Archive | Bipartisan Wet Dream

The battle for Social Security and Medicare begins today

buffy-axe

It seems that I spend years of my life fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare, and here we are again as the GOP unleashes their new plan. From Josh Marshall:

Unlike the Bush-era plan to partially phase out Social Security and replace it with private investment accounts, this plan takes a different approach. Through a variety of mechanisms, this plan simply cuts benefits and introduces means testing. To look at specific cuts, changes in eligibility and so forth look at pages 2 and 3 on this official Social Security Administration scoring document analyzing the plan. The benefit cuts appear to hit everyone but are weighted toward more affluent recipients.

[..]

The plan with this new GOP bill is to proactively solve this problem entirely with cuts and really big cuts. Out over 75 years, the GOP proposal has the Trust Fund growing substantially out into the infinite horizon. In other words, a lot of the cuts are more than are necessary to pay for all benefits even if you leave the ‘cap’ in place.

I will say that this new bill is different and I think not as bad (extremely low bar) as the partial phase out of Social Security which President Bush tried to push in 2005. Because you have the same essential mechanisms in place. This is a huge benefit cut. Benefits could later be raised again if there was the political will to do so. The means testing component probably does more to endanger the future of the program in political terms.

The last day of session before Christmas break, and a Friday afternoon? Let’s not forget that every single House member is up for reelection in 2018, and none of them ran on cutting Social Security.

So I think something else is happening. This looks like a Trojan horse, used to manufacture a new “emergency” in Social Security funding. Polls and focus groups always show the same thing: No one will consider any kind of reform or privatization unless they think it’s the only way to save it.

You can see where that sense of crisis is useful. Remember, the goal has always been to get that money into private accounts, where Wall Street makes money and charges us hefty fees.

Make sure you call your reps Monday and tell them no.

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Automatic registration ‘cheapens the work’ of civil rights heroes

You really have to watch this interview. Blocking automatic registration is a good way to put obstacles in the way of people who are likely to be Democrats. See? They really don’t believe in democracy:

Automatic voter registration has recently emerged a key tool in increasing the United States’ anemic voter turnout. The process is simple: Whenever an eligible citizen interacts with a government agency (typically the DMV), she is registered to vote unless she declines. Although automatic voter registration is a nonpartisan initiative, it tends to be favored by Democrats and opposed by Republicans, who believe they fare better in low-turnout races; two Republican governors have already vetoed Democrat-sponsored automatic voter registration bills in Illinois and New Jersey. Now Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican, has joined the opposition. Asked a question about automatic voter registration, Merrill declared that the practice “cheapen[s] the work” of civil rights heroes and that “just because you turned 18 doesn’t give you the right” to vote.

Dear NBC News: It’s Time For A Talk About Mrs. Greenspan

Here’s a little something I wrote back in 2013 that still applies:

“I don’t care if you fuck an elephant, just so long as you don’t cover the circus.” — Abe Rosenthal, with a quote made famous after he fired a New York Times reporter who was sleeping with one of her sources.

It boils down to this: We can’t trust her.

I thought about this yesterday when I read this post from Paul Krugman:

Steven Pearlstein reads Alan Greenspan’s new book, and discovers that Greenspan believes that he bears no responsibility for all the bad things that happened on his watch — and that the solution to financial crises is, you guessed it, less government.

What Pearlstein doesn’t mention, but I think is important, is Greenspan’s amazing track record since leaving office — a record of being wrong about everything, and learning nothing therefrom. It is, in particular, more than three years since he warned that we were going to become Greece any day now, and declared the failure of inflation and soaring rates to have arrived already “regrettable.”

The thing is, Greenspan isn’t just being a bad economist here, he’s being a bad person, refusing to accept responsibility for his errors in and out of office. And he’s still out there, doing his best to make the world a worse place.

We live in a political world where, no matter what she does, Hillary Clinton is treated as a mere clone of her husband — yet Andrea Mitchell is a detached Consummate Professional whose marriage to the man who helped crash the economy has nothing to do with anything. We are supposed to take her word for it, because she would tell us if it wasn’t true. (Kind of like Ginni and Clarence Thomas, right?)

While the Beltway “journalists” never do like to acknowledge these things, one of the Washington Post editors did when he reviewed the recent book about inside D.C. called “This Town”:

First, there is longtime NBC news reporter Andrea Mitchell — a conflict of interest in human form. Married to former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, Mitchell has specialized in covering administrations and campaigns that “overlapped considerably with her social and personal habitat,” as Leibovich puts it.

