Posts filed under 'Social Security'

Harry Reid’s Modest Lunch

The lame duck session has given Lindsey Graham a sad:

“When it’s all going to be said and done, Harry Reid has eaten our lunch,” Graham said on Fox News radio. “This has been a capitulation in two weeks of dramatic proportions of policies that wouldn’t have passed in the new Congress.”

Here’s the funny thing, though: Of the four significant pieces of legislature passed in the lame duck session, only the DADT repeal vote could be considered unambiguously progressive, and it was backed by the Pentagon’s own report saying that it could be done with no harm to military effectiveness.  New START was the continuation of a Ronald Reagan initiative, Zadroga provided aid for 9/11 heroes, and the tax cut “compromise” was both a huge giveaway for the wealthy and a stealth attack on Social Security.

It is also worth pointing out that none of those four bills pose any harm to corporations or rich people, but I’m sure that’s probably just a coincidence.

December 23rd, 2010 at 12:25pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Obama,Politics,Republicans,Social Security,Taxes

Obama & The GOP’s Social Security Trojan Horse

Rep Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Eileen Applebaum make the latest case for why the payroll tax holiday that Obama is so proud of is such a huge threat to Social Security.  And I keep coming back to the same question: Was a payroll tax cut really the only way to put extra money in people’s hands?  What was wrong with the Making Work Pay tax credit, which actually put more money in the hands of those who needed it?

There was either no thought put into this choice of vehicle, or considerable thought.  And the potential consequences are so obvious that it’s difficult to imagine anyone overlooking them, so I find it almost impossible to believe that Obama did.

Just like I find it almost impossible to believe that he didn’t think that a deficit commission stocked and staffed with Pete Peterson apparatchiks and other mortal enemies of Social Security would come up with a plan that didn’t harm it, or that such a plan would acquire instant legitimacy even if it didn’t reach the 14-out-of-18-vote threshold that was supposed to be necessary to trigger a vote in Congress.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Barack Obama is a much greater threat to Social Security than George W. Bush ever was.  He disguises betrayal as bipartisanship and compromise, but it is betrayal all the same, calculated and deliberate.

December 22nd, 2010 at 05:46pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Obama,Politics,Republicans,Social Security,Taxes

WIth Dems Like These, Part 832

So Obama’s brilliant “compromise” plan is to use the unemployed as human shields to extend tax cuts for the rich, gut the estate tax, and apply a “temporary” payroll tax cut that can probably never be repealed and will make it easier for Republicans to destroy Social Security once and for all?

Gee, what’s not to like?  I particularly like how Obama gets to re-use the healthcare reform messaging playbook: “How can you oppose these gifts to the rich and corporate?  Why do you hate unemployed people???”

Also, what a bitch says.

December 7th, 2010 at 07:41am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Obama,Politics,Social Security,Taxes,Unemployment

Deficit Reduction News Flash

Apparently it is possible to reduce the deficit without screwing the poor, middle class, or the elderly.

Who knew?

I’m still not optimistic about the outcome, but it’s good to have some progressive alternatives out there so that Obama and the Republicans don’t get to pretend that the Bowles-Simpson plan and its Pete Peterson/Alice Rivlin siblings aren’t the only deficit-cutting strategies out there.

November 29th, 2010 at 07:25am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Economy,Politics,Social Security

The Other Campaign Finance Problem

Technically speaking, it’s not actually campaign finance, but it’s a key part of the whole corrupt system of skewed incentives that has made our government a wholly-owned corporate subsidiary:

Why would members of Congress be prepared to take a vote that is both bad on policy grounds and also could hurt their own political survival? Erskine Bowles is a large part of the answer. Bowles is an unsuccessful politician, having twice lost in runs for the Senate in North Carolina.

Yet, he is very successful financially. He pockets $335,000 a year as a director of Morgan Stanley, one of the huge Wall Street banks that was rescued by taxpayer dollars in the fall of 2008. He likely pockets a similar sum from sitting as a director of GM, another company rescued by the government.

