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Writing with Charles Blahous and Jason Fichtner, my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague, Veronique de Rugy, explains that Social Security needs fixing, but that that fix should not include increased taxes on savings. Here’s the intro:

When the latest Social Security Trustees Report was released in March 2023, we were reminded yet again of the parlous financial condition of the Social Security program. According to the report, the combined trust funds will be depleted in 2034, and Social Security’s cumulative financing deficit equates to more than 25 percent of all projected benefit claims over the next 75 years. Unfortunately, few politicians are willing to show the political courage necessary and propose the reforms needed to align the program’s benefit promises with financial realities and put Social Security on a sustainable financial path.

Thankfully, some scholars are still offering creative ideas to help solve this problem. The American Enterprise Institute’s Andrew Biggs and Boston College’s Alicia Munnell have just published a new report entitled “The Case for Using Subsidies for Retirement Plans to Fix Social Security.” Unfortunately, while we have the utmost respect for Biggs and Munnell and regard them as friends and colleagues, we believe the plan they lay out would fail to address the serious challenges within Social Security itself, in addition to significantly weakening retirement savings outside of the Social Security program.

Pat Lynch writes that “Milei proves that ideas matter.” A slice:

If you’ve never watched one of Milei’s speeches or television appearances, I strongly urge you to do so. The breadth of his knowledge about economic history and theory is remarkable and on evident display. You will be moved by the passion he brings to his discussions and presentations, and left wondering why other political leaders can’t match his abilities and energy. Politicians aren’t dumb, far from it, but their idealism tends to erode as they chase votes leaving their principles behind. Not Milei. He may not succeed in his mission to dismantle the sclerotic bureaucracy and dysfunctional central bank of Argentina, but he’s been unwaveringly clear about what he believes and what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to save Argentina from almost a century of exploitative and destructive fiscal and monetary governance.

At Davos he began by presenting the case that Angus Deaton has made about the importance of market systems in promoting economic development since 1800. He also cited, by name, Israel Kirzner, and sounded almost like Ayn Rand when describing heroic entrepreneurs and parasitic state actors and bureaucrats. Milei rightly defended the importance of considering government failure and rejected neoclassical claims of pervasive market failures. It’s almost as if the Mont Pelerin Society were his audience, not Davos.

The international media have tried to link Milei to Former President Donald Trump, right wing populism, and other anti-establishment politicians. There’s little doubt Milei is taking on Argentina’s elites, and Mr. Trump and his supporters are broadcasting a similar anti-elite message to anyone who will listen. It’s also true that Trump and so many of his supporters (such as Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts, who also spoke at the World Economic Forum) have tried to embrace Milei with complimentary comments at Davos and on social media. Though the Trump camp might align themselves with Milei, the policy offerings from the economic nationalists bear little, if any, resemblance to the economic courage of the Argentine upstart. Rather than the thin gruel of economic grievance offered by American right-wing populists, Milei’s policies are built on his vast knowledge of sound and successful, albeit politically unpopular, economic thinking.

About the “Taylor Swift ‘Psyop,'” the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal writes that “populist paranoia on the Trump right takes an even more bizarre turn.” A slice:

The background is that Ms. Swift has been dating Travis Kelce, the tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, who are going to the Super Bowl after an upset win this past Sunday. The 34-year-old singer endorsed President Biden in 2020, and news reports say the White House hopes she’ll do the same this year. Connect the dots, sheeple.

“I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month,” Vivek Ramaswamy wrote recently on social media. “And I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall.” He told the New York Times he is serious: “What your kind of people call ‘conspiracy theories,’ I simply call an amalgam of collective incentives hiding in plain sight.”

One internet pundit has posted a video, with hundreds of thousands of views, claiming that Ms. Swift’s relationship with Mr. Kelce is a fake “psyop.” This yarn involves the CIA, because of course, as well as George Soros, because of course. The story is that the Super Bowl on Feb. 11 will be rigged so that the Chiefs win in a dramatic fashion. Ms. Swift and Mr. Kelce will get engaged. That way they’ll be at peak influence to cut a joint October ad for Mr. Biden.

This is either lunacy or it’s theater. Our guess is the latter. Many of its purveyors well know they’re putting on an act, but there’s fame and notoriety and money to be had from spinning conspiracy theories, the crazier the better.

Yet the paranoia on the right about a romance between the most popular singer in the world and an NFL player does make Republicans seem, frankly, weird. Americans who want a return to normalcy won’t find it in a movement that demonizes two of America’s healthier entertainments.

George Will is pulling for Nikki Haley to MANA – Make America Normal Again. Two slices:

A British diplomat, one of Theodore Roosevelt’s close friends, when asked to explain TR, said: You must understand that the president is about 6 years old. The ambassador was referring to TR’s overflowing enthusiasm, energy and curiosity. Trump only has a 6-year-old’s defects: lack of impulse control, and a penchant for infantile insults — e.g., referring to Haley as “birdbrain.”

Laughing at him might not be Haley’s preferred mode of attack. Voters, however, are in no mood for policy speeches, such as the one she gave at the Hudson Institute in 2020 — a luminous defense of economic freedom against the statism, corporatism and protectionism that make Biden and Trump kindred spirits.


Many South Carolinians are eager to snuff out Republican competition by supporting Trump. Do they wonder why Biden, too, ardently wants Trump’s nomination guaranteed immediately? If, however, South Carolina prolongs the nominating process by supporting Haley, there will be time for pleasant Republican surprises and sudden Democratic forebodings.

[DBx: To my fellow libertarians: I’m well aware that Nikki Haley is far from perfect – that some of her positions, especially on foreign policy, are quite bad. But I judge her to be vastly superior to Trump and Biden.]

Eric Boehm reports that “Biden’s natural gas export ‘pause’ is based on bad math.”

In the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Ingram warns of the dangers of expanding the child tax credit. A slice:

An expanded child tax credit is an attack on America’s families, economic strength and fiscal health. That’s my conclusion after analyzing the effects of the new proposal in the House, which could face a vote as early as Wednesday. It would stifle work, increase the cost of other welfare programs, and even encourage tax fraud. It would also put the country deeper in debt.

Supporters either describe this policy as an antipoverty tool or silently back it in exchange for other priorities. But the credit would make families more dependent on government while discouraging parents from finding the work that leads to self-sufficiency and lasting success.

Also warning of the dangers lurking in an expanded child tax credit is my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague, Veronique de Rugy.

Madeline Grant: “One by one, the lockdown myths are crumbling.” A slice:

You may remember from the depths of lockdown – although you’d be forgiven for trying to forget – the cavalcade of talking heads that would appear on our televisions, their movements seemingly unimpeded by legislation, to lecture us on the rectitude of being imprisoned in our homes.

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