November 17th, 2012
I voted for Obama, and I got Romney's healthcare program, Bush's security state, Reagan's economic ideas, Bush/Reagan's defense spending, Bush/Reagan's approach to a Palestinian state, Grover Norquist's approach to social security, and Sarah Palin's energy policy.
On the other hand, Obama's a foreign-born, communist Muslim, so there is some good news.
November 14th, 2012
Ten days ago, the deficit had to be cut immediately or the bogeymen would attack. Today, we can't cut the deficit or the bogeymen will attack.
This sounds as if our policymakers are stupid until you realize that one thing is constant: whether the crisis is the deficit or cutting the deficit, the crisis will be used as an excuse to screw poorer people. Cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security was the solution ten days ago and remains the solution today.
Bogeymen don't eat rich people.
November 14th, 2012
Since Social Security is not "bankrupt" and cannot add to the deficit, I cannot understand why Social Security has been snared by the deficit talks. Apparently Obama has offered to cut Social Security and may agree to raise the retirement age, though Social Security is more critical to more people now than ever before.
But since Social Security is mired in that mess, here is a very simple way to make Social Security solvent: remove the cap on income that is subject to SS tax.
Currently income is subject to a flat 12.4% Social Security tax but only up to about $110,000. After $110,000, income isn't subject to SS taxes. (When I was making big bucks, my checks at the end of the year were larger than usual because my income had by that point exceeded the cap and my check no longer had Social Security tax deducted.)
The Congressional Research Service (http://aging.senate.gov/crs/ss9.pdf) looked at what removing the cap would do to SS's finances. Here is what it said:
If the earnings base was completely eliminated for both employers and employees so that all earnings were taxed, 95% of the projected financial shortfall in the Social Security program would be eliminated. To achieve solvency for the full 75-year projection period under this option, the total payroll tax rate would have to be raised by an additional 0.1 percentage points (from 12.4% to 12.5%) or other policy changes would have to be made to cover the shortfall.
So eliminating the tax cap would come very close to eliminating the shortfall. Increasing the Social Security tax by 0.1 percent ($100 per $100,000 in income) would entirely fix the problem. This seems like a simple, rational fix to me.
Another option would be to adjust slightly how benefits are calculated for high income individuals. Right now, benefits are based on what one pays in to Social Security. So, the more you make, the greater your benefits are (up to the tax cap.) If the cap is removed, the high end earners would pay more tax and therefore be entitled to greater benefits.
The Report looked at the option of removing the cap and capping benefits at the $110,000 level. So, high earners would pay taxes on income over $110,000 but their benefits would be calculated as if they only made $110,000. Under that option, Social Security collects quite a bit more than it pays out. The could be lowered from 12.4% to 12.12% or benefits could be increased.
Although people at the high end need Social Security less than those at the lower end, so that makes this option plausible, I don't think it's a good idea to cap benefits. Part of the program's support is that it is an insurance program not a welfare program. But adjusting the formula for benefits on a graduated scale, could make the program solvent without even a .001% tax increase. One could do the same thing by taxing Social Security income but only for those over $110,000. This revenue could be dedicated to Social Security. Again, we could then lower the Social Security tax or increase benefits.
I prefer either of those options to increasing the retirement age. The idea is that increased life expectancy justifies increasing the retirement age. The trouble is that most life expectancy gains have been among the higher income groups -- the people that rely less, if at all, on SS. Those whose life expectancy gain is relatively small, would be the people hurt. I think that is illogical and repugnant.
November 10th, 2012
Image from Economist's View.
Social Security may be more important today than at any time in its existence. We have a population without pensions. Older people cannot rely on their families for support -- family relationships have changed and family members are much more likely to far from one another.
Then the Great Recession clobbered the savings of those most dependent on Social Security. The chart above shows the impact on savings of the Great Recession -- the collapse of house values, effects of unemployment, and the tanking of the stock market. For poor and middle income people, twenty years of savings disappeared.
What exactly do we expect those just retired and nearing retirement to do? Why do we think they should bear the sins of the regulators, bankers, and politicians that destroyed their savings? And why do we think the wealthy deserve tax cuts paid for by cutting Social Security?
We should be considering how much to increase Social Security benefits not how to cut them.
November 9th, 2012
Image via Eric Dondero at Libertarian Republican
After Romney tanked, Mr. Dondero decided that "outright revolt" was his only option. So taking matters into his own hands, he unfriended people on Facebook, promised to be rude to Democrats and welfare recipients, and planned to wear buttons bearing motivating slogans like "Democrats are Communist Pigs" and "Only Nazis support Seat Belt laws."
The image above is from one of his recent posts.
When a nutjob melts down, it's like smelting ore. One might guess there was some racism hidden in the bedrock of his beliefs, but the meltdown has revealed the constituent parts in purer and more recognizable form.
(BTW I don't think the quote is from Jefferson. Jefferson was not a strict Constitutionalist anyway. It sounds like one of the fake quotes wrongly attributed to another person that appeared in an ancient, right wing email that has made the rounds a couple times.)
November 8th, 2012
Places with sidewalks tend to be Democratic. Without sidewalks, Republican. At least according to a tweet by Nate Silver:
@fivethirtyeight Heuristic: if a place has sidewalks, it votes Democratic. Otherwise, it votes Republican.
Bill Lindeke at streets.mn, considers why. No conclusions but fun to think about.
When he asks whether sidewalks creates liberals, treating the presence of sidewalks as cause rather than correlated, he asks:
Does walking around one’s neighborhood increase tolerance? Does walking your dog make you more likely to talk to, and try to empathize with, your neighbors? Does having a corner coffee shop foster social capital?
I'd answer all these questions "yes." And I'd say Democratic voters are more tolerant, more emphatic, and place more value on social capital than Republican voters. But that's just my urban smugness talking.
November 8th, 2012
Libertarians tended to be simple-minded.
"[O]utright revolt" is his response. And he really means REVOLT!
First, he's going to unfriend all his Democratic "friends" on Facebook! Then . . . well, then:
If I meet a Democrat in my life from here on out, I will shun them immediately. I will spit on the ground in front of them, being careful not to spit in their general direction so that they can't charge me with some stupid little nuisance law. Then I'll tell them in no un-certain terms: "I do not associate with Democrats. You all are communist pigs, and I have nothing but utter disgust for you. Sir/Madam, you are scum of the earth." Then I'll turn and walk the other way.
Buttons. Boy, you can have a lot of fun with this. I plan to make up a bunch of buttons, and wear them around town, sayings like "Democrats are Communist Pigs," or "Welfare moochers steal from hard-working Americans," "Only Nazis support Seat Belt laws" or "No Smoking Ban: Nanny-Staters go Fuck Yourselves."
There are so many other nasty little things I plan to do against the communists and those who support them. . . . .
For now, off to my first assignment: Telling all my friends and family who voted for Obama to "fuck off, don't ever speak to me again you slimeball mother fuckers." Wish me luck!
Anti-seat belt buttons!? Oh. My.