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Aaron (Schock) and Me on Social Securiy and Debt Ceiling

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Following is the correspondence I have endured with my Congressman over the last few days:

Representative Schock,

Two days ago I inquired about the possibility of social Security Checks being delayed or canceled, as I am a Social Security pensioner. You responded as follows:

Dear Mr. Jones,

Thank you for contacting me with regard to the payment of Social Security monthly benefits in the event of a government default.

In the event of a government default, the government would lose authority to borrow more money, but it still will continue collecting regular tax revenue—which is substantial. The President is then responsible for prioritizing government expenditures, so it is up to him to decide which obligations are to be met. I see no reason whatsoever that President Obama would voluntarily chose not to pay Social Security recipients on time for the full amount of your monthly benefit.

I further believe—but cannot guarantee—that if the President were to chose to hold up Social Security checks that the Congress would ensure payments would be made up to recipients very quickly once an agreement on raising the debt limit is reached. But again, I see no need to interrupt Social Security benefits for even a few days.

Most importantly, I am hopeful that we will avoid such a situation entirely by reaching an agreement soon from the intense negotiations which are ongoing.

I absolutely understand how deeply many seniors rely on their Social Security checks for basic needs and that any interruption in benefits—even if only for a few days—would cause great difficulty for many seniors. As one member of Congress, I intend to do everything in my power to prevent that from happening.

These negotiations are contentious and intense because of the tremendous consequences for our country. We have to stop borrowing money because sooner or later it needs to be paid back with interest. It is immoral for the current generations of Americans to enslave the next generations to a mountain of debt.

Current plans to deal with the deficit take great pains to ensure that everyone over age 55 will keep receiving 100% of both your current Social Security benefits and stay on the current Medicare program. Again, there is absolutely no reason to delay the payment of Social Security benefit checks for even a few days because of any plans to deal with our national debt.

I do not support measures to change or reduce Social Security or Medicare benefits for current retirees or those about to retire in the next ten years. Beyond that, we are working on strengthening both programs to meet the needs of the next generations of Americans to retire and support themselves financially.

Thank you very much for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future with regard to this or any other issue.

Sincerely,

My reply to you is this:

You and your party are wrecking this nation’s economy with your phony deficit hysteria. You are going to put millions more out of work and into poverty. How do you sleep at night?

I am sick of your talking points. Pull your head out and start thinking for yourself instead of parroting whatever madness Grover Norquist tells you to spout.

If I miss any Social Security checks I will hold you and your party responsible.

The GOP should grow up and govern or go out of business. Much more of this nonsense and maybe the voters will put you out of business.

Sincerely,

Larry Jones

You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

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I am reliably informed by Think Progress that Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are both opposed to any cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits.

This proves that such cuts are opposed by almost everybody. I wonder if President Obama is aware of this fact. I am beginning to wonder if he wants to be a one term President. He is certainly doing all he can to alienate the people who voted for him in 2008.

Last week when it was reported that Obama had put Medicare and Social Security “on the table”, liberals and progressives exploded in rage. Fifty bazillion signatures were attached to who knows how many petitions against such a move. I, along with many others contacted the White House directly to make my position known.

To no apparent effect. Today we learned that Obama has offered to raise the eligibility age for Medicare. That hole he is digging is getting close to six feet deep, and such a hole is hard to climb out of.

Written by slothropia

July 11th, 2011 at 9:14 pm

The Democrats’ Dilemma

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Paul Krugman has a column in today’s NY Times about how Washington is ignoring unemployment, the issue that is most important to U.S. voters:

Jobs do get mentioned now and then — and a few political figures, notably Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, are still trying to get some kind of action. But no jobs bills have been introduced in Congress, no job-creation plans have been advanced by the White House and all the policy focus seems to be on spending cuts.

Recent polling also shows that voters in the U.S. are adamant that Social Security benefits not be cut. Digby today wrote about Representative paul Ryan’s response to Harry Reid’s statement that there will be no cuts to Social Security as long as harry Reid has anything to say about it. Ryan is quoted thusly:

I’m boggled. That just boggles my mind…I would argue, even though, it’s not really a driver of our debt, it’s not a significant part of our debt problems, it would build great confidence, fixing Social Security on a bipartisan basis, because it would tell not only the credit markets that Americans are getting their act together, it would buy us more time and space with them, it would show that our government’s not broken.

Digby then notes how Ryan and the White House may be drifting toward common ground, a common position, on Social Security cuts:

Now it’s possible that the Democrats will successfully use this to discredit Ryan on this subject and inform the American people that even the most strident safety net destroyers know that SS is not a deficit issue. And maybe the public is jaundiced enough about the “markets” that they will see this for the silly reasoning it is. Let’s hope so.

But the audience Ryan was trying to reach with that statement has just a little bit more power than all the rest of us put together on this. His name is Barack Obama and he has long signaled that he really, really, really wants to make a deal (aka the Grand Bargain).

