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AdLib On April - 11 - 2013

donkey_and_elephant

Yesterday was a remarkable day for unity.

The instant President Obama announced the inclusion of Chained CPI in his budget, there were Democrats/Progressives across the country who angrily responded, “Don’t you dare change that!” Meanwhile, as an agreement was reached with Senators Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin on bringing expanded background checks to debate in the Senate, Republicans/Conservatives across the country angrily responded, “Don’t you dare change that!”

President Obama has indeed brought bipartisanship to Washington DC…in a chorus against change.

It’s easier to be harder on Democrats and Progressives because we expect more from them than the binary-minded Republicans/Conservatives.

Change can be scary. Especially, when one focuses narrowly on it. Perspective is always helpful and hysteria is always detrimental but it is not an unusual reaction when learning that something that has been a certain way for a long time may change.

Let’s look at the expanded background checks first. Notice that they aren’t referred to here as Universal Background Checks because that was part of the compromise obviously needed to get this bill placed into debate against a filibuster. The gun show loophole will be closed but a massive “private sale” loophole has been preserved so, as the NRA wants, a convicted murderer can legally be sold a gun by his friend, a convicted mugger. Yet, Right Wingers wail that this change is taking away their 2nd Amendment rights. I suppose that is because they all must be friendless, orphaned criminals.

The gun show loophole that terrorists and madmen could have and probably are exploiting to buy deadly weapons…a loophole closing that no non-criminal American would have been impacted by in terms of buying whatever gun they wanted…looks like it could be eliminated and yet it inspires paranoia and terror in those insecure, gun humpers on the Right who only know what Fox and Rush tell them, that ANY change is an attack on them and a prelude to a totalitarian government taking away their guns and forcing them to gay marry.

Looking Left, the terror over changes to future raises to Social Security under Chained CPI has inspired similar fear that changing anything about Social Security is a slippery slope to destroying it and leaving all of us to wrestle against stray cats on the streets for scraps of food when we retire.

First, a few clarifications. Chained CPI doesn’t refer to nor change the calculations of what you will receive in Social Security at the time you retire. It only refers to a lower Cost of Living Adjustment with each raise you would receive. How much? Using the average SS income amount of $1400/mo, it would mean receiving $3.50 less in monthly raises. For example, if there was a 2% raise before Chained CPI, one would have received a $28/mo raise but would now receive a $24.50/mo.

It does in fact mean less money to recipients beginning at $3.50/mo ($42/year) and will be compounded in future years and raises. So were Seniors better off 5 years ago before Chained CPI was just a faraway dream of Repubs? If one looks narrowly at this area alone, yes, but if one looks at the big picture of what Seniors would be receiving next year from the government, the answer would be no.

Put 2010 and 2011 aside, in those years Congress deprived Seniors of any raises, so those years were worse than any year could be under Chained CPI (zero vs. $24.50/mo) which would make Cost of Living Adjustment raises automatic instead of controlled by Congress. Let’s take 2008 then for an example. The raise was 2.3%, an average of $32/mo. Compared to being under Chained CPI, one would instead receive $28.70, or $3.30 less a month.

However, the Affordable Care Act was not in place then. So the $39.60 in an additional annual raise a Senior received in 2008 would have been dwarfed by the hundreds or thousands a Senior would have spent each year on annual checkups/preventative care, donut hole costs on prescriptions, etc.

So just as a mathematical fact, even with Chained CPI in place (and considering Cost of Living Adjustments are automatic and not at the whim of Tea Party Republicans in Congress), Seniors in 2014 would be far better off than they were five years ago.

None of this is saying Chained CPI is a good thing or preferable, just trying to paint a realistic economic “You Are Here!” on where next year’s Seniors would be as opposed to where they were five years ago.

The Republicans’ key problem in their failure at governing is their lack of desire to and disinterest in compromise, a dirty word in their vocabulary (though “bestiality” seems to always comfortably be on the tip of their tongues). Democrats have had to live with compromising on their side for so long, some may be suffering from Compromise Overload. Even so, there is an absolute when dealing with an opponent which is fearfully adverse to collaborating…there must be compromise.

President Obama has said adamantly that unless its part of a balanced deal including stimulus spending, closing of tax loopholes for the wealthy and adding taxes on tobacco and the wealthy, he would never agree to Chained CPI. Republicans continue to whine that they already gave Obama his tax hikes (Reality Translation: Some of the Bush Tax Cuts that were passed as temporary cuts…became temporary cuts as planned) and they won’t give anymore.

This is the real world, you can’t have your cake and the cake that’s in Republican hands and eat it too. Yes, there are far better ways to keep Social Security working past the 20 or so years it can currently sustain. The contribution cut off at $113,700 for earnings could be raised or removed. The Federal government could appropriate complimentary revenue. There could be means testing for wealthier Americans. Republicans could be taxed every time they say, “liberal media”.

But thinking such things could be passed with a Bagger House and with Bagger Senators who can filibuster in The Senate is simply living in Fantasyland. It simply won’t happen (if Dems had a 60 vote majority in The Senate and control of the House, perhaps, but you saw what happened with passing health care reform even with those advantages, even that wouldn’t assure passage).

So, shall we throw tomatoes at Obama for not insisting on terms that would never be agreed to? What we should also consider is, what harm would come if Obama insisted on not compromising at all on Social Security and would the results be better or worse for Americans and in particular, Seniors?

The big picture here is that Obama is trying to make Republicans an offer they can’t refuse (though I would prefer putting a turtle head in their bed…any volunteers in the Senate?) in order to negotiate a “Grand Bargain” that would get rid of the devastating sequester cuts to social services and spending  and form a sensible and productive budget/economy. It also has politics in mind, this move makes Obama and the Dems seem like the real moderates and problem solvers, willing to sacrifice and compromise while the Repubs look like intransigent, useless jerks. It would be naive not to recognize how this could help Dems in the 2014 elections (and maybe get them closer to re-taking the House?)