This means that Bowles pockets close to $700,000 annually (@600 monthly Social Security checks) from attending eight to twelve meetings a year. This must look like a pretty attractive deal to current members of Congress. In other words, the message Bowles is sending members of Congress is that if you betray your constituents and vote to undermine Social Security, you will be amply rewarded even if the voters give you the boot.

For this reason, Bowles should be a very scary figure to supporters of Social Security. By example, he is telling our elected representatives of Congress that they need not worry about either good policy or their voters’ wishes. Unfortunately, many members of Congress may find Bowles career to be an attractive route to follow.

This scares me at least as much as the obscene quantities of corporate money sloshing around in the system, an it’s even harder to regulate.  Sure, you can impose restrictions on politicians becoming lobbyists immediately after they leave office, but just how much can you legally restrict how (or how well) they make a living?

November 2nd, 2010 at 07:26am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Politics,Social Security

Wanker Of The Decade

Bad enough that what Dubya misses most about the presidency is being “pampered” and having other people clean up after his dog, but now he tells us that his biggest regret is that he failed to subject Social Security to the cruel whims of the stock market.

That’s just lovely.  He misses being treated like a lord, and regrets that he couldn’t send more elderly people into poverty.  Nope, I still don’t miss him yet.  Not now, not ever.

October 22nd, 2010 at 01:01pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Politics,Republicans,Social Security,Wankers

Wankers Of The Year

Obama’s handpicked Catfood Commission, continuing to lick the third rail of American politics:

If back-channel sources are correct, the Deficit Commission is finalizing a deal that would increase Social Security benefits slightly for low-income recipients while cutting them for everyone else. The Commissioners apparently believe that putting this “progressive” gloss on a package of unneeded cuts would allow them to move forward with their predetermined anti-Social Security agenda.

The new proposal would pit middle-class seniors against the elderly poor, forcing them to compete for a stripped-down pool of dollars. The end result would be the one that many Commission members have pursued for years: to cut the most stable and successful program in the Federal government’s history.

The cynicism is breathtaking: The commission is essentially trying to use the poor as hostages or human shields for their efforts to gut Social Security, in essence saying, “But you liberals luuurrrve the poor, right?  You do want to help the poor, right?”  It’s a very similar approach to the one the Democrats used on healthcare reform, where they used the people that the bill would help against those of us who had major concerns about the insurance and pharma corporations it would help, and the millions of people that it wouldn’t help, and would even hurt.

The other frustrating – but thoroughly unsurprising – element of this (aside from the fact that Social Security is self-funded and therefore has nothing to do with the “deficit commission’s” nominal purview) is that the commission steadfastly pretends that the payroll tax cap doesn’t exist.  Raising or removing that cap to put more of the burden on the people who can afford it is never even discussed as an option – no, the only way to “stabilize” or “protect” Social Security is to cut it and put the burden on the middle class retirees who rely on it.

If the commission goes through with recommending Social Security cuts, and its proposal gets through Congress and the White House, Obama can forget about a second term.  That’s not a threat, just a prediction.

September 10th, 2010 at 07:58am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Obama,Politics,Social Security,Wankers

TARP Bailout Czar Tells Greedy Seniors To Suck It Up And Take One For The Team

He also explains that a “me-first” mentality is a good thing in the corporate world, but not so much when it’s selfish old people trying to get by on a fixed income:

Our belief in free markets is founded on the idea that each individual acting in his or her self-interest will lead to a superior outcome for the whole. The financial crisis has reminded us that free markets are not perfect — but they do allocate capital better than any other system we know. A “me first” mentality usually makes markets more efficient.

But this “me first” mentality can also lead to shortsighted political decision making….

Cutting entitlement spending requires us to think beyond what is in our own immediate self-interest. But it also runs against our sense of fairness: We have, after all, paid for entitlements for earlier generations. Is it now fair to cut my benefits? No, it isn’t. But if we don’t focus on our collective good, all of us will suffer.

(…)

I believe three steps are necessary for our country to embrace any meaningful proposal to cut entitlements:

— Our economy needs to experience sustained growth, creating good jobs, so Americans feel economically secure. It is hard for anyone to think about long-term sacrifice when they are worried about how to pay their bills today.

