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social security

clown carI’ll be live blogging tonight’s presidential debate, so refresh the page and look at the bottom for the most recent updates. If you’re seeing this on the home page, click the “read more” link. I’ll fact check to the degree I can on the spot, but that will mean from memory so your own check of my check is advised. Or just follow along for the instant snark. All I guarantee is not knowing what they’ll say means I don’t already know what I’ll say, so it will be truly instant. Side note: “snark” was not recognized by the spell checker. Stupid Republican spell checker!
The debate starts at 7. No, I’m not watching the “undercard” debate. None of those candidates have a chance to win. There is one update to which GOP candidates are worth our attention, besides the ones who dropped out. I created buckets and dropped Bobby Jindal into the bucket of candidates who won’t win, but are worth attention because they’re either in office or likely to run again. I’ve since learned just how toxic Jindal has become in Louisiana, down to “Chris Christie in New Jersey” levels. I put Christie in the bucket of candidates to be ignored, and his term still has two years left, so I can’t justify giving time to Jindal who is done in two months. The only “undercard” candidate to watch is Lindsey Graham, and that’s purely because he has five more years in his Senate term and he’s likely to run again. We can always hope a strong challenger appears next time. Why, South Carolina, why? Of course, that last link begs the same question of CNN.
About to start. By the way, the state DFL will be live tweeting at https://twitter.com/MinnesotaDFL and the hashtag #MNDFL



McFadden Plans to Burn Workers Under Age 55

by Invenium Viam on September 23, 2014 · 1 comment

money-burningSo far, GOP Senate candidate Mike “Nutshot” McFadden has managed to keep his policy positions on Social Security and Medicare well under wraps. To my knowledge, the only definitive statement he has made about either is to support raising the age of Medicare eligibility.


Eric Black at MinnPost managed to wrestle that small admission out of McFadden in an interview published way back in July, but that’s about all he got.  McFadden’s dodging and twisting to avoid directly answering Black’s questions approached the comical, almost to the level of a ‘Who’s on first?’ exchange, as Black pointed out in his article and generously posted the full exchange on-line for all to enjoy.  McFadden has had very little more to offer the press since then.


That in itself is telling. The simple truth is that McFadden doesn’t want Minnesota voters to know what his policy positions are on Social Security and Medicare because he knows they’ll be unpopular. He prefers to lie by omission rather than risk creating tomorrow’s film-at-10 soundbite or self-damning black’n’white advert snippet.


There stands a paragon of moral courage.


This is where a little reading between the lines and connecting the dots becomes useful. In normal circumstances, I’d avoid both as a weak foundation for offering criticism. But you can’t divide by zero, and you can’t prove a negative, and you can’t criticize a policy position not taken, so reading between the lines and connecting the dots is about all we’ve got to go on.


We’ll start with McFadden’s published position on Social Security, which may yet turn out to be a stinking, maggot-infested political albatross around his neck.


Parsing the language here is important to a clear understanding of where McFadden truly stands on the issue. Disregarding for now the fact that Social Security and Medicare are promises made to all workers, not just “today’s seniors,” McFadden is only offering “… to fight to keep the promise …” of preserving social safety nets in their present form for “… today’s seniors …”  and “… our parents and grandparents …”.  In other words, he’s only willing to support continuing benefits under the current program for those workers at or near retirement.


He doubled-down on that position in his MinnPost interview with Eric Black. “What I wouldn’t support is anything that would change the benefits for people that are nearing retirement,” he told Black. “And by that I mean 10, 12 years from retirement.”


Current law provides full benefits at age 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Backing up 12 years means that McFadden only supports continuing Social Security benefits per the plan’s current embodiment for those persons who are now 55 or older. By inference, then, McFadden must support a different plan for those workers younger than 55.


The question then becomes: What kind of different plan?


More Below the Fold

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Read. Learn. Repeat.

by Joe Bodell on April 15, 2013 · 1 comment

I’ll have more thoughts on today’s events in my ancestral homeland of Boston tomorrow. But for now, more about the Obama/Chained CPI ragefest, from Politicus:


Proposal. Not law. Copyright Reuters.

Proposal. Not law. Copyright Reuters.

