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Thursday, January 8, 2015

GOP thrust to stop transfers between Social Security funds may open a path for new progressive action

We learned today that there is too much money in the Social Security retirement fund and not enough money in the Social Security disability fund, so the Republican-dominated Congress seems determined to prevent transfers from the "rich" fund to the "poor" fund, allowing both to last until 2033. Otherwise, the disability fund would run out of money next year and the retirement fund would last, well, a lot longer than to 2033.

In the past this transfer was routine for Clinton or Reagan era congressfolks, but the GOP now sees a philosophical issue in this take from rich, give to poor, solution. Ignored is the fact that the past transfers caused a public impression of underfunding of the retirement fund, helped sell naive politicians on raising the retirement age, cutting payments and income taxing as much as 85% of earned benefits - all to the delight of the Paul Ryans of the past.

I think the Republicans are right, but not for some Ayn Randian ideal corruption, but because we are confusing the public, when we raise enough money for retirement payouts on one hand, use some of the money for something else (disability), and then come back in the annual budget battle and proclaim "entitlements (Social Security) must be reformed" because the fund is running out of money in 2033.

A good business owner with two stores, one that makes a fortune and the other that loses a lot, will often take profits from the richer operation to fund the poor one. This is usually temporary, a stopgap until the poor store lowers expenses or increases revenues. In no case would anyone with brains declare that both stores are unprofitable and going broke, when the profits of one are transferred to the other.

The disability fund needs more money. Republicans don't want to raise the income cap of $117k or hike FICA tax rates. Their solution, as usual, is to cut benefits next year or soon, so the books balance. In this exercise they appear to agree that disability is not retirement, and perhaps some in Congress have seen the light that extra taxes on working people to pay for disability (often even caused by careless employers) is like asking the lobster to heat up the water.

Our Social Security retirement benefit structure, already deeply regressive, should not support disability payments. Revenue to balance the disability coffers should come from general funds, like SSI does, and should be considered part of the public welfare safety net. At the same time Social Security retirement should be recognized as a benefit based on contributions, which it is not at present (the lowest paid beneficiaries receive 90% of prior earnings, the middle - 50%, and the top middle class - just 15%).

In a country not divided by fractional media and political coercion, the public would ask for a fair distribution of retirement benefits, that did not punish the workers, who contributed the most. It would also demand that if additional taxes are needed to balance our disability fund, perhaps new taxes are required of the rich, particularly those who do not pay FICA taxes above $117,000, corporations, or those blessed hedge fund managers who get away with 20% income tax and no FICA contributions.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Obama's U.N. pick, Samantha Powers, and hubby may be dangerous to the health of dissenters in U.S.

 Samantha Power seems headed to the U.N. as our ambassador, serving President Obama in yet another capacity. The posts about Samantha are almost endless, but her marriage to Cass Sunstein, another Obama friend, sheds light on her ideology as well as the President's. The following from Wikipedia is chilling and explains the downfall of many organizations, including Occupy Wall Street:
Sunstein co-authored a 2008 paper with Adrian Vermeule, titled "Conspiracy Theories," dealing with the risks and possible government responses to false conspiracy theories resulting from "cascades" of faulty information within groups that may ultimately lead to violence. In this article they wrote, "The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories, we suggest, is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government’s antiterrorism policies, whatever the latter may be." They go on to propose that, "the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups",[28] where they suggest, among other tactics, "Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action."[28] They refer, several times, to groups that promote the view that the US Government was responsible or complicit in the September 11 attacks as "extremist groups." They also suggest responses: "We can readily imagine a series of possible responses. (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories."[29]
Sunstein and Vermeule also analyze the practice of recruiting "nongovernmental officials"; they suggest that "government can supply these independent experts with information and perhaps prod them into action from behind the scenes," further warning that "too close a connection will be self-defeating if it is exposed."[28] Sunstein and Vermeule argue that the practice of enlisting non-government officials, "might ensure that credible independent experts offer the rebuttal, rather than government officials themselves. There is a tradeoff between credibility and control, however. The price of credibility is that government cannot be seen to control the independent experts." This position has been criticized by some commentators,[30][31] who argue that it would violate prohibitions on government propaganda aimed at domestic citizens.[32] Sunstein and Vermeule's proposed infiltrations have also been met by sharply critical scholarly critiques.[33][34][35]