— The emotional bruising inflicted by the financial crisis needs to heal. Along with the passage of time we need a renewed sense that people are succeeding and failing on their own merits.

Our leaders need to make the case for cutting entitlement spending by tapping into our shared beliefs of sacrifice and self-reliance. They must be willing to risk their own political fortunes for the sake of our country.

And if someone hasn’t made enough money to live off their savings and has to depend on Social Security, what then?  What kind of “self-reliance” does Kashkari have in mind for them other than “work until you die”?  What a complete and utter heartless Gordon Gekko bastard.

1 comment July 26th, 2010 at 07:03pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Politics,Social Security,Wankers

Strategery! Part II

CEPR calculates the costs and benefits of cutting Social Security:

  • The most frequently suggested [progressive price indexation] formula would imply cuts in benefits of 6.2 percent for a household in the in the middle income quintile between the ages of 45-49 in 2007 and 9.6 percent for a household in the middle quintile between the ages of 40 and 44 in 2007
  • Raising the normal retirement age 70 in 2036 would result in a 4.0 percent reduction in benefits for workers between the ages of 50 and 54 in 2007 and a 10.0 percent reduction for workers between the ages of 40-44
  • Reducing the COLA by 1.0 percent would result in a benefits cut of 12 percent for a retiree at age 75 and more than 20 percent at age 85
  • For retirees in the bottom income quintile at age 85 who were between the ages of 55 and 59 in 2007, reducing the COLA by 1.0 percent implies a 14.6 percent reduction in income and a cut of 16. 5 percent for retirees in the bottom quintile at age 85 between the ages of 40-44.

And how do these massive cuts impact the national debt?  Using CEPR’s Deficit Calculator, it looks it would cut the national debt by $861 billion (about 3.5%) over the next ten years, which if I recall correctly is considerably less the cost of Dubya’s massive tax cuts for the rich.  (Note: Simply raising the cap on the Social Security taxable wages to $180,000 would cut the debt by $877 billion all by itself)

So even ignoring the immorality of defaulting on the bonds Social Security has purchased to fund itself, it looks like Obama’s handpicked, Pete Peterson-funded commission of Social Security-hating deficit hawks is probably going to recommend some very painful – and unpopular – cuts that do very little to solve the supposedly urgent budget problem at hand.

July 14th, 2010 at 11:22am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Obama,Politics,Social Security,Wankers

Obama Still Determined To Be One-Term President

Why else would he show so little interest in restoring the economy?

David Axelrod appeared on This Week and acknowledged that the Administration has little chance of getting anything beyond an extension of unemployment benefits through Congress between now and the election. That extension would appear to have 60 votes whenever Robert Byrd’s replacement gets into the Senate. But that jobs bill that had all the tax extensions and infrastructure funding and summer job money? Forget it. Aid to state Medicaid programs? Isn’t going to happen. Extending the COBRA subsidy to keep the jobless covered? Nope.

But it’s not all doom and gloom:

“There’s not a great appetite for it, but I do think we can get additional tax relief for small businesses – that’s what we want to do – additional lending for small businesses,” the President’s senior advisor said.

There’s always room for tax cuts!

But it’s not just that Obama’s given up on the economy – he’s also given up on making the Republicans pay any price for it:

[A]s Duncan Black says, there’s more than one way to make that shift [from stimulus to deficit reduction], especially if the economic team understands the importance of more stimulus to support the economy.

So let’s say Obama’s people have correctly deduced that there’s no chance in hell of getting anything through Congress. They have two basic options. First, they could get on the teevee every day and say, “This is my plan to help. Republicans in Congress won’t pass it.” They could hold rallies in Maine. Allies could run ads. At least people would know who is for and who is against…and just what it was that people are for or against.

Option two is back off proposals you’ve previously made and have Axelrod get on the teevee and say, “there is some argument for additional spending in the short-run to continue to generate economic activity.”

Surely the lead political strategist in the White House recognizes the political importance of assigning blame?

Or, maybe not.

