In the coming days and weeks we'll be hearing a lot of misinformation about the Trustees Report from the Social Security Administration. It's time to separate the myths from the realities:
1. Myth: "Social Security and Medicare have a cost problem."
Fact: Medicare has a financial problem. As this chart shows, the cost of providing Social Security benefits is not out of control or skyrocketing.
Social Security is on an even keel for the foreseeable future. Twenty years from now it's projected to be in a position to pay only 75 percent of benefits?but that's easily fixed by lifting the payroll tax cap.
2. Myth: "Aging workforce strains Social Security, Medicare"
Fact: That's a headline we saw repeated across the country in anticipation of the Trustees Report, but it's wrong. What's "straining" Social Security and Medicare today is the unequal distribution of income and a broken regulatory system for Wall Street that has put the entire economy under stress.
Social Security was actuarially stable after it was overhauled by the Greenspan Commission in the 1980s. The Baby Boomers were all alive and (mostly) working by then. So what really happened?
First, a radical upward shift in income toward the "1 percent"?and the "0.0001 percent"?meant that more and more of the nation's income was above the payroll tax cap threshold. That reduced the revenue for Social Security (and much of Medicare) from a projected 90 percent of national income to a figure that's closer to 83 percent.
Secondly, a financial crisis brought on by reckless and under-regulated Wall Street banks crashed the economy in 2008. For millions of Americans it has never come back. Joblessness, along with wage stagnation for the "99 percent," further depleted the programs' revenues.
3. Myth: We need to place limits on Medicare spending and cut its benefits.
Fact: That's like saying the way to end forest fires is by firing Smokey the Bear. Benefit cuts and spending caps won't solve our health cost problem. There has been an explosion of for-profit hospital chains in the last twenty years, along with profit-driven laboratories, imaging centers, and other types of health providers.
In addition, our system of reimbursing physicians provides an incentive for them to treat more and charge more for their services. That's costly?and it subjects patients to a lot of unnecessary tests. On top of that, the lion's share of our health economy is "managed" by for-profit insurance companies who have little motivation or skill when it comes to prudent fiscal management.
If we expand Medicare to our entire population we'd have a health system like that of all other industrialized countries?whose health costs are roughly 60 percent of our own and grow more slowly than our own. Medicare's cost problem would be solved.
By contrast, the solutions being floated in Washington wouldn't fix the problem?they'd just dump it onto the backs of seniors and the disabled.
4. Myth: We can't get our Federal deficits under control without cutting Social Security benefits?either by raising the eligibility age, placing gimmicky limits on cost-of-living adjustments, or all of the above.
Fact: Social Security is forbidden by law from contributing to the Federal deficit. It's an entirely self-sustaining program. If the day comes when it can't pay its full scheduled benefits, those benefits must and will be cut. This is a phony argument.
5. Myth: Too many millionaires are collecting Social Security and Medicare, so we should means-test and deny them these benefits.
Fact: The number of actual "millionaires" on Social Security and Medicare is tiny, by any objective measure. It wouldn't have any significant impact on their budgets to exclude them?although it would help a lot to tax them.
What's more, Medicare and Social Security are social insurance programs. By definition, insurance shouldn't be means-testing like welfare and other aid programs, because you've already paid your premiums. The "means-testing" argument is often used to mischacterize these programs as "welfare," instead of what they really are: Something people have paid into through the payroll tax throughout their working lives, and (in Medicare's case) which they've also supported through their taxes.
6. Myth: Social Security benefits are too generous. They need to be cut because we can't afford them.
Fact: Our Social Security benefits are lower than those of nations that are economically similar to the U.S. As we said, the current reductions in revenue were caused by 1) an upward distribution of wealth to the "1 percent" and 2) a financial crisis brought about by Wall Street greed and speculation.
That suggests two possible solutions to Social Security's twenty-year-from-now problem: 1) Lift the payroll tax cap, and/or 2) impose a small financial transactions tax on Wall Street and use it to make up the Social Security shortfall. Either of these approaches would solve the problem.
Arizona State Trooper: Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?
Field Negro: Yes officer, it seems that I was speeding.
AST: You have Pennsylvania license plates, what are you doing in Arizona?
FN: I was just passing through, officer. I am on my way to California to see a former child star named Lark Voorhies.
AST: Is that reggae music I hear coming from your vehicle?
FN: Yes officer, I am playing Catch A Fire by Bob Marley & The Wailers.
AST: You haven't been smoking that Marley smoke have you?
FN: No officer, I never touch the stuff.
AST: Wait, do I detect a slight accent?
AST: Are you from Jamaica?
