Dull, and Hypothetical

I’ve been trying to ignore Kevin Drum’s recent posts on Social Security, because I find a lot of his blog useful and informative, and as readers here know, it’s my nature to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, but come on, Kevin, no we don’t fucking need to have a Democratic compromise deal on Social Security. And when Dick Durbin says that we should have a bi-partisan commission, he’s not agreeing with you, he’s trying to kill any hope for a deal.

I’m trying to think of the right metaphor for the Republican Party during their current time of crisis. One of them is a situation where dad (or mom) has been hitting the Jack pretty hard, has the kids locked in the back bedroom and is walking around waving a shotgun. Talking about Social Security is like a hostage negotiator walking into that house and starting a discussion about what color to re-paint the kitchen. It’s just a distraction, one that the insane/drunk person would love to spend hours on, but will lead to no fruitful outcome.

Another good comparison is a kid having a tantrum on the grocery store floor. Stupid parents try to bribe the kid with candy, cookies or toys. Smart parents just ignore the little fucker until he or she calms down. Let’s be smart parents here, and realize that the real embarrassment is that a grown-ass kid would still have a tantrum, not that we aren’t rushing to placate the little shit.

Putting Social Security, or any other popular social program, on the table for some almost certainly stupid and short-sighted “adjustments” (i.e., benefit cuts) is bad policy, dumb politics and ineffective salve for the Republican wound. What’s really going on here is that those poor bastards are going to have to give up their most cherished fantasy, which is that low tax rates lead to cutting the deficit and growing the economy. They’ve been pulling that one out of the shoebox under the bed and wanking to it since Saint Ronnie was in office, so throwing it in the dumpster is really going to hurt. Because they’re feeling tremendous psychic pain at the prospect of throwing out their cum-stained relic, they want Democrats to endure a similar sacrifice. Even if we did, and we shouldn’t, Atrios is right: Republicans would be back for more the next day. The problem is tax rates for the wealthy are too low, the solution is to raise them, and any other discussion is a distraction.

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144 replies
  1. 1
    MattF says:

    Another example: Susan Rice apologizes, Grampa McCain gets angrier.

  2. 2
    bs23 says:

    both barrels! smart & concise, too.

    that’s why i read this blog.

  3. 3
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    At least on the Dem side, doesn’t anybody remember then-Speaker Nancy Smash’s strategy against C+ Augustus’s plan to gut Social Security:

    It’s a line in the sand that Dems won’t cross. Period.

    She reiterated that last year saying flat out House Dems won’t back any budget deal that cuts Social Security or Medicare. Period.

    Of course earlier this year she made a speech about how she would now support much of the Catfood Commission’s recommendations on Social Security. When lambasted for that by the likes of Russ Feingold, she replied ”
    “I’ve spent my career protecting Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid from GOP attacks-nothing’s changed, I will continue fighting,”

    So now my head hurts. Jeez Dems, it worked in 2005 (holding firm on this), it’ll work in 2012/2013.

  4. 4
    foosion says:

    The problem is tax rates for the wealthy are too low, the solution is to raise them, and any other discussion is a distraction.

    The problem is we have low growth, massive unemployment and rising inequality. One part of the solution is much higher government spending until those conditions improve. We can worry about the deficit after that happens. Put in triggers if you want to make it automatic.

    Raising taxes on the wealthy wouldn’t harm growth and would give the government more revenue, which would be good, but let’s not take our eye off of the real issue today.

    If anything we should be increasing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

  5. 5
    Napoleon says:

    I like Drum and his talk on things is ussually pretty good, but boy does his take on SS drive me nuts.

  6. 6
    c u n d gulag says:

    “Shared Sacrifice,” is when we 99%ers sacrifice, and the 1% share laughs – and tax avoidance tips.

  7. 7
    Fargus says:

    I think I get Drum’s key arguments (1: it would be easy to put together a package of reforms that would make SS solvent in perpetuity, and 2: solving the problem by lifting the payroll tax cap would be either politically untenable, or not the best use of a tax increase on the wealthy), but I don’t understand why he doesn’t get that Republicans are not dealing in good faith on this issue. I also don’t get why he thinks that “moderate benefit cuts” on people who rely on the already stingy benefits offered by SS are acceptable, even if they’re phased in over the course of years, to give people time to plan. Those people who need the benefits the most are generally those people with the least ability to plan for their retirement, right?

  8. 8
    mattH says:

    Drum has been going on about this since I started reading him in his Calpundit days. It’s his one little fetish, it annoys the hell out of me, and every time it comes up I stop reading him for days or weeks.

    Funny thing is that Duncan Black has been saying the same thing back to him for just about as long. I miss when eschaton was actually a place where substantive things got posted, because Black could get him to shut up about this for a while. Now, Drum drones on and on about this no matter what, almost seemingly concern trolling his readers and giving cover for the other ‘center left’ bloggers. I wish someone out there would take Black’s place.

  9. 9
    Bill Arnold says:

    KD is willfully confused on this. A fix that involves perpetual social security surpluses “invested” in tax cuts for the affluent is the ideal for Republicans. Revenue neutrality might be acceptable.
    A plausible fix might be to annually adjust withholding rates to match the anticipated outflow in the following year. Also, surpluses need to be protected better from from disingenuous arguments. (The current trust fund is a problem for this approach.)

  10. 10
    James Gary says:

    Mistermix: Thank you! I made the mistake of listening to thirty seconds of NPR’s drooling horse-race commentary on the “fiscal cliff” just now and I seriously needed to hear some rational words on the topic.

  11. 11
    Napoleon says:

    @Bill Arnold:

    Actually I have always wondered why after the Republicans started talking like they would simply not honor T-bills into which excess FICA payments were invested the Dems did not try to get legislation passed whereby if the US ever is unable/willing to honor its debt it may only do so with debt in the SS fund pro-rata with all other debt.

    @Fargus:

    solving the problem by lifting the payroll tax cap would be either politically untenable,

    I don’t buy this because all the Dems need to do is wait until they control both houses and the WH sometime between now and 2033 and at that time lift the amount of income subject to FICA.

  12. 12
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    I think Drum is a little harsh on Durbin, *especially* given the inane post that follows his excoriation.

  13. 13
    Nina says:

    “With improvements in health care we’re living longer, so raise the Social Security age!”, say the news reporters from their comfortable chairs.

    Of course, their health care has always been top-notch. Their hands are soft and their bodies are trim from decades of staying skinny for the cameras. They’ll live until they’re 90 if the drinking doesn’t kill them.

    My husband got his first highway construction gig when he was 17. You can see every winter he worked outside on his face. He won’t live to 90, most likely. He’s hoping he can make it to minimum retirement age before his health gives out, then work small short term jobs afterwards to supplement a reduced Social Security payment.

    Nobody should be allowed to advocate raising the Social Security age unless they’ve worked at least 5 summers in the sun and winters in the snow.

  14. 14
    magurakurin says:

    @mattH: Clearly an aside here, but since you mentioned Atrios…I pretty much read Atrios’s blog everyday and have for many, many years. It, along with Billmon’s Whiskey Bar, are the first blogs I started reading regulary. I like Atrios. I like his style but…

    …is Eschaton’s comment section, like, the worst in the world or what? There are almost never comments pertaining to the initial post. It’s just endless threads of inside jokes and pie fights by the usual suspects. I suppose it could have changed but in all honesty I haven’t looked at a comment thread there for many a year now.

    What’s up with that?

  15. 15
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @Nina: I’ll say it again, when the revolution finally comes, I want the village to be the first at the guillotines.

  16. 16
    Mudge says:

    Drum fails to realize or note that privatization of Social Security (i.e. giving money to the banksters) is the Republican goal, not long term fiscal solvency of the existing.

    Note that Republicans consistently lie about all aspects of Social Security in order to equate it with Medicare, especially saying it is broke (which it is not), calling it an entitlement (which it is not), or a Ponzi scheme (which it is not). Drum consistently seems to assume good intentions in Republicans. Atrios, and for that matter Krugman, Salmon and DeLong, seldom do.