This is not exactly surprising, coming from a president so eager to create a Pete Peterson-backed commission whose express purpose appears to be to gut Social Security in the name of deficit reduction.  So how many votes is Obama going to get in 2012 if the economy is still in the toilet and he’s given his blessing to Social Security cuts?  Yeah, good luck with that.

July 12th, 2010 at 07:19am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Obama,Politics,Social Security,Wankers

The Obstruction Card

It looks like Obama and the Democrats are going to go all in on the “we’re trying to fix the economy but those OBSTRUCTIONIST REPUBLICANS won’t let us!” strategy for the 2010 and probably 2012 elections, probably because bragging about a cheesecloth financial reform bill and a healthcare bill that forces people to buy private insurance is not going to be real compelling:

President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress are hoping that voters will punish Republicans in the midterm elections for obstructing his efforts to extend unemployment benefits, expand lending to small businesses, and increase aid to struggling state and local governments.

“Republican leaders in Washington just don’t get it,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly video address on Saturday.

I suppose that approach could work, but only if the voters forget all about the previous eight years, where Bush was able to ram through just about everything he wanted despite far narrower congressional majorities (except gutting Social Security, which Obama is now working on).  Given that majority and minority parties had the same tools available to them, why is it that Republicans are able to either block, cripple, or  pervert everything the Democrats try to do to repair Bush’s damage, yet Democrats were helpless to do anything to prevent it while it was being inflicted?

Either the Democrats were too ineffective and weak (or just clueless) an opposition to muster 41 Nays then, or they’re hiding behind a phony 60-Yea requirement now.  Neither explanation inspires a great deal of confidence – what’s the point of voting for Democrats if they can’t pass anything worthwhile when they’re in power or block anything terrible when they’re not?

Obama’s fascination with budget austerity (as embodied by his catfood deficit reduction commission) is not encouraging either:

Mr. Obama’s political aides have tended to emphasize voter worries about the deficit, while his economic advisers have been urging additional stimulus spending.

The thing is, voters are worried about the deficit because they think it’s the reason that the economy’s in the tank and unemployment is almost 10%.  Get the economy humming and hiring, and I can guarantee you that the average voter won’t give a damn about the deficit.  But if you combine a slow economy and persistent unemployment with talk about cutting Social Security, you’re not going to be lauded for your hard-nosed fiscal prudence – no, it’s just going to be further “proof” that Obama hates old people and wants to kill Grandma.  Good luck with that, geniuses.

July 5th, 2010 at 01:20pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Economy,Elections,Obama,Politics,Social Security

Austerity For Thee, But Not For Me

There’s a great – and telling – juxtaposition in today’s PostPolitics.  A story about corporations complaining that regulation and tax increases are hurting economic growth shares the page with a photo gallery of long-term “discouraged” unemployed people.

So on the one hand you’ve got the conservative talking point that you can’t raise taxes to reduce the deficit because it slows down the economy, and on the other hand you’ve got the unemployed people who conservatives don’t want to help because it would… increase the deficit.

Well, which is it?  If the deficit is such an existential threat that it trumps any thought of stimulating our way out of a deep recession, then why can’t we raise taxes on the have-mores instead of cutting Social Security and other benefits for the “lesser people”?  And if economic growth is more important than balancing the budget, then why can’t we extend unemployment benefits and spend more stimulus money where it will actually create jobs?

Don’t tell us that we have to sacrifice economic growth and Social Security to the balanced budget god, and that we can’t raise taxes because it would kill economic growth.  Please just choose one ridiculous position and stick to it.

(Cross-posted at The Seminal)

2 comments June 23rd, 2010 at 07:03pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Republicans,Social Security,Taxes,Wankers

Maybe Alan Simpson Is Good For Something After All

If we’re really lucky, Simpson’s rude and dishonest diatribe will provoke enough discussion that the truth of the Social Security situation will finally seep into the public discourse and discredit Pete Peterson and Obama’s cut-the-deficit-by-slashing-social-security commission.

The more people hear that Social Security is self-funded by US Treasury bonds paid for by our payroll taxes, the more they’ll realize that benefit cuts are nothing more than theft, plain and simple.

