Star Wars vs. Social Security

For those who haven’t heard, this morning the US “Star Wars” missile defense system suffered a serious setback, two weeks before its scheduled delivery date. A heavily-rigged test to shoot down a target ICBM failed because an “unknown anomaly” tripped the system; this makes the “Star Wars” system’s track record of 5-for-9, though the “wins” only occurred with the tests heavily scripted in the system’s favor.

Meanwhile, all this week, George W. Bush and his sycophants have been playing up the “Social Security Meltdown” horror story in Washington, saying that the only way to prevent Social Security from taking down half of the nation with it is for everyone to throw their money at Wall Street instead – a guaranteed win for financial advisors, with no guarantees for you. Critics have counter-argued that the danger is grossly overexaggerated, and that ongoing payroll taxes will be able to foot the bill for about 75% of full benefits even if nothing changes.

Given that the missile system is of questionable reliability and will continue to suck up billions of dollars – and is of questionable use even if it does work (“Star Wars” ain’t gonna do diddly against a terrorist driving a bomb into Las Vegas), why not just terminate this overpriced boondoggle and use the money to “fix” the “broken” Social Security system? Or is this plan doomed to failure, because it doesn’t benefit enough Republican donors?

(Sidebar: It is also interesting to note that Philip Coyle, the man who used to be in charge of weapons testing, specifically pinned the blame for the missile system’s failure failure on Bush. Clinton wasn’t sure if the system would work and wanted more testing, but Bush called for full-bore implementation. As a result, testing was halted while the production pieces were rolled out, and now we see – surprise, surprise – that a never-tested system isn’t working and isn’t going to work any time soon.)

Forgive my ignorance, but what is the price tag on the missle defense system? Would this fall into the same category of arguments as “Social Security vs. NASA” where the budget for the program is but a drop in the bucket compared to what is necessary to bolster Social Security?

According to this article, we’ve already spent $65 billion as of 2002. But what’s really interesting is that apparently nobody knows how much the system will finally cost – the Pentagon isn’t giving out any estimates for “cost to completion,” but is simply asking for more money until it finally, eventually, gets something that works.

65 Billion is money well spent if it can help defend us from incoming ICMB’s. In comparison, Boston recently spent 15 Billion on a three lane tunnel. It’s been less than a year and the tunnel already leaks in water and is in need of repair. There’s wasteful government pork everywhere. Missile defense is hardly a notable example of it.

It’s interesting to note that you admit Social Security is expected to have a rate of return of -25%, yet you seem to think that somehow the stock market is a worse investment option (which has a historical average return of +12%). Why don’t you let me decide where to invest my money and you can decide to invest yours?

$73 billion over the previous 19 years, $9.1 billion for the coming year

I’m in favor of the Star Wars R&D, because i would rather have more miltary funds spent on technology and less funds spent on hardware and personel. But i think we’re spending too much, trying to go too far, too fast. Maybe a billion per year would be good.

Social Security can’t be fixed with money, it’s fundamental design is flawed. The best solution, to me, would be to eliminate SS taxes altogether and raise fereral taxes enough to cover. Keep Social Security as just another federal program paid out of the federal budget. Overall taxes would actually be lower for most people as the rich benefit from the Social Security Tax’s hidden tax break … the $87,000 taxable income limit.


Multiply rjung’s figure by 100 and you might get much closer the right number. Social Security collects over 700 billion dollars a year. It disperses something like a third of that. In just over a decade it will use all of its revenue (which will be much higher by then) to pay benificiaries. Since it has been collecting a surplus for so long, however, it will simply begin to draw down this “trust fund”. This means simply that the rest of government will pay back all the money it borrowed, with interest, over the last decade or two. In about 204X this “trust fund” will run out. The ensuing deficit in Social Security revenues and expenditures will be anywhere from .5% of GDP to over 5% of GDP by the end of the century. GDP will be much higher by then, and we might assume that canceling the missle program saving should be adjusted for inflation, but still. I think rjung is about 2 orders of magnitude off in his calculations.

We’ve been hashing this over in the thread rjung linked to for a couple of pages.

It seems that tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1999.

We already have a defense against incoming ICBMs – namely, our existing stockpiles. What’s with a need for this newfangled toy? (Other than to make it an offensive weapon? “Ha ha, now we can attack you but you can’t hit us!”)

I wasn’t aware the government was denying you access to investment bankers.

the “bmd” has nothing to do with knocking down icbms. that’s just the cover for selling the program politically. it’s well known that no “missile shield” can work, and this one is not expected to. (imagine ftsa it somehow works well enough to simultaneously shoot down 100 icbms, no matter from which direction they are coming, and can recognize decoys & avoid chaff. how do you defeat the system? easy. launch 150 icbms. or 200.) but that’s not the point anyway. it’s “deterence” value, working or not, is that it ensures any missile launch against the u.s is total launch, an entire stockpile coming at once.

the program real intention is entirely about weaponizing space - allowing the us govt. to shoot down “enemy” satellites (i.e you want al jazeera off the air? click, done. you want china’s entire satcom system down? click, done.) the intention is for the u.s to have the capability to controll the entire planet’s information systems, and eventually to launch warheads from space based platforms to earth.

