15 September 2011


At various times there have been proposals put forth to privatize Social Security and/or invest proceeds in the stock market. This is a nonstarter, both politically as well as logically. Rick Perry may be an appealing candidate, and aspects of Social Security may in fact resemble a Ponzi scheme, but he has simply handed Democrats the perennial fearful campaign club of wanting to get rid of Social Security. This has been a dream of many libertarians, but it is factually untenable. The market has gone nowhere over the past ten years, and losses are quite possible even with “secure” blue chip investments; just look at GM or Citibank. When your 401(k) has gone nowhere in ten years it is sobering and necessitates a reconsideration of potential Social Security changes.

This does not mean that Social Security is not in need of some reform, such as amending the cost of living adjustment, but the fact is that Social Security is not in that much trouble. It is Medicare that is the big problem in terms of covering projected costs. Social Security is solvent and only needs minor adjustments to stay that way.

People should definitely save and invest for retirement, but through their own private accounts, such as IRAs, as they do now. These are tax advantaged and more should be done to encourage people to establish these accounts. Longer term the stock market should yield a good return, but there is no guarantee. Social Security is more like a basic floor, on top of which other resources should be prudently accumulated. Certainly Social Security can provide a better return through compounded interest over time to everyone’s account, but the stock market is too unstable to be a serious alternative for Social Security trust funds.

10 September 2011


These were taken from a ferry headed to Ellis Island for an engagement I had there. I have many photos of the towers under construction at various stages I used to take from a pier in Brooklyn, and I'll post them when I find them. There are so many memories from the foundation of the towers, to many meetings in the buildings, dinners and drinks on the top floor, and of the sweeping view of New York harbor, not to mention the small church where I was married, which was obliterated.

Ten years on and 9/11 resonates just as painfully as it did in 2001. It is a wound that may never heal, even with the death of Bin Laden, as the struggle continues to play itself out. 9/11 is a dividing line in time, from which there is a clear before and after. I recall the night of the millennium and how magnificent celebrations around the world occurred without the slightest thought of terrorism. The innocence of that moment is gone forever, as we live in a world of unending wariness and security precautions previously unimaginable. In this there is no end in sight as we must remain ever vigilant, even as we have largely decimated Al Qaeda and the city and country bounced back. The cost in blood and treasure has been enormous, as war continues in remote outposts in Afghanistan. So much of the burden of our security rests on so few shoulders, unlike past conflicts, and indeed never have so many owed so much to so few. We must never forget the front line troops and their sacrifice, and all those innocents who perished on that awful day. Thus we must keep those images vividly in mind, as awful as they are, so that we never forget. It is not something to "put behind us," as some would have it, bu to remember always. Never forget.

09 September 2011


There are serious warnings about a potential terrorist attack as we approach the anniversary of 9/11, which resonates strongly here in New York. When, where, or how is unknown, but clearly a high degree of alertness is warranted. Hopefully the perpetrators will be apprehended and stopped before they can strike, as has happened many times before. But as Margaret Thatcher once said, we have to be right every time; the terrorists only have to be right once. That said, where you are when something bad happens is purely a matter of luck in being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Some people move, or think about moving to get away from everything. In these parts no place is farther away from it all than upstate New York or Vermont. Yet these very places are still struggling with floods caused by excessive rainfall, with all the attendant inconveniences like lack of power and ruined possessions. Who would ever have thought that a hurricane could impact Vermont, or that upstate could be seriously flooded? If you aren’t safe from perils there it’s hard to think of anywhere you can be. In Texas the opposite conditions prevail, with drought and wildfires burning out of control. The point is that disaster can strike anywhere, and the extent you are affected or threatened is purely chance- of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Why does a hurricane land in one place and not another? Why is one area impacted while another remains undisturbed? There is just no way to know. Of course there are places where such events are more likely and building and rebuilding in their wake makes no sense, but as to what can happen unexpectedly at any given moment we are largely clueless.

But the same is true of good things, like winning the lottery, because, as they say, “hey, you never know.” If there’s any solace in all of this it is that while you’re unlikely to win the lottery, you’re also unlikely to be at the center of a calamity. There are always some very lucky people for whom everything goes right, just as there are some very unfortunate people who experience the worst of things. However, most of us will never likely experience either extreme, but at most will endure inconveniences in life. So next time you grumble about a power glitch or an airline trip think of those who have lost everything, including their lives, and consider yourself fortunate, if not lucky.