Perry’s Ponzi Scheme (or: Venn and the Art of Election Cycle Base Maintenance)

August 29th, 2011

Inspired by Perry calls Social Security ‘monstrous lie’ (Houston Chronicle 8/28/11), A Venn Diagram for Rick Perry: Social Security Is Not a Ponzi Scheme (Mother Jones 8/29/11 13:30 PDT) and Ponzi Schemes vs. Social Security (Social Security Administration Jan. 2009). It turns out the only thing a Ponzi scheme and Social Security have in common is that Rick Perry keeps saying them in the same sentence.

“It is a Ponzi scheme for these young people. The idea that they’re working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie. It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can’t do that to them.” – Rick Perry in Iowa


Rick Perry says Social Security is a Ponzi scheme

(He doesn’t like it, it would seem).


He says it’s unconstitutional and a “monstrous lie”

(If you read his book, you’ll understand why).


But factual analysis of Social Security and Ponzi schemes shows

That Rick Perry nothing about Social Security and Ponzi schemes knows.


So remember, GOP candidates (especially those from the South),

It’s best to do a little research before you open your mouth.


And Rick: Are you planning to repay donors in the fine Texas tradition?

If not, your campaign might itself fit the Ponzi scheme definition.


(Of course, if your real Social Security goal is to cut it,

Or as Republicans have tried in the past, to gut it,

Then it’s helpful to convince voters it won’t be around

When their turn to start collecting comes ‘round.)


So Rick, before you accuse others of monstrous lies,

Check to see if that description to you applies.


And for all those who hate Social Security and would just as soon break it,

Remember it’s not a Ponzi scheme unless you so make it.


If Social Security is not changed one iota, it can continue to pay out all scheduled benefits for the next few decades, and then pay benefits at a slightly reduced level forever. If relatively minor changes (such as changing escalation rates to match inflation, raising the amount of income subject to tax, and gradually raising the retirement age in order to reflect longer lifetimes) are made, then it will remain solvent for the foreseeable future. That is pretty much the opposite of a Ponzi scheme. Then again, if your real goal is to drastically cut, gut, or privatize Social Security, then it helps if you can get pre-retirement age voters to think that it’s not going to be around for them anyway.


Update: Here’s Stephen Colbert’s 9/08/11 report on Perry’s Ponzi scheme, including Perry’s repetition of the Ponzi scheme statement at the GOP Reagan Library debate.


And here’s the excellent book that inspired our title, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

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