitrage transactions. And that is in the ballpark of being enough money to pay current-law Social Security benefits without increasing Social Security taxes.

My own view? I'm half in the "about $2.4 trillion of profit" camp, half in the "this is no bargain if the risk the stock market will tank is borne by beneficiaries" camp.

Posted by DeLong at March 4, 2004 01:07 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

Some of these plans are like watching a shell game. But one thing has to be remembered:

I tell you three times--you cannot let the Federal government invest directly in the private equity market in these amounts. Not at all would be best. Corruption and increased government control of the private sector would be rampant.

What I think ought to be done:

Begin diverting payroll taxes into private accounts for young employees. These can be invested as they see fit. For all those who are convinced that Americans are too stupid to run their own lives, we could put some generic restrictions (certain levels of diversity, and other general limits. NO specifications of certain stocks.)

These younger employees will accept reduced benefits at retiring.

The option to remain with the current system as is could be considered.

Current and soon-to-be retirees get full benefits. Where you draw the line at "soon-to-be" is negotiable.

Someone is going to have to eat a lot of costs getting over the hump where funds are low from younger employees and benefits are high. General revenues, maybe, or higher payroll taxes from the young for a while. I hesitate to recommend a temporary tax hike, as there is nothing more permanent than a temporary tax hike. I'm still paying a tax that was instituted during the Spanish-American war.

It means younger workers are going to be paying for retirement benefits they won't see. Once they see this in the same light as income taxes, by which many of us routinely pay for benefits we never see, you might be able to sell this.

There is no "painless" way to do this.

I'd like to see someone do numbers on this concept, and file off some of the rough edges.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 4, 2004 01:36 PM


If households view Social Security as part of their retirement plan (yes, this is like viewing SS as a defined contributions plan rather than a defined benefits plan), then Barro-Ricardo rationality would say they have adjusted their private portfolios to have an overall risk and expected return position that does into account the way the SS portfolio manager is handling the Trust Fund. So if the SS portfolio manager buys more stocks and less bonds, the household will buy less stocks and more bonds. This is how I read the Introduction of Andew Able's AER 2001 paper. And if this view is right, then there is no net shift in asset demand. What is this view missing here?

Posted by: Harold McClure on March 4, 2004 01:38 PM


A good discussion of the alternatives. I'll throw in my two cents, being a combination of three camps. The announcement would certainly be a windfall to current equityholders, eliminating a large percentage of the spread before the government ever entered into the transaction. While there would likely be some remaining spread to be squeezed over the remaining generation, it would be limited and certainly not worth the risk exposure to the future beneficiaries.

That said, this doesn't address the political issue of voting control. (I'm not familiar if the plan does) Since this is equity, is the intention to leave the voting control of the stock with the government, parcel it out to the individual accounts, or allow firms to have an on-going block of unvoted shares. It strikes me that this plan implies, 1) immense socialization of U.S. industry, 2) prohibitively high administrative costs, 3) a change in corporate governance, or 4) all of the above.

Posted by: Bruce on March 4, 2004 01:44 PM


Brad, you forget one aspect to this.
Once "society" is so heavily invested in the stock market, can we not expect to see tremendous pressure on CEOs --- both to perform (ie being hired based on the right father, the right club and the right golf swing will not be justifiable), in terms of their being over-compensated (let's outsource upper management of GE to India for 100th of the cost), in terms of rewards for failure, in terms of poison pills and other such pro-management features looked on kindly by Delaware and so on.
Will we not see congress people running on the basis of "cutting fraud and waste in business management that are costing YOU social security dollars"?
The whole corrupt structure business has erected to protect itself from criticism and scrutiny, starting with states rights (esp Delaware), the idea that CEO pay is a private contract, etc, might start to crumble.
Wouldn't that be the ultimate irony for the Repubs?