  17. 17
    Schlemizel says:

    I would love to see the numbers on a simple remake of SS funding. Remove the cap entirely and reduce the rate to the point where SS is properly funded. That would reduce the amount taken out of workers pay and the amount companies pay on the first 100k (the increase over 100k would more than make up for this)

  18. 18
    rikyrah says:

    fuck Drum.

    Don’t know why people take him seriously anyway.

  19. 19
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    @Nina:

    “With improvements in health care we’re living longer, so raise the Social Security age!”, say the news reporters from their comfortable chairs.

    Raising the retirement age is a bad idea:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....ement-age/

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-50.....ousy-idea/

    and probably the most succinct summary:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/.....enefit-Cut

  20. 20
    magurakurin says:

    @Nina: I agree with you 110% but the thing I don’t get is why do those who push for that want a world in which 70-year old men and women, drive big trucks, fly airplanes, operate cranes in city construction sights, cook their food, and on and on. I think it should be 62. I don’t want to drive a truck until I’m 70(not that I can or do now), so I certainly don’t feel right asking some else to have to do it. But even if I was just a dick and don’t give a shit about someone else’s suffering, I still don’t want to drive down the freeway next to a 70-year old truck driver who hates his job, hates life and wished he had retired 5 years prior.

    But Ronnie Raygun already fucked me. I won’t get full bennies until 67. Not that I’ll wait. If you do the math, you have to life until 82 before you start losing out. If they want to cut me a check at 62, I’ll take it, thank you very much.

  21. 21
    Schlemizel says:

    @magurakurin:

    I stopped looking at his comments long ago. I think they are a bunch of children who see themselves as too cool for the room. Sadly, I think the FP’ers have been phoning it in for a while too. The stuff there is not as sharp as it was

  22. 22
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @magurakurin: Also, I think it’s unfair to use the average life expectancy to make the facile raise the retirement age argument. That presupposes a number of things, some of them beyond our control, but some within, such as-access to health care, access to a healthy diet. So if you’re lower middle class, living in a food desert, and have a physically demanding job, you’re fucking fucked.

  23. 23
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @Full Metal Wingnut: So, to finish, you COULD have universal healthcare and more intelligent farming subsidies, but that would require sacrifice from people who aren’t powerless, which would be unacceptable.

  24. 24
    burnspbesq says:

    This is not rocket surgery, folks.

    If you don’t want to reduce Social Security OASDI payments in real terms, and you don’t want to raise the Social Security retirement age, then you need to increase funding by enough to put the system on an actuarially sound footing. Until you tell me where you’re going to get the additional funding, the only logical thing for me to assume is that you’re not serious about protecting the level of benefits or the retirement age.

    If you want a Norwegian-type social safety net, fine. But you can’t have it unless you’re willing to have the Norwegian fiscal system, in which taxes and social insurance contributions add up to more than 50 percent of GDP. At the end of the day, arithmetic rules.

  25. 25
    Mark S. says:

    I remember when every Atrios thread was 400 comments long, with the first 50 of them being “Frist!” Not good times.

  26. 26
    magurakurin says:

    @Full Metal Wingnut:

    I suppose it all goes back to the fact that none of what they say is in good faith. Like Atrios tells Drum, they don’t care about deficits, they don’t care about making SSI solvent…they want to get rid of it. They make arguments about life expectancy just as a smoke screen. They are rich. They don’t need a SSI check at all. They resent paying for it and want to end it altogether.

    So, yeah, Drum is being stupid here and Atrios is right. Fortunately, it seems like Durbin shares the latter’s view as well.

    Still sucks that Raygun hosed me and those who follow me though.

  27. 27
    aimai says:

    @foosion:

    I have this conversation all the time with people who are low information. They say “but if you raise taxes on the wealthy then they won’t create more jobs” and I say “what are they going to do? Put their money in the bank? In order to get a return on that money the bank is going to invest it anyway so it goes back into the economy eventually. They can’t withold their productivity in any meaningful way.” One guy told me that he knew a wealthy woman who told him that she would “never have put so much work into the mobile phone (which he says she was an early investor in) if the taxes had been higher.” I called bullshit–a) the taxes were higher back then and b) someone else would have invested. Who cares if she made her bundle or some other person made their bundle. Is anyone really under the impression that if Walmart crumbled tomorrow that mom and pop stores wouldn’t eventually fill the gap? And that we’d be better off, as a society, for it?

    aimai

  28. 28
    Trakker says:

    Nice analogies.

    The beauty of this election is not that Obama and the Dems won bigger than we ever expected. No, the real beauty is that the Republicans lost bigger than they ever expected, and every day since the election our win just seems to grow. My Dog, even our traditionally cowardly Dem politicians in Washington appear to have grown at least one of a pair!

    IMO the biggest loser this election will be St. Ronnie.

  29. 29
    some guy says:

    from the story below:

    Proposals to reduce spending on the military, cut some agriculture subsidies, and eliminate subsidies to oil companies

    Entitlement Reform We Can believe In !

  30. 30
    aimai says:

    @magurakurin:

    My neighbor is 95. There’s a whole lot of living that can happen after 62, and after 82 for that matter, and it only gets more expensive.

  31. 31
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @Trakker: Except I still have to fly through the goddamn airport named after him.

  32. 32
    Schlemizel says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Well they could start by paying back the 2-3 TRILLION dollars that have been paid into SS and borrowed by the government before they claim the system is going broke.

    Since most of that money was pissed away on tax cuts that didn’t stimulate the economy I’d suggest tax increases for those who benefited from the cuts would be the place to start

  33. 33
    mattH says:

    @magurakurin: I think in large part it’s Atrios’ fault. He sits there and comments about how hard it is to blog every day, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the blog’s comentariat pretty much went to hell about the same time he stopped posting longer content.

    If you look at his earliest stuff, it’s not terribly different than now, where he was just posting links or short commentaries, but the content was more acerbic and biting, and there’d be long, well developed posts with detailed deconstruction of an opponent, usually from the perspective of a left economist. That was his “voice”, what he did that was different. I understand some of where he’s gone, talking about the same thing over and over gets tiring, and in large part the comments there reflect this; why argue about stuff we’ve argued about before, when nothing really changes. It might be too late, but he probably needs a good long break and maybe a new hobby or 3 to post about. It’s the one thing that has kept me coming back to Balloon Juice and LG&M; solid posters, commentariat that really do have interesting perspectives, and the occasional troll who gets buried under their own stupidity. I really do miss that about him and hist blog, but the comment area is too far gone.

  34. 34
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Everyone PLEASE realize the following about GOP mendacity, because they did the same thing during the 80’s in the name of “tax reform”:

    1. Get a bundle of loopholes closed, with a reduction in rates.
    2. Intense lobbying (and $$ donations) to get NEW loopholes passed.
    3. Back to the status quo, but with a lower tax rate.
    4. Push for budget cuts, because of deficit hype

    Step #2 is the one that most people miss, because the “tax rate” is the big headline item, the loopholes mostly fly under the radar, invisible to everyone by the targeted recipient and their congresscritter.

    Yes, it’s deeply corrupt, which is why the GOP is so good at it.

  35. 35
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @MattF: But apparently she’s going around to other Repub Senators today. Not sure what she expects to happen. I guess later today, we’ll have a boatload of Repubs in front of the cameras saying that now that they’ve met Rice, they have even more cause for alarm about Benghazigate.

  36. 36
    BGK says:

    @magurakurin:

    I don’t get is why do those who push for that want a world in which 70-year old men and women, drive big trucks, fly airplanes, operate cranes in city construction sights, cook their food, and on and on

    Because walking turds like Blankfein know that this nation has no history of, and a vasnishing small chance in the future of, Putting Them Up Against the Wall.

    Or as the kindly Dr. Maddow might say after a couple of belts, “there’s no penalty for talking sh!t.”