Many GOP operatives fear Obama’s embrace of chained consumer price index, a mechanism to slow the growth of Social Security benefits over time, is a trap — a means of getting Republicans to support the policy on the record only to see Democrats savage them for it down the line.”


The Republican strategists who suspect this are partially correct. President Obama is using Chained CPI to set up a win/win/win situation for Democrats. Republicans have to choose between raising taxes in order to get the Chained CPI, arguing for Chained CPI without the tax increase, or rejecting Chained CPI. If Republicans express any desire to cut Social Security, Democrats will savage them for it during next year’s election. If Republicans agree to raise taxes at all, the base of their party will erupt in rage. If Republicans split and some of them reject Chained CPI, it will never become law. (Chained CPI probably won’t become law anyway, because Harry Reid and many Senate Democrats have promised to oppose any changes to Social Security.)


While the activists on the left continue to completely ignore the political realities unfolding before them, it is looking more and more like Obama’s Chained CPI offer was designed to call the Republican bluff on Social Security.


The truth is that outside of the right wing ideologues, many Republicans see real political danger in messing with Social Security. In plain English, Republicans will get nothing on Social Security unless they agree to raise taxes. Since they will never raise taxes, Chained CPI is pretty much DOA.

It’s not about winning the news cycle, it’s about winning the war. And the Obama White House is staffed with people who know how to win the long fights against opponents who fight dirty. So let’s take a deep breath, avoid stepping closer to that cliff in the back yard, and wait for the GOP to step in this trap.  It’s looking increasingly like they don’t have a choice.

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I’ve been watching with a mixture of disdain and wonder the release and public flagellation of President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal. Disdain mostly because a Democratic President actually just proposed cutting benefits to current Social Security recipients (along with the rest of us, when we get there) through this Chained CPI bullpucky, and wonder because of what a brutally aggressive political gambit it represents.

Proposal. Not law. Copyright Reuters.

Proposal. Not law. Copyright Reuters.


I’ll explain. For one thing, Obama’s budget has zero chance of becoming law. We know this. He knows this. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi know this. None whatsoever. Perhaps this is an optimistic reading of the circumstances here, but I think that’s part of the point of this exercise. The things that President Obama proposed in this budget are the very things the Republican Party demanded in return for additional tax revenue to close the budget deficit (despite Social Security contributing exactly zero dollars to the deficit. I digress). At the same time, Obama knows that McConnell and Boehner will never, ever, ever agree to any compromise at all, let alone one that involves additional tax revenue on top of what Obama already achieved in December. So by offering them exactly what they wanted with the foreknowledge that they will never accept it in any real way, he’s forcing them once again (and again, and again) to own their right-wing, reactionary agenda in front of a public that, if memory serves, recently rejected that crap by a pretty huge margin.


Is this proposal a good thing? No, of course not. It doesn’t do enough to push renewable energy production or rapid transit options or a host of other priorities, especially in light of a still-fragile economy. But with divided government, we really have two options: publicly moan about how mean and nasty the other side is, or beat the other side over the head with their own intransigence until they either submit, or the voting public turns them out on their ear and demands progress. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are stuck with the first option, whether they like it or not. President Obama has apparently chosen the second option. The progressive movement must keep up the fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, and make sure public opinion stays on our side. At the same time, we need to help keep the focus where it needs to be through the 2014 elections: on a right-wing political party that has effectively broken our national political discourse, and does not deserve to be anywhere near the levers of power.

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Keith Ellison: social security cuts will not pass

by The Big E on December 20, 2012 · 0 comments

Yesterday, President Obama went back on his campaign promise to protect Social Security. The progressive backlash was immediate.

Thankfully, Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (Keith is Co-Chair) will not let any so-called “fiscal cliff” deal pass the House if it includes cuts to Social Security.

“102 Democrats recently signed a letter saying Social Security should be off the table in these negotiations,” Ellison noted. “Any agreement brought to the House floor is going to need many of those same Democrats to pass, so it will be difficult to pass something that includes a cut for those who use every dollar from their Social Security checks to pay for food and housing.”

Just yesterday the CPC released a statement on Republican John Boehner’s plan to cut Social Security by changing the way it calculates inflation.