Posted by: Maynard Handley on March 4, 2004 01:49 PM


The minute anybody starts off with households acting *rationally* I start getting nervous. First, we must realize the average household that has social security as a lynchpin of their retirement strategy is poor. They have no real investing skills, and they are ripe for the plucking by Wall Street. Check out the profit margins enjoyed by H&R Block on the Refund Anticipation Loans!!! Half of this country has no portfolio!!! Check out the average amount a baby boomer has socked away!! Compound this with our estimated future needs to retire increasing *faster* than the cpi which is used to hedonically *calibrate* costs. This is soon to include the costs of *better* medical care which makes you the typical boomer live longer and collect more social security. Of course those that have won the game and made the wealth are loathe to share with the losers, and is seeking to find a way to have the casino pay for their debts. The biggest generation of losers is about to join our old age socialized medicine system- which already is entering crisis from insufficient increases paid to the medical mafia. I surely would be pissed that I endured medical school and incurred all of the debt necessary to get an education and maybe a specialization and then find that my job was being shipped to India, and that I have to review the work coming back from India at wages that are half of what the previous generation made in real terms....

Posted by: Allen M on March 4, 2004 01:51 PM


"If households view Social Security as part of their retirement plan...."

No, I think we view Social Security as a safe haven or reserve fund. There will be no shift of personal assets to bonds from stocks if Social Security is invested to an extent in stocks.

Governments invest in stocks with no problem at all. Look to the various state pension funds. Look to the large instutional funds that are indexed. There is no problem per se with government indexing in the stock market.

Posted by: anne on March 4, 2004 01:55 PM


So, when I used to work in Switzerland in the '90s, the rumor was pretty rampant that Saddam had accounts at some of the more "discreet" private banks there and he used to play the following game:

1. Go long or short various derivatives (e.g. on oil).

2. Rattle his sword or (alternatively) make conciliatory noises in order to move the markets in the right direction.

3. Reap the profits.

Maybe we could try something similar on a larger scale?

Posted by: billm on March 4, 2004 01:57 PM


Further, any long term stability in our stock market is a total fallacy. The market is already subject to such corrupt influences that we should just resort to Bernanke's helicopter money. Heck, randon drops would be more equitable than our current theft machine. I don't believe in Chairman Greenspans confidence in the markets, and the lessons of the 90's reflect exactly what happened in the 20's and what continues to happen today. Why should a small company in Canada have a P/E of 400 with a stock price that is transparently manipulated by market players and is prominently in the Nasdaq 100 become a winner based on fools buying that it will *grow* into it's valuation. Humph. Let me have my money and put it in a gold bar under my bed. I don't trust the markets long term, nor short term.

Posted by: Allen M on March 4, 2004 01:57 PM


Institutional government shareholders have considerable ability to push for ethical and astute corporate management.

Posted by: anne on March 4, 2004 02:05 PM


"I don't trust the markets long term, nor short term."

Still, you had better figure out how to save and invest in any event. And I suggest gold bars have never been a long term answer. [Even short term gold bars have rarely made sense.]

Posted by: lise on March 4, 2004 02:17 PM


What about the government's ability to invest in the 'right' stocks? Wouldn't the new lower risk-premia alter the optimal allocation of capital across companies (projects)?

BTW, it doesn't really sound like USA. Swedish social-democrats once had the idea of implementing socialism through the union's open market stock purchases. Rudolf Meidner funds, or employee-funds, were skipped like 15 years ago or so.

Posted by: Mats on March 4, 2004 02:22 PM


Is there someplace where a mathematically literate (but helas non-economist) individual e.g. me, can follow this conversation? Its content is more than a mere technical curiosity and I would like to be reasonably informed about it. I understand what the Lindsey-Feldstein-Samwic proposal is, but I don't have the background to judge the risk factors of the various portfolios.

Posted by: CSTAR on March 4, 2004 02:24 PM


Ask anybody in Argentina who had gold when the sh*t hit the fan and the banks closed if they could get food for their shares. Funny how it is always liquid and anywhere in the world somebody will give you good value for it if you need to sell it to survive. Today is not tommorrow, and in barbarous times a barbaric relic is just the ticket.

I believe it when people say that we have never suffered through hard times, but I believe that lack of experience is going to be remedied within the next two decades.

Posted by: Allen M on March 4, 2004 02:28 PM


What is wrong with broad indexing for institutional tock purchases?

Posted by: anne on March 4, 2004 02:39 PM


Well, you can buy tock but I mean stock!

