Sunday, April 10, 2005

Do These People Exist?

Last Wednesday, there was an NPR story on Bush's file cabinet stunt, where he was *shocked* to discover that the social security trust fund was not the equivalent of stuffing money into a mattress. NPR's David Greene reported:

GREENE: This filing cabinet houses about $1.7 trillion in government bonds and officially represents the money that has come in to the Social Security system from workers and will one day be going to retirees. As the cameras kept clicking, Mr. Bush pulled out a copy of a bond. He wanted to make the point that Americans who think there's some colossal pile of cash stored away for people when they retire are wrong. Actually, they're just IOUs here in a building along the Ohio River. The president's visit here lasted less than 10 minutes...

I could never quite tell if this was a sarcastic statement or a straight one. Are there many Americans, aside from those in the punditocracy, who imagined that the trust fund consisted of a "colossal pile of cash stored away?" This is just absurd. If ever the government wants to create a "colossal pile of cash" they can just order the Treasury to print up a few shiny new trillion dollar bills. That wouldn't be especially smart economic policy, but nor would storing a few trillion in cash in a giant mattress.