  37. 37
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @Snarki, child of Loki: Since I chose back in the day not to go into tax law, I’m all for simplifying the tax code.

  38. 38
    some guy says:

    shorter ex-Atrios readers: This pie is horrible, and the slice you served me is too small.

  39. 39
    jayackroyd says:

    @burnspbesq:

    SS is actuarially fine. Worst case scenario is sometime in the mid 2030s the trust fund runs out and benefits are cut to 70 percent of the current projected benefit–a benefit that is bigger in real terms than the current payments. Currently it is 5% of GDP. It goes up to 6% and stays there, forever.

    http://1.usa.gov/TqBJOs

    Finding 1% of GDP in revenue is not particularly challenging, and we have 20 years to find it. Or, even better, grow the economy more by some serious infrastructure investment right now.

    There is absolutely nothing pressing to do about social security for at least 15 years.

  40. 40
    Trakker says:

    @Full Metal Wingnut:

    Except I still have to fly through the goddamn airport named after him.

    Yeah, I live in DC. They took our National Airport and made it Ronnie’s. Sucks! The locals still call it National Airport though.

  41. 41
    some guy says:

    eliminate the cap on earnings taxed for Social Security. problem fixed forever.

    yes, it really is that simple.

  42. 42
    Tone in DC says:

    @Full Metal Wingnut:

    I was born and raised here in Washington/Humidity Central. That debacle in 1994 where so many things were renamed for that B actor pissed a lot of people off around here (unfunded mandate, et cetera).

    To me, that airport’s name was, is and always will be NATIONAL.

  43. 43
    mattH says:

    @rikyrah: Don’t know why people take him seriously anyway.

    He essentially fills the need Duncan Black used to; economically inclined, clear writing left blogger. That and cat blogging. He can be insightful at times, but his concern trolling used to be kept in check.

  44. 44
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @Tone in DC: It’s hard. I cringe whenever someone asks if I’m flying through “Reagan.” But if I call it National, it feels like a political statement and I don’t want to politicize everything. So I just call it DCA.

  45. 45
    mattH says:

    @some guy: Hehehehehe. More like “you still serve good meat and potatoes, but I miss the pie, and the people who stay on after dinner, wtf man? I’ll be at the cafe down the street.”

    If you’re going to try to troll, you’ll need to do a better job than that.

  46. 46
    Del says:

    @jayackroyd: You mean things aren’t so serious that we need to start sending out the cat food vouchers yet? I’m shocked.

    I’m always amazed that there are liberals in the world (and, apparently, on here) who think that SS is in dire straights and that we need to cut the program off at the knees because ‘it’s the only tenable solution’. Tell me @burnspbesq, what part of the whole “tax the fuckers who stole the country’s prosperity in the first place” that most liberals have been advocating, and that this post is about, don’t you get?

  47. 47
    some guy says:

    @mattH:

    and yet you can’t seem to stop longing for the cafe down the street. sounds like a guy who reads Playboy for the articles.

  48. 48
    Xenos says:

    @burnspbesq:

    If you don’t want to reduce Social Security OASDI payments in real terms, and you don’t want to raise the Social Security retirement age, then you need to increase funding by enough to put the system on an actuarially sound footing.

    Who is to say it is not on a reasonably sound sound footing actuarially now, when it is not expected to have exhausted reserves for 18 years? Of course this would come up as an issue in a statutory audit, and a regulator would be concerned. Said regulator would say something along the lines of 'either increase premiums promised for your new policies or find a way to reduce payout before you exhaust your reserves'.

    'OK, fine' says insurer... 'whatevs.'

    'Whatevs' is the correct response here. When the economy gets a bit stronger, ratchet up the contributions to even things out. The sooner the better. Waiting more than 10 years would not be a good idea, but kicking the can 5 or more years is not a big deal.

  49. 49
    some guy says:

    @Del: @Del:

    you are asking a tax avoidance lawyer what part of raising taxes he supports?

    good one.

  50. 50
    HelloRochester says:

    Mistermix, you complete me.

  51. 51
    jayackroyd says:

    @Tone in DC: See Will Bunch’s Tear Down This Myth to see how this happened.

  52. 52
    PeakVT says:

    @Schlemizel: The money hasn’t been pissed away. It’s right there in the SSTF, earning interest, which is used to cover SS’s payments.

    It would have been better if, over the last 30 years, federal government borrowing had been less, and had been better spent. But US Treasuries in the SSTF can’t be separated from the ones held by the public based on what they were spent on (at least as long as the federal government doesn’t have a separate capital budget, which it probably never will).

  53. 53
    jayackroyd says:

    @Xenos:

    I shoulda pulled this out:

    If you don’t want to reduce Social Security OASDI payments in real terms,

    There is absolutely zero prospect of any reduction in SS payments in real terms. That worst case scenario, of 70 percent of projected benefits is MORE than the current benefit in real terms.

    Oh, sorry, the worst case scenario actually is a coalition of centrist democrats and not tea party republicans agreeing to benefit cuts in real terms, either during the lame duck or early in the next session.

  54. 54
    Del says:

    @some guy: Wait, he’s a tax lawyer? Well that explains a lot. I’ve been reading the site for years but the comments only a few months. And let me just say, you people are wierd. ;-)

  55. 55
    Kip the Wonder Rat says:

    @Fargus: Because fundamentally Drum is not that smart of a guy, nor can he think much beyond his own experience. He’s our version of Broder, always has been, and not just on SS.

  56. 56
    Del says:

    @some guy: Wait, burn’s a tax lawyer? Well, that explains a lot.

  57. 57
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @some guy: This is part of why I advocate simplifying the tax code. (Joking, really-I’d take a financial hit myself if title 26 of the usc disappeared, although still support reform of the code). Corporations and high net worth individuals will still seek out the advice of tax lawyers, but demystifying the Code might put downward pressure on their billables.

  58. 58
    jayackroyd says:

    @Xenos:

    And you know “exhausted reserves” is misleading. The Greenspan commission set up a payroll tax/benefit cut structure that had the baby boomers earning their benefits by paying well above the requirement for pay as you go, so their benefits would be fully funded without requiring payroll tax increases. The bonds held by the SSA aren’t “reserves.” They’re funding for the demographic bump the baby boomers represent

  59. 59
    Just One More Canuck says:

    More Bobcaygeon! Can we expect some Grace, Too or Looking For A Place to Happen references?

  60. 60
    mattH says:

    @some guy: I miss the guy who used to give Drum a smack in the head over SS every time he raised the white flag over it. Not a “we’ve had this argument before” comment, but a real drag down pounding so he shuts up about it the next time it comes up. I lookin the window a few times a week, but don’t stay; the comment section certainly sucks. Sorry if that hurts, but it’s as boring as hell if you aren’t part of the in crowd.

  61. 61
    aimai says:

    I’m going to suggest a “Lock Box” for SS monies. Anyone think that will happen?

    aimai

  62. 62
    sherparick says:

    What I found simply astounding in Kevin Drum’s piece was his assumption of good faith on the part of WaPo editorial page and Pete Petersen and his lackeys. As he says, this is exactly the point where he and Atrios disagree. As even the neo-liberal Matt Yglesisas points out, despite all the “deficit” hysterics and calls for share sacrifice, the real point of all these groups, including Simpson-Bowles, “Fix the Debt,” and all other Petersen cat’s paws is to reduce tax rates, a program that is extraordinarily beneficial to the upper .1%. http://www.slate.com/blogs/mon.....rates.html

    So any “fix” of the deficit and social security and medicare will be temporary, since as soon as the Republican regain power, there will be another round of drastic tax cuts, thereby creating a new “deficit” crisis, that can only be solved by “shared sacrifice” of the progrmas for the “loosers and moochers.” This is what happen in 1981 with Reagan, which created a 15 year period where the only debate in Washington was “what to do about the deficit.” When Clinton solved the problem by 1996, the Republicans then spen the next seven years creating a new deficit crisis. And most of the current deficit is the result of the recession and the depressed state of the economy during this recovery regarding unemployment, something that never gets mentioned on the Sundaty talk shows or CNBC. Again, Kevin is decieving himself about the current ruling elite. The best short description if the problem was given by Peter Dorman at EconoSpeak:

    “…We are not living through an epoch of intellectual failure, but one in which there is no available mechanism to oust a political-economic elite whose interests have become incompatible with ours.

