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Archive for the ‘Social Security’ Category

What Happens When a Billionaire Right-Winger Who Hates Social Security Spends Million$ to Undermine It?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 29, 2011

What happens when you have a billionaire right-winger (Pete Peterson) who along with other rich right-wingers has had a hate-on for Social Security for several decades and has spent tens of millions on various enterprises (his “Concord Coalition” and “Fiscal Times” come most quickly to mind) in order to destroy it by embedding lies about it into our mainstream media?

You get garbage like this from the AP’s Stephen Ohlemacher: “Sick and getting sicker, Social Security will run at a deficit this year and keep on running in the red until its trust funds are drained by about 2037, congressional budget experts said Wednesday in bleaker-than-previous estimates.”

As economic reporter Joshua Holland says, this is just flat-out wrong:

Is it “sick”? Social Security has $2.5 trillion in T-Bills sitting in a trust fund, is financed through 2037 and if nothing were to change it would still be able to pay out higher benefits than it does today, indefinitely.

Is it getting sicker? Well, the 2000 Social Security Trustees’s report (PDF) projected that the trust fund would run out in … 2037. But the 1997 report (PDF) expected the trust fund to be depleted by 2029 — 8 years earlier than currently projected. So in that sense, it’s “healthier” today than it was 13 years ago.

That’s not the end of the lies being spewed by Ohlemacher. Holland notes the following:

When he says the program is “in the red” what he’s talking about is that current tax revenues being paid into the system have fallen below current benefit payments. Which should be unsurprising with wages stagnating and an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent.

But what’s unsaid is that the Social Security’s revenues aren’t limited to current tax receipts, thanks to the interest earned on those T-Bills in the trust fund. They earned 5.1 percent in 2008, and 4.8 percent in 2009.

When you include that earned interest, as any honest reporter must do, the program has not “gone into the red,” and — if we define “going into the red” as total annual outlays exceeding total income, including interest income — it won’t until at least 2018, according to the Trustees’ latest report (PDF).

Yes, the Trust Fund grew last year, is growing this year, and will continue to grow for several more years, until it reaches a projected $4.2 trillion dollars.

Go read Holland’s entire piece — it’s worth it. And while you’re at it, check out my earlier debunking of the “Social Security must be destroyed in order to save it” myth pushed by the privatizers back when Bush was in office.

(Crossposted to Renaissance Post.)

Posted in Social Security | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Glenn Greenwald Nails It

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 4, 2010

From his latest column:

The President’s Deficit Commission is designed to be as anti-democratic and un-transparent as possible.  Its work is done in total secrecy.  It is filled with behind-the-scenes political and corporate operatives who steadfastly refuse to talk to the public about what they’re doing.  Its recommendations will be released in December, right after the election, to ensure that its proposals are shielded from public anger.  And the House has passed a non-binding resolution calling for an up-or-down/no-amendments vote on the Commission’s recommendations, long considered the key tactic to ensuring its enactment.  The whole point of the Commission is that the steps which Washington wants to take — particularly cuts in popular social programs, such as Social Security — can occur only if they are removed as far as possible from democratic accountability.  


That’s why Commission co-chair Alan Simpson — with his blunt contempt for Social Security and and other benefit programs (such as aid to disabled veterans) and his acknowledged eagerness to slash them — has done the country a serious favor.  His recent outbursts have unmasked this Commission and shed light on its true character.  Unlike his fellow Commission members, who imperiously dismiss public inquiries into what they’re doing as though they’re annoying and inappropriate, Simpson — to his genuine credit — has been aggressively engaging critics, making it impossible to ignore what the Commission is really up to.   

Furthermore, Simpson, by his insistence on giving away the Catfood Commission’s game plan to cut Social Security, has caused longtime Democratic operatives like Bob Shrum to sound the alarm about the danger this poses to Democratic chances in 2010:

So why not campaign all-out, in [Tip] O’Neill’s plainspoken way, against a GOP that is disloyal to the most successful — and most popular — social program in American history?

Because Democrats have been disarmed by the president’s deficit reduction commission, which plainly intends to propose Social Security cuts.

Rather than allow such cuts to be greased through the lame duck session of a decimated Democratic Congress, or passed under cover of “bipartisanship” in a decidedly more Republican one next year, shouldn’t the case be stated and debated before the election? (Right now, Social Security is treated as the issue that dare not speak its name.) There is also the question of Democratic identity: What does the party stand for if not Social Security? And then there is the question of Democratic stupidity: Qualified and muted comments by Democrats in effect suggesting that Democrats won’t endanger Social Security as much as the other guys will can only further pave the road to defeat.

