Archive for the ‘Budget Cuts’ Category

Who Spent the Social Security Trust Fund Money?

Cross posted from http://penigma.blogspot.com/2011/03/who-spent-social-security-trust-fund.html with permission:

Social Security should have a surplus. Republicans and Tea Partiers, like Rand Paul, tell us the money was spent, and they want to change benefits and the retirement age. They hate what they like to call ‘entitlements’; they never liked them. Like unions, they have been looking for pretexts to get rid of it.

So……….where is the money, and who spent it? Having spent it, why the hell do they think it is acceptable to simply say, so sad, too bad, and for the government not to pay it back?

Lets take a look at when the money started being spent. That would take us back to George H.W. Bush. It continued under the next president, Bill Clinton; but to his credit, Clinton presided over a booming economy, and handed over a surplus to the Shrub, George ‘Dubya’ Bush. And that appears to be where the spending went nuts, blowing the balance of the Social Security money with his wars and most of all, with his ill-conceived tax cuts —- the ones that benefit the wealthy very few, so very, very much more than anyone else.
Let me remind you how much the Democrats had a different taxation program than do the Republicans – and Tea Partiers:

So lets take a look at the money, the missing money, and who paid in that money. Because the people who paid in that money to Social Security have every right to be angry, and to demand that the money be repaid rather than be told they are out of luck.

That would be……..the baby boomers. There are quite a lot of baby boomers, they are no small demographic. They are aging, and as they do, they are a force to be reckoned with at the ballot box.

To reprise the history:

“The baby boomers have contributed more to Social Security than any other generation,” says economist Allen W. Smith. “They have prepaid the cost of their own retirement, in addition to paying the cost of the generation that preceded them.”

Smith points out that the baby boomers have kept their end of the bargain, which was proposed by the Greenspan Commission and enacted into law in 1983. “The higher taxes that were part of the 1983 ‘solution’ to the baby boomer problem have generated the annual Social Security surpluses anticipated so far, and they will continue to do so until 2018,” Smith said.

According to Smith, by 2018, the baby boomers will have paid enough extra taxes to have generated a $3.7 trillion reserve in the trust fund, which would be sufficient to pay full benefits until 2042 when the youngest of the boomers would be 78 years old.

“Despite these promises, President Bush has been raiding the trust fund since he took office,” Smith said, “and he no longer tries to conceal what he has done. In an effort to muster support for his privatization proposal, he has been openly admitting to the raiding of the fund.”

“There may be ‘no trust’ when it comes to Bush’s handling of Social Security money,” Smith argued, “but there most certainly is a trust fund. That fund is empty today because President Bush has used the money to pay for tax cuts, the war in Iraq, and many other programs. So, instead of trying to blame the baby boomers for Social Security’s current problems, Bush should stop spending Social Security money on other programs and repay the money he has already spent.”

As one of those who has been contributing those higher tax contributions into that trust fund, I want that money. I will not accept being told “too bad we spent it, you are S O L” by Republicans and Tea Partiers like Rand Paul. Pay it back, pay it back NOW, and if that means you have to end the damnable Bush Tax Cuts to the wealthy to do that, I don’t care. The wealthy may try to keep you on a short leash, Rand Paul, but that is your problem, and your cronies problem.

Don’t even think about making it my problem. I vote. I write. I am willing along with the baby boomers to go boom on your behind.

Let that spending of the Social Security Trust Fund become part of the George W. Bush failed presidential legacy. Let the Boomers take the lead in condemning him to history; I’m sure we won’t be the last, or the only ones to do so. And Tea Partiers, like Rand Paul? Be on notice, about that missing money? Better start coming up with ways to pay it back, not change the goal posts on us.

Six versus Seventy!

The US media is full of talk about a budget being proposed by The US Sentate’s “Gang of Six”, yet the media tends to neglect that there is a gang of Seventy–The US Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). These are the Democrats in the House who have already vowed to oppose any deal which cuts benefits in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Congressman Raúl Grijalva, co-chair of CPC has pointed out that:

“Our Gang of Seventy-plus has the Gang of Six completely outnumbered, and with Republicans not voting for any package, period, because of their opposition to a functional economy. The House Democrats hold the key to whatever plan can pass Congress.”

