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Chipping away at Social Security

I don’t think you need reminding that Obama is no protector of Social Security. From Trudy Lieberman at the Columbia Journalism Review:

Last week, Congress voted to extend the payroll tax holiday through the end of 2012. Social Security supporters have argued that a tax holiday may not be such a hot idea, and could jeopardize the program’s future by changing its revenue stream and eventually making it compete with other programs for general revenues. Alarm bells rang at the end of 2010 when the Obama administration managed to cajole Congress into cutting the payroll tax for one year in order to channel a few more dollars into workers’ pocketbooks. When advocate Nancy Altman argued in an interview with NPR that once tax cuts are in place, they are hard to repeal, she sounded like Moses in the wilderness. The press was busy portraying the tax cut as a welcome Christmas gift from the president.

The tax holiday expired in December, and Congress agreed to a two-month extension, which will now last until the end of the year. This time, the press expanded its coverage and reported that politicians of all stripes wondered if such a move was wise. TheNewsHour’s Judy Woodruff asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi if she was worried that the money taken from Social Security by reduced payroll contributions might never be fully repaid. “No, I don’t worry about that,” she replied. “I think that this should be the last year for it. One or two years, no, the trust fund can handle that.”

Other outlets reported that not all Democrats were on board with the extension. On the Senate floor, Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin was blunt:

I never thought I would live to see the day when a Democratic president and a Democratic vice president would agree to put Social Security in this kind of jeopardy. Never did I imagine a Democratic president beginning the unraveling of Social Security.

Later Harkin said: “It’s the devil’s deal. It’s a bad deal.”

Opposition also came from the other side of the aisle. Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican congressman from Nebraska, voiced similar concerns. Said Fortenberry: “They are framing it as a middle-class tax cut even though this is a significant change to how Social Security has traditionally been treated. The payroll tax keeps Americans attentive to the fact that they put a little bit aside each check for Social Security. That connection is now gone.”
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One reason we don’t have have more confrontations like this in the U.S. is that you usually only have access to politicians when you’re giving them a lot of money.

Birth control

Why it absolutely terrifies patriarchal men.

Happy birthday, Odd Man Out

It’s Dave’s birthday today!

AP Ticker’s Life Lesson: Food is Delicious

AP Ticker solves the world’s sustainable food problem… and climbs out of his shame spiral.

You can learn a lot at Scrapple TV, where we’re all stars.


Woman accidentally shot during weapons class – by the instructor:

33-year-old Crystal Smith, of Spartanburg County, South Carolina, wife of a Spartanburg County sheriff’s deputy, was taking a concealed weapons permit class when she was unintentionally shot by the instructor.

Deputy Skip Smith, no relation to Crystal, was showing another student how to grip a gun when he discharged the weapon. Crystal was standing beside the student, the bullet went through her arm and into her side. She was taken to the local hospital and is listed in stable condition after undergoing surgery.

Deputy Smith is a certified Concealed Weapons Permit Course instructor. He neglected to check to see if there was a round in the chamber before handling the pistol.

The musical chairs economy

Ian Welsh:

Ok, for some time, folks have been after me for a formal economics post. What’s going to happen in the future in the US?

The answer, for around the next 5 to 6 years, maybe longer, is the musical chairs economy. Let’s lay out the basics.

Oil and Gasoline consumption in the US has been crashing for years and the trend shows no sign of stopping. The US is now a net exporter of oil.

The majority of people who lost their jobs in the aftermath of the financial crisis have not found new jobs. Nor are they going to. Those who did, have generally found jobs which pay a lot less than what they had before.

For those people who did manage to keep their jobs, things aren’t so bad, just as people who kept their jobs in Great Depression did ok.

What has happened is that the general circle of prosperity has been reduced. Less people now live in the “good” US economy. When they drop out of that economy they also use a lot less oil and gas, and even electricity.

Since the US can no longer sell nearly as much paper in exchange for real resources and goods, the US now has to sell something the rest of the world wants. One part of that is intellectual property, which is why you will continue to see stricter and stricter IP laws. The other part of that is hydrocarbons. The world is still hungry for oil. And if Americans use less of it, and if the US moves massively to fracking of unconventional oil (which it is) then the US can, again, become an oil exporter. (Remember, for most of the 20th century the US exported oil.)

This plan includes impoverishing large numbers of Americans, since the reduction in oil use is not being produced by providing the same services with less energy, but that is not an issue to those who run America’s industry or politics, since they do not, despite rhetoric, care about the welfare of ordinary Americans.

Close call

Hoboken Fire Leaves People Homeless: MyFoxNY.com

I never had daughters, so I’m especially fond of my nieces. We had a close call last night when one of them was in this building fire in Hoboken NJ. (She’s the younger sister of the marine biologist.) Thank God she’s so athletic, because when she couldn’t get out through the entrance way, she had to jump from the second-floor window to the building next door. (She also led three people to safety, my brother tells me.)

She’s such a good kid, I’m so sorry she had to go through this but so very glad we didn’t lose her.

When I talked to her this morning, I asked how far she had to jump. She said about four feet. “You know, whenever I saw that roof, I’d say to myself, ‘Yeah, I could jump that if I had to,'” she said. And she did.

Moral of the story: Keep a “go bag”. She lost her birth certificate, passport, etc. and has to rebuild all that from scratch — which, as you probably already know, is a massive pain in the ass.

Second moral of the story: The building’s alarm system went off accidentally a while ago, and everything worked: Lights, sirens, etc. This time, nothing. (I’m thinking they couldn’t figure out why it was going off, so they turned it off.) TEST YOUR ALARM SYSTEMS.

Foster Friess

He’s the billionaire who offered birth control advice to women last week that consisted of telling us to keep two aspiring between our knees. He’s also the rich sugar daddy behind Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller.

Turns out he’s also an ultra-conservative Dominionist who’s part of the shadowy Council for National Policy, who is now pushing our boy Rick Santorum.

An open letter

From Will Bunch to the new owners of the Philadelphia newspapers.

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