June 22nd, 2010 at 07:08am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Obama,Politics,Republicans,Social Security,Wankers

Co-Wanker Of The Day (Part 3)

Alan Simpson.

Holy crap, just read the transcript of him repeatedly insulting, belittling, and swearing at Alex Lawson, accusing him of spouting misinformation while spewing a geyser of it himself.  Rahm must have picked this guy to co-chair the deficit commission.

1 comment June 18th, 2010 at 06:28pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Obama,Republicans,Social Security,Wankers

Two Birds With One Stone: A Modest Proposal

As dakine laments, when confronted with continuing 10% unemployment, Obama and the Democrats would apparently rather address the Social Security “crisis” (“it is necessary to gut Social Security in order to save it”) than extend unemployment or promote job creation.

But I ask, why can’t the government do both at the same time?  It could hire a bunch of unemployed people to put seniors on ice floes to reduce the burden on Social Security.  The OMB could calculate the age cutoff and the size of the client base, and then millions of “floe consultants” could be deployed to assist them onto the next phase of their lives.  And since global warming has depleted the supply of ice floes, even more Americans could be employed in the manufacture of artificial ones.  It’s a win-win-win!

1 comment May 28th, 2010 at 07:29am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Social Security

My Brilliant Genius Plan To Fix Everything

Convince Obama that Wellpoint, PhRMA, Goldman Sachs, the oil industry, Pete Peterson, Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson and Rahm Emanuel are all gay.

Because they could all use a little more “fierce advocacy.”

(Cross-posted at The Seminal)

May 19th, 2010 at 06:57am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Economy,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Lieberman,Obama,Social Security,Teh Gay

Wanker Of The Day

Pete Peterson:

While a Social Security fix would cure only a small part of the country’s long-term fiscal shortfall, it could pay big dividends in terms of the U.S. standing internationally, deficit hawks say. “It would be a confidence builder with our foreign lenders,” said Pete Peterson at a recent fiscal summit organized by his foundation, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

In other words, Peterson doesn’t think cutting Social Security would actually fix the deficit – he just thinks cutting Social Security is awesome.  Which, as Dean Baker points out, it’s not.

May 12th, 2010 at 11:11am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Politics,Republicans,Social Security,Wankers

Republicans Trying To Level The Midterm Playing Field

I can only assume that the GOP is worried that it might regain control of the House…

House Republicans don’t have an official budget yet. But they have what amounts to a first draft. The official budget will be released in March or April and will be authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee in consultation with the other Republicans on the Committee. But Ryan has released a budget he’d like. And it’s actually fairly detailed. And if you read it, which we have, you start to wonder why Democrats aren’t making a bigger deal out of it.

What’s in it? A few interesting things.

First, it calls for big cuts in Social Security benefits for everyone currently under 55 years of age. On top of the cuts it also calls for privatizing Social Security.

Basically the exact plan President Bush tried in 2005. Next, it calls for the full privatization and phasing out of Medicare. It’ll be replaced by a system of vouchers in which instead of getting Medicare you get a voucher to buy un-reformed private insurance.

Weirdly, with all that, the draft GOP budget doesn’t get the federal budget into surplus until sometime after 2060, which seems like a pretty long time. But isn’t this sort of a big deal? House Republicans are poised to run in 2010 on slashing or abolishing the two most popular federal government programs — Social Security and Medicare.

Yes, right in the middle of a prolonged recession and right after a stock market crash is a great time to sell Americans on privatizing Social Security.  And 60+% support for the healthcare public option must mean that everyone hates Medicare and wants it destroyed.  And releasing a plan that takes 50 years to eliminate the deficit is especially brilliant when you’ve spent the last year demagoguing about how it’s murdering our grandchildren.

If the Democrats can’t make hay with “Here’s what the Republicans/my opponent wants to do to your retirement if they get elected” messaging in November, they deserve to lose.

P.S. I can’t believe Serious People are still spouting this ridiculous point-missing zombie lie.

February 4th, 2010 at 07:58pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Elections,Politics,Republicans,Social Security

Entitlement Peril!!!

