Archive for Social Security


The Dickens, you say?

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As Digby said yesterday, they will never quit trying to dismantle the social safety net. Both here and abroad, it seems, we’ve gotta keep those “takers” from taking. They are somehow keeping our “Makers” from making. (Genuflect here.)

It seems the British have set up a system of sanctions to keep the eligible jobless from receiving help. And, boy howdy, you thought Fox News’ obsession over the grocery shopping habits of Americans receiving SNAP benefits was Dickensian. Check out the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the land of Dickens:

“A Ukip parliamentary candidate named Lynton Yates this week suggested banning benefit claimants from driving: “Why do they have the privilege to spend the tax payers [sic] hard earned money on a car, when those in work are struggling to keep their own car on the road?” Ukip’s communications people said that Yates’s suggestions were “not Ukip policies and they will not form part of the Ukip manifesto”, and the media rejoiced in the week’s example of the party’s supposed fruitcakery – though at the time of writing, Mr Yates was still Ukip’s choice for the East Midlands seat of Charnwood.

But the problem isn’t his, or Ukip’s, alone. After all, in the sense that he proposed stripping “benefit claimants” of something most people take for granted, Yates’s plans merely sat on the outer edge of what now passes for mainstream thinking. When the state makes it clear that the poor and unfortunate are not to have spare bedrooms, and embraces the idea of stopping them buying booze and fags and shredding their entitlements if they have more than two kids, is it really such a leap to deny them non-public transport too? For all its inanity, there is a sadism at the heart of the Yates idea that is not a million miles away from the cruelties increasingly built into the benefits system: cruelties most of us would not put up with for a minute, but which are visited on thousands of people every week.

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“The High Cost of Low Taxes”

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Over at, Joshua Holland started a series last week about the hidden costs of the push for lower taxes. Holland notes that compared to European countries, “we pay a hugely disproportionate share of the costs out-of-pocket*, through the private sector. And when things go badly – when misfortune hits — the safety net that we fall back on is truly pathetic in comparison. Call it the great American rip-off.” (Holland is using “out-of-pocket” to include all private-sector social spending.)

Holland’s “The High Cost of Low Taxes” mentions the experience of Asheville local, Leslie Boyd, whose son, Mike, died of complications from untreated cancer. Mike couldn’t get insurance at any price in the “free market.”

While the United States ranks third from the bottom in total taxation among OECD countries in 2010, “it’s almost a wash when you add back what we spend out-of-pocket.” And what we get for it is much worse.

At Campaign for America’s Future, R.J. Eskow observes,

Conservatives like to complain about politicians who promise too much. But when politicians claim that Americans can pay less in taxes, spend less on government, and sacrifice nothing in the way of services, that may be the biggest scam of all.

Holland’s series continues in “How Private-Sector Health Costs Are Killing the American Dream.”

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A Case for Expanding Social Security

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Michael Hiltzik makes the case this morning in the L.A.Times with the help of the trustees reports. The naysayers have it wrong, he argues, in a rare triumph of “facts over flapdoodle”:

But policymakers and pundits have taken the wrong lesson from these findings. The argument they most often put forward is that Social Security is so important it must be “saved,” typically by cutting benefits to bring its outflow in line with its income.

But the right conclusion is that it should be expanded. This is the proper moment to do so, because the shortcomings of the rest of our retirement system have never been so obvious.

His reasons why here.

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Barricades, anyone?

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It’s time to go to the phones. Again.

Obama budget would cut entitlements in exchange for tax increases

Dave Johnson laid it out in an email:

The Obama budget is going to offer “Grand Bargain” cuts in Social Security and Medicare, hoping to get Republicans to offer tax increases. We are heading into a retirement crisis. The 401K experiment didn’t work. Companies have pulled back on pensions. And the squeeze that has been on regular people for decades means that people also do not have the savings they need to get them through old age. And all the money went to the top. The last thing the country needs is cuts in essential services for the elderly.

Susie Madrak has the skinny:

It’s official, folks. The Grand Bargain is here.

Time to take action. If we don’t unleash holy hell, this will go through.

Even though we’ve been warning you for a long time, it’s still hard to believe that a Democratic president is offering up the crown jewels of Democratic policy — and for a mere pittance. We need to fight back. You can call or write your congressperson or the White House if you want, but it’s most useful to start with your senators. Tell them you’re not willing to starve Granny to make the Republicans happy.

