Today's Blogs

Trusty Numbers on Social Security

Bloggers dissect a new report that suggests the Social Security trust fund will run out a year earlier than expected, react to the news that Osama Bin Laden escaped from U.S. forces in Tora Bora, and ponder NASA’s plans for the Hubble telescope.

Trusty numbers: According to the 2005 Social Security Trustees report, the Social Security trust fund will run out in 2041, a year earlier than previously predicted. You can read the full report here, and a press release from Treasury Secretary John Snow here. (What happens when the trust fund is depleted? Reuters says that “tax revenues would still be sufficient to fund 74 percent of the benefits.”)

“If you compare the principal economic assumptions in the 2004 report vs. the 2005 report, the long term assumptions are nearly identical in all categories,” writes  Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum. “Considering that the economy did pretty well last year, it’s not clear why an honest update would choose to make a bunch of teensy changes with a net negative direction, but there you have it.” Economist Max B. Sawicky of MaxSpeak, You Listen! shares Drum’s skepticism and disputes Snow’s claim that “over 55’s have nothing to worry about.” Conservative Alabama blog Free 4 Good trusts the report: “This is why something needs to be done now. The Democrats have approved the abortion of tens of millions of future workers, millions of whom would be in the workforce right now paying into Social Security. All that in the name of ‘choice.’ ”

“Even with a bit of book-cooking from the Trustees, and a shake of doom-’n’-glooming, Social Security has actually gotten healthier from last year to this year,” insistsMother Jones contributor Bradford Plumer. PCA Library Links, which collects aging-related information, is more interested in the newly-issued Medicare Trustees Report. One quote from the report: “The level of Medicare expenditures is expected to exceed that for Social Security in 2024 and, by 2079, to represent almost twice the cost of Social Security.”

Read more about the trustees’ report.

Escaped!:In the run-up to the 2004 election, George W. Bush and John Kerry wrangled over whether U.S. forces could have captured Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. Today, the Associated Press reports on a Pentagon document that reveals “a commander for Osama bin Laden … who helped the al-Qaida leader escape American forces at Tora Bora is being held by U.S. authorities.”

“Remember that the United States was forced to rely on local warlords to try and capture bin Laden because resources were being diverted for Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq,” writes anti-Bush blogger Common Bastard. “What the Pentagon’s own files and own reports are telling us is that contrary to administration denials, bin Laden was at Tora Bora, he was cornered and we let him get away because we mishandled and ‘outsourced’ the offensive.” Liberal Oliver Willis bemoans  the fact that the AP could obtain this information only after filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act. “Wow, we might actually be holding one or two people who in fact *need* to be detained. How reassuring,” snarks Nietzsche-obsessed Thus Blogged Anderson. “Obviously, our torture of this man produced unreliable information!”

As of this afternoon, most conservative bloggers have yet to weigh in. Newsblog 5000, which invites its readers to “Lose Yourself in the Erotic Adventures of the News,” attempts a parody: “Out of fairness, it is not known if Osama could have been captured even if U.S. Forces had been used in the Tora Bora operation. Showing that there is no end to his cleverness, Osama disguised himself as Wajjmah, a young Afghani girl of negotiable affection, and seduced the simple soldiers of the warlords. After spending three weeks as a camp follower, he was able to make his way across the Pakistan border to freedom.”

Read more about Tora Bora.

Hubble trouble: This week, NASA is discussing what to do with the Hubble Space Telescope, which will probably stop working in two years unless it’s repaired. NASA officials favor taking the telescope out of orbit and crashing it into the ocean, but Congress might make NASA fix Hubble instead.

Space Law Probe’s Jesse Londin wonders which side NASA’s new director Mike Griffin will take. Liberal Absinthian Cocktails is heartened that NASA is about to launch a shuttle *, but laments that the “Hubble telescope, one of the most valuable, innovative objects known to man, is being thrown away by our lovable Bush administration.” Tales of the Heliosphere, the blog of a center-right lawyer, takes issue with a piece in Space Daily that argues that “the decision to waste $300 million in potentially useful humanitarian funds on deorbiting Hubble amounts to the willful killing of roughly 100,000 people – mostly children. It is irresponsible, irrational, and immoral in the extreme.” Heliosphere counters, “Actually, what is irresponsible and irrational is to make wild charges that it amounts to the mass murder of 100,000 people to spend money to safely return a large piece of space debris to Earth without harming anyone.”

Read more about Hubble.

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Correction, March 24, 2005: This piece originally stated that “NASA is about to launch a new shuttle.” NASA is about to start launching shuttles again, but Discovery, the shuttle in question, was built in 1984. (Return to corrected sentence.)