Just in case there hasn’t been enough drumbeating for Social Security reform, it looks like the AP has gotten into the act:

The shortfall between the promises the government has made on Social Security, Medicare and other benefit programs is $45 trillion over the next 75 years, up nearly $1 trillion in just one year, the Bush administration reported Monday.

The administration, releasing the “Financial Report of the United States Government” for 2007, said that the gap between benefits that have been promised and projected revenues is up 67.8 percent from just four years ago, when it was estimated at $26.9 trillion.

This shortfall includes Social Security and Medicare in addition to Railroad Retirement and the Black Lung program.

(…)

Members of Congress said the increase in the unfunded liability for Social Security and Medicare underscored the critical urgency to do something in light of the looming retirement in coming years of 78 million baby boomers.

(…)

[O]fficials warned that something must be done to address the significant shortfall in the government’s largest benefit programs for Social Security and Medicare.

Shorter AP: Oh noes! Socialsecurityandmedicare is totally insolvent! We must reform Social Security immediately! (Because no-one ever, ever wants to talk about reforming Medicare)

Of course, if you actually look at the report, the Medicare deficit dwarfs the Social Security one, either $34T-$6T (p. 46) or $29T-$16T (p. 25), depending on whether you’re including people under 14 (the $34T-$6T number). But somehow Social Security reform is all anyone ever wants to talk about.

Even more interesting, if you look at expenditures as a percentage of GDP (p. 5, the chart titled “Current Trends Are Not Sustainable”), you see that Social Security holds fairly steady, Medicare and Medicaid expand significantly, and Net Interest positively explodes. This is why running up the national debt is bad, kids.

Me personally, I’m not worried about whether Socialsecurityandmedicare is insolvent or not, because Billgatesandeli has a net worth of $59 billion.

(h/t dakine)

December 17th, 2007 at 10:52pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Politics,Republicans,Social Security,Wankers

Has Bush Treed Himself?

Since the webmail I have to use for blogging via e-mail tends to insert line breaks in inconvenient places, I can’t really use it to post anything that requires links to any but the tiniest URLs (no, I can’t access TinyURL either), and I’m leery of even attempting to use block quote tags. Consequently, I can pretty much only use the blog-by-mail to post random musings that don’t reference any specific article or blog post.

Today’s random musing regards Bush’s Social Security quagmire. Of course, the most obvious question to ask is, If the polls on Social Security privatization are so bad and getting worse, why can’t Bush just back off?

I think I have an answer to that, and it just tickles me pinko. As we all know, one of Bush’s signature traits is to Never Admit Error, the corollary of which is the We-Have-Always-Been-At-War-With-East-Asia Doctrine. Whenever this administration has flip-flopped on a policy, they have always insisted that the new position is the one that Bush has held all along, and the flip-flop is somehow merely a refinement or restatement of that position. Or else they just release it on Friday afternoon and hope no-one notices. To do otherwise would be to admit that their original position was a mistake.

Now this is the beauty part: Ask yourself, HOW? After 60 days of barnstorming all over the country to pitch the virtues of Social Security privatization, HOW is the White House going to pretend that Bush has been in favor of the Social Security status quo all along? Or slip a radical policy reversal under the radar in such a way that no-one notices? My bet is that they’ll do it via solvency and “saving Social Security”, and explain that the president’s number one priority has always been to protect SS’s finances, and he has always kept an open and pragmatic mind, blah blah blah. Some people will actually even buy it. But for most people, I think this is going to be far, far worse than Hillarycare, which never threatened to take money away from anyone’s retirement. The media can only do so much – or so little, as the case may be.

You know, if you use enough rope, the head will just pop right off.

Someone get this man some more rope, please.

2 comments May 5th, 2005 at 05:07pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Social Security

Big OopSS…

From the Washington Post, by way of Yahoo, by way of watertiger:

While the White House has helped convince more than two-thirds of those polled that Social Security is heading for a crisis or possible bankruptcy without change, 56 percent disapprove of his approach, a survey of 1,001 adults conducted March 10-13 shows. By comparison, 38 percent approved of his handling of the issue and 52 percent disapproved of it in mid-December.

