Social Security Administration

Alan Simpson has been arguing that longer life expectancy since 1935 requires a fundamental rethinking of Social Security. Ryan Grim gets Simpson on the phone and tries to explain the statistics to him. Hilarity ensues: HuffPost suggested to Simpson during a telephone interview that his claim about life expectancy was misleading because his data include people who died in childhood of diseases that are now largely preventable.

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You may not be familiar with Mollie Orshansky. But you’re probably familiar with her work. Orshansky was a researcher and statistician who joined the Social Security Administration in the late 1950s. One of her jobs was to measure income adequacy and, in the early 1960s, she devised a formula based roughly on three times the price of a basic, nutritionally sufficient diet. It was a crude formula, based on previous research showing that people spent roughly a third of after-tax income on food. But it was good enough.

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Small Ball

In early December, the White House announced four finalists for the president’s Securing Americans Value and Efficiency (SAVE) Award--a competition that plumbed the depths of the federal bureaucracy for ideas on how the government could save money. One finalist proposed streamlining the way the Forest Service forwards campground fees to the government. Another suggested that the Social Security Administration allow people to book appointments online rather than only by phone.

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Pox Populi

United We Stand: How We Can Take Back Our Country by Ross Perot (Hyperion, 115 pp., $4.95 paper) Not for Sale at Any Price: How We Can Save America for Our Children by Ross Perot (Hyperion, 158 pp., $5.95 paper)  On November 7, 1969, a week before the huge antiwar moratorium demonstrations, The New York Times ran a full-page advertisement in support of the Nixon administration's policy in Vietnam. A similar advertisement appeared two days later; and then, on November 15, the Times reported that the pro-Nixon advertisers had blanketed the country with 25 million postcards backing the president,

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