The Republicans’ plan is for the economy to continue spiraling down for all but the wealthiest Americans, providing them with a desperate and cheap workforce and a nation of people so discouraged with their society and government that they give up on them. Keeping the sequester cuts in place helps the Republican objectives of strangling government and impoverishing the American people, they’re just fine to keep it in place (though some Repubs with military industries in their states are not so happy at what the cuts are and will be doing there).

The real dynamics here are, will Seniors be better off keeping the annually escalating $3.30/mo they would not receive under Chained CPI but living in a deteriorating society and economy or not receiving that amount but living in a better functioning society and economy? And aren’t Seniors doing better financially than they were whatever happens with Chained CPI thanks to the passage of the ACA?

The whole point of a compromise is to give up something you don’t want to give up in order to make the other side give up something they don’t want to give up and ultimately, making a deal.

In the end, those who are so adamant that all they care about is that Social Security raises should stay just as they are (once again, that’s insisting that Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, etc. continue to have the power to decide when raises are given) and that Obama is betraying them by proposing this, should also recognize that they are taking the position that they want the sequester cuts to remain in place, our economy to remain stagnant for most and our infrastructure to continue crumbling.

This is a package deal. We can’t get Republicans to compromise on increased revenues if we don’t compromise on something they want, like reducing expenditures on entitlement programs. So standing immovable on entitlements means insisting on the status quo of the sequester, which the Congressional Budget Office has said will cost America 1.5 million jobs and reduce economic growth by 1.25%.

And those jobs include first responders like police and firemen. It can and will affect how quickly a response comes  to aid a Senior with a health emergency, a fire, a crime in progress, real world emergencies of all kinds. It means grater unemployment for many Americans which has a domino effect on small businesses and stores closing and more people sliding into poverty. It means less teachers and bigger classrooms, cuts in cancer treatment to those who aren’t insured or wealthy and cuts to pre-K enrollment, reduced government and social services in most every direction.

The Greatest Generation was most known for their willingness to sacrifice for the greater good. Nowadays, whether on the right or left, there is a prevailing sentiment that sacrificing is what the other guy needs to do. Even though, as I noted above, Seniors will be in a better financial position even with Chained CPI than they were 5 years ago, there needs to be more of a willingness to make reasonable compromises on those things that impact us in order to make society better as a whole and for others. Is it worth $3.50 a month to reduce poverty, rebuild our infrastructure, create jobs for 1.5 million Americans and more, improve and strengthen our economy, bring more tax fairness and give the next generation the chance to have at least as much as we had?

And a strong likelihood is that none of this will pass anyway since John Boehner and other Republican parrots have been squawking that they won’t pass any more bills that increase revenue. So supporting this sacrifice would reflect well on those who do so, showing that they walk the walk on doing the right thing even if it imposes difficulties on themselves and meanwhile, it may never be imposed on them because of Republican intransigence. As mentioned, this can also make a difference in swaying public opinion to put Dems back in charge of The House.

To be clear, President Obama has insisted that none of the reductions of Chained CPI would impact those who are most in need, those to whom $3.50/mo may represent having or not having meals over one or more days. With that protection in place and despite our desire for far smarter and sensible approaches to balancing Social Security in the long term, is this not a sacrifice we should be willing to make for the welfare of our society as a whole?

Or should we fight against any changes to Social Security, come hell or high water…and by doing so, hasten the approach of both?

 

Written by AdLib

My motto is, "It is better to have blogged and lost hours of your day, than never to have blogged at all."

55 Responses so far.

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  1. SallyT says:

    From another persective on CPI not here not now. Not meant to argue. This presents better than I can.
    Nine Things They Don’t Want You To Know About The Chained CPI
    http://crooksandliars.com/richard-rj-eskow/nine-things-they-dont-want-you-kn

    8 Deficit Reducers That Are More Ethical – And More Effective – Than the “Chained CPI”
    http://blog.ourfuture.org/20121218/nine-chained-cpi-alternatives-that-are-more-ethical-and-save-more-money

    The “Bump” That Breaks the Chain: Illustrating a Social Security “Fail”
    http://blog.ourfuture.org/20130411/the-bump-that-breaks-the-chain-illustrating-a-social-security-fail?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zxPesrGOEcc#!

  2. funksands says:

    Never underestimate the power of needing to do “something” when “nothing” is going on.

  3. What bothers me is the insistence in DC to refer to SS as an entitlement program. It is NOT an entitlement. People pay into SS all their working lives. Even those on disability have paid into SS before they became disabled.

    Personally, I wouldn’t sweat 3.50 a month if it would indeed help all Americans in different areas of spending.

    As far as making an offer the repubs can’t refuse, wasn’t that what the sequester was supposed to be? Making a sequester look so bad that even the GOP would compromise before allowing such cuts to take place?
    I think that backfired in Obama’s face.

    Well, I guess we’ll see what happens pretty soon. I know the sheepish GOP base will go along with whatever republicans in DC decide, even if such a decision is against their best interests.

    • AdLib says:

      KT, yep, same thing with unemployment insurance, the Repubs refer to it as if it was Welfare. It even has the word “insurance” in its name! We buy unemployment insurance and when we’re unemployed, we get our benefit!

      Do Repubs think that when our car insurance pays to fix our car after a hit and run, it’s a handout to “takers”?

      Same with SS, it is a retirement insurance program. From Wikipedia:

      In the United States, Social Security refers to the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) federal program.[1] The original Social Security Act (1935)[2] and the current version of the Act, as amended,[3] encompass several social welfare and social insurance programs.

      Social Security is primarily funded through dedicated payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA).

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_%28United_States%29

      Again, the line item in one’s paycheck for their contribution to SS is “FICA”, “Federal Insurance Contributions Act”, it is explicitly a retirement insurance program.

      Even Medicare, the main program people think of when they hear the word “entitlement” is an insurance program we pay into when we’re younger, for coverage when we’re older and retired.

      Here’s how Medicare is described in Wikipedia:

      In the United States, Medicare is a national social insurance program, administered by the U.S. federal government since 1965, that guarantees access to health insurance for Americans ages 65 and older and younger people with disabilities

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicare_%28United_States%29

      Technically, “entitlements” is not wrong, we are entitled to these things because of the laws passed that mandates we pay to have these insurances.