    This is not some sudden development, much less a coup d’etat as is sometimes claimed. No, the accretion of power by the rentiers has been systematic, structural and the outcome of a decades-long process. It is deeply rooted in modern capitalist economies due to the transformation of corporations into tradable, recombinant portfolios of assets, increasing concentration of and returns to ownership, and the failure of regulation to keep pace with technology and transnational scale. Those who sit at the pinnacle of wealth for the most part no longer think about production, nor do they worry very much about who the ultimate consumers will be; they take financial positions and demand policies that will see to it that these positions are profitable.

    The rapid and robust global restoration of profits post-2008 was not an accident. Public funds were used to bail out exposed creditors and shore up asset values, while the crisis was used to suppress wages and postpone meaningful regulatory reform. Indeed, I can predict with some confidence that many of the profits, particularly in the financial sector, that have been reported in official filings and blessed by the accounting firms will later be found to be illusory—but not before those who have claims on the revenues have cashed in to their own personal advantage. The institutions will be decimated, but those who owned, lent to or bet on them will be rich. This is not a failure, at least not for them.

    You could make a case that, collectively, the interests of the financially endowed ultimately require a rescue of the real, nonfinancial global economy. Surely, when we take our painful plunge into the second dip of the Great Recession, their wealth will be at risk. But the ability to see it at a system level presupposes either a system-level organization of the class or the existence of individual interests that are transparently systemic. Neither appears to be the case today. From what we (you and me) can see from our vantage point, the ruling demands are to make sure my bonds are serviced, my counterparties pony up, the markets I invest in stay liquid, and expenditures for public welfare (i.e. the losers and chiselers) are slashed…” http://econospeak.blogspot.com.....tupid.html

  63. 63
    magurakurin says:

    @aimai: I’m not disputing that, but why is there a russian-roulette system where you have to decide at 62 if you’ll make it past 82 or not? It’s ghoulish, really. Do you feel lucky, punk, well do you? Then wait another 5 years….

    Like people are saying. Raise the damn caps, problem solved.

    What I’d really like to see (and I’m sure I never will) he someone to stand up and say, “Fuck raising it, Lower the motherfucker back to 62.” Now, THAT, would be what I consider a left position.

  64. 64
    Tone in DC says:

    @Full Metal Wingnut:

    I see your point; everything cannot be politicized (nor should everything be).

    I don’t mind politicizing the airport’s name, though. Gingrich, DeLay and the rest of the G00pers did that before I did. And they did a hell of a lot worse, for decades.

  65. 65
    mattH says:

    @jayackroyd: Oh, and this does need to be said, thanks for going into the comments here and at Drum’s place Jay. It’s a never ending fight, but needs to be said, there is nothing wrong with SS that can’t wait, and the Republicans say “entitlement programs” for a reason.

    Thank you again.

  66. 66
    magurakurin says:

    @aimai:

    There’s a whole lot of living that can happen after 62, and after 82 for that matter

    I’m not disputing that, but why is there a russian-r0ulettE system where you have to decide at 62 if you’ll make it past 82 or not? It’s ghoulish, really. Do you feel lucky, punk, well do you? Then wait another 5 years….
    Like people are saying. Raise the damn caps, problem solved.
    What I’d really like to see (and I’m sure I never will) he someone to stand up and say, “Fuck raising it, Lower the motherfucker back to 62.” Now, THAT, would be what I consider a left position.

  67. 67
    catclub says:

    @magurakurin: “Still sucks that Raygun hosed me and those who follow me though”

    Wasn’t that the Greenspan commission that did that. So give a little blame to the maestro.

  68. 68
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @Tone in DC: By the way-I wasn’t taking a shot at you or suggesting you were needlessly politicizing it. I just have a very conservative family and coworkers, so I really need to pick my battles. Thank god for blogs.

  69. 69
    The Moar You Know says:

    Democrats should agree to Social Security cuts and age raises if they want to become a permanent minority party.

    I’ve been paying into the system since I was 13. 33 years now, worked every single fucking year of my life and for not a lot of money most of that.

    You wanna take away my Social Security? Cut my benefits? Raise the age to 75?

    FUCK YOU.

    If Dems agree to this – and I’m very certain they won’t, but if they do – they forfeit my vote. Period, the end. Don’t give a shit if the GOP clones Adolf Hitler and runs him in 2016, I’d never vote Dem again and that’s a promise.

  70. 70
    Schlemizel says:

    Went over & read Drums piece – what a load of shit!

    Then I read the comments. Never spent any time at MJ but the comment section was way better than I expected & poor dear little Mr. Drum is having his ass handed to him by everyone except 2 or 3 trolls.

    In a fair & just society Kevin would be looking for work this afternoon

    EDIT: My personal fav, one commentor suggested KD was angling for the “David Broader chair – complete with plush knee pads” at the Post

  71. 71
    liberal says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Democrats should agree to Social Security cuts and age raises if they want to become a permanent minority party.

    I don’t disagree. My guess is that a lot of the Dem leadership is on board for “minor” cuts like changing the way inflation is calculated in determining benefits.

    I’m strongly opposed to that, because it’s not like the Republicans are dealing in good faith and _want_ to put the program into long-run actuarial balance; they want to kill it, redeem as little of the value of the bonds held by the Trust Fund, etc, all in an effort to stuff more money into the pockets of their rich friends.

    But I do recall “martin” here making a plainly idiotic argument that this isn’t tantamount to a cut.

  72. 72
    liberal says:

    @Schlemizel:
    My impression is that KD was a poor choice for MJ—the magazine is far more liberal than he is.

    AFAICT he’s an example of a founder effect—he’s making money doing what he does because he came relatively early to blogging.

  73. 73
    liberal says:

    @catclub:

    So give a little blame to the maestro.

    No shit. In the final analysis, he has to be Enemy #1 as a cause of the housing bubble. And I don’t mean the “let money get too cheap” angle, which isn’t that convincing anyway, but rather the “the free market can regulate itself” bullshit.

    But his refusal to give full moral support (AFAICT) to the Trust Fund and its meaning, plus his role in creating the f*cking thing to begin with, surely condemns him to a special place in hell.

  74. 74
    jayackroyd says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    I hope you’ve passed that on to your CongressCritter and Senators. I’m stopping by my Congresswoman’s local office today to drop off a MoveOn letter.

    And, if the Senators are Democrats, do check to see that they’ve signed Bernie’s letter–it’s really pretty shocking that he only has 29 signatories.

    http://www.sanders.senate.gov/.....league.pdf

  75. 75
    mattH says:

    @liberal: My impression is that KD was a poor choice for MJ—-the magazine is far more liberal than he is.

    Yet they still took him after what, 3 years at Washington Monthly? I think they were desperate for page views and hoped bringing him on would help increase their web presence.

    MJ has made some bad decisions though. They locked about 2 years worth of archives behind a pay wall that has the definitive take-down of the Libertarian world-view.

  76. 76
    Steeplejack says:

    @sherparick:

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  77. 77
    jayackroyd says:

    @liberal: B-S calls for raising the retirement age, using the chained CPI as the COLA index and restructuring the benefits so that high earners get a smaller benefit.

    When Obama says “tweak” and Durbin praises the “courage” of B and S, I hear “chained CPI” which is a substantial benefit cut. We really have to rely on the Tea Party faction to save us again, as they did in the negotiations that led to the austerity bomb.

  78. 78
    The Moar You Know says:

    I hope you’ve passed that on to your CongressCritter and Senators.

    @jayackroyd: Called Boxer and Feinstein this morning.

