Social Security is the Titanic. 2022 is the Iceberg. Anybody See a Lifeboat?

Titanic Eisberg
Titanic Iceberg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2022, Social Security’s trustees report, the US government’s retirement income program will begin paying out more in benefits than it receives in tax revenues. By 2034, a year short of its 100th birthday, Social Security’s $3 trillion in reserves will be gone. Benefits will have to be cut by nearly a quarter. And it’s all downhill from there.

Those projections assume no substantial changes in the structure of Social Security: No payroll tax increases, not raising or eliminating the salary cap on which  those taxes are paid, not raising the retirement age or slashing benefits, before the dreaded day arrives.

Such assumptions are fairly safe because most politicians aren’t even willing to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Too risky career-wise. Older voters guard their retirement benefits jealously. Younger voters already consider themselves over-taxed. Better to just pretend the iceberg isn’t there, maintain full speed ahead, and hope to be voluntarily retired (with a sweet congressional pension, of course) before Social Security sinks beneath the cold waves.

Whether or not one supports the original logic of Social Security (I don’t), American demographics since the end of the Baby Boom boil down to fewer children per family combined with longer life expectancy. Or, to put differently, fewer young workers paying Social Security taxes to support more retirees for longer. That can’t and won’t continue in the same direction forever.

Everything eventually comes to an end, and Social Security won’t be the single historical exception to that cold hard fact of reality. The big question is whether it winds down in the least damaging way or catastrophically implodes (cue images of the elderly living on cat food and so forth).

The first step in winding down Social Security is to set an age cutoff — if you were born after a particular date, you will neither pay Social Security taxes nor collect Social Security benefits. People who never get on the Titanic don’t have to worry about flotation vests and lifeboats.

The second step is for politicians to stop making promises that can’t and won’t be kept. Legislate those inevitable future benefit cuts now instead of later, so that Americans above the “no taxes/no benefits” age but still well short of retirement are forewarned and can adjust their plans for the golden years.

Presumably nobody wants the elderly to starve. Continuing to pretend that Social Security has an eternal future guarantees that they will.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


California Secession: A Good Start

On April 23, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla approved language for a 2020 ballot proposal submitted by the Yes California Independence Campaign. The proposal will — assuming the campaign can collect and submit signatures from 365,880 registered voters by October — kick off a process already widely known as “Calexit” (after the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” from the European Union).

That process entails three parts: Asking Californians (in 2020) if they want to “discuss” secession; if yes, asking Californians (in 2021) if they want to secede; and if again yes, asking 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures to pass a constitutional amendment allowing California to leave the United States.

Whether or not that last step should be necessary is debatable, but seeing as how the last American secession resulted in a four-year war and a million dead, getting buy-in from DC and the other states might be the wisest course. Either way, if Californians want to go their own way, they should be free to do so, as should other existing states and even smaller areas and groups.

As an independent nation, California would boast the fifth largest economy in the world, and would rank 36th in population (by comparison to the world’s 196 existing countries) and in the top half by area (it’s larger than Hungary, Greece,  or Portugal). It has its own coastline (but its secession would still leave the US with access to the west coast via Oregon and Washington). It has its own border with a country other than the US (Mexico). It relies on other states for energy and water, but making that trade international rather than merely interstate doesn’t seem like an insuperable problem.

In short, California looks like an excellent test case for independence. It mostly has what it needs to function on its own.

As for relationships with other states and with a national capital 2,375 miles from its own, it’s far from obvious that the people of California have so much in common with the people of Texas or Florida or New Hampshire or Wisconsin that all five states need a government in common.

Ultimately, political government itself is the problem and a system of market anarchy or panarchy (competing “public service” providers within the same geographical area) is the solution. Until we can feel our way to such an arrangement, peaceful secession, decentralization, and devolution are probably the best outcomes we can reasonably hope for.


Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …

April 20 is cannabis culture’s high holiday, and  the Democratic National Committee celebrated it with fervor this year: Blaze up, get silly, file a bizarre lawsuit accusing the Russian government, Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and transparency activist group WikiLeaks of conspiring to steal an election.

The suit  confirms that after more than a year, special counsel Robert Mueller still hasn’t amassed the evidence required for a successful criminal prosecution, requiring proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A civil suit lowers that bar to “a preponderance of the evidence.”

But even that’s a long shot. The only credible evidence produced so far implicates only the Trump campaign, not the other two defendants, and only to the same extent that it likewise implicates the Clinton campaign.

That is, both campaigns admittedly tried to tap “Kremlin-connected” sources (defined as “anyone who’s ever been in Moscow”) for dirt on their opponents. Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer in hopes of getting the goods on Hillary Clinton. The Clinton campaign commissioned a British former spy to work his Russian regime sources for salacious tidbits on Trump the Elder.

Central to the suit’s claims is alleged “Russian hacking” of the DNC’s servers, followed by an embarrassing release of emails showing, among other things, attempts by DNC to rig the 2016 primaries in favor of Clinton and against her main opponent, Bernie Sanders. Problems with the case:

First, the DNC refused to turn those servers over to the FBI for forensic analysis, instead hiring a friendly cybersecurity firm to announce the results it wanted announced.

Secondly, metadata in the “hacked” files released by “Guccifer 2.0” indicates transfer speeds consistent with an internal source at DNC copying the files directly to a USB drive rather than an external hacker accessing the servers.

Thirdly, while the subsequent announcement by the US intelligence community of its conclusions claims methods and IP addresses “consistent with” Russian state hackers, those methods and IP addresses are also “consistent with” every other type of hacker on Earth.

Fourthly and probably decisively, the DNC makes the mistake of dragging WikiLeaks into the matter. The next time WikiLeaks gets caught making a false statement will be the first time. On the other hand, the leaked emails themselves demonstrate that the DNC lies constantly and without hesitation. When it comes to credibility, WikiLeaks is the gold standard and the DNC is something one tries to wipe off the bottom of one’s shoe before entering a respectable household. WikiLeaks says no, its source was neither the Russian government nor any other state party.

This lawsuit is simply the latest version of what the DNC has been doing since 2016: Trying to fob blame for its loss of an election it should have won in a walk off onto someone, anyone, but itself and its insanely poor choice of presidential nominee.

It’s very a risky move. In civil suits “discovery” runs in both directions. We’re about to learn a lot more about how the Democratic Party really works behind the scenes.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.