Monday, March 09, 2009

My thoughts exactly:

The Cunning Realist
That Would Have Worked Out Well

Anyone seen any recent calls for Social Security private accounts?

The stock market crash has shown how catastrophic private accounts would have been, and who would have really benefited from them. Would the government have allowed the Bear Stearns and Lehman outcomes had the Social Security system been chock full of those stocks? Remember, both were former blue chips, the sort of companies that proponents of private accounts insisted any new system would be limited to. The same for Citi, AIG, Fannie Mae, and others. How much pressure would the Fed and Treasury have felt -- and what more would have been done -- to keep those afloat and/or out of penny stock land?

That pressure would have been exerted by millions of unpaid but highly effective lobbyists: people emailing and calling Washington, demanding that their Social Security money -- and so the stocks, the companies, and the executives -- be saved. Corporate bondholders would have loved it, since the Social Security system effectively would have become a massive safety buffer. Would "nationalization" even be considered if it meant destroying part of Social Security?

Private accounts are dead now, so it's a bit of a moot point. But I wonder how many of those who both supported them and genuinely object to the prevailing bailout ethos ever thought this through.

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