“Everyone has a grandparent, a friend or a neighbor who relies on the Social Security benefits they earned to pay for medical care, food and housing. A move towards chained CPI would be a long-term benefit cut for every single person who receives a Social Security check.”

“The current average earned benefit for a 65 year old on Social Security is $17,134. Using chained CPI will result in a $6,000 loss for retirees in the first fifteen years of retirement and adds up to a $16,000 loss over twenty-five years. This change would be devastating to beneficiaries, especially widowed women, more than a third of whom rely on the program for 90% of their income and use every single dollar of the Social Security checks they’ve earned. This would require the most vulnerable Americans to dig further into their savings to fill the hole left by unnecessary and irresponsible cuts to Social Security.”

“I am committed to standing against any benefit cuts to programs Americans rely on and tying Social Security benefits to chained CPI is a benefit cut.”


I generally tend to think that President Obama knows what he’s doing, even if I disagree with it.  But this one left me aghast.

Outside progressive groups, meanwhile, have been threatening to mobilize against the White House if entitlement cuts are included in a deal. “It would be a massive betrayal if the White House went back on its promise to both protect Social Security benefits and end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans,” Becky Bond, political director of CREDO, said in a statement.

CREDO, the grass-roots organizing group funded by its cellphone business, has been increasingly active, mobilizing in 10 key House races during the election and leading a march against the NRA yesterday. “When it comes to the fight necessary to make his campaign promises a political reality, the president has said it’s up to us to ‘make him do it.’ We’re putting the president on notice that we will fight to stop any deal – including the one on the table right now – that goes back on his promise to oppose cuts to Social Security benefits and to end the Bush tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year,” Bond added.

Previously, progressive groups have told Salon that they would consider mounting primary campaigns against members who supported cuts to entitlement programs. In the past weeks, the groups, along with labor unions, have been running ads and sending emails to pressure members to leave social safety net programs alone.

More here.  I get that the president will give away something, and that I’m not going to like it.  But to fold on two key items of the Democratic platform, before negotiations are anywhere near the homestretch…a lot of people are po’d this morning, and we have every right to be.  It would be good if he’d at least explain what he’s “thinking.”


Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) signed a letter to John Boehner, along with 101 other Members of Congress, demanding he take Social Security of the table when negotiating a solution to the fiscal cliff. Ellison is Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Currently, Republican proposals only include cuts to non-military spending. That means Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and all social programs.

The 1% are safe and military spending is left alone.

The only other suggestion Republicans have is hoping that their Underpants Gnome Economic Theory will magically fill government coffers.

Here the letter:

December 6, 2012

Dear Speaker Boehner:

We are writing to inform you that we will oppose including Social Security cuts for future or current beneficiaries in any deficit reduction package.

Under long-standing federal law, Social Security is not part of the federal budget and cannot contribute to the federal deficit.

Under long-standing federal law, Social Security is not part of the federal budget and cannot contribute to the federal deficit. This reflects Social Security’s structure as an independent, self-financed insurance program, in which worker contributions, not general taxes, finance benefits. In our view, it is essential that Social Security’s status as a separate entity be fully maintained.

Contrary to some claims, Social Security is not the cause of the nation’s deficit problem. Not only does the program operate independently, but it is prohibited from borrowing. Social Security must pay all benefits from its own trust fund. If there are insufficient funds to pay out full benefits, benefits are automatically reduced to the level supported by the program’s own revenues. Social Security cannot drive up the deficit by tapping general revenues to pay benefits. Additionally, it is important to note that over its lifetime, Social Security has collected and earned $15.5 trillion and only paid out $12.9 trillion in benefits.

Even though Social Security operates in a fiscally responsible manner, some still advocate deep benefit cuts and seem convinced that Social Security hands out lavish welfare checks. But Social Security is not welfare. Seniors earned their benefits by working hard and paying into the system. Meanwhile, the average monthly Social Security benefit for seniors is only about $1,200, quite low by international standards.

For all these reasons, we believe it would be a serious mistake to cut Social Security benefits for current or future beneficiaries as part of a deficit reduction package. To be sure, Social Security has its own long-term challenges that will need to be addressed in the decades ahead. But the budget and Social Security are separate and should be considered separately.

Thank you for your consideration of our views.



Forming the Catfood Commission was political genius. The Commission’s goal was to find ways to address the deficit. Conservatives and conservative Democrats ran the commission.