FN: Yes officer, I am.
AST: Are you lawfully present in the United States?
AST: May I see some proof of your legal status in the United States?
FN: Yes officer, I might have something right here in my wallet.....oh wait, my wallet is in my overnight bag, and the bag is in the trunk.
AST: Sir, I am going to have to detain you until we can confirm that you are in this country legally. It's the law here in our state.
FN: But officer, my wallet is in the trunk of my car, if you will....
AST: Sir,just don't make any sudden moves.
FN: But officer...
AST: Sir, slowly step out of the car and keep your hands where I can see them.
FN: Officer, this is all a big misunderstanding...
AST: Shut up and put your hands behind your back! You are under arrest.
SB1070 sounds like a bad sci- fi movie, but it's all the rage in Washington as the supremes try to decide if it's cool to profile folks under the pretext of keeping law abiding Americans safe.
I see that my girl Jan Brewer took the trip to Washington. I bet she won't be welcome on Pennsylvania Avenue. The last time she met the president she had her fingers in his grill.
Obviously she is a true believer when it comes to her state's new immigration law.
She is not alone:
"I think that 1070 pretty much takes the handcuffs off of police officers, so that they can do the job that they have already been prescribed by the federal government to do" said Montenegro.
The law passed by a comfortable margin in both houses of the Republican-controlled legislature.
"Here in Arizona we have a lot of problems when it comes to open borders, when it comes to not enforcing federal immigration laws, which causes a lot of chaos in our streets" said Montenegro.
He said people have already left the state as a result of the law and crime is down.
But by how much and why is a matter of debate. Crime in Arizona was trending to a 30-year low before the law was signed by the Governor.
Thousands of illegal immigrants have left the state, according to at least two population studies, but there's no reliable count and it's unknown whether the exit was caused by the law or a sluggish economy."[Source]
The supremes won't have a decision until June.
That gives Flipper two full months to gives us his opinion about the law. Knowing what I know about Flipper; I suspect that he will take about three or four different positions by then.
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Remember Trayvon Martin protest protester, Marion Levinson "John" King, III (MLK)? He was the proudly white, but "not racist," "individual of European descent" who threatened to shoot me with his "9mm bitch ass Nigger eater." Well, his proudly white, but "not racist" co-blogger, Joe Adams, is very very sad.
You see Joe was a big fan of Dick Clark, but when Clark died last week, Joe learned a few things that broke his proudly white, but certainly "not racist," heart. Here's what he had to say:
Dick Clark died on Friday from a "massive heart attack" after years of declining health. I remember when I moved to where I currently live and watching the game show network with old greats hosting old time game shows like Richard Dawson on Family Feud, Gene Rayburn on Match Game, and none other than Dick Clark on Pyramid.Previously:
These two things were the extent of which I knew of Dick Clark. The now mumbling guy on New Year's Eve and the Pyramid host who said "... SO LONG!"
It wasn't until his death this Friday and all the coverage that I was able to understand what a filthy race traitor the man was...
Dick was the pioneer of race mixing. He was singlehandedly responsible for dragging mobs of blacks into White audiences to observe popular singers and performers. He also was responsible for such promiscuous and filthy pop stars like Michael Jackson (I know he died a White woman, but he's genetically a black man) and others. It is fair to say that Dick Clark ushered in the age of race-mixing...
Dick Clark, up until about a week ago, had a positive stigma attached to my mind. Now after his death he is exposed for who they are. Hey, they do say you really get to know someone after their heart stops beating right? Well Dick Clark, I say damn you. Damn you for playing such a big role and making millions of dollars as a result of the race-mixing, anti-White downfall of America, which was once the last bastion of White pride and solidarity.
I just had a chat with a Democratic candidate who has just about wrapped up his party's nomination for Congress here in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District. John Douglass is a retired Brigadier General, a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy,[...]
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Andrew Sullivan asks whether California will be the next state to abandon the death penalty. This reminds me of something I noticed a few years ago: capital punishment remains popular?-a clear majority of American support the death penalty for people convicted of murder?-its supporters are on the defensive. Death-penalty opponents, while in the minority, seem to have the upper hand in debates on the issue.
My larger perspective on the death penalty, informed by my research with Jim Liebman several years ago, is that you can only accept capital punishment if you?re willing to have innocent people executed every now and then. And, the more effective you want the death penalty to be, the more innocents you have to execute.
The occasional execution of innocent people might be deemed ok in some settings?-they shoot deserters in wartime, and if a country is in the midst of a big enough crime wave, I could see people accepting the need for the occasional lethal mistake of the judicial process. My point here is just that if you want to execute people on a regular basis, you?re gonna make some mistakes. We saw this in our research on death-sentencing reversals, which were not merely the actions of a few liberal court panels.
