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About

I am a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, where I head research into a variety of domestic policies with a particular emphasis on health care reform, social welfare policy,  poverty, inequality, and Social Security.

However, this is my personal page, a place where I can offer my personal thoughts on the political and public policy questions of the day — or anything else that crosses my mind.  All opinions are strictly mine and should not be attributed to the Cato Institute in any way.

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12 Comments

  1. Bob Zadek says:

    I look forward to reading your posts.

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  2. Jay Haldeman says:

    Looking forward to Reading your comments

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  3. Scorpio Max says:

    I think you are a Coward and tied to the forces that are to be ignored and defeated. After we defeat you we ignore you. 🙂

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  4. Jordan says:

    I bought (sic) and have begun reading your book. I have a theory that is inspired by something I recall hearing about in the wake of the 2008 market decline but have not seen anywhere regarding a proposal that the Federal Government somehow prop up the value of 401(k) accounts.

    When the next huge market decline hits I think there will be a movement to nationalize private pensions and retirement accounts. The plan will be to credit investors with some sort of account balance on an “as of” date preceding the major decline. The Feds will then offer to annuitize this value into the investor’s Social Security stream. People will jump at it because their $50,000 account will be treated as, say, a $100,000 account. Lost will be the comparison of total return assumptions.

    The Feds benefit by having a huge swath of stocks and bonds as assets of the SSA. It would seem that the arbitrage of earning more on those assets than the implied return on the added stream of benefits would do wonders for the program’s finances. Yes, it is socialism, but that does really seem so farfetched now?

    More benefits for the Feds would be the board seats they would have to influence corporate behavior and an ability to monetize all the Treasury debt they will possess. In 2008 the Feds had huge stakes in banks, autos, and an insurance company. The Federal Reserve has added trillions of Treasury debt to its balance sheet. Would any of this really represent something of a different nature? I think it is only a matter of scope.

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  5. Mike Forbes says:

    I read your piece on N.R. about globalization. Your definition is incomplete. Globalization is the mixing and melding of cultures writ large by technology and capitalism. I published a book on this, but won’t promote it here. Contact me if interested in discussing more.

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  6. Nora Lee says:

    I was just reading your 1995 article “The Relationship between the Welfare State and Crime.” I agree with it, but, then, I am not a libertarian. Libertarians seem to emphasize radical individualism–a thing not conducive to getting and staying married and raising kids in that context, or even to understanding the moral demands a good marriage makes (this includes recognizing that mother and father are not interchangeable for the development of the child). Any thoughts on this? Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mike Bellinger says:

    Started reading your piece on budget cuts today but I stopped early. Social security is not an entitlement program, social security disability may be. Most people who work to retirement age and pay into social security get out less than they pay in. Do you not know this? As for Medicare, a similar argument also holds. Medicaid is a large entitlement program, as are food stamps, welfare, other programs we have to take care of the poor. Obamacare has/could turn into a large entitlement program. To the best of my knowledge, social security income still is higher than outflows. But the federal government has been spending the difference for years rather than saving the balance as they should have.

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    • mtannercato says:

      You are confusing “entitlement” with “welfare.” “Entitlement” is a budgetary term meaning “not subject to annual appropriation.” that is, Congress does not vote every year on how much to spend on Social Security or Medicare. It is essentially automatic spending. Ironically, actual welfare (TANF) is not an entitlement, because Congress must appropriate money for the program annually. Medicaid, as you note, is an entitlement as well. On a second point, Social Security spent about $65 billion more this year than it took in through taxes. I can go into a great deal of wonkery about the Trust Fund, but essentially Social security has never and cannot structurally save any surplus revenues (which only existed from roughly 1990-2010).

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  8. Jordan says:

    The fact that SS income may be higher than outflows has nothing to do with whether it’s an entitlement, only when it will be insolvent too.

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    • mtannercato says:

      You are confusing “entitlement” with “welfare.” “Entitlement” is a budgetary term meaning “not subject to annual appropriation.” that is, Congress does not vote every year on how much to spend on Social Security or Medicare. It is essentially automatic spending. Ironically, actual welfare (TANF) is not an entitlement, because Congress must appropriate money for the program annually.

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  9. Jordan says:

    Not sure why you replied to me. Like I said, SS is an “entitlement.”

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  10. Keith Heise says:

    Thanks for a very interesting article “The Vexing Question of “Preexisting Conditions”. I would like to make a point about the preexisting conditions.

    When Ben Franklin charged a higher fee for those who lived in wood houses relative to brick house, he certainly was addressing risk management. However, I doubt that his Philadelphia Contributionship allowed one to buy coverage the day after a fire had destroyed the home. In my view, it would be far easier for the public to accept having the cost of preexisting conditions paid by the entire insurance pool if the persons with the preexisting conditions participated in the insurance pool at their earliest opportunity and that participation was continuous. Not providing for one’s own health coverage until the January 1st after a major illness is discovered seems to be a gross abuse of the insurance system.

    Relatively few persons have preexisting conditions when they first need and are eligible to purchase health insurance (once they are of legal age and are not covered by someone else’s plan). Preexisting conditions arise as they are discovered. A cancer is discovered and treated, then it becomes a preexisting condition. The genetics increasing the likelihood of a cancer occurring is not currently classified as a preexisting condition. I suggest that persons who enter the insurance pool early and provide continuous coverage should have their preexisting conditions paid out of the pool. I think even the insurance carriers would accept this.

    Society needs to decide what to do with those who will not or cannot afford health coverage (whether or not there are preexisting conditions). These costs should never be in an insurance pool. They are pure public assistance payments. Putting these costs in an insurance pool turns the pool into a welfare program. In my view, if our elected officials want these costs to be paid, they should raise revenue via taxation and cover the costs. I believe that mixing public assistance payments with health insurance will always result in a system where insurance risks cannot be managed and public assistance programs cannot be properly controlled.

    Thank you.

    Keith

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