The Catfood Commission made it easier for Beltway Democrats to accept discussing drastic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. After all, these serious people on this serious commission had introduced it as the only way to address the issue.

Except it was entirely bullsh*t.

Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) sees this in a similar light (though he may not use the same words). He’s opposed to these drastic cuts and is in a position to protect our seniors, kids and the disabled. Here’s his press release:

WASHINGTON- Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, released the following statement after Politico reported on the potential outlines of a deal, including $1.2 trillion in new tax revenue and $400 billion in changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security
“Any agreement to meet our end-of-the-year deadlines will need a large portion of the House Democratic Caucus to pass. Progressives will not support any deal that cuts benefits for families and seniors who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to put food on the table or cover their health costs. Last year, over 80 members of the Progressive, Black, and Asian Pacific-Islander Caucuses stood united in opposing an agreement that cut benefits for these families, and 44 members have introduced a resolution demanding these cuts be off the table.                                                                    
“There are better options that protect seniors, children, and disabled Americans. We should allow Medicare Part D to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors and by requiring the wealthy to contribute  to Social Security on all of their wages, as middle class Americans do now. But cuts like raising the retirement age would cost seniors thousands of dollars, and increase the cost of health care by over $11 billion.”

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As the negotiations begin to heat up over the so-called “fiscal cliff”, Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, sent a letter to all Republican members of Congress today. They ask them to remember the advice of President Ronald Reagan in regards to Social Security.

“Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Social Security is totally funded by the Payroll Tax levied on employer and employee. If you reduce the outgo [payments] of Social Security, that money would not go into the general fund to reduce the deficit. It would go into the Social Security Trust Fund.”


After running up massive deficits under the Bush Administration, Republicans are pretending they are concerned about the deficit. How can their current stance be anything but political posturing? Where was their fiscal hawkishness when they voted to start two wars and lower taxes instead of paying for them?
Here’s their letter:

Dear Colleague:

For the last 20 years, Republicans have consistently cited President Ronald Reagan’s legacy as the basis of their party platform. As Congress approaches important deadlines at the end of this year, Republicans should listen to what he said during the Presidential Debate on October 7, 1984:

‘Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Social Security is totally funded by the Payroll Tax levied on employer and employee. If you reduce the outgo [payments] of Social Security, that money would not go into the general fund to reduce the deficit. It would go into the Social Security Trust Fund.

‘Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or erasing or lowering the deficit.’

We’re asking Republicans to listen to President Reagan and take Social Security off the table in current negotiations.


Women really should not be voting for Willard

by Dan Burns on October 24, 2012 · 0 comments

OK, neither should anybody else.  This is based on remarks from the second presidential debate, eons ago it seems like, but it bears reemphasizing.

There probably isn’t a worker in America, man or woman, who wouldn’t appreciate a flexible work schedule. Plenty of fathers would love to be home at night to care for their children. This is not exclusively a lady concern; it’s a family concern. And not every woman in the workforce wants or needs flexibility so she can rush home to cook dinner. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who would be content to have a 25 percent smaller paycheck as long as she can race right home after work to get in the kitchen.

But that’s what Romney thinks is an answer to the question of equal pay: more cooking time.

More recent items of note, below the fold.
This is completely unsurprising.  Of course, the GOP presidential ticket supports the severest possible restrictions on access to reproductive choice.

We found a statistical association between the severity of a state’s laws restricting abortion and contraception and the incidence of harassment that targets abortion providers and their patients. In other words, facilities that provide abortions in states with heavy restrictions on contraception and abortion experience more harassment than do their counterparts in states whose laws tend not to interfere in patients’ decisions about birth control and abortion.

Harassment includes but isn’t limited to anti-choice protesters videotaping or photographing patients, approaching or blocking cars, recording patients’ license plates, making threatening phone calls, filing frivolous lawsuits, creating noise disturbances, forming clinic blockades, and posting patient or staff information on the Internet. We discovered a similar association between a state’s restrictions on abortion and contraception and the occurrence of “minor vandalism” at abortion clinics: broken windows, nails or oil on driveways, graffiti, garbage tampering, and glue in locks.

Proposed changes to Social Security could especially hurt elderly women.