      So maybe we should start calling all of these programs, “Our Insurance Plans For Which We Fully Paid the Premiums!” instead of “entitlements” because that has come to mean, “free stuff”.

      Agreed that Obama’s assumption was wrong in the case of the sequester but to be fair, just about every pundit and politician was wrong as well, even many Repubs. What the Baggers did in Congress was unprecedented, never before as the GOP accepted big spending cuts on the military and who predicted that they would? No one. So, hard to criticize Obama for that one.

      The Baggers are so frothing at the mouth to make any cut they can to “Our Insurance Plans For Which We Fully Paid the Premiums!” that Obama may indeed be able to sucker them in on what they think may be the first of many cuts but could be hugely mitigated by the exemption for people who would be hurt by it.

      This was a daring and I think, brilliant political gambit by Obama. Personally, I doubt Repubs will accept Chained CPI in exchange for closing loopholes on the wealthy but by doing this, he has painted Repubs into the corner as belligerent extremists and what really comes out of this could be wins in Congress for the Dems in 2014.

    • SallyT says:

      KT, that is one of my main concerns by putting SS on the table and especially a table for the budget. Social Security is a paid benefit and not part of the budget. Any adjustments, if necessary, should be discussed separate and on its own merits. Throwing it in here as a bargaining chip is dangerous. Just as you said, the sequester was suppose to not happen because the GOP wouldn’t let such cuts hit. Well, it did. And, regardless of how you figure this adjustment, no one knows for sure how ones life will be 10 years from now.

      • AdLib says:

        Sally, only reducing raises for SS benefits are being proposed, neither the entire program nor the benefit earned is being used as a bargaining chip.

        If not Chained CPI, what else is there that could possibly be effective in convincing Repubs to kill the sequester and raise taxes on the wealthy?

        Otherwise, with the depression of jobs and the economy the sequester brings and the current tax system favoring the wealthy left in place, are seniors really better off with the fallout from that and the effects on our social system?

        • SueInCa says:

          I still say let someone else carry the burden. Why seniors? Raise the current tax brackets for people who are working with salaries over 50,000 and raise the cap for paying into SS, those are far better ways to deal with it than hitting seniors. I know you say 3.50 a month is not much but it opens the door and is a slippery slope to more cuts and eventual privatization which is what they have been planning for years. I still think it is political suicide for them to touch SS. Watch Heist and I think you will come away with a different perspective about SS.

        • funksands says:

          Ad my preference is to make the GOP squirm by offering significant reductions in the Corporate income tax rate from 35% to 10% lets say while also eliminating all their loopholes. Let them commit fratricide over that rather than with ourselves over social insurance.

          • SueInCa says:

            I like your idea Funk, but I, too, would start way high and negotiate. Who do you know, other than corp, who pays nothing in taxes and gets back millions? NO ONE and that is a travesty

          • Nirek says:

            Funk, start higher and offer something like 32% while closing loopholes. You can always drop some later to sweeten the deal.

            Awesome idea though.

          • AdLib says:

            Funk, I think that’s an excellent suggestion though I don’t know that I’d go as low as 10%, that could be a tip off to how unserious it is.

            Maybe propose 20% with loopholes and tax havens eliminated?

            That would indeed drive them nuts!

            Still though, SS would need to be addressed before too long since there are only 20 years left. If it’s not done by Dems as part of a budget process when they control the Senate and WH, might it not be left as an urgent issue for Repubs to address if they control Congress and the WH in the future? I could only imagine what kind of solution they would put in place.

        • SallyT says:

          Adlib, I don’t think I said anything about the “entire program”. And, no the current tax system favoring the wealthy is not helping anyone in the middle class, poor, disabled, or seniors. But, the Republicans aren’t going to give on that until they get more, as Boehner has said President Barack Obama deserves some credit for what Boehner calls incremental entitlement reforms in his budget proposal. But Boehner says he hopes Obama will not “hold hostage” those reforms in his demand for higher taxes. He says Obama got a tax hike as part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations at the end of last year and that further tax increases were not needed.
          I don’t see where this is getting the President. It is obvious that the Republicans think it is “incremental” and will want more. The President has seen by these last few days that it is not a popular route and maybe he better look at the Democrat or Progressive plans for other ideas.

          • AdLib says:

            Sally, all of that is just posturing by Boehner, it can’t be taken at face value. The Repubs are interested, a variety of Repubs including Lindsay Graham have expressed that.

            In fact, Boehner apparently caught a bit of flack after immediately dissing Obama’s including Chained CPI in his budget and did a 180 on his diss. And Boehner’s lame, “We’ll take all he wants to compromise on because we agree on those things,” is a laughable and ridiculous stance to take.

            It is far too early to predict outcomes, based solely on the posturing of Boehner and other GOP leaders. We’ll have to see what happens later in the year as the deficit ceiling approaches, then we’ll really find out if there is or isn’t room to negotiate.

            • SallyT says:

              The Mother Jones article I posted below covers my thoughts that this isn’t working. I hope something else can.

  4. funksands says:

    Ad, this is a really good, thoughtful, difficult piece to read. I’m planning on publishing my own Chained CPI article that deals a bit more with the mechanics of SS and Chained CPI, but your political take on this is very helpful and I think will compliment and significantly enhance what I have to say.

    It’s not mathematically or actuarially (this is a word right?)complicated:

    1. Social Security already employs 3 ‘bend points’ to determine your Primary Insurance Amount at benefit election.

    2. At 62 each year’s earnings are tallied up & indexed for inflation, & your highest 35 years of earnings are averaged out. ‘Bends’ are then applied.

    3. The ‘bend’ points determine what your Primary Insurance Amount (SS payment) will be at your full retirement age.

    4. For someone making an Avg. Monthly Income of $8k over that 35 years, here’s how this breaks down:

    5. The first $767 of monthly income has a 90% benefit applied to it. The next $3857 of income has a 32% benefit applied. Next $3376 -- 15%…

    6. Or:
    *$767 x .90 = $690.30
    *3,857 x .32 = $1,234.24
    *3,376 x .15 = $506.40
    For a total benefit of $2430.94 per month at full retirement age.