Posted by: anne on March 4, 2004 02:40 PM


tock is cheap. Just ask G.W.Bush

Posted by: CSTAR on March 4, 2004 02:49 PM


Do the authors of the plan argue that there is net new saving as a result of the legerdemain with various assets? Cause if there is no net new saving and the economy doesn't grow faster as a result of said legerdemain, why exactly do we want to do this? Is it to avoid facing up to a difficult political decision? If there is no additional saving, then somebody retires poorer, somebody else richer. If there is no impetus to growth, then there is no more to go around in the economy than without all the financial wiggling. Is the goal here really an old age free from grinding poverty? Isn't this just moving money between baskets, in the end?

Posted by: K Harris on March 4, 2004 02:50 PM


Nothing is wrong with broad institutional stock purchases, as long as they are offset by other investments. I am not arguing that a broad mix over ALL investment classes would not be good, but in the long run we do not have a sufficient growth in real earnings and wealth in this country to cover the amount promised without sucking huge amounts of the rest of the worlds wealth into our value machine, a gift that I doubt will be forthcoming,since they are already nervous about the relative value of the dollar. watch prices of energy, metals and food- when they move higher in dollar terms and not in terms of other currencies, I know our national statistics are lies. No infaltion? Ha, only in terms of the euro.

Posted by: Allen M on March 4, 2004 02:51 PM



"Institutional government shareholders have considerable ability to push for ethical and astute corporate management."

True in theory. But do you really think the government is going to make industry "honest?" You have a lot more faith in the honesty and integrity of the legislature than I do.


"Is there someplace where a mathematically literate (but helas non-economist) individual e.g. me, can follow this conversation? Its content is more than a mere technical curiosity and I would like to be reasonably informed about it. I understand what the Lindsey-Feldstein-Samwic proposal is, but I don't have the background to judge the risk factors of the various portfolios."

My general rule of thumb is if a financial scheme is too complex to easily explain, then the odds increase greatly that someone is trying to pull something on you. The L-F-S plan should be studied with this in the back of your mind.

As for stock portfolios, unless one is willing to study the markets in detail, something I don't have time (and probably brains) for, your best bet is various mutual funds. The longer it is until retirement, the better stocks are as an investment. I have a good portion of my IRA invested in an S&P 500 fund, which spreads risk across many different stocks. It isn't a spectacular performer, but it's more stable than a lot of individual stocks.

Again, don't let the Federal government select and buy billions in stocks, no matter what they do with them afterwards. Politics will drive the process far more than finances.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 4, 2004 03:05 PM


I believe the focus should be on the huge trillion dollar plus budget hole this scheme creates. The Russerts of the world never get around to mentioning that part...

Posted by: noam chimpsky on March 4, 2004 03:06 PM


I swear I remember this same thing being advanced at some time during the Reagan administration. Does anybody else???

Posted by: swampdawg on March 4, 2004 03:17 PM


first, put me down in the "windfall for equity holders, zero risk-adjusted return for social security" camp. please add to that a coda of "and loads of guaranteed fee income for politically connected financial intermediaries."

second, if you are an individual who has subsidized borrowing power -- and due to the mortgage interest deduction, you are -- I recommend against this policy with your own retirement money. you are not too big to fail; the US government emphatically is.

third, the whole thing seems very odd to me coming from conservatives. I've seen this movie before, and I just don't see any constituency in the GOP liking it. my grandparents were conservative, and they didn't like it very much when Austria nationalized.

Posted by: wcw on March 4, 2004 03:42 PM



"My general rule of thumb is if a financial scheme is too complex to easily explain, then the odds increase greatly that someone is trying to pull something on you. The L-F-S plan should be studied with this in the back of your mind."

Yes I agree with you. But if these clowns are about to pull a fast one on us claiming they know better, I would like to be in a position of saying F**k you, no you don't. Don't you need a statistical model to make any prediction on this? I'm *very* far from an expert, but the kinds of stochastic processes considered by researchers on capital markets (e.g. stuff in the bibliography of Lo and Mackinlay, the popular book on capital markets) surely have something useful to say about the various risks. I just don't what is relevant.

Posted by: CSTAR on March 4, 2004 03:47 PM


I am curious how your model treats cashing out, or recovering profits from the fund. Is there a downward effect of doing this?

Isn't most of the profit from this on paper? I can see how the government going in with a wad of money can drive prices up. However, what happens when they cash out? If it is done rapidly, won't that colapse the price? It would have to be done slowly. Doesn't it set up a situation where most of the profit is sucked out by the government making it a bad deal for other investors?