The president’s deficit reduction commission was a response to a series of popular myths — that the federal deficit is a root cause of our economic distress and that Social Security is a root cause of the deficit. . . . So the deficit commission has targeted Social Security, which has nothing to do with the deficit.

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, 2010, deficit, Social Security | Tagged: | Comments Off on Glenn Greenwald Nails It

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 29, 2010

Because the truth is scarier than any attempt to parody Alan Simpson could be:

Go and check out just how much this elitist silver-spoon member of Wyoming’s biggest political dynasty hates Social Security in particular — and taking care of the “lesser people” in general.

He sounds like a friggin’ Randroid.

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, Republicans as cancer, rightwing moral cripples, Silver Spoon Squad, Social Security | 1 Comment »

Thursday News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 29, 2010

— Why pepper spray is better than guns for dealing with bears:

Moving slowly, naturally, trying not to alarm the bears, the group backed up until they could scramble above the trail to a rocky platform.

The mother bear passed below, one cub in tow, “but the second one stopped. Then all of a sudden he started coming at us, and I thought, ‘Ooohh, no.’ ”

The hikers shouted, clapped their hands, but the yearling kept on.

At 40 yards, [zookeeper Jack] Hanna unleashed a haze of pepper spray – “but there was wind, and it didn’t do a thing.”

At 20 yards, he let loose a brief burst again, and the bear just shook his head and kept on coming.

At 10 yards, “I unloaded it right into his face,” Hanna said. The bear stopped like he’d hit a wall, pawed at his face, turned and ran.


“Personally,” he said, “I’m not for this new rule that allows people to carry guns in Glacier. Somebody’s going to get hurt. If I’d shot that cub, and it’d started squealing, I’d have had a heck of a time with that mama bear.”

“If I’d had a gun, there’d have been a trainwreck,” he said. “The mother would’ve taken me right out.”

Guns are lethal, he said, but too often they only wound. Guns also are hard to aim in a crisis, but pepper spray shoots out a wide mist.

“It’s hard to miss,” he said.

Saul Friedman explodes a few of Pete Peterson’s favorite lies concerning Social Security, and closes with this passage:

Economist Dean Baker, director of the CEPR noted that so far the commission seems to be considering only benefit cuts: “There is a great deal of talk in policy circles about cutting Social Security, but very little discussion of the financial situation of those affected by the cuts.”

A poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, commissioned by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, found that only two percent of Americans believe Social Security is a major cause of the deficit and 78 percent oppose raising the retirement age.

There are easier fixes that won’t cut benefits: Obama proposed the simplest solution when he was running for president and before he became enamored with turning the cheek of compromise. At the moment, as I mentioned, the Social Security payroll tax is imposed on the first $106,800 of earnings, which means the most affluent executives pay no more than their secretaries. Obama proposed raising the cap to $250,000 while lowering the taxes for many workers.

The National Committee poll found that 50 percent of Americans, including some high wage-earners, favored solving Social Security’s future problem by removing the cap. The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein said the Congressional Budget Office estimates removing the cap would raise $100 billion a year in revenues. And it would solve Social Security’s future shortfall. Even the most affluent figures, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, have suggested removing the cap. Social Security could also raise money by being allowed to invest in higher-yielding Treasury bonds rather than the lower yielding special bonds.

You can do some research on how to solve Social Security’s 30 year financial problem by playing the Social Security game at the site of the American Academy of Actuaries. It shows how removing the cap would more than solve the program. But we Social Security advocates need you to understand that if the present version of the Republican Party regains control of Congress, its leaders and its candidates have promised to kill the nation’s finest contribution to social justice. They will dance on Social Security’s grave rather than celebrate its diamond jubilee.

Check out for more information.

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, gun issues, Pete Peterson, Social Security | 1 Comment »

Trouble For The Catfood Commisssion?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 10, 2010

Has the plan to destroy Social Security and Medicare in the name of making Pete Peterson happy deficit reduction been derailed? Possibly — though I’m not holding my breath or letting my guard down.

Emptywheel reports that if Bob Corker means what he says — a dicey proposition, to be sure — then the Catfood Commission’s plan to destroy what’s left of the New Deal and Great Society is dead as a doornail:

Corker called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), the Democratic leaders in their respective chambers, to make a similar pledge.

“I think for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to say the same thing — that they’re not going to try to use the lame-duck session as a place to do things that otherwise would not pass,” he said. “That type of thinking, that concern about … cap-and-trade and other types of policies just feeds into this whole unpredictability issue, the issue of what’s going to happen in Washington. We need to move away from that uncertainty.”