Here?s what I wrote a few years ago in my discussion of an excellent paper by Donohue and Wolfers:
Policy questions about the death penalty have sometimes been expressed in terms of the number of lives lost or saved by a given sentencing policy. But I think this direction of thinking might be a dead end. First off, as discussed by Donohue and Wolfers, it may very well be essentially impossible to statistically estimate the net deterrent effect of death sentencing?-what seem like the ?hard numbers? (in Richard Posner?s hopeful words, ?careful econometric analysis?) aren?t so clear at all.
More generally, though, I?m not sure how you balance out the chance of deterring murders with the chance of executing an innocent person. What if each death sentence deterred 0.1 murder, and 5% of people executed were actually innocent? That?s still a 2:1 ratio (assuming that it?s OK to execute the guilty people). Then again, maybe these innocent people who were executed weren?t so innocent after all. But then again, not every murder victim is innocent either. Conversely, suppose that executing an innocent person were to deter 2 murders (or, conversely, that freeing an innocently-convicted man were to un-deter 2 murders). Then the utility calculus would suggest that it?s actually OK to do it. In general I?m a big fan of probabilistic cost-benefit analyses (see, for example, chapter 22 of Bayesian Data Analysis), but here I don?t see it working out. The main concerns?-on the one hand, worry about out-of-control crime, and on the other hand, worry about executing innocents?-just seem difficult to put on the same scale.
Finally, regarding decision analysis, incentives, and so forth: much of the discussion (not in the Donohoe and Wolfers paper, but elsewhere) seems to go to the incentives of potential murderers. But the death penalty also affects the incentives of judges, juries, prosecutors, and so forth. One of the arguments in favor of the death penalty is that it sends a message that the justice system is serious about prosecuting murders. This message is sent to the population at large, I think, not just to deter potential murderers but to make clear that the system works. Conversely, one argument against the death penalty is that it motivates prosecutors to go after innocent people, and to hide or deny exculpatory evidence. Lots of incentives out there.
Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate[...]
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Television star and businessman Dick Clark died earlier this month. Here is Mr. Clark’s obituary from the New York Times. Here are the parts of Mr. Clark’s obit that I liked the most— “I never took any money to play records,? Mr. Clark said in his 1999 Archive of American Television interview. ?I made money [...]
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Sure, George "The Cleveland Clobberer" Steinbrenner was kind of battered when he emerged from the empty elevator that famous day in 1981 in Los Angeles, but you shoulda seen them other guys. No, really, you shoulda -- 'cause nobody else ever did.
"As Delaware goes, so goes the nation."
-- political saying never said by anyone as far as we know
As best we can tell, one man went into that elevator, and that same man emerged from it, battered but unbowed. On the Yankees "Bleacher Report" website, senior writer Tim Wood included this memorable event from the 1981 World Series among his roster of managing partner George Steinbrenner's "25 Most Memorable Yankees Moments":
The Elevator Fight
During the 1981 World Series, the Yankees were on a bad roll against the Dodgers when Steinbrenner called an impromptu press conference in his hotel room.
He showed up with his left hand in a cast and said that he was attacked by two Dodgers fans in a hotel elevator.
No attackers came forward, and it was believed Steinbrenner staged the incident to get his team fired up.
POLL: Majority of Republicans Guess
They Have to Support Fucking Romney
Lack of Other Option Cited
NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) -- In what Romney campaign insiders are hailing as a sign that the party faithful are rallying around the former Massachusetts governor, a new poll released today shows that a majority of Republican voters agree with the statement, "I guess I have to support fucking Romney."
When asked why they were now ready to cast their vote for Mr. Romney, a majority of those Republicans polled "strongly agreed" with the statement, "Why do you think? No one else is fucking running anymore. Stop asking such stupid fucking questions. I don't need this shit."
Underscoring the sense that he is now the presumptive nominee, the Romney campaign unveiled a new slogan this morning, "You Have No Other Options Anymore. Start Dealing With It, Losers."
After sweeping five primary states Tuesday night, Mr. Romney was exultant, telling supporters in Manchester, N.H., "I love American democracy. I'm good friends with the owners of it."
The wins by Mr. Romney forced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to suspend his campaign, telling reporters that he was leaving the race "to spend more time with my families."
