He notes that lots of things are important and in a climate of cuts, how is one to chose whether one program is more important than another? I’ll have more to say about this—it’s obviously an important question. CBA (cost/benefit analysis) comes to mind, eg, but that’s often harder than it sounds (and less fun too).
But here’s the thing re Social Security. According to my esteemed CBPP colleague Arloc Sherman, poverty expert extraordinaire, poverty among the elderly goes from 9% with Social Security benefits to 45% without them.
I know, I know, no one is calling for Soc Sec benefits to go away. But let me suggest that one strong criterion for whether a program is earning its keep relative to other choices should be its poverty reduction impact. And on that metric, Soc Sec rules.