There are those weekend getaways at George Shultz’s home. And dinner with Tipper and Al. And that surprise 50th-birthday party for Condi. And what do you do when you’re reporting on the 2008 financial crisis and many people are pointing at your husband as a chief culprit? NBC tossed up a fig leaf: allowing Mitchell to cover the politics of dealing with the financial crisis, but not the conditions that gave rise to it. Such hair-splitting becomes inevitable, Leibovich writes, because Mitchell trying to avoid conflicts of interest is “like an owl trying to avoid trees.”

If I can be excused for mixing metaphors, there’s not only an elephant in the control room, Andrea Mitchell is fucking him.

This is not her only conflict of interest. (*cough* Scooter Libby *cough*) But it’s the most obvious one.

Does this affect her job? You tell me. She regularly purses her lips and demands that the Adults In The Room do their job and cut Granny’s Social Security and Medicare, which is right in line with what her husband, Ayn Rand’s former boy toy, has been peddling for decades and believes with all his free-market heart.

Now, it’s fine for a wife to agree with her husband — as long as she doesn’t have a job that presents her as an honest broker to the American public.

I’m not the first person to notice this. (Read here, here, here, here and here.) It’s that most of these people were only complaining about her covering the financial crisis, when I think it goes much deeper. Our media culture is so intertwined with the interests of power, it would take an ax to untangle that Gordian knot.

When Andrea Mitchell keeps pushing the same anti-Social Security agenda espoused by her husband for so many years (or even worse, going right along with the many, many lies parroted on her show), it’s fair for viewers to ask: For whose interests does she advocate? Certainly not ours.

One of the reasons we have such lousy representation is that journalists who identify with the elite simply refuse to do their jobs. Maybe if NBC News did theirs, they wouldn’t be losing so many young viewers to… a comedy channel.

A funny thing happened on the way to the ‘radical center’

Jon Huntsman: I could support Donald Trump if he’s nominated https://t.co/Hvq9KOqfn9 pic.twitter.com/hW3OyJ0viF – The Hill (@thehill) February 23, 2016 In case you were unfamiliar, the barely perceptible former governor of Utah and failed presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman, currently keeps his name from being buried by the sands of time by co-chairing an outfit called “No Labels”.… Continue Reading →

Bernie on TPP yesterday

Remember, it’s the House that is more likely to stop it. Alan Grayson says they don’t have the votes to pass it. I guess we’ll find out soon:

In the House, the stakes are different and the terrain more tricky, which makes the outcome less certain for reasons as ancient as the Constitutional Convention and as modern as today’s turbulent and nasty politics.

The reason has to do with the broader array of economic and political interests in a state as opposed to relatively smaller number of such interests in a congressional district where a single industry or a single labor union wields significant influence.

If, for example, there is a congressional district in which a single employer manufactures a product that is likely to face heightened competition from Asia as a result of the trade agreement, that member is under strong pressure to oppose it, from the company’s executives and the labor unions. The campaigns of House Democrats depend on union phone banks and election-day workers. For senators, a single manufacturer or union does not loom that large.

House members also face the discomfort of political memory. Every House member must run for re-election every two years, whereas two-thirds of U.S. senators will be shielded from the electorate by a system of staggered terms. A House member staring at an election next year views controversial votes much differently from a senator who may not appear on the ballot until 2020.

Traditionally, Republicans in both chambers have favored trade promotion authority for presidents irrespective of which party controls the White House. But there is a group of House Republicans who are unlikely to back the legislation when it comes to the floor for the simple reason that the trade agreement is supported by President Obama and they are not disposed to grant the president almost anything.

The most charitable interpretation of their unwillingness to go along with their leadership on the trade bill is that they are still smarting from Obama’s use of executive action to temporarily shield 4 million-5 million illegal immigrants from deportation and view his actions as high-handed and despotic. A less-generous interpretation is that they just hate the guy personally.

Whatever their motives, they may prove to be decisive in a final vote when many of their Democratic colleagues will desert the president fearing that an “yes” vote will imperil them politically. With AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka hinting that union funds may not be available to TTP supporters, many House Democrats will abandon the president instead.

Senators are already at work crafting amendments that will mollify groups opposed to Obama’s original trade proposal. That will provide the president with the votes he needs, but the support of one chamber doesn’t get the president over the goal line.

