Archive for October 30, 2010

Social Security Crisis?

October 30, 2010 Leave a comment

I wrote some 20 months ago about Jeff Madrick’s book The Case for Big Government. Yesterday he had a useful post at the New York Review’s blog on social security.

We all know that the deficit is increasing, the population is aging, and we are headed for a social security crisis. Along with Obama, we await the report of his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, due in a month and sure to include recommendations to cut social security benefits while raising the eligibility age for receiving them. Republicans tell us we must cut spending while continuing to fight two wars, or maybe three. Oh, and spend more on protecting our borders and spying on each other. And cut taxes too.

Perhaps the only item on which Democrats and Republicans will agree, once the election is over and a new Congress is seated, is that social security must be cut. This is the context in which Madrick’s post is worth reading.

In view of all the rhetoric, voters may be surprised to find out how little Social Security will actually contribute to the future budget gap. In fact, most would probably be stunned.

The Congressional Budget Office, which produces dry, cautious budget projections, recently reminded Congress that Social Security as a percent of GDP will rise from 5 to 6 percent in 2035 and simply stay at that level for the foreseeable future. In other words, the much decried shortfall amounts to only 1 percent of GDP over three decades. And this may be exaggerated. As some observe, much will depend on the flow of young immigrant workers to America. The more workers contributing to Social Security, the smaller any future deficit will be. And the CBO projections tend to make overly conservative estimates about such immigration in the decades to come.

No matter. I have little doubt that Social Security benefits will be cut. And the wars will continue. I don’t see Obama rocking the boat and taking any stances counter to conventional wisdom until after the 2012 election, if ever. As Madrick says, “This is no way to run a government.”

Categories: Economy, Politics

Morgan Library

October 30, 2010 Leave a comment

The restored East Room

Next Saturday will mark three years since we last visited the Morgan Library & Museum. We were in New York to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday, and the next day we had to head back to midtown to return the tuxes Joel and I had rented. (I had realized a few weeks earlier that rather than bringing clothing from Seattle (me) and Boston (Joel), we could instead go to local branches of some national chain, get fitted, then do the pick up and return at a Manhattan branch.)

Joel had flown back to Boston that morning. Gail and I lugged the clothing down to the tux place, then I suggested we walk from there over to the Morgan, just a few blocks away. If I were blogging in those days, I would have reported on the wonders we saw, as well as the still new Renzo Piano addition. (See Nicolai Ouroussoff’s NYT review of the addition, a year earlier, here.) There are the glories of the permanent collection, of course. There was a special exhibition of some illuminated manuscripts, maybe from Turkey or thereabouts. And there was another special exhibition, of letters from Vincent van Gogh to Émile Bernard, complemented by paintings and drawings mentioned in the letters. Oh, here — a link to the show.

Anyway, it’s time to go back. Today the historic 1906 building that Charles McKim designed to serve as J.P. Morgan’s office and library reopened after a restoration. Here is the Morgan’s description of the project:

n 2010 the Morgan restored the interior of the 1906 library to its original grandeur. A new lighting system was installed to illuminate the extraordinary murals and decor of the four historic rooms. Intricate marble surfaces and applied ornamentation were cleaned, period furniture was reupholstered, and original fixtures—including three chandeliers removed decades ago—were restored and reinstalled. A late-nineteenth-century Persian rug (similar to the one originally there) was laid in the grand East Room. The ornate ceiling of the librarian’s office, or North Room, was cleaned, and visitors are able to enter the refurbished space—now a gallery—for the first time. New, beautifully crafted display cases throughout the 1906 library feature selections from the Morgan’s collection of great works of art and literature from the ancient world to modern times.

See also Holland Cotter’s account in yesterday’s NYT and the accompanying slide show.

Categories: Architecture