Grijalva and his allies point to the CPC People’s Budget as an alternative more in sync with what people want and the economy needs—a budget that calls for shared sacrifice. For example, 66 percent of Americans favor raising income tax rates on those making more than $250,000 and 67 percent support raising the wage cap for Social Security taxes. Both of these measures are included in the CPC budget. It’s a budget that also offers sensible cuts to military spending run amok, new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires, and an investment of $1.45 trillion in job creation, education, clean energy, broadband infrastructure, housing, and R&D. And it does all of this while achieving a lower debt-to-GDP ration in 2020 than the widely praised—praised by the elite, that is— budget proposal from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan.

In contrast, the Gang of Six proposal shafts those who have already borne so much of the burden of the financial crisis and its fallout—lost pensions, lost homes, lost wealth—while the very people who brought the economy to its knees through their recklessness make out like banksters and bandits. In fact, at a time of inequality akin to that of the Gilded Age, the top marginal tax rate would be lowered—lowered!—to 23 to 29 percent, while there would be massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), notes that JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein would save approximately $2 million to $3 million on their tax bills. But in twenty years, a 90-year-old living on a Social Security income of $15,000 would lose more than $1,200 a year in benefits.

How’s that a “bargain” for this nation and who exactly finds it “grand”?

All along, the alternatives that reflect the popular idea of shared sacrifice have been marginalized—by the political establishment (and, tragically, the Democratic leadership) and the corporate media. That’s one reason we are where we are in terms of the shape of this budget deal, where a ludicrous moral equivalence is being drawn between an increase in capital gains or carried interest tax and cuts in the very programs that have brought security and dignity to millions of Americans when they need it the most.

This is not about left and right. This is about right and wrong. And that’s something the political and media establishment just don’t seem to get.

See:
Congressional Progressive Caucus : FY2012 Progressive Budget

Sir John Rose, the Chairman of Rolls Royce, on the economy

This is a quotation from Sir John Rose, the Chairman of Rolls Royce, which is something that should be considered in light of the US budget debates.

We must be realistic about the state of the UK economy. A rebalancing is necessary and there will be no quick fix to restoring public finances to some sort of sustainable balance.

To draw an analogy, if the UK was a business, the shareholders would be asking serious questions. The current model appears to be that we can grow our business by growing overhead, by applying better terms and conditions to support functions than to wealth creators, and by paying dividends out of borrowings not all of which are recognised on the balance sheet.

We are also asked to believe that service levels will inevitably suffer if the costs of delivery are reduced. This need not be the case. As any business will confirm, service levels will reflect prioritisation, proper definition of desired outcomes, concentration on reducing waste and investment in productivity.

In the UK, the debate needs to focus on how to make the pie bigger, rather than how it is sliced. We must concentrate on creating an environment where the enablers of wealth creation, which government can influence, are world class. In defining the right policies, there are many examples against which we can assess ourselves, but we must measure honestly and then take the necessary actions to be competitive. Importantly, there must be the will to apply policy consistently and over the long term.

If we get wealth creation right, distribution and consumption will follow. It cannot be done in the reverse order.

Media Malpractice on the Debt Debate

The convention in mainstream journalism is that the new stories give you the facts, and the columnists give you their opinions (hopefully backed by facts). But in the coverage over the debt ceiling and budget debates sometimes you’re better off heading straight to the columns. Today offers a good example. In the Washington Post (7/15/11), Ezra Klein lays out the political dynamic that is rarely explained. As Klein writes, the White House has decided to:

offer Republicans a deal that is not only much farther to the right than anyone had predicted, but also much farther to the right than most realize. In addition to the rise in the Medicare eligibility age and the cuts to Social Security and the minimal amount of revenue, it would cut discretionary spending by $1.2 trillion, which is an absolutely massive attack on that category of spending.

In the New York Times (7/15/11), Paul Krugman writes:

President Obama has made it clear that he’s willing to sign on to a deficit-reduction deal that consists overwhelmingly of spending cuts, and includes draconian cuts in key social programs, up to and including a rise in the age of Medicare eligibility. These are extraordinary concessions. As the Times’s Nate Silver points out, the president has offered deals that are far to the right of what the average American voter prefers — in fact, if anything, they’re a bit to the right of what the average Republican voter prefers!

The conventional coverage–which pits Obama’s offer against Republican intransigence–tends to gloss over these facts. The front-page article in the Times today by Jackie Calmes explains the debate as being between Obama’s desire to raise taxes on the wealthy and cut the deficit, while Republicans prefer “smaller government” and lower taxes. It quotes Sen. John McCain saying that the “president keeps talking about spending more money”–with no explanation that Obama is actually proposing to reduce non-security domestic federal spending as a percentage of GDP to its lowest level in 50 years.