And Ryan just backed Tim Geithner in what’s been reported as the battle for Obama’s soul within the White House:
Geithner and his lieutenants argue that benefits reform will give the markets confidence that Obama and Congress have the will to address the problem of long-term national debt…
I suspect Geithner is just blathering nonsensical CW and that Ryan is just lying outright, but if you don’t care about the reasoning, this sure looks like bipartisan agreement to me. And everyone knows we’ve got a president who loves bipartisanship.

I think I detect a disturbing pattern here (and I am far from alone in doing so). A majority of American voters, and a super majority of Democrats, liberals progressives and other assorted malcontents, want their government to be proactive about creating jobs It’s their top priority. At the same time they are unalterably opposed to ny reduction in Social Security benefits. In response – or more accurately, in non-response – the Obama administration ignores unemployment and plays footsie with the Randian wing nuts who want to privatize Social Security.

Anthony Weiner and other House progressives are not satisfied with Obama’s leadership on these and other vital issues:

“We’ve spent a lot of time waiting for Godot when it comes to the Obama White House, and we kind of — to some degree — have to internalize the idea that, you know what? That’s probably not the way to go,” Weiner said. “We have to start initiating some of this.”

In regards to Obama’s approach to budget battles and the labor strife instigated by right wing Republicans and the budget , Dennis Kucinich has this to day:

The only regret I have is that the White House isn’t fighting back against this. It’s one thing to say, ‘Well, I stand behind the workers — how far behind, I don’t know.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘I stand with them and in front of them to protect their rights.’ And I’m waiting for that to happen.

Here’s the problem for the Democratic party: They nominated a Democrat in Senator Obama and elected a Republican President. Of course, not every action of President Obama has aided the conservative cause, but a lot of the big decisions he has made have done just that. The wars continue while millionaires and billionaires keep their tax cuts.

Can the Democratic party afford to renominate a small c conservative Republican enabler for President in 2012? Can they afford no to renominate a sitting President who still claims to be a Democrat? Scylla and Charybdis. A rock and a hard place.

The Republicans are split right now between a few moderates and a relatively pragmatic establishment on one hand and the certifiable right on the other. Will Barack Obama eventually precipitate a split in the Democratic party between aforementioned small c conservatives and a GOP enabling right wing versus a progressive, liberal wing?

Written by slothropia

March 17th, 2011 at 9:19 pm

MSNBC and Wall Street Journal Don’t Believe in Democracy

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Chuck and Savannah interviewed Jerry Seib from the Wall Street Journal today about that MSNBC/WSJ poll last week that found (among other things) that the people of the U.S. want job creation before deficit reduction, higher taxes on the rich and no cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and K-12 education.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

All sides in this interview seem shocked that ordinary citizens do not accept the wisdom of the political and financial superiors. The elite needs to do more “educating” to persuade the public that we should submit to the budget enema the GOP and Obama White House want to administer. Go ahead, fat cats. Educate away! You still can’t fool all the people all the time, and a lot of people are awake and paying attention right now.

Written by slothropia

March 7th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Aaron (Schock) and Me

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So I went to my email inbpox and found a newsletter from Aaron Schock (R- IL 18). Here it is:

Dear Friends,

Last week was a busy week in the House of Representatives. On Monday, we received President Obama’s budget for the next fiscal year and we voted to approve a funding measure called a Continuing Resolution.

Most of last week was consumed by debating and voting on amendments related to the Continuing Resolution. A “CR” as its called in Washington is a short-term resolution to keep the federal government operational. If you are asking why we would have to pass such a resolution, you would not be alone. Last year, for the first time since the 1970’s, the Democratic majority in the House failed to pass a budget. This is not something to be proud of or the way our government should operate.

However, I am proud of the work we did last week in regard to the CR for two main reasons. We were successful in cutting $100 billion from the President’s proposed FY 2011 budget, and we kept the process open and transparent so that everyone could watch and participate. This being the case it took all week and many late nights to accomplish our goal, but its the way Washington should and needs to work.

I was able to play an instrumental role in our debate by successfully stopping additional stimulus funds from being used to produce more signs to promote stimulus related projects. In my opinion, we were able to save the taxpayers more than $20 million from a continuing self-promotion effort by the current Administration.

Last week’s CR began what will be a series of steps to rein in government spending that has produced record debt levels that are unsustainable. We are literally operating on maxed out credit cards at this point, and struggling just to keep up with the interest payments.

The budget that was proposed by the President needs a lot more work; even the New York Times said last week in an editorial that “[President] Obama’s budget is most definitely not a blueprint for dealing with the real long-term problems that feed the budget deficit.” While our discretionary spending (the funding of programs, departments and agencies) is a relatively small part of the overall federal budget, is an important starting point to cut away the wasteful spending that has been going on for decades. The real issue, and the one the President failed to address, is entitlement reform – social security, medicare and medicaid. These three entitlements alone make up 60 percent of our federal budget and will only consume more over time.

I know there is no silver bullet and no easy solutions, but our entitlement programs are a huge drag on our economy. We are well beyond debating the seriousness of reforming these institutions. We must begin acting now to shore up these programs. House Republicans will be offering their budget in April and we will be picking up where the president left off by offering viable solutions to reforming our entitlement systems and making our budget a more lean and efficient guide to federal spending. As a member of the Ways and Means committee and the subcommittee on Social Security, I intend to play a leading role in these debates.

