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Social Security cuts proposed

Rich Eskow:

Do you hear a noise like power saws cutting away at your Social Security benefits? That’s the sound of the politicians working on the “Chain Gang.”

They’re promoting the “chained CPI,” Washington’s latest gimmick for tricking voters and cutting their hard-earned benefits to protect the wealthy. That may sound like inflammatory rhetoric, but the numbers don’t allow for any other conclusion. People retiring today could lose more than $18,000 in benefits over their lifetimes – and people who are already retired will feel the pain too.

What’s wrong with this idea?

1) It’s an underhanded way to cut Social Security benefits (its true intent).
2) It’s unnecessary.
3) It’s unfair to women, the poor, minorities, and the very elderly.
4) It reflects a un-American political culture of pessimism and lost faith in the future.

Any politician who signs onto a “chained CPI” approach to Social Security will feel the wrath of the voters – and deserves to.

Although they’re using hocus-pocus to make the idea sound complicated, it isn’t. The government calculates the cost of living in order to do things like determine next year’s Social Security benefits. The “chained CPI” approach would alter that calculation by including changes in the way people spend their money when prices go up.

As a government agency explains, “Pork and beef are two separate CPI item categories. If the price of pork increases while the price of beef does not, consumers might shift away from pork to beef.” So if people can no longer afford pork, they’re spending less. Under a chained-CPI approach cost of living adjustments (COLAs) would then go down.

See where this is going? If not, stick around.

Go read the rest. And then read Dave Dayen.

Oh sure, that’ll work

This is the same insane policy that was pushed last week by former progressive Andy Stern. Jared Bernstein explains why it’s so stupid.

Another eclipse today

This one’s in Cancer. You know the drill.

Reduction

This is a really positive decision that will help black communities, who have far too many people in prison because of the racially-biased sentencing disparity between crack and powdered cocaine:

WASHINGTON – As many as 12,000 people in federal prison for crack-related crimes can get their sentences reduced as a result of a new law that brought the penalties for the drug more closely in line with those for powdered cocaine, a government commission decided Thursday.

The decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission applies to approximately 1 in 17 inmates in the federal system.
Congress last year substantially lowered the sentences for crack-related crimes such as possession and trafficking, changing a 1980s law that was criticized as racially discriminatory because it came down extra hard on a drug common in poor, black neighborhoods.

The question before the commission Thursday was whether people already locked up under the old law should benefit retroactively from the changes. The six-member commission unanimously decided in their favor.

“I believe that the commission has no choice but to make this right,” said Ketanji Brown Jackson, a vice chairwoman of the commission. “I say justice demands this result.”

The NAACP was among the groups praising the commission’s action. About 85 percent of the inmates expected to benefit from the decision are black.

The commission’s action is final unless Congress decides by the end of October to intervene, and that is considered unlikely.

Prisoners will have to petition a judge for a sentence reduction, and requests will be decided on a case-by-case basis, with the court taking into consideration the defendant’s behavior in prison and danger to society. Prosecutors will be allowed to weigh in. The earliest anyone could get out is November.

No Monsanto

You know, it’s nice that Bill Clinton was all teary-eyed about the effect his policies had on Haiti, but the fact is, the country is still colonized by corporations and I don’t see him doing a damned thing to stop it:

Hinche, Haiti – Last week, thousands of farmers and supporters of Haitian peasant agriculture marched for hours under the hot Caribbean sun to call for more government support for locally grown seeds and agriculture.

The demonstration was organized by the Peasant Movement of Papay and other farmer associations, human rights and women’s groups, and the Haitian Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA), the Haitian online agency AlterPresse reported from the march. The official theme of the peaceful demonstration was “Land Grabbing is Endangering Agricultural Sovereignty.”

Singing slogans like “Long Live Haitian Agriculture!” and “Long live local seeds!” the crowd – wearing straw hats and red T-shirts – wound its way on foot, donkeys, and bikes through this dusty provincial capital. The demonstration ended at a square named for farmer Charlemagne Péralte, who lead the “Caco” peasant revolt against the U.S. army occupation from 1916 until 1919, when U.S. Marines assassinated him.

One year ago, thousands of farmers covered the same march route to protest the import of a “gift” of seeds from Monsanto. The farmers burned some of the seeds, calling them a “death plan” for peasant agriculture.