    My CongressCritter is, thanks to redistricting, Darryl Issa. Used to be Bilbray, he was worth making the effort to call even though he voted in lockstep as always, but Isaa…not seeing how he’s even worth picking up the phone.

  79. 79
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @liberal: See, the technocratic part of me wants to say that there’s no necessary reason for benefits to go up perpetually. There’s something to be said for wanting to tinker with the formula to make sure that benefits are either just keeping pace with inflation and such OR increasing in the way we want to see (as a conscious policy decision, not just aimless drift due to decisions made long ago). But to the degree that any of that’s a real problem, it’s a small problem, and there are many greater problems to face. So when someone wants to take advantage of some other crisis to deal with this non-crisis, everyone is right to be skeptical, cynical, and on edge.

  80. 80
    namekarB says:

    Let’s play “what if?”

    What if we let the conservatives slightly cut SSA benefits to be effectvie Jan 1, 2015? Then hang it around the Republicans neck like last Fridays fish for the 2014 midterm elections. I’m certain the freshman democrats could restore those cuts in short order.

  81. 81
    Schlemizel says:

    @liberal:

    Maybe it was the times but I don’t remember him being as bad as he is now back in those early days. I can’t cite a single example so maybe its just that in a world gone insane the mildly demented appear really good.

    Was he always this bad & I just didn’t notice or has he just gotten some money in the last 5-7 years and let it go to his head?

  82. 82
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @jayackroyd: How do you reconcile these two statements?

    That worst case scenario, of 70 percent of projected benefits is MORE than the current benefit in real terms.

    “chained CPI” … is a substantial benefit cut

    Isn’t “chained CPI” a way to slow the increase, and consequently not a cut in real terms? IOW, not a cut relative to the present, but a cut by comparison to a future scenario (“projected benefits”)?

  83. 83
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @namekarB: The problem with that is that some of the “conservatives” who would embrace such a thing are red-state Democrats who crave cred for Fiscal Responsibility. So whatever would happen would be hung around bipartisan necks.

  84. 84
    Schlemizel says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    I have the opposite problem. My Congressthings are probably set for life (well, we’ll see about Franken as the goopers will attack him very hard) Dems. I have no faith in Klobuchar because she voted with Bush her first two years and won in a walk this fall – she will do what suits her best & “compromise” is always admired (BARF!).

    But I think it is a mistake that liberals make to not flood congressional offices with calls & letters. The wingnuts have done this to great results. If we would inundate Issa’s office with contacts from inside his district it might put the fear of the voters in him. But we don’t seem to want to play that game.

    We joke about astroturf-root campaigns here but I think the goopers used them to scare Dems in 08 and we should have been fighting back all along.

  85. 85
    jayackroyd says:

    @FlipYrWhig: The idea of tying the COLA to a wage index is to capture economic growth as well as inflation in the benefit amount, so that the relative benefit stays the same throughout the retirement period. So, yeah, the idea is that the benefit goes up as the economy grows.

    Now we’re having a problem in that wages are no longer reflecting productivity gains, and income inequality has grown. That income inequality means that the fraction of total payroll captured by the payroll tax has fallen over the last ten years. A sensible tweak would be to tie the cap to a fixed fraction of total payroll, which would currently have the effect of raising the cap.

  86. 86
    burnspbesq says:

    @Schlemizel:

    Well they could start by paying back the 2-3 TRILLION dollars that have been paid into SS and borrowed by the government before they claim the system is going broke. Since most of that money was pissed away on tax cuts that didn’t stimulate the economy I’d suggest tax increases for those who benefited from the cuts would be the place to start.

    You will notice that I’m not arguing with you about either of those points. However, what really needs to happen in my view is to do away with the concept of the Social Security “wage base” as something less than total W-2 comp (or Schedule C income).

  87. 87
    jayackroyd says:

    @Schlemizel: Call fucking Klobuchar. I called her office. She hasn’t signed the Sanders letter, and she should be hearing about that from all her constituents.

  88. 88
    jayackroyd says:

    @burnspbesq: No they haven’t. They haven’t borrowed anything. The SS bonds are entirely distinct from the federal budget and can be used for nothing other than social security benefit payments. That’s the law, my friend.

    Now that some people make up this mythical unified budget thing is all very nice, but it has nothing to do with how the SS system is legal constituted.

  89. 89
    burnspbesq says:

    @jayackroyd:

    Worst case scenario is sometime in the mid 2030s the trust fund runs out and benefits are cut to 70 percent of the current projected benefit

    You do understand, I presume, that you worst case scenario is pretty fucking awful.

  90. 90
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @jayackroyd: OK, sure, but are you suggesting that a chained CPI would lead to something more dramatic than the worst-case 30% cut, when both are gauged in relation to future benefits? I’m asking because I have no idea. Maybe I need to see a graph or something.

  91. 91
    jayackroyd says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Of course it’s a cut in real terms. It’s a cut in NOMINAL terms. That 70% of projected benefit is with the current COLA. If they switch to the chained CPI the projected benefit will fall. That’ll raise that 70 percent number, because the actual projected benefit will be less, so the payroll tax will cover a larger fraction of the projection.

  92. 92
    burnspbesq says:

    @Del:

    what part of the whole “tax the fuckers who stole the country’s prosperity in the first place” that most liberals have been advocating, and that this post is about, don’t you get?

    That’s not a plan. That’s a rant. Come back when you’ve got a plan.

  93. 93
    handsmile says:

    @jayackroyd:

    Happy to see both of my (and I believe our) Senators, Schumer and Gillibrand, have signed the pledge. More than little surprised, however, to find Joe Manchin’s signature there. I was recently assured by a staff member in Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s office that the congresswoman is fully supportive of the Sanders pledge.

    @Steeplejack: [ETA: oops, should be @sherpatrick]

    To chime in with Steeplejack above, thanks for taking the time to such an astute and well-crafted comment. The quote from Peter Dorman is particularly choice.

  94. 94
    kindness says:

    I agree with Mistermix. I like and usually agree with Kevin Drumm but his penchant for cutting things that aren’t driving the deficit (Social Security) leaves me feeling there is something (republican) in the water in Orange County. Loser Democrats are the ones that would kick their own in the stomach and not focus on answers that actually help their own.

    In this area, Kevin is a distinct loser.

  95. 95
    Schlemizel says:

    @jayackroyd:

    Done! I saw that & called immediately. I have never been satisfied with calls to her office though. Not only have the people on the phone been pretty smug but they have flat out lied to me about how she voted.

    I called her out on this back at the precinct caucuses & she promised someone would get back to me. They never did. I wonder if I am “on a list” now. They stopped sending me notes begging for campaign money.

  96. 96
    jayackroyd says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Maybe the problem is with “projected benefit.” The SSA does an annual report projecting the future based on assumptions on economic growth, inflation, wage growth etc. The current projected benefit in, say, 2040, is six percent of GDP. The payroll tax is projected to cover 70 percent of that. But that 70 percent of the projected benefit is more in real terms (economic growth is assumed) than the current benefit.

    That’s the worst case do nothing scenario.

  97. 97
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @jayackroyd: IOW, if we go along paying 100% of projected benefits until the mid 2030s, then start paying 70% from that point forward, which is not a big deal because that 70% is still an increase in real terms over what current beneficiaries get…

    Then it seems like the chained CPI would have to be REALLY powerful to lead to a scenario so much worse than your worst case that in the mid 2030s the benefits would be _lower_ than what current beneficiaries get.

    Where am I going wrong, just in terms of math, not policy?

  98. 98
    burnspbesq says:

    @Del:

    Wait, burn’s a tax lawyer? Well, that explains a lot.

    Really. What does it explain? Be specific, and give examples.

  99. 99
    jayackroyd says:

    @handsmile: I happened to run into Maloney before the election. (In NYC our congresscritters walk to the office.) She expressed disbelief that there was support among Democrats for cuts, but promised to take a leadership role if the issue did come up. It’s her office I’m stopping by at in half an hour or so.