These are the limits in the media debate. The fact that the public would seem to prefer an entirely different type of budget deal is a non-factor. The fact that such plans exist–the People’s Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for instance–is all but ignored by the corporate media. Senate Democrats have floated a similar plan. A competent press corps would cover these proposals, if only for the sake of telling citizens that such options are available–that reducing the long-term deficit is possible without slashing spending on programs that people support.

But the media would much prefer a budget debate that pits Obama’s Republican-leaning plan against the Republicans who oppose that plan. Unfortunately, there is another budget proposal coming from the left which get absolutely no play in the USMSM (includes “Public Broadcasting”). This People’s Budget is the exact antithesis of what is being mentioned in USMSM. The People’s Budget eliminates the deficit in 10 years, puts Americans back to work and restores our economic competitiveness. Additionally, this budget protects Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and responsibly eliminates the deficit by targeting its main drivers: the Bush Tax Cuts, the wars overseas, and the causes and effects of the recent recession.

Our Budget Puts America Back to Work & Restores America’s Competitiveness
• Trains teachers and restores schools; rebuilds roads and bridges and ensures that users help pay for them
• Invests in job creation, clean energy and broadband infrastructure, housing and R&D programs

Our Budget Creates a Fairer Tax System
• Ends the recently passed upper-income tax cuts and lets Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of 2012
• Extends tax credits for the middle class, families, and students
• Creates new tax brackets that range from 45% starting at $1 million to 49% for $1 billion or more
• Implements a progressive estate tax
• Eliminates corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies; closes loopholes for multinational corporations
• Enacts a financial crisis responsibility fee and a financial speculation tax on derivatives and foreign exchange

Our Budget Protects Health
• Enacts a health care public option and negotiates prescription payments with pharmaceutical companies
• Prevents any cuts to Medicare physician payments for a decade

Our Budget Safeguards Social Security for the Next 75 Years
• Eliminates the individual Social Security payroll cap to make sure upper income earners pay their fair share
• Increases benefits based on higher contributions on the employee side

Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home
• Responsibly ends our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to leave America more secure both home and abroad
• Cuts defense spending by reducing conventional forces, procurement, and costly R&D programs

Our Budget’s Bottom Line
• Deficit reduction of $5.6 trillion
• Spending cuts of $1.7 trillion
• Revenue increase of $3.9 trillion
• Public investment $1.7 trillion

But as the Economist pointed out: “Mr Ryan’s plan adds (by its own claims) $6 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, but promises to balance the budget by sometime in the 2030s by cutting programmes for the poor and the elderly. The Progressive Caucus’s plan would (by its own claims) balance the budget by 2021 by cutting defence spending and raising taxes, mainly on rich people.”

Naturally, the Koch Brothers and their ilk wouldn’t approve of such a budget, which is why it gets no air time. Obama is the perfect sell out who follows the line of his big donors.

But, the real problem is that the people who are screaming about the government will be screaming even louder when they see they have been sold out by their government.

see also:
Media Malpractice on the Debt Debate
Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Fiscal Year 2012
The courageous Progressive Caucus budget

The Revolution Will Not Be Deactualized


Tired of the astroturf, corporatocracy apologists? Do you believe in peace, economic justice, human rights and a healthy environment?  Then clear your calendar for the 6th, the 7th, the 8th…however long it takes for the Obama Administration to yield to key progressive demands, including immediate withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and the other wars. Participants are being asked to sign a pledge to attend at http://october2011.org.

Join together in Washington, D.C., beginning on Oct. 6, 2011.

October 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and the beginning of the 2012 federal austerity budget. It is time to light the spark that sets off a true democratic, nonviolent transition to a world in which people are freed to create just and sustainable solutions.

See also:
SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Revolution Will Not Be Deactualized

Welcome to the REAL Magic Kingdom

Governments are running low on money, but don’t want to raise taxes. They are cutting services to the bone? What next?

According to BBC News: Parliament could become wedding reception venue

Well, Take that Mr. White Rabbit Republican! By being a Kingdom, the United Kingdom has a built in tourist factor that EuroDisney just can’t compete against. Why go to a fake-o Disney castle when you can have some REAL history going for you? If we get rid of the Royal Family, then what to do? Get people in funny costumes to play royalty? Personally, I prefer the real thing.

Lesser Toff have been opening their homes to the public for ages. Now, it’s time that “the Firm” catches up with the rest of British nobility and starts opening up their castles for tacky peasant weddings! Those annoying Texans can rent Windsor Castle for the real dream wedding.

It makes so much more sense than creating jobs and getting people to work.