Last spring, in violation of Haitian law, the Minister of Agriculture gave the agribusiness giant Monsanto permission to “donate” 505 tons of seeds to Haiti. The first shipment of 60 tons, reportedly of maize and vegetable seeds, arrived in May 2010. Some of the seeds were coated with a chemical (Thiram)[1] so toxic that the EPA forbids its sale to home gardeners in the U.S.. Monsanto announced its $4 million gift was “to support the reconstruction effort” in Haiti.

Mental illness

When we’re medicating mentally ill people to make them competent enough to stand trial and hold them accountable for the things they did while they were mentally ill, doesn’t that mean our society is mentally ill?

Deep thought

July 1st? Seems like only yesterday we were digging out after a blizzard…

Brown earth

Laura Nyro:

Clarence Thomas

John Dean on how to get rid of him — and why it won’t happen:

There is a way, nonetheless. As a young official in Nixon’s Department of Justice—and, I must admit, with some amazement—I watched a Republican Justice Department and a conservative attorney general go after a liberal Supreme Court justice with remarkable success. Robert Shogan, a former Los Angeles Times and Newsweek reporter, recounted much of the story in “A Question of Judgment: The Fortas Case and the Struggle for the Supreme Court.”I filled in a few missing pieces when I wrote “The Rehnquist Choice.”Rehnquist in those days was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel and prepared a detailed memorandum for Attorney General John Mitchell explaining how to undertake an action that had never before been done, namely for the Justice Department to start a criminal investigation of a sitting justice, not based on hard information but rather based mainly on speculation of a worst-case scenario, i.e., assuming gifts and favors were bribes.

With the Rehnquist memo in hand, Mitchell arranged a secret meeting with then Chief Justice Earl Warren, and told Warren that if Fortas did not resign from the court the Justice Department was going to launch an investigation of Fortas’ dealing with a financier, Louis Wolfson, then recently convicted of securities violations, because of Wolfson’s earlier gifts to his friend Fortas and Fortas’ wife. The case against Fortas was weak, yet Mitchell was more than bluffing. He was prepared to have a grand jury determine whether there was a fire amid the smell of smoke. When Fortas, a formidable legal mind, tested the bluff, Mitchell upped the stakes. He passed the word that he was going after Fortas’ wife, Carol Agger, a highly successful tax law specialist, as well as Fortas’ former law partner, Paul Porter. Mitchell said that he was considering reopening a grand jury proceeding that had cleared both Agger and Porter regarding a case disposed of years earlier. This, too, bordered on being a trumped-up charge, but an attorney general can make good on a bluff and actually convene a grand jury. That was not necessary. Rather than put his wife and former partner through the agony, or tarnish the court by the very fact of such a proceeding, Fortas resigned.
Continue Reading »

Credit scores

Several states are working to limit the use of credit scores as a condition of employment. Fred Clark has more:

Amy Traub points to some encouraging news in her article:

A growing number of states are also taking action to restrict the use of credit checks in employment. Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Maryland and Connecticut have passed legislation limiting the use of credit checks in hiring, firing, and promotions. More than 20 other states, including California, New York and Tennessee are considering bills. The moves are, in part, to help good employees … get jobs they deserve, but also address a more fundamental problem: There’s no real evidence that the practice is good for employers, either.

Companies justify the credit checks by saying they need some way to assess a job applicant’s reliability and character. Credit checks have been aggressively marketed to employers by for-profit credit bureaus to do just that. Yet it’s far from clear that running credit checks benefits employers. The only available rigorous study of employment credit checks concluded that there’s no correlation between credit history and job performance. Even industry representatives admit this. Eric Rosenberg, Director of State Governmental Relations for TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, conceded: “…we don’t have any research to show any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud.”

The downside of Traub’s article is that she notes that companies making fantastic profits selling credit scores have been able to reinvest some of those profits into lobbying for exemptions and loopholes in that state-by-state legislation.

For the record, I have pretty good credit. My magic number is considered acceptably white high. The anger you’ve probably noticed in this rant of a post doesn’t arise from me yet getting burned personally by the expanding influence of credit scoring and the unelected, unaccountable, supra-market, supra-governmental agencies to whom we have surrendered so much power. I’m not waiting for that to happen. I’m trying to save time by getting angry now.

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