    7. So lifting cap on incomes subject to SS tax would involve simply adding another “bend” to higher incomes.

    8. Lower income SS recipients already receive a much higher proportional benefit to their incomes. Nothing substantive needs to change.

    9. Someone making $500k a year for example would still have ALL their income applied to a benefit, but have a “bend” of .001% (for example) applied to their monthly income above a certain amount of monthly income.

    This keeps SS from becoming a welfare program, keeps the program solvent, and doesn’t subject a higher earner to any higher proportion of payroll tax than their lower-earning counterparts.

    Easy. Just not politically easy as you have ably explained.

    • AdLib says:

      Funk, thanks so much for this, it’s fascinating and enlightening!

      As you illustrate, adding one more bend at a higher income level could be a huge boost to the solvency of SS while still providing some additional benefits to the wealthy for paying in more.

      Though I have been trying to address what I think may be an overreaction to the prospect of Chained CPI, my personal preference, if my wish could come true, would be to remove the cap on FICA taxation and add another bend in as you describe. That would fund SS for a very long time if not permanently.

      Looking forward to your article on Chained CPI and learning the nuts and bolts of it all!

  5. SueInCa says:

    FYI
    I posted this to FB a few days ago and I thought I would add it here as well. I just got through watching the documentary, Heist -- How they stole the American dream and I am madder than ever now but I will either get over it or do something about it. I think the time is now, like never before. Anyway I would recommend the docu and here is some stuff as a result of that docu too.

    http://www.nationofchange.org/1983-strategy-behind-today-s-social-security-attacks-1365514721

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandate_for_Leadership

    http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/

    They are all good reads and feed back into the Heist docu and what is going on today and has been for the past 30 some years.

    • SallyT says:

      Wow, that was enlightening! It will take the people speaking out to make a difference. Those speaking out now are not weirdos, goofs, or left-tea baggers. And, passion has brought about good changes, too. It is so upsetting to me that people are so quick to throw names at people on their own political side that disagree with the President on one issue. (Why weren’t people shouting when President Clinton was making his mistakes? Or did it take 10 years for them to speak out? And, too many went along with President Bush!) He can make mistakes, as everyone has. If people take the time to listen and read additional information, it will be made clear that they are certainly not Tea Baggers. These people have active brains with different opinions. I would think the President would have realized by now that you can’t negotiate with the GOP. It certainly hasn’t worked for him before with them. Don’t slow down, Sherlock! I will go rent Heist!

      • AdLib says:

        I haven’t seen anyone “name calling” towards any Dem or Progressive because they criticize Obama on an issue. Disagree with them, yes but name calling? Where?

        • SueInCa says:

          What is happening though, is once again Dems have opened a door and the trolls have rushed right in. Instead of talking about this logically, some have rushed in with harsh criticism which we can take but the other side with the lie machine of Luntz is powerful, they pay those people to flashmob on the internet and believe me they have come with all the talking points. And people are not that smart anymore either, which is exactly what the Heritage Foundation has been working on all along.

        • SallyT says:

          AdLib, that wasn’t directed at you personally. It was a statement made in general about anyone criticizing the President from the left. People can get condescending at times as well. I have read several articles and even heard MSM that reflect name calling against people speaking out. (Chris Mathew came close to calling Bernie Sanders an old goof on his program. He was cut short before he did.) I just find that frustrating when these are the same people that generally are in agreement.

          • AdLib says:

            I was just responding to your words:

            It is in effect for six months but with all our protest that has come out on it after he signed it, if the President extends it, well, I think he may have lost me.

            If you meant something other than he may have lost you as a supporter, it wasn’t clear, sorry if I misinterpreted it.

          • AdLib says:

            Sally, I too am very bothered by what Monsanto is up to and how they were able to sneak this provision into the funding bill.

            The whole GMO plot is so evil. They need to be stopped before they eliminate non-GMO crops and have a stranglehold on our food supply.

            I don’t believe Obama wanted that provision in place. He was faced with signing the bill or vetoing it over that one temporary provision. I think he did what he had to do but I don’t think he or Harry Reid would allow that chicanery to occur again on Monsanto’s behalf.

            Really? After preventing our falling into a new Great Depression, killing Bin Laden, passing the ACA, ending DADT, refusing to defend DOMA, ending the Bush Tax Cuts on the top 2%, pulling our troops out of Iraq, stopping Gaddafi, etc…you’d stop supporting Obama over other issues?

            As I said, I don’t agree with everything he does but IMO, he has fought hard for better times for most Americans and he has earned my support. He would have to do something inconceivably terrible to blot out all the good he has done and lose me as a supporter.

            • SallyT says:

              Yes, I guess I am shallow that way. Its not like I would be voting for him again, is it? Okay, seriously, he will lose me on that issue and I will be more engaged in challenging him than I have been. That doesn’t mean I am off to be a Republican. Doesn’t mean I will throw eggs at the President. There will be much I will defend him on but I will not bite my tongue as much as I have on other things. I don’t think that makes me a trader on his accomplishments.

          • AdLib says:

            Sally, it’s a very charged issue, a third rail as they say and people can become very reactive on both sides, even when they’re fellow Dems.

            It shouldn’t be an excuse however for name calling just because someone has a different POV on such issues or because they criticize the Dem President.

            Obama will be the first to tell anyone that he is not infallible. He makes mistakes, he positions himself on some issues right where George W. Bush did without apologies and has focused too much on process at times instead of winning hearts and minds.

            I have had a number of disagreements with decisions Obama has made including the escalated deportation of undocumented immigrants, Afghanistan, opposing gay marriage (in the past of course), etc.

            Who agrees with anyone all the time (aside from RW dittoheads)?

            Any Dems who name call or attack other Dems because they disagree on an issue just display their own insecurity in their beliefs and aren’t true Progressives…they act just like the Right Wingers they claim to disrespect.