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Chris Moody notes "well built man" and red tank top, in scribble pushing Mark Sanford sympathy vote

Today is the election in South Carolina that pits prior liar Mark Sanford versus Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, and the following appeared on a link from the main page of Yahoo, written by Chris Moody, Yahoo! News
"Before Mark Sanford walked into the local school district headquarters here to cast his ballot for Tuesday's special election, he took a moment to embrace Jason Cunningham, a 34-year-old local hip-hop artist and friend who came to show his support for the former governor.
"Cunningham, a well-built man in a red tank top who goes by the stage name J-Scribbles, has been following Sanford's career since 2010 when Cunningham was released from prison after serving a 16-year sentence for second-degree murder. Sanford left office at about the same time Cunningham exited prison. Cunningham said he has met Sanford several times during the campaign, and he views Sanford's effort to resuscitate his career as a source of inspiration for anyone with a troubled past looking for a second chance.
"He has learned from this. I know he's learned from past mistakes. That's what life is—you fall, you get back up," Cunningham told Yahoo News and Slate Magazine. "Society, you know, they don't want to give you another chance to learn from it. You can't expect nobody to go through this life without falling. You fall and get back up. You know what I'm saying, so that's what it's about."
"When some people mess up, Cunningham said, they disappear forever instead of working to build themselves back up. "Sanford came back!" he exclaimed."
It's nice to know that Chris thinks Cunningham is "a well-built man" and he wore a red tank top - sort of goes together like a muscle fashion statement? What's not nice is the overall blatant endorsement of Sanford from a writer for a major search engine and news aggregator.

This is the last of many Moody articles fawning over the swine sublime, who lied to voters, wife and anyone else, who asked a question about his devious dabbling. By running for Congress, he becomes a public figure and deserves censoring for his lie about hiding in Argentina, while betraying the people of SC as governor. Instead Chris pens tripe that belongs in a magazine with pix of pectorals and admiration of abs - not a national web site.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

You're never lonely when your liberal heroes send you endearing, friendly emails about grass and roots

Sherrod Brown [] today warned me:
"Ohioans didn't send me to the Senate to compromise away their future. And you didn't get involved in this grassroots movement to sit on the sidelines and watch this radical agenda get across the finish line." I agree, even if I'm not from Ohio (but the wife is, so how does Brown know?).
Then he tells me:
And our grassroots network won't grow stronger unless we invest in it. Contribute $5 -- or whatever you can -- to help right now.
Surely, the fate of a grassroots movement shouldn't rise or fall on a retiree's $5 donation, and I wonder why some liberal hedge fund manager won't just contribute $500 million and let 100 million of us have enough for coffee and a donut tomorrow morning.

Jennifer Petty also dropped me an email this morning, and it's nice to get correspondence from young ladies when you are now past 70. Jennifer starts out with "Hey Friends" and goes on to explain the reason for this missive (which has partial yellow background, wow!):
I am sitting at work today, reworking our budget for the 2nd quarter. While we have been doing well, it looks like we need to raise $5,000 by April 30th to meet our goal.
She seems to want more than just $5, but she probably knows I have some money left after the donation to Brown. Jennifer explains why she wants my dough:
 Please consider sending a generous gift today.
Your contribution will go to helping recruit progressive Democrats to run for office in 2014 and give them the support they need to build successful campaigns.
I also seem to have a friend  in Adam Green from Bold Progressives.Org, who suggested yesterday afternoon:
Can you help us draft a populist fighter for senator? Join Draft Schweitzer today!
(You can also donate $3 that Brian will receive on Day One of his campaign, so he can hit the ground running. Over $25,000 raised so far!)
Bruce Finzen also emailed yesterday. He's with the Center for Public Integrity, and thinks I'm not one of those $3 givers:
Help me make sure that the Center can continue its work in the public interest and has the resources to leave no stone unturned. Your gift of $30, $50, $120 or more will help ensure they can. Please give as generously as possible.
So many email friends. So little money to donate. Oh well!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Public services should not just benefit the poor, but should be supported by taxes for everyone to use

Once again, the argument is made that we should not provide universal – whatever – because higher income folks can afford to pay for it themselves.

