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St. Lisle, IL
Has the Pyramid Flipped Yet?
Robert Chapman Wood's use of the word pyramid was apt in his article "Wipe Out!" (Dec.). Our Social Security system is a huge pyramid scheme-the present recipients are at the top of the pyramid, and those of us at the bottom may face the broken promises of a bankrupt, broken chain letter.
However, my research shows that your portrayal of the pyramid turning upside down is inaccurate. In 1960, we had 4.5 workers to support one individual on Social Security. In 1970, we had four workers for every recipient, and in 1980, we went to three workers per recipient, not one worker per 3.2 recipients as Wood claimed. It is estimated that by 2025, there will be only two workers per beneficiary. So, the pyramid scheme has not flipped yet. But give it a few more years. Thanks for an otherwise perspicacious article.
Mark J. Perry
Editor's reply: Mr. Perry is correct. The figure quoted in the article was taken from a U.S. Chamber of Commerce publication, which reversed the 1980 numbers. But, as Mr. Perry notes, the point remains the same-we're all victims of a pyramid scheme.
They Can Dish it Out, But Can They Take it?
While an excellent article, "Dishing Out Competition" (Jan. '87) leaves out some important facts. First, no cable service can ever hope to offer the variety of programs on the 140-plus channels available to dish owners (many of which will never scramble). Second, all satellite pictures are studio perfect-no ghosts, hum bars, bad color, etc. Third, nice systems are now available for less than $600 for those who do the nontechnical labor themselves. And fourth, black-box decoders, though quite expensive, again allow dish owners to get all programing for free. The only practical option HBO & Co. has to defeat these is to radically drop the price of their decoders and program packages.
Correction: "Inside the DEA" (Dec.) erroneously reported that Mallory Horne was convicted of money-laundering charges after he refused to take an FBI agent, who would have publicly posed as a legitimate lawyer, into his law firm. He was in fact acquitted of all charges. REASON regrets the error.