  100. 100
    liberal says:

    @jayackroyd:

    …I hear “chained CPI” which is a substantial benefit cut

    Yeah, that’s exactly what I think. …well, you can argue that it’s not substantial, and it isn’t all that much in a single year, but Dean Baker has repeatedly pointed out that it accumulates with time.

  101. 101
    liberal says:

    @Schlemizel:

    Maybe it was the times but I don’t remember him being as bad as he is now back in those early days.

    I don’t disagree. But (a) he had Randian roots (IIRC he was an actual, physically-present Rand groupie!) and (b) maybe there wasn’t enough time at the beginning for his craziness to take a toll.

  102. 102
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @jayackroyd: OK, but it still seems to me that the whole point of playing around with the chained CPI and other wonktastic devices is supposed to be to produce a still increasing benefit in real terms compared to the baseline of today, just an increase that is less steep, which would then shore up the funding.

    But it seems like your take is that it would produce a decreased benefit in real terms compared to the baseline of today, which is far worse than the worst case do-nothing approach that eventually involves a steep one-time drop in benefits.

    No?

    Anyway, GTG, will check back later.

  103. 103
    peorgietirebiter says:

    Republicans would be back for more the next day.

    This is the long and the short of it.

    “Off the table” is the reasonable start and end point. Because the Hyde Amendment was supposed to make legislative discusiions about abortion superflous. These guys have yet to accept the outcome of the civil war and so far this fight hasn’t put a dent in their war chest.

  104. 104
    jayackroyd says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    It’s the miracle of compound interest.

    Here’s the Strengthen Social Security coalition’s write up:

    http://strengthensocialsecurit.....%20CPI.pdf

  105. 105
    liberal says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    See, the technocratic part of me wants to say that there’s no necessary reason for benefits to go up perpetually.

    I agree, but given that it’s paid for with an extremely regressive tax, you have to also ask the question about the notional rate of return people are getting. Of course, the big elephant in the room is cross-generational fairness.

    So when someone wants to take advantage of some other crisis to deal with this non-crisis, everyone is right to be skeptical, cynical, and on edge.

    Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel. Absent cynical dealing from the Right, I’d have nothing against tinkering, now.

  106. 106
    Schlemizel says:

    @liberal:

    I did not know that, thanks. You don’t suppose he slept with her like Greenspan did do you?

  107. 107
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @liberal: I would rather be having a debate about how to infuse more money into the system to ensure that projected future benefits will materialize — certainly it can’t be said that living on Social Security is too cushy.

    But at a meta level, it seems fair to ask which approach makes more sense in both economic and humane terms: getting more revenue into the system to keep its curve trending upwards, or keeping the same amount of revenue in the system but flattening out that curve.

    (As a hypothetical, if it were possible to do something significant about climate change with the money that was trimmed from Social Security, that might be a worthwhile tradeoff vis-a-vis the public good of future citizens. Now THAT’s a Grand Bargain!)

  108. 108
    liberal says:

    @FlipYrWhig:
    It’s a different needle to thread.

    A lot of folks of “my ilk” think we should increase the SS tax rate to make a fix. While the increase wouldn’t have to be that large, the tax rate is already extremely high—if you believe most economists, most of the half remitted by employers really falls on the employees (in terms of “tax incidence”).

    Then there’s the “raise the cap” argument. That’s fine, but as someone who would pay more under that scheme, I have to say, why should I pay more but non-wage income not be taxed? I don’t see a rational, fair argument for that.

  109. 109
    liberal says:

    @Schlemizel:
    I’m not sure how to parse that second sentence, but see e.g. AG’s Wikipedia page. Snippet:

    In the early 1950s, Greenspan began an association with famed novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand.[43] Greenspan was introduced to Rand by his first wife, Joan Mitchell. Rand nicknamed Greenspan “the undertaker” because of his penchant for dark clothing and reserved demeanor. Although Greenspan was initially a logical positivist,[51] he was converted to Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism by her associate Nathaniel Branden. He became one of the members of Rand’s inner circle, the Ayn Rand Collective, who read Atlas Shrugged while it was being written. During the 1950s and 1960s Greenspan was a proponent of Objectivism, writing articles for Objectivist newsletters and contributing several essays for Rand’s 1966 book Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal including an essay supporting the gold standard.[52][53] Rand stood beside him at his 1974 swearing-in as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Greenspan and Rand remained friends until her death in 1982.[43]

  110. 110
    xian says:

    @sherparick: this a thousand times.

    fuck that noise. we shored up social security on the backs of people’s wages and the Republican / money / faux-Democrat establishment collaborated to “give that money back” to the top 1%, with $300 bribes to everyone else. “It’s your money,” lied Bush the lesser.

    It’s time for the wealthiest to pony up.

  111. 111
    xian says:

    Also important to note that Drum has never been a liberal but one of those rare “not insane/not retarded conservatives.” In our skewed political spectrum he is an ally on many things (mostly common-sense shit), but he is not at home on the left.

  112. 112
    General Stuck says:

    Dems and Obama will not dally with the COLA formula, as that would cut benefits to the lowest income folks. If any changes are made to medicare, it will be for means testing that means the rich pay more, or a progressive solution for wingnut compromise on some more tax rev. Or, possibly raise the retirement age well out into the future.

    I think the whole thing is a bucket of bullshit, as Durbin confirmed yesterday. Or posturing, to put the blame on republicans when all taxes go up Jan 1, who are eagle eye focused on keeping the wealthy cuts, without a sliver of leverage right now. Major reforms to entitlement almost never happen until the 11th hour of insolvency for whatever program.

    If the GOP were smarter and not so beholden to the wealthy, they would have let all the Bush tax cuts expire in 2010, and run against the single meme that Obama raised your taxes middle class, when he promised not to. They might even have WH by now, if they had done that. I thought they would and was happily wrong.

  113. 113
    👽 Martin says:

    God, this is why I hate the SS debate.

    111 comments in, and not one mention of the word ‘disability’. The problem isn’t the retirement age, the problem is the disability portion of social security. And the solution isn’t to just raise the top marginal rate because SS is an independent accounting – by design – so that we couldn’t raid it to pay for bombs.

    Disability is paying out $40B a year more than it’s bringing in. It’ll be insolvent by 2016 – before Obama leaves office. The only way to keep making disability payments is to take that money from the retirement pool. *That’s* why SS retirement is in trouble. This isn’t about the ‘I paid for 40 years and I’ve earned my pension’ argument. It’s about the ‘I paid for 5 years, got hurt, and now need to draw off the system for 50 years and start getting Medicare at age 27’. That’s the part the actuaries got wrong. 10% of the workforce is currently drawing disability.

    Either we need to fix how people are eligible for disability or we need to pay more into the system through one mechanism or another – to the tune of about $300 per worker per year. There’s fraud prevention here, which will save some money, but there’s no ‘cost savings’. It’s not like Medicare where you can force the drug companies to take less money. This is straight up payments to people. Here, a cut is a cut directly to the person – so obviously that’s off the table.

    What’s left? The math here is pretty damn simple.

  114. 114
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @sherparick:

    This is not some sudden development, much less a coup d’etat as is sometimes claimed. No, the accretion of power by the rentiers has been systematic, structural and the outcome of a decades-long process. It is deeply rooted in modern capitalist economies due to the transformation of corporations into tradable, recombinant portfolios of assets, increasing concentration of and returns to ownership, and the failure of regulation to keep pace with technology and transnational scale. Those who sit at the pinnacle of wealth for the most part no longer think about production, nor do they worry very much about who the ultimate consumers will be; they take financial positions and demand policies that will see to it that these positions are profitable.

    Nice comment, much to like here.

    To put this in a somewhat longer term historical perspective, the relative power of capital vs labor fluctuates in part as a function of which one is more mobile at the present moment, because the more mobile of the two can always vote with its feet (so to speak) if the terms available locally are not to its advantage and a better deal is on offer somewhere else. The late 19th and early to mid-20th Century was a period of increasing labor power because the dominant technological change in that era was improvements in speed and cheapness of mass transportation. People could more around the globe much more quickly and cheaply in 1900 than they could in 1800. There was a lag time for our political system to adjust to this change, but adjust they did.