            • SallyT says:

              It is a passionate issue for many people and yes that includes me. Perhaps I am overly “put out” because this come right after the President signed the spending bill that had the “Monsanto Protection” added to it. (Apparently, no one read it and knew it was included. Except for Monsanto who wrote it.) Another passionate issue with me. Yes, there are many that say it wasn’t a big deal but it was to those that are fighting Monsanto and their trying to control our food and its sources in many ways that also includes poisoning us. It is a big deal for many reasons. It is in effect for six months but with all our protest that has come out on it after he signed it, if the President extends it, well, I think he may have lost me. I am finding it hard to accept that he had to do it to get this or that done. There are so many things that the Democrats can win on in this next election. I hope they use them and get more control.
              http://rt.com/usa/monsanto-bill-blunt-agriculture-006/

  6. kesmarn says:

    AdLib, what a great service you’ve done with this article. Thank you so much! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for and I wish I could distribute it personally to the many millions who really need to read it. But I’m just a wee bit short on spare time and toner in the printer at the moment to be making up and distributing handbills. 😉

    It really is difficult to get plain facts, and that’s just what you’ve done here, for which I am grateful. It’s amazing how many times folks on the left have thrown in the towel on trusting the President’s good judgment, intelligence and compassion — only to find out later that he was calmly steering the ship of state on a steady course and knew exactly what he was doing the whole time. This cycle of misjudgment, hysteria, and then reassurance loops over and over it seems.

    At this point in time, I think I’m inclined to just assume that the man is up to the job, and that he’ll not forget the poor, the elderly, the little school kids who need to be safe, or the underdog. In retrospect, it doesn’t seem that he has yet. And I don’t get the impression he’s about to start now.

    That may sound more intuitive than scientific/rational — a route I don’t normally like to go — but intuition is part of politics too, I think. And right now, my intuition says PBO has no intention of selling us out.

    • AdLib says:

      Kes, thanks for your kind words!

      So true, when it came to the ACA and Pres. Obama dropping the single payer aspect because it couldn’t get enough votes in Congress, some Dems attacked him and claimed he betrayed them and broke his promise. They were generally correct about him not delivering on Single Payer but how was he to do that when the Senate couldn’t even pass a Medicare Buy In proposal? In the end, the ACA was passed and the huge benefits of this wide ranging program will be in full swing in 2014 when the state exchanges begin.

      On his extension of the Bush Tax cuts because Repubs held unemployment extensions hostage, Obama was attacked by some Dems who expressed skepticism that he would ever get rid of them on the wealthy. Of course, he did take them away from the wealthy this year.

      On his 2011 budget deal with Repubs when they were holding the nation’s credit rating hostage and threatened to shut down government, Obama was attacked by some Dems for being too weak and betraying their principles…only later did it become clear that the social cuts he agreed to were minor, he had outfoxed the Repubs once again.

      I have criticized Obama throughout his Presidency for various things, I don’t always agree with what he does. Dissent against Obama on any issue by a Dem is what free thinkers should be able to do and respect in each other.

      I do think it is helpful to keep in mind though that in many instances, when there has been a lot of Dem backlash at Obama, it has often proven to be mistaken.

      In this case, I recognize what a powerful and personal issue SS payments are and that Obama’s proposal has spurred strong reactions against him. My goal in this article though was to try and widen the perspective on what Obama has been and is pursuing to make things better for seniors and all Americans and also re-explore the concept of older generations making meaningful sacrifices for the well being of younger generations…as was done for us.

  7. SallyT says:

    There is not a problem with the “left or progressives” speaking out against the President’s budget. If more had spoken out before President Clinton and President Bush went along with things, well, maybe things would be different.
    There is no reason why Social Security should be on the table. It is earned benefits and should not be a “bargaining tool” in the budget or blamed for the deficit. Yes, there should be a discussion about Social Security and the concerns that face it in 2037 but it should be separate from this! More jobs and raising the income cap will take it into the next century. Using it now as a carrot by the President to get the Republicans to cooperate is not going to produce anything. They are not going to go along with him unless he gives more. Why even give them an opening into Social Security? The Republicans are hurting themselves by doing nothing that we don’t need to help them by shooting ourselves in the foot!

    http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/04/democratic_sen_elizabeth_warre.html

    http://civic.moveon.org/signon/reichvideo.html

    • AdLib says:

      Sally, I appreciate how strongly you oppose any change to Social Security but the Republicans are not going to change the sequester if Obama merely asks them to raise taxes on the wealthy.

      I quoted the numbers in my article, if the sequester is left in place, the CBO estimates that it will eliminate 1.5 million jobs (some of those will be seniors) and reduce economic growth by 1.25%. That will cause a lot of hardship for the elderly as well as the rest of Americans. It will also tear huge holes in our social systems that many will fall through (and already are).

      Is it okay to do nothing and let all of that happen, possibly plunge the nation back into recession? Might that not hurt seniors worse than the $3.50/month? Some of them work part time to supplement their income, losing that job due to another recession would mean losing far more than $3.50/month.

      I mentioned this below, Chained CPI is not a good thing. Neither is the sequestration which will be devastating if allowed to fully run its course. The only way to change sequestration is to find a way to negotiate with Republicans. Chained CPI in a shared-sacrifice budget that could pass could accomplish many more things for many more people than making no deal and leaving the CPI in place.

      I wish we had been able to retain Dem leadership in The House and a 60 vote majority in The Senate so we could address such an issue without having to make such a sacrifice. We could have just removed the contribution cap or means tested the wealthy. But with a Repub House, none of that would ever pass.

      This is kind of a Sophie’s Choice moment…but not completely.

      You save SS from cuts but have nothing appealing to Repubs to push them into making a deal on tax fairness for the wealthy and ending the sequestration so you doom any near term hope of reversing class warfare against the 99% and averting the destruction that the sequester will do to millions of Americans.

      You accept a reduction in raises for those on SS and get a deal to avert the sequester and force the wealthy to pay a fair share of taxes…but those on SS will get less of a raise each year to keep up with inflation…however…if Obama does provide protection from Chained CPI to those who would be hurt by it…it’s not a harmful thing.