As Emptywheel points out, that’s exactly when the White House was planning to execute the Catfood Commission’s plan to execute Social Security:

White House officials are working closely with the president’s new fiscal commission in the hope that the bipartisan commissions final report will provide Republican cover for the deal. The commission, due to report by December 1, needs fourteen out of its eighteen members to make an official recommendation. One hope of the deficit hawks is that a super-majority report could steamroll a lame duck session of Congress to act quickly, pending a more Republican Congress in January.

This by itself wouldn’t be particularly good news, but there is also this news that Earl Pomeroy — not exactly a liberal himself — is taking dead aim at the Catfoodies with his own hearing, scheduled for July 15, on how best to protect Social Security.

Posted in (Rich) Taxpayers League, 2010, deficit, greed, Pete Peterson, Social Security | Comments Off on Trouble For The Catfood Commisssion?

Cat Food Commission Plays Divide And Conquer

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 5, 2010

Here’s a goodie from Daily Kos’ diaries:

Good News! If you are over 58 Cat Food Commission changes won’t apply

by Sydserious [Subscribe]

However, if you are not over 58 – you might need to start worrying about the power this bogus commission will have on your retirement.

I certainly am.

Posted in (Rich) Taxpayers League, capitalism as cancer, deficit, Social Security | 13 Comments »

Alan Simpson Gives The Game Away: We’re All “Lesser People”

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 22, 2010

Just as Michael Steele touched off a huge furore when he admitted that the Southern Strategy, far from being something only Richard Nixon used, has been part of the Republican bag of tricks for four decades, Alan Simpson has sent his fellow Catfood Conspirators scrambling for cover as they fall over themselves trying to disavow his blunt statements concerning the Catfood — erm, Deficit Commission’s true goals:

By the way, the stuff Simpson’s spewing, particularly about the worker-to-retiree ratio, has already been debunked to a fare-thee-well. Here’s one debunking:

Myth: Social Security is a victim of the aging baby boom, reflected in the ratio of workers to retirees, which used to be 16 to 1, is now 3 to 1, and in 2030, will be 2 to 1.

Reality: Today’s projected deficit has nothing to do with the size of the baby boom or worker to retiree ratios. The 16 to 1 ratio is a meaningless factoid, plucked from 1950, a year when Social Security was expanded to cover millions of new workers. The ratio never influenced policy in the slightest. It is the kind of ratio experienced by all pension plans, public and private at the start when few workers have yet qualified for benefits; the 2 to 1 ratio is meaningful and does translate into higher costs, but those costs were addressed decades ago. Congress has enacted ten significant Social Security bills since 1950. Every enactment has taken into account the baby boom, and each has left the program in long-run actuarial balance. The most recent enactment was in 1983, when the program was in balance through 2057 – the year the youngest boomers, those born in 1964, will turn 93. How social security went from a projected surplus through 2057, when most of the baby boom will be dead, to today’s projected deficit involves a number of factors, mainly related to changes in assumptions about wage growth, productivity and disability rates. The change from surplus to deficit is totally unrelated to the number of baby boomers, as one would surmise. After all, no new baby boomers have been born since 1983.

Remember, Simpson comes by his upper-class arrogance honestly: He’s the spoiled-brat son of a former governor and senator, not the hard-bitten self-made man he’s implied to be. And his own son, Colin, is the Republican Speaker of the Wyoming House.

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, deficit, propaganda, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, Republicans as cancer, rightwing moral cripples, safety net, Silly Republicans, Silver Spoon Squad, Social Security | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Pity Washington DC

Posted by Phoenix Woman on June 20, 2010

All of its major newspapers are in the hands of neocons or paleocons, and none of them have your interests at heart.

Case in point: Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, the Nixon Cabinet member who has been trying to destroy Social Security for the past two decades in the name of “fixing the deficit”, apparently now shares control of the WaPo’s newsroom with Fred Hiatt and can dump anti-SocSec and anti-Medicare pieces from his Fiscal Times propaganda rag into the Post whenever he wants:

It told readers that: “On the fiscal commission, Stern [Andy Stern, former head of the Service Employees International Union, one of members highlighted in the piece] is already looking for ways to break through the ideological camps on deficit-reduction.” In fact, individuals who are not motivated by ideology would note that the country’s projected long-term deficit problem is driven almost entirely by the broken U.S. health care system.