    Today we have the opposite problem. Transportation technology has more or less stagnated for the last 50 years while information technology has changed by leaps and bounds. This information age combined with politically driven deregulation of capital and particularly the movement of capital across national borders has made capital many, many orders of magnitude more mobile than labor compared with their relative mobility a generation ago. And this in turn has massively shifted the negotiating advantage between the two to the disadvantage of labor and to the advantage of the rentiers.

    Ideally we now should be using our small-d democratic system of government to redress this imbalance and fix both the social injustices created by it and the systemic risks we incur with a financial system which effectively has no firewalls built into it and thus is prone to very chaotic behavior, but in the meantime the rentiers have seized power in our political system and are not giving it up easily.

  115. 115
    Tone in DC says:

    @Full Metal Wingnut:

    Indeed, thank God for ’em. And especially for B-J.

  116. 116
    Schlemizel says:

    @liberal:

    Associates of both claimed she bedded him. YMMV

    I assumed it was correct because how else could you explain his ‘personality’? That he may have been a member of the living dead before he met her seemed unlikely. Usually someone has to get quite old or have an encounter with Nosferatu to be that dead while remaning alive

  117. 117
    jayackroyd says:

    @General Stuck:

    Dems and Obama will not dally with the COLA formula, as that would cut benefits to the lowest income folks.

    The skinny is the centrist democrats want to convert the social insurance programs into welfare programs. This is a very bad idea. But, the proposal is to combine benefit cuts to the top 4 quintiles while increasing benefits to the bottom quintile.

    B-S

    Social Security Reform

    5.1: MAKE RETIREMENT BENEFIT FORMULA MORE PROGRESSIVE. Modify the current three-bracket formula to a more progressive four-bracket formula, with changes phased in slowly. Change the current bend point factors of 90%|32%|15% to 90%|30%|10%|5% by 2050, with the new bend point added at median lifetime income.

    5.2: REDUCE POVERTY BY PROVIDING AN ENHANCED MINIMUM BENEFIT FOR LOW-WAGE WORKERS. Create a new special minimum benefit that provides full career workers with a benefit no less than 125 percent of the poverty line in 2017 and indexed to wages thereafter.

    5.3: ENHANCE BENEFITS FOR THE VERY OLD AND THE LONG-TIME DISABLED. Add a new “20-year benefit bump up” to protect those Social Security recipients who have potentially outlived their personal retirement resources.

    5.4: GRADUALLY INCREASE EARLY AND FULL RETIREMENT AGES, BASED ON INCREASES IN LIFE EXPENCTANCY. After the Normal Retirement Age (NRA) reaches 67 in 2027 under current law, index both the NRA and Early Eligibility Age (EEA) to increases in life expectancy, effectively increasing the NRA to 68 by about 2050 and 69 by about 2075, and the EEA to 63 and 64 in lock step.

    5.5: GIVE RETIREES MORE FLEXIBILITY IN CLAIMING BENEFITS AND CREATE A HARDSHIP EXEMPTION FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT WORK BEYOND 62. Allow Social Security beneficiaries to collect half of their benefits as early as age 62, and the other half at a later age. Also, direct the Social Security Administration to design a hardship exemption for those who cannot work past 62 but who do not qualify for disability benefits.

    5.6: GRADUALLY INCREASE THE TAXABLE MAXIMUM TO COVER 90 PERCENT OF WAGES BY 2050.

    5.7: ADOPT IMPROVED MEASURE OF CPI. Use the chained CPI, a more accurate measure of inflation, to calculate the Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security beneficiaries.

    5.8: COVER NEWLY HIRED STATE AND LOCAL WORKERS AFTER 2020. After 2020, mandate that all newly hired state and local workers be covered under Social Security, and require state and local pension plans to share data with Social Security.

    5.9: DIRECT SSA TO BETTER INFORM FUTURE BENEFICIARIES ON RETIREMENT OPTIONS. Direct the Social Security Administration to improve information on retirement choices, better inform future beneficiaries on the financial implications of early retirement, and promote greater retirement savings.

  118. 118
    Maude says:

    @👽 Martin:
    Martin. go through the SSD process and come back and talk about it.
    You don’t know anything about it. There are people who commit suicide because of this process.
    It is tiring for people who aren’t at all affected by something to put it in terms of numbers and not what happens to people.
    You don’t know if some day you will need to apply for SSD because you need the money. Thinking that it can’t happen to you is foolish.
    It’s not an intellectual game.
    I am tired of this.

  119. 119
    General Stuck says:

    @jayackroyd:

    Of the nutters are going to try to paint medicare as a welfare program, no matter how it is constructed. The question is will the public buy that when they will continue to pay payroll taxes and be in a very popular program? It is not an ideal compromise, but that is how compromises are in a democracy. It is what you get in return for what you give up that should be judged. In this case, dems would demand a raising of the FICA cap, or done away with completely. Of the several options mentioned, means testing is the only one that is highly progressive in nature, not affecting the middle class and poor.

    This isn’t just a cage match between republicans and democrats, as there is always a watchful audience that is fickle and strange, called the American voter. And they have the long term power of thumbs up or down. If you close up into a tight ideological ball, then you end up like the wingnuts are right now.

    But like I said, this to me is pure kabucki, as the “cliff” part of fiscal cliff is not that and Obama knows it. He has all the leverage, ALL of it. The only part he may be concerned with are some elements of the mil cuts. But the rest is all on the wingnuts right now.

  120. 120
    Felonius Monk says:

    Dragging Social Security into any discussion of income tax rates and deficit reduction/spending cuts is pure smokescreen bullshit on the part of repugs. It is a well established fact that SS does not impact the deficit, so Dems need to make it abundantly clear that it is not part of any discussion/negotiation. I just don’t understand why the Dems aren’t more forceful on this issue.

  121. 121
    jayackroyd says:

    @General Stuck: One of the defining elements of the New Democrats/Third Way/Centrists is they believe the New Deal social insurance programs have been made obsolete by globalized economy. They are not conservatives; they think it’s important that the truly needy get government aid. But they are not liberals, who believe that social insurance is an infrastructure issue that is a core value.

    Obama is a New Democrat, as is Erskine Bowles. The issue is not Republicans mischaracterizing social insurance programs. The issue is the lack of commitment to those programs on the part of centrist democrats.

    This is a no brainer if you support our social insurance programs. You simply take them all off the table, from the outset, full throatedly. That’s good policy and good politics. So why have only 29 Democrats signed Sanders’ letter?

  122. 122
    General Stuck says:

    @jayackroyd:

    I don’t agree with a single word you write in this comment. Not one.

  123. 123
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    @burnspbesq: It explains that you work for the man, man. Unlike your accusers, your occupation isn’t, like pure, and free from uh capitalist greed and stuff.

  124. 124
    Ted & Hellen says:

    The problem is tax rates for the wealthy are too low, the solution is to raise them, and any other discussion is a distraction.

    This is of course absolutely true. So why does Obama keep giving credibility to the opposition’s position by engaging them on their terms?

  125. 125
    joel hanes says:

    @Trakker:

    The locals still call it National Airport though

    So do air traffic controllers and older pilots.

    And so do I.

    Join us.

  126. 126
    👽 Martin says:

    @Maude:

    Martin. go through the SSD process and come back and talk about it.
    You don’t know anything about it. There are people who commit suicide because of this process.

    I’m not making any judgement on whether SSD is a good or bad process. I agree, it’s a terrible ordeal for people who are indeed disabled. The problems with the process largely stem from those who are trying to cheat the system.

    It is tiring for people who aren’t at all affected by something to put it in terms of numbers and not what happens to people.
    You don’t know if some day you will need to apply for SSD because you need the money. Thinking that it can’t happen to you is foolish.
    It’s not an intellectual game.
    I am tired of this.