      Lastly, SS goes broke in 25 years or so. Who’s to say there’s not a Repub in the WH and Repub control of Congress when that time approaches? If Social Security’s long term stability isn’t addressed under a Democratic President, consider how much more endangered it would be under a Republican President.

      Unfortunately, the system wasn’t built to sustain itself through the Baby Boomer retirement period so changes must be made one way or another. If Dems don’t make them, Repubs will.

      Outrage from Dems will fall on deaf ears if Repubs get control of the WH and Congress, do nothing and leave them the excuse to have to change SS to “save” it and it is pretty certain that the cuts they would make would be massively more than $3.50/month.

      Doing nothing is leaving dynamite under SS and giving the Repubs the next 25 years to light it.

      • SallyT says:

        Obviously, AdLib, you have not read anything I have posted. Nowhere have I said no changes should ever be made to Social Security. My position is that this is not a matter to be used as a bargaining carrot in the budget. I have said that it should be a separate issue from this and any discussion on adjusting Social Security should be on its own merits. This has been the position of Bernie Sanders, as well. Social Security does not go broke in 20 years. If no corrections are made it will pay out at that time 3/4 as much as now. The baby boomers are hitting it hard now but they will be dying off (I am one and hope to live a long remainder of life.) The going broke and such is a scare tactic that the right has used for years to get us into prioritizing it. Raising the cap would not be accepted anymore than anything else by the GOP, so, again this should not be part of this issue. Including it in the budget makes it appear that is where it should be when we know it isn’t. The Bush Tax cuts and the President’s extending them has hurt SS along with the payroll tax cut that the President did. (Let alone the Government dipping into it since the 80’s and not paying it back.) Unemployment as high as it is hurts. Immigration reform would help. That would bring money in. Also, an increase in the withdraw on pay of those with jobs of 80 cent a week would carry it into next century. (But again this can hurt those barely making it.)
        There is nothing that is going to push the Republicans for tax adjustment/loopholes are anything. They are going to hold until you give them more and more. Social Security should not be in here to chip at. This could very well hurt the Democrats in mid terms. It appears no one is willing to put their skin in the game to protect Social Security, not even the Democrats to many out there now. I know that there are many Democrats that will fight for it and regardless of who is in the White House. And, you only have to look at social media to see that the people will, too.

        • AdLib says:

          Sally, I have been reading your posts, I just disagree with your proposition that a minor reduction in SS raises shouldn’t be used as leverage to avert the sequester, extend the full funding of SS and make the wealthy pay a fairer share of taxes.

          Why do you believe that Republicans would want to negotiate anything constructive on Social Security as a separate matter? Why would they have an interest in protecting a program they oppose? They want SS privatized which means they don’t want SS to work well as is. They want it to fail so they can replace it with a privatized version. I just don’t see how what you propose would ever produce any results.

          As for people getting a 25% cut in benefits in 20 years not being as bad as SS going broke, we’re currently discussing the impact of a .25% cut in raises (not base benefits amount) which is a big point of contention, I would imagine that the younger generation facing a cut of their actual benefit amount at 100 times that amount, not even mentioning the reduced raises they would also experience, would argue that either way, they won’t be able to pay their bills so what’s the difference?

          You mention fighting to protect Social Security but how is resisting sacrifice to change a program that can’t fully sustain itself past 20 years, protecting it? Preventing change only protects SS for current recipients at the expense of future recipients and dooms the program in the end.

          As I mentioned previously, if Obama makes good on his vow to prevent the reduction in raises from hitting those who can’t afford it and it extends the time frame of full funding of the program (along with killing the sequester and closing tax loopholes for the wealthy), why would that be such an unacceptable proposition?

          • SallyT says:

            AdLib, I am glad you now realize that I am not in agreement to SS being used in this particular negotiations. I was correcting the use of “going broke” and not saying I wasn’t caring about my children when they are going to be in need of SS. Don’t be ridiculous. And, yes, I am glad people are speaking out to protect SS from being damaged without discussion. The term “minor reduction” is debatable. Instead of typing more, the following article covers it pretty well from both sides: The Liberal Civil War Over Social Security Cuts
            http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/04/liberals-chained-cpi-cbpp-obama-budget

            • SallyT says:

              AdLib, my generic response is to grant you the winner of being able to out type me. Our positions in this matter have not changed. After watching the movie Heist-Who Stole the American Dream, I am even stronger in my convictions. However, I concede that this is not the place for my limited knowledge, vocabulary, or my simplicity in explanation can achieve any reversal of opinion to those posting in agreement with you. I will, however, put trust in so many of higher positions and involvement that agree with me.

            • AdLib says:

              Sally, I assume that you provided a generic list of alternatives instead of a replacement for Chained CPI that Republicans would support because you too recognize that it is very difficult to find a SS funding proposal that Republicans would vote for.

              The question isn’t if there are alternative ways of strengthening SS, of course there are but that’s irrelevant as long as Repubs control the House and can filibuster in the Senate.

              The only question that matters is, what compromise would Dems be willing to make that Repubs would be willing to vote for?

              I don’t see any of the approaches you suggested as viable to both fix SS and gain Repub support.

              Reducing benefits for the wealthy and raising the payroll tax are non starters for Repubs.

              Next, there is no magic wand to wave to increase the interest SS earns. If you want higher but speculative returns, the only alternative would be investing the fund in a private way, privatizing SS and risking losing critical amounts of it in a market crash. The Repubs would gladly welcome this approach but it would be disastrous for the future of SS to go down that path.

              It is true that SS is used to finance the government through purchase of government securities and that there are IOUs there but there is no data I’m aware of to suggest that the SS fund would generate greater returns otherwise.

              As for immigration reform bringing in more revenue, that would be helpful only in the short term. Those who pay in and older immigrants would also need to receive benefits when they too retire so it would be more like a Ponzi approach to cash flowing SS, taking from future retires to pay current ones, as is the case now and becoming insolvent and unable to pay full benefits when those immigrants retire.