Posted by: bakho on March 4, 2004 03:57 PM


Re: "Is there someplace where a mathematically literate (but helas non-economist) individual e.g. me, can follow this conversation? Its content is more than a mere technical curiosity and I would like to be reasonably informed about it. I understand what the Lindsey-Feldstein-Samwick proposal is, but I don't have the background to judge the risk factors of the various portfolios."

There really is no place to follow this discussion, alas...

Feldstein and Samwick have written various NBER working papers on this: Peter Orszag at has run similar numbers for his book on Social Security reform with Peter Diamond, but Orszag is in Florida right now on a no-cell-phone vacation. Bob Cumby at Georgetown explored these issues during the late Clinton Treasury, and is looking through his files. John Karl Scholz at Wisconsin and Kent Smetters at Pennsylvania are people I need to talk to about this, and haven't.

On what to do with Social Security, I favor putting Peter Orszag and Kent Smetters in a locked room without food (but with plenty of caffeinated and other beverages), and doing whatever they manage to agree on.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on March 4, 2004 03:59 PM


Brad, would you please cite the economists you are consulting with? If they mind, that is.

Thank you,

Posted by: Jess Olson on March 4, 2004 05:41 PM


I'm sorry, but everytime I hear about Lindsey's little scheme the name "John Law" pops into my head.

Posted by: Billmon on March 4, 2004 07:09 PM


I'd say there is no reason to make (or allow) retirees to bear the risk. My sense (following and earlier Brad post) is that it would be better for the SSA or the Treasury to buy stocks (and corporate bonds) and give defined benefit pensions.

So Brad's view seems to be 2.4 trillion in reduced dead weight loss going to the US treasury if the plan is implemented without the social security private accounts (the only part anyone associates with the plan)

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on March 4, 2004 07:26 PM


Thankyou tbrosz for making a concrete proposal. I disagree with almost everything you say, but it is nice that you are willing to put out a proposal. Your idea sounds better than Bush's, it sounds slightly Swedish -and that is not meant as an insult. Now if you would be willing to consider a sensible and gradual phase-in of the precentage of the payroll tax that goes to private accounts, and -um- feasible tax and budget reforms that will have a good chance of reducing the long term deficit(my preference is rollback of income tax cuts to the rich) you might have a feasible plan. I wish some other of the SS haters who post here would follow tbrosz's lead and put their cards on the table in a coherent way.

What I am amazed by is the fact that we have nine economists here (including the host) and only five opinions. Amazing! Folk wisdoms says that there should be at least ten opinions.

I trust our host to pick respectable economists, so I for one am not willing to go along with a scheme where there is so much disagreement about its chances for success.

Some posters have mentioned the fact that there is a real-economy component to the baby-boom crisis, which is the burden of the real transfers from workers to retirees. The financial scheme to implement this transfer is only half the story. I would like more discussion of the interaction between the financing and the real effects. And didn't Feldstein have a real-economy argument regarding this? It has been a long time since I studied it, but I didn't he have an argument that his plan would increase real productivity and real growth rates. Was it completely about the equity premium? What should we read to get Feldstein complete argument for his plan? Although if prof D can swear an solemn oath that it is all about the equity premium, then I will believe him.

I am not macro-finance person, maybe that is why I focus on the real side of the problem. Maybe the really important Swedish reform is family-friendly policies that increase the fertility rate (but by family I obviously do not mean nuclear family with 50s style wife and hubby)

Posted by: jml on March 4, 2004 07:36 PM


Just so I have this right: *Larry Lindsey* thinks he's found a massive, persistent defect in the capital markets

that can only be fixed by an earth-shatteringly large government intervention?

Seeing how this is all effectively money-for-nothing, I'm not buying it based on the tenous confidence people have in the equity premium puzzle. Needs better foundations.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on March 4, 2004 10:05 PM


A poster on another SS thread recommended Krugman's Friday March 5 NY Times column. I just read it and I recommend it too.

I don't know if I would agree with Krugman that SS is in pretty good shape, but I do think that it is in not half bad shape, and that the real problem is MediCare. Every respectable economists who I have heard and who presents an understandable analysis of the situation says the same thing.

I try to play along with social insurance haters on these threads, but I think that the truth is that SS is fine with some mild to moderate tweaking that will not significantly harm the welfare of future retirees. Any privatization scheme or plan to move to a pre-funded system should be gradual and follow the example of European and Canadian reforms.