Does everyone see the beauty of this? Bush and the Republicans have succeeded in making a sizable majority of Americans believe that Social Security is in a state of crisis, while at the same time failing miserably at convincing them that their plan will save it.

So, if SS is in mortal danger, and no-one trusts Bush to save it, that opens up a pretty huge opportunity for the Democrats. Yes, I’ve heard everyone saying, “Don’t offer a plan! Don’t bail the Republicans out!”, but I don’t really buy that. Offering a simple, sober, sensible plan like “Raise the FICA cap – problem solved” that bears zero resemblance to Bush’s dramatic, roll-the-dice-in-the-stock-market plan is not bailing the Republicans out. And if the Democrats can frame themselves as the party that saved Social Security from BushCo, then so much the better.

Now, if we can just get America to wake up to the fact that the Republicans haven’t actually made us safer from terrorism, then maybe we can get rid of their sorry criminal asses once and for all…

2 comments March 15th, 2005 at 09:39pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Democrats,Politics,Polls,Republicans,Social Security

Krugmania

Today’s excellent-as-always Krugman column focuses on the godawful bankruptcy bill poised to pass in the Senate, and its conspicuous and unsurprising favoritism of the rich over, well, everyone else.

One increasingly popular loophole is the creation of an “asset protection trust,” which is worth doing only for the wealthy. Senator Charles Schumer introduced an amendment that would have limited the exemption on such trusts, but apparently it’s O.K. to game the system if you’re rich: 54 Republicans and 2 Democrats voted against the Schumer amendment.

Other amendments were aimed at protecting families and individuals who have clearly been forced into bankruptcy by events, or who would face extreme hardship in repaying debts. Ted Kennedy introduced an exemption for cases of medical bankruptcy. Russ Feingold introduced an amendment protecting the homes of the elderly. Dick Durbin asked for protection for armed services members and veterans. All were rejected.

Krugman then goes on to frame this as part of the larger pattern of “ownership society” being used as code for “You’re on your own, kiddo.” This is, of course, appalling, but it is also an opportunity, if the Democrats have the sense and spine to seize it. Now that they have a stranglehold on power, the Republicans are going for the gusto because they can, without any thought to consequences. Basically, their mindset is “Let’s repeal as much New Deal/environmental foolishness as we can before the grownups come back.” What the Democrats must do is aggressively remind voters in 2006 and 2008 just how the Republicans voted, where their priorities were, and how their rhetoric was applied differentially to the rich and the everyone-else.

Essentially, what I would like to see are commercials where we see Bush or Republican Candidate A pontificating about personal responsibility, and then we hear about how Republican Candidate A voted to shield the rich from the full brunt of bankruptcy laws while making sure veterans and Grandma Millie get no loopholes at all. Or Bush/Republican Candidate B talking about the ownership society,followed by a reminder about how Republican Candidate B tried to undermine Social Security. Or any number of examples of government social programs being depicted as havens for freeloaders that must be purged of “waste, fraud, and abuse”, contrasted with generous subsidies, tax breaks, and preferential treatment for the rich and corporate. And if the Democrats can drive home the statement that Republican values are corporate values, then so much the better.

Oh, and if someone wants to use the same strategy in a primary run against Tim Johnson and Ben Nelson, who voted with the Republicans to shoot down some of the Democratic amendments to the bankruptcy bill, well, I won’t stop ’em. Fine, they’re red state senators who have to vote like Republicans to stay alive. But if they vote like Republicans, what earthly use are they to the Democratic party? Democrats can make inroads in the red states if they go populist and paint the Republicans as the party of the corporate fatcats against the little guy. This will be even more effective if the Republicans’ corporate-friendly policies continue to run the economy into the ditch. Especially since those policies are always rationalized as “economic stimulus”, so if they fail on that level, then they are revealed as get-while-the-getting-is-good corporate giveaways.

13 comments March 8th, 2005 at 05:49pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Politics,Republicans,Social Security,Taxes,Wankers

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