As for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, he offered Mr. Romney this endorsement during an appearance on CNN: "Yeah, I guess I support him, because, well duh, I have absolutely no other choice. Right? I mean, really, Piers, what kind of moronic question is that? I guess this goes to show that you can be a total douchebag and still win the nomination if you have the most dough. I mean come on -- this whole situation makes me want to throw up. My only consolation is that on Judgment Day I'm going to Heaven, and we'll have to see what happens to Mr. Magic Underpants. Haha. Yeah. Sweet."
The man appears to have series issues with Asian people. There's just too much of a trend of nasty anti-Asian comments. And he's a city council member of a minority-majority city.
At a hearing Monday on the University of the District of Columbia?s budget, he spoke about the need to train more African Americans to become nurses. In a video of his remarks aired by WTTG-TV, Barry noted a growing number of nurses are ?immigrants? from the Philippines.HuffPost puts the comments in the larger context of Barry's other nasty quips about Asians.
?[I]f you go to the hospital now, you?ll find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines,? said Barry (D-Ward 8). ?And no offense, but let?s grow our own teachers, let?s grow our own nurses, and so that we don?t have to go scrounging in our community clinics and other kinds of places, having to hire people from somewhere else.?
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations called Barry?s remarks ?racist? and ?bigoted.?
?We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops,? Barry said. ?They ought to go. I?m going to say that right now. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too.?Why write about this idiot? Because there's a larger history of bad relations between the black and Asian communities in this country, and the notion of Asian businesses somehow carpetbagging their way into black neighorhoods. That's what's likely influencing Barry's comments, and he's only feeding the racism, and mutual dislike and distrust, between the communities by speaking like this, repeatedly.
There's nothing wrong with being born with a silver spoon in your mouth. It's what you do with that good fortune that matters. And that is at the heart of Mitt Romney's problem with the American people. With his proclamations and policies, the same man who denounces President Obama as "out of touch" and "Marie Antoinette," shows his aloof detachment and stunning incomprehension of the struggles Americans face every day. And yet, they don't begrudge him either his privileged past or financial success. Instead, they just want him to acknowledge the debt he owes to the society that made it possible.
Alas, Romney's empathy gap was once again on display in response to President Obama's comment about all Americans deserving a "fair shot," even those who, like him, weren't "born with a sliver spoon in [their] mouth." (That rhetorical device, by the way, is one Obama has been using for years.) As he has for months, Mitt Romney took umbrage:
"I'm certainly not going to apologize for my dad and his success in life. He was born poor. He worked his way to become very successful despite the fact that he didn't have a college degree. And one of the things he wanted to do was provide for me and for my brother and sisters."
But that's not all George Romney did. As Rick Perlstein recalled of Mitt's dad, the Michigan Governor and American Motors magnate (who ironically also met with that infamous community organizer Saul Alinsky):
As a CEO he would give back part of his salary and bonus to the company when he thought they were too high. He offered a pioneering profit-sharing plan to his employees. Most strikingly, asked about the idea that "rugged individualism" was the key to America's success, he snapped back, "It's nothing but a political banner to cover up greed."
That doesn't sound anything like the son who boasted that "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me." And while Mitt Romney certainly never had to worry about "getting a pink slip," he stills gets a chuckle thinking about those who did when his father moved AMC jobs from Michigan to Wisconsin.
To be sure, Romney's repeated and comical failures to present himself as a "man of the people" have only deepened his yawning empathy gap. Romney, who explained that over the last decade "my income comes overwhelmingly from some investments made in the past," joked with jobless voters that "I'm also unemployed." The $250 million man similarly declared himself "part of the 80 to 90 percent of us" who are middle class, when just the "not very much" $374,000 he earned in speaking fees last year puts him in the top one percent of income earners. Whether or not he really enjoys firing people, Mitt Romney almost certainly never pooped in a bucket during his time as a missionary at a toney Paris mansion. (Who else would lecture a child about his plans to divvy up his estate among his 16 grandchildren or endorse rooftop canine waterboarding?) And there's no doubt that the man who spent $12 million to buy his third home (none of which are located on "the real streets of America") didn't win any friends when he offered this prescription for the housing market crisis:
"Don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up."
It's no surprise Mitt Romney believes income inequality should only be discussed in "quiet rooms." But it certainly didn't help matters when his wife Ann joked "Mitt doesn't even know the answer to that" when asked how many dressage horses she owns while her husband slanders Democrats as "the party of monarchists." It's no wonder his ally and Massachusetts GOP Senator Scott Brown urged Romney to release his tax returns:
"He's in a category, a lot of those folks are in categories that we don't really understand."
Brown was only saying what most Americans were thinking when he acknowledged that Romney is living in "a different world from me."
And in that world, the rules most Americans play by simply don't apply to Mitt Romney.