              As much as we may want to wish that things will just work out some way without current recipients having to make any compromises, that doesn’t mean it’s possible. Certainly, with a Repub House that will never support any increase in payroll taxes, the only paths to solvency would seem to be on readjusting what’s paid out and/or when (no doubt the Repubs would happily support raising the retirement age).

              In an imaginary America, a sensible solution that makes the wealthier subsidize this national retirement insurance program called Social Security with a fraction of their massive gains in wealth would be put into place.

              In reality however, any solution to extending the life of SS, killing tax loopholes for the wealthy and replacing the sequester must be appealing to Repubs in some way. Such a deal requires a sacrifice and difficult compromise on the Dems part so the Repubs will sacrifice on their part when it comes to taxing the wealthy more.

              If you do come up with a compromise/sacrifice that could replace Chained CPI as something Repubs might negotiate over, let me know. I don’t like it either but I haven’t yet come up with a workable or acceptable substitute yet.

            • SallyT says:

              Lets see if I can come up with some:
              You could reduce benefits for people with large private pensions, I think that is called Means testing.
              Another option is to raise the payroll tax rate for both the employee and employer. You could manipulate the rate for employer and make it lower than the employee or visa versa.
              Of course another problem is the low interest that the trust fund is earning but I wouldn’t suggest it going into the Stock Market. I don’t think we can get interest rates raised but that is an option. Also end the charade caused by Congress raiding the Social Security surplus. Currently, Social Security tax money is invested in government securities. Once invested, the funds are indistinguishable from other money in the general fund. Securities are redeemed to pay Social Security benefits, and the government spends the rest of the borrowed cash. Rather than holding the surplus, the trust fund contains IOUs, which might be worthless in the future.
              Work on immigration reform and get more paying into.
              And last raise the income cap.

              I know that there are articles on how to fund Social Security without hurting it but I don’t know where I have seen them. Maybe I can think of it later and post.

            • AdLib says:

              Sally, sorry you misunderstood my comments, it was quite clear from the outset that you oppose Chained CPI as being a part of Obama’s budget negotiations. That is why I asked what you think could substitute for it in attracting Repubs to negotiate with Obama on killing the sequester and raising taxes on the wealthy.

              There is a technical difference between SS being unable to fully pay its commitments and going broke but for many people, not having enough money to pay one’s expenses is considered being broke. I don’t know that future SS recipients would see it as an important distinction if they couldn’t pay their own bills either way.

              Since you oppose Chained CPI, is there a sacrifice or compromise you would be willing to support to get Republicans to extend full funding of SS after that 20 year mark?

  8. Nirek says:

    Ad, I said before that I’m willing to give up some of my big increase in Social Security. (It was non existent for some years). Just as long as the loopholes that the filthy rich use are closed.

    At any rate , Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Not one cent of the deficit is due to Social Security. It is funded by the workers and their employers in the form of payroll taxes.

    The only people who are hurt are those who depend on SS.

    • AdLib says:

      Nirek, it is a sacrifice and it will add up over time but as you say, it can only be justified if the loopholes and tax dodges the wealthy have used to not pay a fair share are closed and the nation and future generations are helped.

      So true, SS has nothing at all to do with the deficit…but that hasn’t stopped Repubs from insisting that it does and the MSM from drilling that into people’s heads.

      Instead of spending all of his energy trying to push back that tide, he recognized that reducing raises to SS could be just the leverage he needs to weaken the Repub push on huge cuts and privatization of SS and budget negotiations that would bring more fairness to our economic system by taxing the wealthy properly.

      The SS surplus right now, not deficit, is around $2.6 trillion but will fall to zero in around 20-25 years due to the Baby Boomer generation retiring. The closer we get to that deadline without fixing it may mean a more radical and unfair solution could be forced on Americans. Addressing the future shortfall this early means less severity.

      Pay a little now or hugely later. For the sake of future generations, it is probably best to pay a little now than endanger future generations.

  9. SueInCa says:

    Adlib

    I respect and appreciate that you have laid this all out for people to understand and I do understand it quite well now. You say it is time for people to walk the walk and share the burden but the only ones being asked is seniors. If, as you say we should be ready to walk the walk then why not share that percentage with us? How about current workers take half of that percentage and pay a higher rate into SS? Why not share the burden? I know people think 3.50 a month is not much but think about it, $1400.00 a month is all you have, and puts you below the poverty line(after taxes and medicare), why are you asking that poor people pay more?

    Had there been some shared sacrifice, I could have gone along with these cuts to SS but the only ones sharing the sacrifice are seniors, some of who get way less than that average $1400.00. Could they make up the difference over the years with regular increases? No one can say because there has never been a yearly COLA increase for seniors. All the increase numbers are supposition not fact.

    • AdLib says:

      Hey Sue! As I mentioned, President Obama has made it clear that Chained CPI would not hit those who are in poverty so the scenario of seniors making only $1400 and living in poverty being hit by this just isn’t what he’s proposing.

      Obama’s budget represents shared sacrifice. Chained CPI for seniors, higher taxes for the wealthy, corporations and tobacco, the Buffet rule in place so wealthy Americans pay at least 30% in taxes, a ceiling on deductions for the top 2%, on and on. Shared sacrifice across the board and a plan to sustain Social Security so that it will be there for those paying into it today.

      As for your suggestion about higher contributions from workers, I agree with that (though I would rather see the cap lifted and the wealthier paying in an unlimited amount) but realistically, would the Repub House vote to raise taxes on 100% of Americans and would Obama and the Dems want the political fallout from being legitimately described as raising taxes on all Americans?

      There are those things that make the most sense then there are those things that could pass a Republican House.

      Unless or until Dems can retake the House and get a 60 vote majority in the Senate, there is no way that raising SS taxes on all Americans could pass.

      My concern is what happens in the meantime while both sides insist on not compromising, how many people fall into poverty, how many lose their jobs and homes, how does Social Security survive past 20 years?

      I don’t like Chained CPI, I don’t want it but I can already see what terrible damage the sequester is doing and if we don’t turn it around sooner than later, Seniors and everyone else are in for some terrible times ahead.

      • SueInCa says:

        Ok, let me try it this way, assuming I only have SS and no backup.