Victory for now

bernie and liz

Let’s see if we can’t hold the votes together for the next round. But yes, it was sweet:

A seemingly unstoppable coalition of the powerful assembled to advance the Trans Pacific Partnership trade bill: A Democratic president aligned with the Republican majority in both chambers of Congress and the full lobbying might of Corporate America. But on Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Democratic minority delivered a surprise defeat to President Obama and a severe setback to one of the last few items on his presidential agenda. They blocked consideration of “fast track” trade authority – a crucial vehicle to get the Pacific trade pact through Congress. The victors: the ascendant populist wing of the Democratic Party, and its spiritual leader, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “Over and over, America’s workers have taken the brunt of bad trade deals,”the former Harvard professor and scourge of big business told a gathering of the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal think tank, hours before Tuesday’s vote.

“We can’t keep pushing through trade deals that benefit multinational companies at the expense of workers,” she added, with theatrical urgency. “Government cannot continue to be the captive of the rich and powerful. Working people cannot be forced to give up more and more as they get squeezed harder and harder.”
Warren masterfully undermined the trade bill, by highlighting the administration’s obsessive secrecy (the details of the proposed agreement are classified) and the role of corporate interests in drafting the deal (500 non-government advisors participated, she said, 85 percent of them industry executives or lobbyists).

“And now this trade deal is getting the full court lobbying press from those same giant multinational corporations,” she said. “The middle class is on the ropes and now is the time to fight back.”
Under intense pressure from the Warren wing, 44 of the 45 Democrats present Tuesday afternoon defied Obama. Even Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chief Democratic advocate for the fast-track bill, buckled.Proponents fell eight votes short of the 60 they needed to take up the fast-track bill. Senate free-traders will likely find a way to revive the bill, but Tuesday’s defeat will embolden opponents in the House, where the free-trade package already faced trouble. However the trade debate is resolved, Tuesday’s defeat in the Senate is likely to be a turning point, because it shows that the populists are now firmly in control of the Democratic Party. Anger over growing inequality has reached critical mass, and a backlash has begun against a political system that has, over the last three decades, allowed 100 percent of all income growth to go to the wealthiest 10 percent. The trade deal has for now become the victim of that anger – less because of the details of the TPP than because it hasn’t been accompanied by more protections and assistance for American workers. “I believe in this,” Obama said of the trade deal, “the same way… that I believe in a higher minimum wage. The same way that I believe in stronger protections for workers who are trying to get a voice in their company. The same way I believe in equal pay. The same way I believe in paid sick leave.” But Obama’s actions haven’t matched his words, and he didn’t require Republicans to accept any of those priorities before he joined them in pushing for free-trade legislation.Senate Republicans drove more Democrats into opposition when they declined requests to bring up other trade-related bills other than legislation offering a meager (and reduced) amount of training funds for workers who lose their jobs.

[…] At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest called Tuesday’s vote a “procedural snafu.” But Obama was undone by more than procedure. His would-be successor, Hillary Clinton, was not courageous enough to take a position on the trade legislation, but her silence gave Democrats more freedom to oppose it. And Democrats in Congress bristled at Obama’s disparagement of opponents of the trade bill as emotional, illogical and dishonest. “The president is making some fairly nasty remarks about people on the other side, that they don’t understand we’re in the 21st century,” Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, said at the Roosevelt Institute gathering, at the National Press Club. “Actually we do. I don’t think he understands.”

Social Security fight next year

Street Art, Medellin, Colombia

They’ve handed Hillary Clinton quite a good issue to run on:

As things stand now, in the final three months of 2016, the Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund will run out of money and beneficiaries will see an immediate 20 percent cut in benefits. Luckily, there’s an easy fix: Congress can simply reallocate a small amount of payroll tax income from the larger Social Security retirement fund to the disability fund. In fact, this routine move has been done 11 times over the past several decades. And because the disability fund is so small compared to the general retirement fund, the fix would extend disability benefits until 2033 while hardly making a dent in the retirement fund. (The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a handy explainer on this.)

But just as Republicans in recent years have turned once routine debt-ceiling votes into near-catastrophic showdowns, the Republicans’ new procedural rule blocks the House from voting on this simple fix unless they also address the long-term solvency of the program by cutting benefits or raising taxes. Progressives expect House GOPers to use the rule to force through benefits cuts in late 2016.

Or at least that seems to be their plan. But what House Republicans have actually done is set up a battle that will force the two parties and their respective candidates to take a position on whether to expand or cut Social Security benefits in late 2016—just as Americans are picking their next president.

As advocates for expanding benefits will happily tell you, an overwhelming majority of voters support expansion. As retirement policy expert Mark Miller wrote back in January, “Mr. Obama and other Democratic leaders have been presented a great opportunity here to re-locate their spines on Social Security and reclaim the legacy of FDR.”

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