Monday, September 19, 2011

Social Security v. the Republican Alternative

M.S. writing for The Economist notes:

Up until about 2007, the goal of such attacks was clear: conservatives wanted to replace it with a Chilean-style defined-contribution plan that would be invested in securities. Within its own assumptions, that programme did at least make sense; but since the financial crisis, and with average returns from Wall Street now sharply negative over an entire decade, both the logic and the political support for any such programme have evaporated.

This “goal” would represent two fundamental changes: (a) investing surplus funds in risky securities as opposed to government bonds; and (b) converting a defined benefits program to a defined contribution program. Part (a) was supposed to increase the expected return at the cost of bearing stock market risk – which as M.S. notes has witnessed average returns being well below expected returns of late. The Galveston Plan, however, implemented part (b) but kept surplus funds in a portfolio with lower risk and lower expected return. But not everyone was necessarily better off under this Galveston Plan.


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