        I get 1602.00 after taxes only, no medicare premiums taken out.
        My house payment for 14 more years is: 594.00
        My HOA is: 300.00
        My utilities are: 200.00
        My insurance payment is: 225.00
        My grocery bill(conservatively for 2)is:200.00

        I have no money for gas, a movie, clothing, in fact I have to get rid of my car because why pay insurance on a car you cannot afford to fill up? And you are taking away another 3.50 from me? Some people are in this situation and nobody has given a cutoff point for who is poor in this new scenario so how do I survive? And please do not tell me there are programs for the poor because what I see is even that being pulled out from the poor over and over. There are no guarantees that the right will even feed a baby, why would I believe they would feed me?

        • AdLib says:

          Sue, that’s a very difficult and stressful position to be in. I have family in similar situations, even in the red every month. We help out as we can.

          My point is really about sacrifice and why it’s up to those who are compassionate to do it…because those who aren’t can never be reasoned into sacrificing.

          We’ve had previous generations sacrifice financially, give their lives and lose their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers all so that future generations would have a better life.

          As it is, the upcoming generation may be the first to have a standard of living that’s worse than their parents had.

          Things are tough right now for so many people, they’ve already made so many sacrifices and it’s difficult for them to sacrifice more.

          And it’s unfair. The poor, middle class, elderly and minorities have all borne the brunt of sacrifices, decade after decade, while the wealthy pay less taxes and become wealthier.

          As unfair as it is, the sacrifice needed to be made by the wealthy can only be forced upon them if another sacrifice is made by the 98%. It’s kind of a package deal, to rescue our social fabric from being torn apart by the sequestration austerity and Social Security from being privatized and gutted…those who have sacrificed the most would need to sacrifice again.

          Otherwise, there will be no change, we’ll just keep driving right towards the edge of a cliff and go off it.

          As for where the cutoff will be for who is considered too vulnerable to be hit by the Chained CPI, I don’t know. I can only hope that Obama lives up to his vow and that anyone who would be meaningfully impacted by Chained CPI will be exempted.

          It would be an immediate sacrifice for some on SS now (not those who are the most vulnerable though) and those of us who aren’t on it now, will be setting ourselves up to be hit by it when we retire. So the sacrifice this would be affects everyone in the long term.

          My hope is that if it brings about greater economic justice and equity, helps finance our government better, adds jobs and economic growth that leads to greater tax revenues for the government, the issue of SS and Chained CPI could be revisited and in the future (just like health care and single payer) and seniors could be helped more.

          It would seem to be a sure thing that if nothing is done, in 25 years SS goes broke. Then what? Will the privatization Right Wingers be able to convince people to let them give it a try? Will benefits truly be reduced? Will retirement age be jacked up?

          As distasteful as this approach is, Chained CPI could end up being the least destructive one. And it may be one that offers a way back to better benefits for seniors. It could also buy us time until a Dem Senate and House are able to pass more Progressive legislation like a repeal of Chained CPI and a removal of the capped contributions.

          I do understand and appreciate all that you’re expressing and sharing, I am hoping that this wouldn’t affect you or anyone who’s in that situation (including my family of course).

          It’s just that someone’s got to put out the fire at risk to themselves and you know it won’t be Republicans, they want it all to burn down.

          • It would be nice if the wealthy would “sacrifice,” a little more. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer. Same as it ever was.

          • SueInCa says:

            It is frustrating Adlib and quite frankly I do not know anyone who would be in the scenario I described personally but I know there are people out there. Quite honestly I am quite sick of this country and the greedy people who live here with us. You don’t even want to know what I would do to fix the economy…..the rich would be screaming and the bankers would wonder who is next? I am just that sick of it all.

        • SallyT says:

          Only thing I would add to your list, Sue, is suppose an illness happens and the cost of medicine keeps rising.

      • SueInCa says:

        Hey Adlib

        There is a huge swath of the population that are baby boomers and they are going to get hit. I am sorry but I still do not see where this shared sacrifice comes in. If they raised the cap on the maximum amount of your yearly pay that is subject to ss tax, that would fund it into the next century. So yes, there is a way to fund it without hurting anyone under 100,000 a year. Baby boomers are going to remember too when it comes time for re-election and when and if that group decides to sit it out, it will be disastrous for all parties.

        And by that I mean Dems are doing a horrible job of explaining this scenario, especially Obama. Not everyone reads your posts although I wish they would. You laid it all out quite well, even if I still disagree.

        • AdLib says:

          Sue, agreed, the most sensible and fairest path to sustaining SS is removing the cap on contributions.

          But the Republicans will never agree to that. So the only other prospect (aside from a Dem takeover of The House and a 60 vote majority in Congress) is to do nothing and let SS and social services go down with the ship.

          I do think there is an urgency here on the sequestration cuts, not so on SS since we have at least 20 years or so. But what other leverage could Obama have to bring them to the table before society deteriorates further under this austerity-caused disaster. Look at the UK and you’ll see what the Repubs want for America, a society in decline where people are left on their own to struggle.

          Sometimes it’s a choice between the not-good and the terrible. Chained CPI is not good but the destruction of sequestration austerity and a possible refusal to lift the debt ceiling by Republicans would be terrible.

          The choice sucks but one seems clearly worse than the other…and doing nothing is choosing the terrible.

          • SueInCa says:

            I agree with most of what you said, but Obama has offered up seniors, which we all know republicans have wanted to give to Wall Street for the longest time, as the sacrificial lambs. It just really irritates me that he could not come up with something else. Defense, most people would agree with that. hit the corporations, most people would agree with that. But no he hit seniors. I find it unforgivable that he put seniors on the chopping block before the others I mentioned. Corporations got off free and clear, how is that the best possible deal? I am really not trying to be obstinate here, but there were clearly other areas to hit without him taking a hit. He just fell right into the GOP’s lap with SS.

            http://billmoyers.com/2013/04/11/top-5-things-to-know-about-president-obamas-2014-budget/

            • SallyT says:

              Not just the seniors but veterans wives and families and the disabled are going to be effected, too.


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