I agree with the previous poster. And I repeat that I *think* Feldstein had some real-economy arguments beside the equity premium angle. But my memory may fail here.

Posted by: jml on March 4, 2004 10:27 PM


I risk soudning like a broken record (and besides Brad made this point

The Lindsey-Feldstein-Samwick has two components. The first is social security private acocunts (SSPA). This might be good for participants, but would cost the SSA on the order of 1 trillion. The thought that this is the first step in saving social security is crazy. The grim fact is that Bush wasn't dishonest when he stated that thought.

The other is the SSTF investing in private assets especially stock. This appears via a tax on ss private accounts. Now it might be socially useful for the SSTF to go long in stock if there wree still a puzzling equity premium. There is no logical connection between the two aspects.

It is easy to convince people they could do better with private accounts if you "neglect" to mention the tax on returns of private accounts. I'd say Lindsey-Feldstein-Samwick are trying a major bait and switch, arguing that private accounts are a great deal for particpants because they get to take 1 trillion from the SSTF (don't mention the tax) and a great deal for the SSTF beaxue it will get to take N trillion in taxes from the participants. My sense is they plan to save the SSTF with fraud.

Why would I accept a taxed SSPA rather than keeping my social security pension and buying stock on my own ? That way all is the same except the SSA gets less from me. The SSPA would be a rational investment only for the liquidity constrained and those excluded from the stock market by borkerage fees on odd lots of index funds.

The N trillion for the SSA would come mostly from cheating people who don't understand that they are principally signing on to pay a brand new tax.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on March 5, 2004 06:56 AM


I'd be interested in the probabilities attached to these back-of-the-envelope calculations. The one economist says that $12 trillion is the potential windfall, but is that $12 trillion a weighted average of probabilities or the 1-in-100 best-case scenario?

Posted by: Hmmmm on March 5, 2004 07:03 AM


My guess is after the first year, it starts losing money and can't politically be switched off.

The knowledge that so much money is overhanging the market, is committed to be spent on stocks at whatever price level will drive the price of stocks way up. There really will be a bigger fool. It isn't that government is buying stocks. It's that government is committing on a long term basis to buy such a lot of stock.

At the same time, the knowledge that the Treasury is committed to borrowing far in excess of its needs will drive long bond prices down.

This raises rates, reduces investment, probably reduces profits, but equity prices won't care.

By the end of the first year (the first couple of weeks?), the equity premium is wiped out. Fairly quickly it will go into reverse.

To continue is to borrow money at an unreasonably high price to invest in appallingly overpriced stocks. And over the long run, lose money.

But the Treasury won't be able to stop. Were it to do so, the market would crash, horribly. The promise of a guaranteed bigger fool will have been withdrawn. Time to sell. The government would be blamed, probably rightly, for the crash.

Posted by: jam on March 5, 2004 12:59 PM


The solution is incredibly stone simple, Brad.

Borrowing from the extremely successful (India)n micro-loan bank concept, the Fed would continue to deduct SS/MediCare funds from your paycheck. However, everyone would have electronic access to those funds, and be able to "borrow" or in this example, "micro-loan" them back, up to the limit of the accumulated SS deductions accrued.

Those "micro-loans" could be invested in stocks, put into CD's, T-bills, or building an addition on your house, it would be up to the "borrower".
After all, it's their money!

Fed would automatically deduct an *additional* repayment installment for each micro-loan made. Since Fed controls huge sums of money, both in SS funds and Treasuries, those installment costs would be far, far lower than a second mortgage. Again, it's *your* money, and no need for pre-qualifying the loans, appraisals, inspections or any of the huge overhead on equity loans.

BOOM! The US economy would take off like a sky-rocket!!! At the same time, our SS Trust Fund would continue to *grow* at the same pace as it does today, since micro-loan borrowers would be paying back interest, the same as Fed collects on Treasuries. Only now that repayment is secure
domestically, instead of hinging on Japanese and Saudis who may decide someday to bail out.

I'd much rather pay back 3% to the Fed SSTF, than 6%, plus fees and points, to some mortgage finance company getting their hooks on my house, especially since I can beat 3% by investing.