If per person health care costs were the same in the United States as in any other wealthy country, then the projections would show huge budget surpluses rather than deficits. It also should be possible for the people in the United States to take advantage of lower cost health care systems elsewhere even if the power of special interests like the insurance and pharmaceutical industry prevent reform here. This basic fact should feature prominently in any discussion of the long-term deficit that is not motivated by ideology. It is never mentioned in this piece.

But of course this is all part of the Southern Strategy: The corporate-religious bigot alliance to con white working-class Americans into voting for corporate tax cuts and against their own economic interests as a way to hurt people with darker skins than theirs. Once again, I bring Reagan advisor Lee Atwater back from the grave, all the way from 1981, to explain:

”You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Ni–er, ni–er, ni–er.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘ni–er’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

”And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Ni–er, ni–er.”’

This is why his fellow Republicans were and are so angry at Michael Steele, who while he tries to be a good Republican has this unfortunate habit of remembering that he is a black man, and thus is incapable of hewing to the GOP lie that the Southern Strategy was never used after Nixon’s time. It is, in fact, not only still in use today, it is the basis of all Republican and conservative actions worth dignifying with the name.

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, deficit, distractions, Pete Peterson, phony scandals, privatization, safety net, Silver Spoon Squad, Social Security, Southern Strategy | 3 Comments »

Deficit Hysteria Debunked Two Ways

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 30, 2010

The inestimable Scarecrow kicks out the jams on poor deluded Carl Hulse of the NYT:

Hulse manages both to describe and legitimize Congress’ growing hysteria about the size of US deficits/debts. But he doesn’t bother to ask or quote a single economist, let alone the many who have been explaining for months, now screaming, that deficit spending now is not only not a serious problem but absolutely necessary to deal with lingering effects of the Great Recession.

All Hulse had to do was check with the Times Nobel economist or any of the Times’ stable of economic/business writers. Paul Krugman, along with Brad DeLong, Joe Stiglitz, Jaime Galbraith, Dean Baker, or if you prefer, Mark Zandi and many, many other serious economists, have been calling out the fraudulent arguments of the Pete Peterson deficit hawks for months and telling us we need more, not less spending to help the economy.

Every one of these reputable economists refutes the assumed premises of Hulse’ article and the prevailing ignorant mindset of too many in Congress that our debt/deficits are too high for the conditions we’re in. Instead, Hulse just takes for granted the false view, spread by deficit hawks, that deficit spending is irresponsible, an unfair burden on our children and a risk of inflation. No, it’s not.

Furthermore, Jamie Galbraith argues that we need big deficits — now and later:

The public deficit is just the obverse of net private savings. That is, when private credit is booming, investment exceeds saving and deficits tend to disappear. That’s what happened in the 1990s. When credit collapses, deficits return. That’s what’s happening now. Large long-term deficits will occur, or not, depending only on whether we succeed in generating a new growth cycle, financed by the expansion of private credit. Policies to cut spending or raise taxes — now or for that matter in the future — contribute nothing to this goal.

Financial reform and debt relief are therefore the only paths to public deficit reduction.; It would be nice to have them, for the economy works better and people are happier when they can borrow and invest privately. But if we don’t get them, the alternative isn’t a “return to fiscal responsibility.” It’s a choice between large public budget deficits that fund important and useful activities and tax relief, or large deficits because the recession, housing slump and high unemployment drag on and on, all made worse by cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other public spending.

Yes, we must defend Social Security and Medicare from Wall Street and its political agents — which now, sadly, include the Obama White House. But we’ll lose on that — and everything else — if we start by giving up the fight for an aggressive, effective, sustained and long-range economic recovery program, deficits and all.

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, deficit, Pete Peterson, Social Security | 5 Comments »

Somebody Needs To Hear From Us

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 27, 2010

Call up Congressman Gerry Connolly and ask him why deficit hawkery only applies to things that help average persons instead of war profiteers (erm, “defense” contractors):

Washington DC Office
327 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-1492
Fax: (202) 225-3071

Fairfax District Office
4115 Annandale Road
Suite 103
Annandale, VA 22003
Phone: (703) 256-3071
Fax: (703) 354-1284 

Prince William District Office
4308 Ridgewood Center Dr.
Woodbridge, VA 22192
Phone: (703) 670-4989
Fax: (703) 670-6042

You know what to do. (Oh, and you might also want to add that Pete Peterson, the guy bankrolling the Cat Food (erm, Deficit) Commission, is demonstrably full of horsepucky.)

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, deficit, Pete Peterson, Social Security | Comments Off on Somebody Needs To Hear From Us