If we have a public service, like public schools, or public healthcare for all, or even public childcare for all – it should be open to all members of the public, and we should not create a separate CLASS of people, who are stigmatized, since they qualify for a public service – just because they are poor. Should they be made to wear a green star? Walk on the other side of the street? Keep their gaze averted from ours? Many proud families would refuse to apply for such “aid”, rather than be classified as the bottom dwellers of society.

With a fair, progressive tax system, the wealthy would pay a higher percentage of taxes, and more taxes, and should be included in every public program, because they are supporters, often even more equal supporters of these public efforts.

In practice, the very rich will probably not need these public programs, and instead, will avail themselves of very expensive programs of their own making. But that is on them. Should we means test public parks, highways and establish drinking fountains for the poor, free, and the rest of us, 25 cents.

Taking the middle class out of public programs, insures that a so-called lower class (less income, but not necessarily dumber or less moral) doesn’t feel equal to other Americans, and becomes isolated from the middle class to which it aspires.

Any means-testing destroys the ideals of a public good, and replaces it with some humiliating charity from political “benefactors.”

The regressive benefits now delivered from Social Security are another example of so-called means-testing, where upper middle class earners are starkly penalized with lower percentages of overall benefits and the lowest earners receive three or four times the benefit percentage. Such a charity approach loses support for a pension program because it has been converted to a part welfare system. The solution here is a fair basic Soc Sec benefit, supplemented by a pension based purely on wages earned and FICA taxes paid. And means-testing Medicaid, instead of us offering universal Medicare, forces families to “spend down” nearly all their grandparent’s assets, just to enter a nursing home, and they are then at very bottom of the income ladder.

In the same vein, one of the great mistakes of Obamacare is its extra help to the poor and its sliding scale of subsidies. The goal should be “free” all the way up to the top, and at the same time, fair progressive taxes all the way to the top to pay to make public programs available to all who want them.
You cannot justify an economic system that charges you more taxes and excludes you from public programs, but what we are doing is charging some people for public programs, instead of taxing them, which only saves them on other taxes by not using the public programs. If we taxed them to make these programs open to all – they would be paying for them – and probably not using them. Meanwhile the poor and middle class would not be second-class citizens, “getting something” extra from the government.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Even a small third party would exert tremendous influence on economic policies with swing vote

Jared Bernstein recently asked how we can move forward with economic change in this country. Mine was one of many fine answers:
The political solution to your question is even more politics. Two parties that espouse different social value views, but the same basic economic principles, now also decide in favor of the class that sustains them - the wealthy. Other nations have third and fourth parties that concentrate almost solely on things like minimum wage, paid leave, universal healthcare. When you vote for them, you vote for your pocketbook, not whether or not the Easter bunny should be included in public school books.
Both of our major parties have tremendous baggage if they try to attract votes from the other social issue spectrum. Why would a very religious, pro-life person vote for a liberal, who may agree with a hike in the minimum wage, but also vigorously supports abortion or extreme secularism.
The Democratic Party will never attract the working class vote, because it has too many litmus tests. Do you agree that guns should be nearly banned? Do you approve of in-state tuition for folks who are not even American citizens? And on the other side, do you believe that we should have prayer in school and the world was created less than 4,000 years ago?
An economic party with candidates that only stood for fairness in income distribution and all the common sense worker protections, might elect ten or fifteen Senators, a couple dozen Representatives - not enough to select the Senate Majority leader or Speaker of the House, but enough to create a swing vote that represented the people's financial interests, a block that would need to be consulted for its support.
 A small third party would also be immune to the usual Washington advancement pressures. A minority party would be doomed to never electing a President on its own, but it would also permit its members to be their own man or woman.
Jared Bernstein Blog