The nice thing about this SS MicroLoan program is that the amount of loanability grows with age, so that when you're in your school-child years, you can borrow when you need it most, and still have time to pay it back before retiring,
(and be able to retire knowing you have the SS!)

The (India)n micro-loan bank program suggests that repayments run 98%(+) on average. And after all, it's *your* money, so if you lose your job and never work another (reported) day in your life, the Fed SSTF hasn't lost a penny. You have.
A bad micro-loan default, you don't get your SS!

All of Mr. Glass's rants notwithstanding, the mere notion of the Fed directly investing the entire SSTF in the equity and bond markets is so poorly thought out and incredbly foolhardy that it boggles the mind. Look at their investments in DoD, all those snake-oil Star Wars Brain Fart programs that yield nothing but huge deficits.

The true investment potential for our SSTF can only be found at the micro-loan level, at the very heart of the Keynesian marketplace, in every kith and kin, house and home in America.

Let the Fed keep the books, (if they can). They sure don't have any capabilities as investors,
at least as accountants, they can be audited!
Can you imagine trying to chase down every CUSIP that a $T SSFT could be illegally diverted into? Or trying to track every senior bond illegally juniored, then resold to SSFT at a huge profit?
Every evil of stock and bond brokerage magnified to the power of n? Our SSFT marched into Hades.

Micro-loan each person's SS fund back to them at 3%. Nothing could be more simple, more robust, more paperless, yet auditable. You pay back 3% installments quarterly, just like your 1040EST.
If you screw the pooch, you don't get *your* SS,
at least everybody else will still get there's.

Let the Fed's do it directly, poof! IT BE GONE!
Imagine 2020 with 50,000,000 SS-less homeless!!

Posted by: Stone Simple on March 5, 2004 01:01 PM


Uh, Brad, what makes you think there is a contradiction between your two halves? (Except in the trivial sense that if the market comes to have tanked then the 2.4 terabux will have vanished, that is...)

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on March 6, 2004 06:58 AM


The excellent Albert-László Barabási,, makes the point that networks, of which Al Quaeda is an example, are not destroyed by the removal of any particular node. Destruction of numbers of the more important (i.e. most promiscuously connected) nodes brings about successive stages of degradation of a network's performance, and as the destruction proceeds eventually a critical region is reached, at which point the network fractionates and loses most of its previous effectivenesses.

Your best bet, naturally, is to not have bad networks come into existence in the first place -- a notion easier to express than to prescribe the method for.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on March 6, 2004 07:14 AM


BOE calculation.


Selling treasuries will increase the interest rate, and shave that much off of equities growth. This plus the shift of assets to those the government will buy will increase the already overpriced US stocks, while starving new company creation (who, after all, don't have stocks for the government to buy with Social Security). This will decrease technology and job creation, not increase it.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Posted by: Stirling Newberry on March 6, 2004 09:27 AM


"One says that you might make $2.4 trillion in present value--that price pressure from the demand for stocks for Social Security Private Accounts will eventually shrink the excess equity premium to close to zero, but that will take a generation."

Over the last 20 years $11 trillion additional went into private retirement accounts such as IRAs. The capitalization of markets available for that to be invested in was much smaller 20 years ago than today -- and certainly much much smaller than the world-wide markets of 20 years from now.

Why would a much smaller new "pressure" of a mere $2T in the future have a such dramaticaly greater effect on the equity premium than the much larger new pressure in the past? Nobody has ever explained this to me.

And the equity premium has existed for at least 200 years, puzzle or not. Grant that someone truly believes it must go away "sooner or later". What objective *reason* can such a someone give to explain why "sooner or later" will arrive within the next 20 years? I mean a reason that also explains why it didn't arrive in 1960 or 1920 and won't delay its arrival until 2110?

Posted by: Jim Glass on March 6, 2004 08:32 PM


To be a human without passion is to be dead.

Posted by: O'Keefe Catherine on March 17, 2004 08:58 PM


I believe in Singapore you can invest your social security account in schooling or a house. This is not a recommendation, just an observation.

Posted by: walter willis on April 30, 2004 06:35 AM


To go to war with untrained people is tantamount to abandoning them.

Posted by: BonnerJackson Aaron on May 3, 2004 01:33 AM


Please remember that the labels are your own.

Posted by: Berglin Deb on June 30, 2004 06:27 AM

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