Sunday, December 12, 2010

Actual Information about Social Security

Social Security is in the news again. Let's face it: most people don't really know very much about how it works. They know they have to pay taxes for it, and that they will theoretically get benefits. But that's about it.
Unfortunately, many who don't really understand the other parts (e.g. how benefits are calculated or what the Social Security Administration does with the surplus money that they don't immediately need) seem to have strong opinions about it anyway.

Below is a link to a paper by the American Academy of Actuaries which gives some background on Social Security, details why it is projected to run short on money, and assesses the merit of several ideas that have been proposed to fix it. I ran across the paper earlier this year because it was one of the papers I was tested from on the actuarial exam I took in May. The paper is now almost 4 years old, but I think it should be required reading for anyone who wants to participate in a discussion about what to do about Social Security.

One highlight:

The surplus revenues from previous years has been "invested" in special issue government bonds. As those funds are needed the federal government will have to pay the money back with interest. This fact gives rise to the argument that "Social Security would be fine if the government hadn't already spent the surplus."
This is, of course, a stupid argument. First of all, the federal government will have to pay it back, so the money isn't gone. Secondly, the alternatives to investing the surplus in government bonds are investing in corporate bonds/preferred or common stocks (too risky), or stuffing it in a really big mattress (obviously stupid). You can't exactly do an efficient laddered CD scheme with two trillion dollars.


Sunday, June 13, 2010


On May 22, Amy and I were married.

Here's Amy's sister's post and our photographer's with more pictures.


Sunday, February 21, 2010


Fred Morrison, the inventor of our beloved Frisbee, passed away on February 9th. His NY Times obituary is available here.

Thank you, Mr. Morrison, for many hours of ultimate, frisbee golf, and general park happiness.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Irony, oh irony, how I love thee, irony

Friends of Irony: a site dedicated to pictures that are ... wait for it ... funny because they're ironic.

I liked these too:

You're welcome.


Friday, January 08, 2010

Ummm ...

Has anyone else heard about this?

Apparently an LDS gubernatorial candidate in Idaho is holding a meeting in a few weeks. Ok. But the meeting is for active Elders only, and the purpose is to discuss the "White Horse Prophecy."

I don't know about you, but this seems wrong to me on several levels.

1. An LDS candidate using his membership and perceived authority via secular position in order to gain political capital among other members of the church. Isn't the Book of Mormon pretty clear that priestcraft (using religion for one's personal gain) is a not a good idea?

2. Religion aside, what kind of person running for public office in the United States arranges a meeting and then explicitly states they're not inviting one gender? The article quotes Rammell as saying that "he hopes that the men will take the message home to their wives." Nice. Last time I checked, women in Idaho could vote. I hope they're taking notice of Rammell's perception

3. I perceive the topic—the "White Horse Prophecy"—to be problematic for several reasons. To begin, it's not scripture, it's not canonized, it's not officially taught, etc. It's compositional history (recorded 10 years after the death of Joseph by two men who relied on their memories) is open to criticism and leaves us with a text that cannot be defended doctrinally. (Note: I have nothing against the men and their integrity, but the history of the prophecy does not support a defensible text. FAIR has a decent article on this here.)

If you're going to have a political meeting for members of a specific religion, it's probably best to discuss something doctrinal / canonical rather than engage in speculation regarding a problematic text. Especially one that has been appropriated at times to justify the idea that Mormons need to take over the US government and ultimately institute a world government.

I paid attention to the story because, initially, the whole thing just got my feminine hackles up. I expect it to raise all of your feminine hackles as well. And your church vs. state ones. And your "what the hell?!" ones.

Seriously, am I missing something here? Am I the only one to see this not only as ridiculous, but dangerous? Next time I need evidence of the latent sexism in Mormon culture (not the church, but the cultural mores that has developed in the western "Mormon belt" in the US [Utah, Idaho, Arizona, etc.]), and specifically Mormons of a certain age (because honestly, I don't see this attitude as much in Mormons in their 20s and 30s) this story will come to mind.