It's bad enough that the $250 million man Romney, pays less than 15 percent of his income to Uncle Sam each year; a rate well below most middle class families. Worse still, the notorious "carried interest" exemption for private equity managers Romney wants to preserve, taxes him not at the ordinary income rate of 35 percent, but at the capital gains rate now half of what it was only 15 years ago. (As it turns out, most of Mitt's millions each year come from his controversial former employer, Bain Capital.) On top of his Cayman Island investments and past Swiss bank accounts, Romney has created a $100 million trust fund for his sons ... tax free. Thanks to some (apparently legal) chicanery on the part of his former employer, Mitt has also accumulated an IRA worth a reported $100 million. (The Romney camp even complained about that, worrying that recent tax code changes have "created a tax problem" for the former Massachusetts governor and asking, "Who wants to have $100 million in an IRA?") And largely unmentioned, Mitt wants to eliminate the inheritance income tax; a change that would not only save his clan over $80 million, but more than pay for the $45 million of his own money he spent on his 2008 campaign. As Romney has repeatedly boasted:
"I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more."
Of course, that's not the issue. Few suspect Mitt Romney has done anything illegal in the tax returns he has (and hasn't) released. Instead, most Americans believe those IRS filings would simply confirm that Romney plays by a different set of rules. As Paul Krugman explained:
But the larger question isn't what Mitt Romney's tax returns have to say about Mitt Romney; it's what they have to say about U.S. tax policy. Is there a good reason why the rich should bear a startlingly light tax burden?
For they do. If Mr. Romney is telling the truth about his taxes, he's actually more or less typical of the very wealthy.
So typical, in fact, that Mr. and Mrs. Romney really don't want to talk about them. After all, before he grudgingly released two years of returns back in January, Mitt protested:
"I don't put out which tooth paste I use either. It's not that I have something to hide."
"I understand Mitt's going to release his tax forms this week. I want to remind you where our riches are: our riches are with our families," Ann Romney said. "Our riches, you can value them, in the children we have and in the grandchildren we have. So that's where our values are and that's where our heart is -- and that's where we measure our wealth."
As ThinkProgress noted at the time, Mrs. Romney was not pleased about Mitt having to follow in the footsteps of every modern presidential candidate (including his father George Romney) and release his tax returns:
At an event at Freedom Tower in Miami this afternoon, Ann Romney said "unfortunately" the world now knows how "successful in business" Romney has been.
"Our president has divided the nation, engaged in class warfare and attacked the free enterprise system that has made America the economic envy of the world...When my opponents attack success and free enterprise, they're not only attacking me, they're attacking every person who dreams of a better future. He's attacking you."
No, they're not. They're simply suspicious of a man to whom much was given, much more was earned on the backs of American workers and to whom much more will flow (most of it tax-free). And looking at Romney's plan to savage the American social safety net while draining trillions from the U.S. Treasury in order to deliver another massive tax cut windfall for the wealthy, voters are just taking Mitt at his word that he's "not concerned about the very poor."
In Mitt Romney's defense, he has been willing to give back, at least to a point. After all, the notoriously frugal Bain Capital founder shut down his company to help lead a search to help find a colleague's missing teenage daughter. When his father passed away, Mitt donated his inheritance to charity. (In the early days of their marriage, however, Ann Romney avoided the "dignity of work" because "Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time. The stock came from Mitt's father.") And as a glance at his charitable giving in his tax returns shows, he more than complies with his church's 10 percent tithing requirement.
But Romney couldn't leave well enough alone. Instead, he claimed that all told, he paid not 13.9 percent in taxes, but a figure "really closer to 45 or 50 percent":
"Well, actually, I released two years of taxes and I think the average is almost 15 percent. And then also, on top of that, I gave another more 15 percent to charity. When you add it together with all of the taxes and the charity, particularly in the last year, I think it reaches almost 40 percent that I gave back to the community. One of the reasons why we have a lower tax rate on capital gains is because capital gains are also being taxed at the corporate level. So as businesses earn profits, that's taxed at 35 percent, then as they distribute those profits as dividends, that's taxed at 15 percent more. So, all total, the tax rate is really closer to 45 or 50 percent."
No doubt, Mitt would bet you $10,000 that his friends?the ones who own NFL and NASCAR teams?view their tax returns the same way. As for the people in polyester and plastic rain ponchos, they might feel differently.
And that, in a nutshell, is Mitt Romney's problem. There's nothing wrong with having a silver spoon in your mouth. But Romney just doesn't have the awareness?or the decency?to acknowledge it, how it got there and why voters would want to hear more about how he would give back to the country that made it all possible.
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)