Sunday, March 13, 2005

Random party conversation

At a birthday party at Chuckee Cheese's with my daughter, I met somebody from a DC think tank. There was a birthday show going on, *very* loud. When it got a little quieter I pointed to the Chuckee Cheese mascot. "Is that a rat?"

"That's Chuckee Cheese. Just like on the sign outside."

"Yes, but is it a rat?"

"It's a rat or a mouse."

"Out of all the animals they could have had, how did their marketing people think to use a rat?" The big manikin wiggled its long nose and batted its eyes like it knew that it was cuter than a thousand children. I tried to imagine somebody inside wearing that big head as a mask. I could see two tiny irregularities on the face at what would be eye level on a human, that seemed too far apart and way too small for eyeholes. But then, it could be a fiber optic deal. Spread them out on one end and you'd get a wide field of view, but the perspective would be off. You'd have to learn how to walk with that.

"That's true. They could have used a rabbit or a kangaroo."

"Or even a raccoon. Say, I overheard you talking about social security. Do you write to publish?"

"Yes, sometimes. We're just a little think tank, we only deal with one issue, but I'm writing a paper about how social security affects our issue and vice versa so I've spent a few weeks finding out about it."

I said, "Good. We need more people to understand about that, though it doesn't take much to understand how it relates to the Bush administration."

"The media has been doing a piss-poor job of reporting this. The issue isn't anything like what people think it is."

"Yes, I'd been hearing about that from blogs and such, but I didn't study it in detail myself."

"They say it has a long time before it goes into crisis, but really it goes broke in 2017. They want to count one point seven trillion dollars in treasury bonds as assets, plus interest. And the government won't be able to pay those bonds, so they aren't really assets for social security. I don't trust the Bush administration, but they're right about this."

I said, "Why do they talk about social security and not medicare?"

"Medicare would be an even harder problem so they're going after the easy one first. And social security is in deep trouble in 2017."

"Well, but that isn't something wrong with social security, that's something wrong with the budget. Why is the US government spending so much more than we collect?"

"I'm a moderate and I don't say whether taxes are too low or too high. But yes, there's a problem with that and it's going to hit social security in 2017. They can't count those t-bonds as assets. This business of the government loaning itself money is just wrong."

"There's a simple solution about that for social security. Just sell all the t-bonds and buy commercial bonds. Then social security wouldn't be loaning money to the government. We'd get more interest from them too because there's the chance they might default while government bonds never default. US bonds are the safest investment there is."

"Um, it used to be that way."

I said, "It still is. Do your really think the US government would default on its bonds? That's something sleazy third-world countries do. You don't really want our bondholders to think that, do you? So anyway, social security could sell all its t-bonds and buy commercial bonds, and bonds from the british government and the german government and all like that. There isn't any danger that britain will default on their bonds, or germany or japan or india. It's only the USA that's in trouble."

"But if social security sold their bonds the government would be in deep shit."

"Yes. It isn't social security that's in trouble, it's the federal budget, and a long time before 2017."

"Well, when you look back at how it got this way it wasn't just republicans and it wasn't just recent. I'd put the blame about 50:50."

I said, "Yes. But who are you going to trust to get us out of it? The Bush administration has shown us they're liars and thieves. They're talking about social security instead of medicare because social security has money they want to steal, and medicare doesn't. We can't get a start on a solution for another four years. We need a reform government and I don't care whether it's republican or democrat, but the people who got us into this aren't going to get us out. Certainly not under Bush's leadership."

"Excuse me, I have to take my son out to play the Chuckee Cheese games and win tickets."

Awhile later I met him in the aisle as he was returning to the table. I stuck out my hand. He seemed surprised for a moment, then he shook my hand. "Good conversation!"


Blogger fling93 said...

Hey, I'd shake your hand, too, only I'm on the west coast and our conversation(s) are still going on (yes, I got your e-mails, but I've been busy writing up my take-home midterm for my PoliSci night course).

You should post more often. Do you have an RSS feed?

3:34 PM, March 18, 2005  
Blogger J Thomas said...

I don't have an RSS feed. Blogger has something that appears to be proprietary that does the same thing:

They gave a list of newsreaders that support it. I just now looked up about RSS and they suggest a third-party RSS supporter that I'll try when I have time to struggle with it.

I was particularly pleased in that conversation to hear "I don't trust the Bush administration, but--".

It seemed like a sign the cultural immune system is finally starting to respond to the Bush antigens.

12:52 AM, March 19, 2005  
Blogger fling93 said...

Oh, as I understand it, Atom is one of the three competing RSS standards, and yeah, it works for my own RSS newsreader. Thanks! You should post a link to it, BTW.

I think most people who pay attention (and aren't overly partisan) do realize that this administration is extraordinarily deceptive. But the problem is still that most Americans don't really pay much attention (and the ones that do are rather partisan).

3:01 PM, March 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked your bald assertion that Bush is dealing with SS and not Medicare because SS has the money and Bush wants to steal it. That's really the key, and it's nice to hear it stated plainly.

Nancy Irving

7:20 PM, May 29, 2005  

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