    I’m sorry that the economic challenges of government are tiring to you. But understand that this is ultimately a zero-sum game. The dollars for SSD are going to have to come from somewhere – and right now they’re going to start coming from SS retirement – and they’ll automatically cut payments by 25% to keep the system solvent if need be. I’m sure that too will cause suicides. That too won’t be an intellectual game.

    The dollars can come from raising the cap, they can come from raising payroll taxes. I have no objection to either of those, but others on the left do – see jackaroyd above:

    The skinny is the centrist democrats want to convert the social insurance programs into welfare programs. This is a very bad idea.

    SSD is a welfare program. Nobody in SSD pays enough into it (when you consider the early Medicare benefits) to cover what they get out. There’s no getting around that fact, and it’s not something we should be ashamed about. That doesn’t mean it should be abolished or even that benefits should be diminished. It does mean that we need to honest about what it is and pay for it as it is and not pretend there’s no problem, or to skirt the whole issue, declare SS retirement is solid and simply accuse guys like Drum of being DINOs.

    Democrats are going to have to come to terms with this, including you. I’m sorry if its tiring for you.

  127. 127
    jayackroyd says:

    @General Stuck: Cool! So what’s your view?

  128. 128
    liberal says:

    @Maude:
    In fairness to Martin, I don’t think he’s saying that cuts on disability are the only way out. He’s just saying the math doesn’t add up.

  129. 129
    jayackroyd says:

    @General Stuck:

    Sorry, I have to say you disagree that the social insurance programs should be off the table? You want SS/Medicare as part of the oh my fucking word defense cuts and taxes on rich people negotiation?

  130. 130
    liberal says:

    @General Stuck:

    Of the several options mentioned, means testing is the only one that is highly progressive in nature, not affecting the middle class and poor.

    It also won’t do jack shit to the math, because the fraction of really wealthy retirees is very small, and their benefits are capped and not in proportion to their wealth.

  131. 131
    liberal says:

    @jayackroyd:
    The problem is you committed a blasphemy (saying something about Obama that falls short of outright fellatio).

  132. 132
    burnspbesq says:

    @jayackroyd:

    This is good stuff. It doesn’t explicitly reference, but implicitly recognizes, one of the fundamental truths underlying the Social Security debate that isn’t talked about enough: the demise of the so-called “three-legged stool.”

  133. 133
    burnspbesq says:

    @Full Metal Wingnut:

    It explains that you work for the man, man. Unlike your accusers, your occupation isn’t, like pure, and free from uh capitalist greed and stuff.

    Ahh, I see.

  134. 134
    Schlemizel says:

    Got a “reply” to my email to Sen. Klobuchar about the Bernie Sanders letter. Yeah, weasel words about not privatizing SSI, no support for Sanders or objection to cutting benefits.

    Wish I were surprised.

  135. 135
    General Stuck says:

    @liberal: @jayackroyd:

    Fuck both you purity trolls. My position is not to pretend all entitlement programs do not ever need maintenance to strengthen them, and only to change them to do that. It is the same position Obama takes, btw. So I am very comfortable that no changes would be made to cut benefits to the lowest income citizens, OR the highest. I don’t necessarily support means testing, and do not support any COLA changes. Nor do I oppose raising the medicare retirement age to go in effect many years from now. But all of that is premised on.
    DEMOCRATS MUST GET MUCH MORE REVENUE FROM RAISING TAXES ON THE WEALTHY, TO INCLUDE DOING AWAY WITH THE FICA CAP. IN RETURN.

    And to all including mistermix in this pos post, have no clue about what is or is not good politics. Obama does. He has earned that level of trust, and it is wrapped up in tight support of 95 % of self described liberals in the countryside. The rest of you clowns can’t hardly tie your shoelaces and would leave open seats in a porn theater, but think they are better than the black guy that got himself elected twice, IN THIS COUNTRY.

    Me, I know when I am outclassed by an elected president. That is my primary position. I also know pig ignorant wankers when I see them.

  136. 136
    Schlemizel says:

    @General Stuck:

    and we love you for it too you little sweetheart <3

  137. 137
    jayackroyd says:

    @General Stuck: LOL. Thanks!

  138. 138
    General Stuck says:

    @jayackroyd:

    Glad to be of service. There will be a test later, so eat your pees.

  139. 139
    liberal says:

    @General Stuck:

    Fuck both you purity trolls.

    LOL. Right. There’s no position between thinking Obama is the first/second coming, and being a Naderite.

  140. 140
    General Stuck says:

    @liberal:

    LOL. Right. There’s no position between thinking Obama is the first/second coming, and being a Naderite.

    Sure there is, but your position is not that. My comments on this page are not addressing Obama’s positions (true) on issues, which anyone can oppose just because that is their right. But it is arrogant white liberal privilege that claims to have the upper hand on gauging the general politics of Obama’s tactics in comparison with that of bloggers and commenters on blogs.

    With the rending and the wailing that entitlements simply being discussed, or on the table, is some kind of taboo and OH NOES! bad politics. That is just bullshit, and it has been generally true the past four years. And I suppose the usual suspects will continue offering their genius on political matters that the Kenyan just doesn’t get it. I will continue to laugh loudly at that notion.

  141. 141
    jayackroyd says:

    @General Stuck:

    You know I’ve gone to some effort to make clear what policies are being put on the table. I’ve noticed very little engagement from the ‘bots on policy. (Mnemosyne is a counter example). The basic ‘bot position is whatever the president does is fine with me. Pardon me if I think that’s a bad idea, that the President’s position doesn’t deserve scrutiny, and that part of our job is to apply pressure. Joe Sudbay showed that it’s possible to change the direction of the administration with persistent pressure.

    Cutting the social insurance programs is a really bad idea. We need to make sure the president (and the Democratic leadership) knows that we know that.

  142. 142
    General Stuck says:

    @jayackroyd:

    The basic ‘bot position is whatever the president does is fine with me.

    NO, what the bots are saying is that the president is doing just fine with his method of engaging the wingnuts with rhetoric as a matter of political and legislative strategy. If you would take the time to read and think about what he says, and the ‘bots say in support of Obama’s methodology of wide open engagement, he actually has no intention of cutting benefits for any entitlement, or social program, especially now with reelection. The problem is folks like you cannot separate rhetoric and strategy, from core belief and policy intent with Obama. You want him to be a prog knight in shining armor 24 hours a day, to lord over the wingnuts with pride and a a closed fist. He isn’t a lord and this is ain’t no Kingdome.

    Never give an inch, and never speak impurely goes over well in totalitarian states. Not here. . What more proof in the pudding do you need at this late stage of success by president Barack Obama? Go watch again his last SOTU, and see what his core beliefs are on the middle class and poor, and their interaction with our social programs.

    And no, I don’t consider a deeply futuristic raising of the eligibility age for medicare a decrease in benefits. Especially with the ACA getting ready to take hold. The same for means testing. The COLA bullshit IS cutting benefits now, for those who can’t afford it. And I am very opposed to that, and so is Obama AND DEMS. And you can hear it loud and clear in the last SOTU speech. NO CUTS IN BENEFITS FOR ENTITLEMENTS OR SOCIAL PROGRAMS IN GENERAL.

    Or you can keep hollering OBOT. WE that are that, are unapologetic and quite proud to be called such

  143. 143
    Wolfdaughter says:

    @Tone in DC:

    I don’t mind politicizing the airport’s name, though. Gingrich, DeLay and the rest of the G00pers did that before I did. And they did a hell of a lot worse, for decades.

    Damn, could you imagine an airport named after the Newtster? And somehow I doubt that an airport would ever be named after Delay–that kinda sends a message the airlines would just as soon avoid.

  144. 144
    Comrade Mary says:

    @Nina:

    Nobody should be allowed to advocate raising the Social Security age unless they’ve worked at least 5 summers in the sun and winters in the snow.

    DAMN straight. I have one of those soft office jobs, but I have friends and family who have worked in all kinds of environments. They deserve better.

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