this is an offensive weapon system, and it is already leading to an arms race. and the money for it is not gonna come from any “savings” you might find in social security. the money for the “bmd” system is gonna come from the mars plan budget. (wait, you really though that we’re going to mars, didn’t you? sorry, not likely any time soon.)

ss is being attacked for philosophical reasons, not practical ones. those who would like to ss folded into the stock market have a big thing against societal responsibility. they want fund managers and the like to get a cut of your retirement, damn the consequences for you, and if you’re not able to retire on your own savings account then you should go back to work, and i don’t care if you are 80something. jeez, it’s the same reason why your the u.s is the only industrialized country in the world without socialized health care. it’s some kind of commie idea or something.

social security is “broken” only as far as it’s reserve funds are allowed to be siphoned off for purposes other than providing pensions to the next generation of retirees. by the time the genxers are all retired there might be some cash flow problems, but even then (unless you are in the top maybe 5% wealthiest americans) you’ll still be better off than if your ss contributions are managed privately and individually.

and weren’t they screaming about ss going tits up by the turn of the century way back under reagan? surprize surprize, it’s the same people in charge again. and they wanted star wars too.

Equilvalent offense is not the same as defense.

By taxing for SS, the government keeps individuals from investing that money themselves. It essentially forces everyone to invest for retirement in a particular way.

FWIW, I’m not in favor of privatizing Social Security or the Missle defense, but those are both pretty lame arguments.

$65 billion is a lot of money pissed away on nothing if it can’t help defend us from ICBMs. And it can’t. Not at all. Not even the tiniest little bit.

Well, first of all, Social Security was a lousy movie. Now, if you were to compare, say, Return of the Jedi to Social Security, you’d have a more even battle…


It’s the French governments’ fault. And Al Gore’s fault. R2D2 was supposed to be the nerve center of the Star Wars system, but when he needed new bearings in his wheels, Gore convinced Clinton to use French soybeans instead of good old American steel ball bearings. This was supposed to save the environment.

But of course the French soybeans didn’t hold up. When Bush complained about this, the French got pissed and sold their vote in the U.N. Security Council to Saddam in exchange for millions of dollars worth of favors in the oil for food scandal.

That’s why Social Security is going broke. It’s a conspiracy between Saddam, Gore, Clinton and the French to make Bush look bad.

You heard it here first!

You sound like a paranoid person. Missile defense is not an offensive weapon. You must really do some twisting to even consider this to be an offensive weapon.

This gets a couple WTF’s from me. First of all an investment banker is a person who helps corporations go public. WTF would I, debaser, a poster on the SDMB need one? Have I somehow led you to believe that I own a corporation that is seeking to go public? I think it’s more likely you simply have no idea what an investment banker is or does. It’s funny you think you know what’s best for everybody regarding investments yet you clearly don’t even know the definitions of basic terms related to investing. Secondly, the government is denying me access to my Social Security money. Their taking about $5,000 a year from me and not letting me invest it as I choose.

How much Pork Barrell is there in Star Wars and how much Pork Barrel from reforming social security ? Star Wars will still be around for some time… even if it doesn’t work.

Amazingly enough, I agree with you on this. MAD has worked since 1949, it’s silly to think that we need a missile defense system.

What’s more, if there is a full-scale launch we’re all at risk anyway because the country will mobilize for war. The likelihood of surviving World War III that’s already gone nuclear is so remote as to be incalculable due to tactical nuclear weapons which will almost certainly be employed.

In other words, if nukes go off we’re done. No missile defense system is likely to stop that.

Now that I have confirmation that my sabotage worked as planned, I can admit I did it because nobody in the USA seemed to be even slightly offended to have such a money consuming toy, requiring such an input of brainwork and technology, being named after a money consuming brainless Hollywood production.
What is it with the USA and their childish naming of money consuming projects and murdering wars? Outsiders take that as a clear hint that the US society lives constantly in a Hollywood Dream Outside Reality. Really. It makes a very weird immature impression.

So the Bush Toy failes. Do you have already Red Alert and calls to buy duct tape en masse or is that a bit too early (just before Christmas shopping period, I can see the objections of Greedy Capital Corp.).

Apart from what the Bush Crew wants to make of it, on which I am largely (oh well… completely) uninformed : What I can’t follow is why so many people in the USA seem to take the words Social Security as a synonym of They Want To Steel Our Money.

Salaam. A

If you couple it with an existing stockpile of nukes, then it becomes a dangerously offensive system:

Yeah, it’s an exaggeration, but anyone who believes “Star Wars” is purely defensive is deluding themselves. You can bet the rest of the world is already working on ways to circumvent whatever we cook up, to keep the balance of power balanced – and giving us a new arms race in the process.

Methinks rjung has been playing too much Civilization III with Ghandi as an opponent.

Right. And a bullet-proof vest, combined with a bazooka, becomes a dangerously offensive system too.

Obviously. Shooting down missiles aimed at us is an act of aggression.

Judge: “Why did you beat that person up, rjung?”

rjung: “He attacked me, Your Honor.”

Judge: “How did he attack you?”

rjung: “He blocked my fist when I tried to punch him.”