Majority of Americans Agree With Perry That Social Security Is a Lie
David Berreby is the author of "Us and Them: The Science of Identity." He has written about human behavior and other science topics for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Smithsonian, The New Republic, Nature, Discover, Vogue and many other publications. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Paris, a Science Writing Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, a resident at Yaddo, and in 2006 was awarded the Erving Goffman Award for Outstanding Scholarship for the first edition of "Us and Them." David can be found on Twitter at @davidberreby and reached by email at david [at] davidberreby [dot] com.
The Social Security program, Rick Petty reiterated the other day, is "a Ponzi scheme for these young people." The notion that Social Security pensions will be available for today's younger workers when they retire, he said, is "a monstrous lie." Many jumped on it—pundits and Democrats and the sort of correspondents whose emails ask for contributions for wonderful people running for obscure offices in places I've never heard of—and they all sounded sure that Perry had made a big mistake (an "unforced error," to use this political year's preferred sports cliché). But it's they who are wrong, and if their tired and familiar response is any indication of the way Democrats are going to campaign next year, then they're going to get creamed.
Perry's statements on Social Security are supposed to be a "gaffe" because Americans across the political spectrum like the program and don't want it threatened. Maybe so, but Americans across the political spectrum have come to focus, rightly or wrongly, on the notion that the Government can't afford all the stuff it now pays for. That way of framing the issue makes a dead-ender "save X at any cost!" sound irresponsible.
More importantly, the talk of government debt, combined with awareness of the size of the Baby Boom generation that has begun to retire, has left most voters doubtful that Social Security can do what it says in the decades to come. A Gallup poll last year found that 60 percent of us working non-retirees believe Social Security will fail to come through on its promised pension when we retire (the margin of error was four percent). Among workers aged 18-34, fully 75 percent said they don't expect to get a pension from the program.
When Perry makes Social Security out to be "a lie," then, he's not yammering out some crank viewpoint outside the mainstream. He's saying what a majority of the citizenry believes to be a simple truth.
You could counter such claims by pointing out that it is we, the electorate, who will decide if Social Security will prove to be a lie. And by pointing out that Perry is virtually promising to make it one, by holding to a view of the Constitution that would make a modern national government impossible. (Doubting our ability to afford today's Social Security is mainstream; thinking that the program is unconstitutional, though, is pretty wacky.) That might work.
Or you could counter Perry's rhetoric with hoary, brain-dead scare tactics about how the mean man wants to take away something you should never have to give up, no matter what, and to hell with everything and everybody else. That's the argument in my email box from the usual-suspect activist groups ("protect Medicare! protect Social Security!"). I don't know which aspect of it is sorriest—the contempt it implies for people's intelligence or its blindness to the psychology of politics this year.
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- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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