We have a long road ahead of us, but I’m confident that if we begin the conversation now, we can have the kind of impact that we need to restore and rebuild the confidence that is sorely needed in our Federal government and economy. I will keep you posted as this debate continues.

Respectfully,
Aaron

Here is my reply

I received your newsletter by email this evening. Thank you for the update.

I am afraid, however that I do not agree with you on a number of the topics you touched on in the newsletter mentioned above. For one thing, you are incorrect when you imply that Social Security contributes to the deficit. You said, “We are well beyond debating the seriousness of reforming these institutions.” That is incorrect, sir. The debate has not even properly begun.

The Social Security program, as you must know, is in surplus and will be for at least 25 years. But if you think Social Security benefits (which people earn by paying payroll taxes) should be cut please let your constituents know what you think the retirement age should be or how much you would like to slash benefits.

Medicare and Medicaid are more problematic, but perhaps a universal health care and health insurance program would be a solution. Counties like France and Britain spend about half what the U.S.pends on health care and have better outcomes and, of course, universal coverage (By the way I would truly love to know how you would make sure everyone in this country has health insurance).

I am reliably informed that you and your Republican colleagues have only manged to cut $61 billion from the federal budget, which of course has not passed Congress and been signed into law by President Obama. Whatever the actual level of cuts that are implemented, can you tell me how the next budget will increase employment. As I am sure you are aware, unemployment is still above 9% in the U.S., but I don’t hear you talking much about how to solve that problem.

I guess the shorter way of posing this question is to ask, Where are the jobs?

But since Republicans do not want to talk about jobs, choosing instead to talk only about the federal debt and deficit. (looking new ways to undermine Roe v Wade and threaten women health), perhaps you should keep in mind the causes of the current budget shortfalls. The Bush tax cuts, of course, stripped revenue from the budget, while two wars were fought without being paid for in the federal budget. Years of financial deregulation then led to the financial crisis in 2008, just as a major recession was getting underway. Since these are the well documented causes of the federal budget crisis, why are they not addresses in an effort to find a solution fair to all that will strengthen the economy?

Again, thanks for your newsletter. I would eagerly welcome a detailed reply.

Written by slothropia

February 24th, 2011 at 10:32 pm

The Health Care Is Too Damn High and Hands Off Social Security

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Somebody should start a new political party.

Found at Daily Kos, posted by Susan Gardner.

Tow important points made by that adorable bear:

1. Social Security does not contribute to the deficit. And yet, the Deficit fear mongers (who know better) always talk about weakening Social Security and part of deficit reduction.

2. The health care is too damn high. One point that should always be part of the health care debate in the U.S. is that the U.S. pays more for health care per capita than any other country in the world and yet many have no health insurance and outcomes like infant mortality and life expectancy are declining. Most of the extra cost in the U.S. health care system goes to health insurance companies. This is the text book definition of bureaucratic waste.

Written by slothropia

November 18th, 2010 at 10:49 am

Good News that’s Fit to Print: Obama Nixes SS Task Force

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

The New York Times (paper of record that never gets a story wrong) reports that Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate are resisting any possible ripoff of Social Security.

Mr. Obama considered announcing the formation of a Social Security task force at a White House “fiscal responsibility summit” that he will convene on Monday. But several Democrats said that idea had been shelved, partly because of objections from House and Senate leaders.

Not to mention the explosion of anger and opposition that would come from Democratic Party grassroots and the net roots if the administration ever makes any moves toward weakening Social Security.

Sadly, within this story the Grey Lady (specifically reporter Jackie Calmes) contradicts herself and confuses the reader with vague and contradictory journalism. On the one hand, Calmes reports that

Liberal Democrats are already serving notice that they will be equally vehement in opposing any reductions in scheduled benefits for future retirees. But any solution, budget analysts said, must include a mix of both approaches, though current beneficiaries would see no change.

First note the absence of a definition of the “looming crisis”. Also note that the budget analysts referred to are anonymous and no consideration is given to the possibility that there are other budget analysts and Social Security experts with any alternative analysis of the issue.

Yet later in the same story, the reporter gets it right

Social Security still runs a surplus, and its reserves will not be exhausted until 2041, after which enough payroll taxes will come in to cover 78 percent of benefits, according to the 2008 annual report of the program trustees.

So in 32 years, we might have a problem if we don’t raise payroll taxes, or raise the income level of those who are subject to them.

Medicare and Medicaid are of more immediate concern, and as Calmes reports

Those who oppose action said Mr. Obama must focus on his bigger priority — health care legislation to expand access to insurance and reduce the costs of care. They argue that success there would help control the unsustainable growth of Medicare and Medicaid, the government’s other major benefit programs, which together pose a far greater fiscal problem.

The good news in all of this is that the White House has received a very clear message that it attacks Social Security at its political peril. Obama is more than smart enough to know that one clear path to a one term presidency is to alienate his base.

Written by slothropia

February 23rd, 2009 at 9:27 am

Posted in POTUS

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