Stop blinding people with maths you bastard!

I’m not a big fan of Niall Ferguson, he did a lecture series at my uni that consisted of a preview of a television series he just made on a book he’d already written. He added a Q & A session, sure, but he was more evasive than illuminating.

Cost £1 million a year, value added… well hundred odd students didn’t have to buy his book at £12.62, so about £12,000? So, on top of his odious politics and his occasionally arguing in bad faith, he has annoyed me personally by sucking at the teat of the incompetent bureaucracy I employ. Hence, bastard. (UPDATE: £1,200, actually, plus, he didn’t even teach me rudimentary maths! And in a post discussing maths that really is embarrassing.)

John Holbo points me to Niall‘s (we’ve met, I’m allowed to call him that) latest screed is on how the Occupy Wall Street people have got it all wrong. Wall Street are just lovely, it is old, poor people who are the enemy, or something.

He concludes that they’re all smelly hippies (hippy punching? Check!) and that they should really join forces with the Tea Party to gut the welfare state (contrarianism? Check!) if only they realised that their futures are screwed and very impartial people think so too (appeal to mythical centre? Check! Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner!).

I’ll let Niall take it from here…

Let’s just remind ourselves of the report of the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds back in 2007, which projected a rise in the cost of these two programs from 7.3 percent of gross domestic product to 17.5 percent by 2030. The trustees warned that to achieve actuarial balance—in other words, solvency—for these two programs would require (for Social Security) an increase of 16 percent in payroll tax revenues or an immediate reduction in benefits of 13 percent. For Medicare we are talking a 122 percent increase in payroll taxes or a 51 percent cut in spending.

This really gets on my nerves. In an advanced economy can a reasonably large productive economy support a significant, but not huge, inactive population? Yes, it is called taxing things and then giving the money to the poor and old people. What about an economy with a history of immigration and rapid productivity growth which is likely to see more immigration and rapid productivity growth in the future? Guess what, double yes.

These things aren’t too hard. Appealing to strange panels of experts to discuss exactly how much one particular service or charge must be altered sounds weird. That is because it is weird. Can we tax people then spend the money on other people? Yes. It really can be that simple.