We’re going to concentrate on the Senate, because they’ll probably send a bipartisan bill to the House in order to bypass Boehner’s Hastert rule. Even if you called last week, call today. Be prepared to call every day for the next week. (Here’s the link.) Please leave a note in comments telling us how your call went

Joan Walsh writing at Salon, New poll: Seniors of both parties revile chained CPI:

AARP reveals that 70 percent of voters age 50-plus oppose the use of the chained CPI to cut benefits, and two-thirds of them – including 60 percent of Republicans — say they would be “considerably less likely” to support a congressional candidate if he or she backed a new way of calculating consumer prices. And 84 percent of voters over 50 say Social Security has no place in budget-deficit discussions, since it is self-financed.

Make those phones ring. Focus. Be. The. Phone.

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He’s ba-ack

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“Look, the other side is constantly trying to pound Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid into oblivion. If you speak to them … many of the Republicans in the House will tell you that they regard these programs as unconstitutional. They think the government should be doing nothing but defending the country, and anything beyond that is just — in their view — unconstitutional and deeply wrong.” — Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL).


I’ve met Grayson a couple of times. The thing that strikes you most (besides an ego as big as he is) is that he absolutely doesn’t care what his others think of him, especially his enemies. This makes him both bold and bulletproof.

Take Action News with David Shuster:


Who Do We Fight For?

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Mike Lux has a very personal post at dKos in response to rumors about some kind of deal between the Obama White House and Speaker of the House John Boehner. He recalls meeting an elderly Iowa woman who worried how she would get through the winter on her Social Security. No matter how frugal she was, her cost of living increase wasn’t keeping up with her expenses. She later died of hypothermia when the power company cut off her heat. Lux faces a crossroads.

I have been having some interesting conversations with Democrats over the last 24 hours about what being a loyal Democrat means with the President seeming likely to go forward with this deal. The point has been made that the Republicans are far worse than Obama on these issues, as all they want to do is to gut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs for the poor, and that is definitely true. The fact that the President is, according to the Washington Post, proposing to exclude SSI disability payments and provide a bump-up in benefits for those 85 and older is a good thing and much appreciated. People have said to me that the President’s heart is in the right place, and that he is working hard to get the best deal he thinks he can get, which may well be true- I gave up judging politicians’ motives long ago. And I have been told I should be a loyal Democrat, that the President is our party’s leader, and we should be unified in supporting him.

But here’s the deal: I didn’t get into politics to help the Democratic party. I came to the Democratic party because they more often wanted to help the people I cared about helping- the poor, the disabled, the middle class folks fighting for a decent life for them and their families. When forced to choose, as it looks like I will in this case, I will choose the people I got into this work to fight for.

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Earned Benefits Not the Problem?

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Whaddya mean? Pete Peterson would spend all that money to snooker us? Well, yes. Once again, Bruce Bartlett:

On Dec. 3, the Government Accountability Office released new estimates of the federal government’s long-term budget outlook. They show that our real long-term problem is quite different from the one constantly portrayed by congressional Republicans.

That is to say, government spending is not out of control. Nine out of ten Americans don’t want their Social Security or Medicare cut at all. There is no crisis except for the one fabricated by people interested in concentrating more wealth in their own hands. Republicans and Democrats alike.

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At Naked Capitalism, Yves Smith exposes a stealth attack on Social Security in the Bowles-Simpson approach. Raising the age limit to 69 reduces monthly benefits by 13 percent:

Nothing could sound more reasonable than one of the “reforms,” meaning attacks, on Social Security: raise the retirement age from 67 (the level for those born after 1960) to 69. People are living longer, right? That means they can work longer, right? Well, aside from a few inconvenient facts (the life expectancy of low income black women is actually falling, and middle aged people who lose their jobs often find it difficult to get any kind of paid work), on the surface, this seems not too bad.

But this plan is actually a sneaky way to cut monthly benefits across the board, and for an age cohort where retirement is so far away that they won’t focus on details and subject this scheme to the criticism it deserves.

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Formal announcement in minutes:

NORFOLK, Va. — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made his vice presidential pick official Saturday morning, announcing via smartphone app that he had chosen Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

In less than two hours, the two men will make a joint appearance at the battleship Wisconsin, a retired military vessel.


How the GOP-Backed Ryan Plan Threatens Middle-Class Retirement Security

Ryan Budget Hides Radical Proposal to Raise Medicare Eligibility Age, Indirectly Cutting Social Security Benefits by as Much as 45 Percent

Quick Facts about Congressman Ryan’s Budget

Social Security Works page on Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America

Republican Budget Creates a Fast Track to Cut Social Security and Ends Medicare as We Know It