America’s future: too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the “new normal”

Here’s the scariest thing you’ll read today:

We are on the precipice of the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world. In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty. Too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the “new normal” for many elderly Americans.

That dire prediction, which I wrote two years ago, is already coming true. Our national demographics, coupled with indisputable glaringly insufficient retirement savings and human physiology, suggest that a catastrophic outcome for at least a significant percentage of our elderly population is inevitable. With the average 401(k) balance for 65 year olds estimated at $25,000 by independent experts—$100,000 if you believe the retirement planning industry—the decades many elders will spend in forced or elected “retirement” will be grim.

According to the author, the impending crisis will happen in ‘waves’ to a majority of elderly Americans:

  • Wave 1: Retirees Come Back To Work
  • Wave 2: Workers Delay Full Retirement
  • Wave 3: Full Retirement Is Unachievable
  • Wave 4: Drowning

While you reflect on how irresponsible it is to not save for retirement, take a moment to reflect on Paul Ryan’s budget (and the 95% of Republican House members who voted for it) – along with all the slicing and dicing they want to do to the social safety nethealth care reform, and Medicare in order to provide more tax relief to the wealthy.

Be sure to consider all the jobs that are not being created right now because of the conservative hangups on spending cuts and the deficit. Issues which, when a Republican is in office, members of this specific political party aren’t concerned about at all. Maybe it’s time we willingly spent our taxes on infrastructure and people instead of exponentially expanding our military industrial complex each year, quit paying to have other countries blown up and rebuilt for the profit of a few.

Then consider: how are people with the low-wage Bain Capital replacement jobs, or people who are unemployed, supposed to find some money to put in a “retirement account”? Maybe they should forego eating a few times a month. Or maybe they could just save all those tax breaks they get for private jets or dancing horses. It would be irresponsible if they don’t, right?

Paul Ryan and the GOP have some good news and some bad news


image recall-all-republicans

House GOP Approves Budget That Cuts Taxes For Millionaires, Slashes The Social Safety Net | Travis Waldron on Mar 21, 2013

The House of Representatives this afternoon approved the Republican budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) by a vote of 221-207, with 197 Democrats and 10 Republicans voting against it. Three Democrats and one Republican did not vote.

For the third consecutive year, the House GOP has approved a budget that ends the traditional guaranteed Medicare coverage for senior citizens, makes substantial cuts to poverty programs and the social safety net, and grants massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Recent analyses have shown that the budget plan’s tax reforms, which lower top tax rates to 25 percent, would give millionaires at least $200,000 in tax cuts. At the same time, it would slash the social safety net, targeting poverty programs for two-thirds of its cuts.

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House approves far-right Ryan budget plan | Steve Benen on March 21, 2013 

Though there were whispers that GOP leaders had to worry about significant defections, only 10 House Republicans broke ranks and opposed Ryan’s budget — the exact same number of Republicans who voted against their party’s budget blueprint last year.

And what a plan it is. We’re talking about an ambitious plan to redistribute wealth — from the bottom up — with a healthy dose of “almost frighteningly ambitious” social engineering. Ryan’s budget would end Medicare, cut taxes by over $5 trillion, take health care benefits away from millions of Americans, make “massive” cuts to in programs for low-income and vulnerable Americans, and relies on smoke and mirrors to balance the budget within a decade.

It is, in other words, the exact opposite of what the American mainstream wants, and bears no resemblance to the platform the American electorate endorsed in national elections four months ago. It’s designed to satisfy folks who believe the wealthy are over-burdened by taxes and struggling families have too much access to affordable health care.

Despite all of this, 95% of House GOP lawmakers voted for the plan anyway.

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CHART: Paul Ryan’s Massive Tax Cut For Millionaires | Sahil Kapur March 15, 2013

Ryan’s plan also cuts spending by some $4.6 trillion over the next decade, targeting programs like Medicaid and the portion of the budget that includes Pell Grants and food stamps. He insists his tax cuts will spur significant economic growth, and he promises to pay for them by closing unspecified tax loopholes, deductions and credits — ideally on high incomes.

“You can actually plug loopholes and subject more of higher earners’ income to taxation through a lower tax rate,” Ryan said. “We think that’s smarter.” His promise mirrors that of Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election. The problem, as numerous independent experts concluded, is that finding that much revenue in tax expenditures would require raising effective taxes on the middle class.

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Renewed hostage-taking | Pema Levy on March 21, 2013

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Thursday that Republicans will require a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar that they agree to raise the debt ceiling, which the United States is expected to hit in August. “Dollar for dollar is the plan,” Boehner said at a press conference. As TPM reported Thursday, conservative House Republicans are pushing their leadership to use the debt ceiling as leverage to demand major reforms or cuts, including dollar for dollar cuts.

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Remember when John Boehner and other distinguished Republicans had great fun on Twitter using the hashtag #Obamaquester when discussing sequestration cuts? This week, Boehner admitted with his own damn mouth that President Obama “didn’t want the cuts.” Watch:

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More Republican good news / bad news: 

  • Bad: Mitt Romney / Paul Ryan didn’t win the election, and Republicans lost seats in Congress.
  • Good: So? Doesn’t matter, the GOP will continue ‘patriotically’ ignoring what the majority of Americans voted for.

Remember: either they’ve decided they know what’s best for all of us — or they’re going to try to get away with as much as they can until we stop them. 


image: odinsblog

The Scooter Chair gravy train has left the station

Question for the teapartiers: is government the problem or the solution here?

The Atlantic Wire: Approximately 150 federal and state law enforcement agents launched a massive raid on one of the biggest perpetrators of government fraud in America: The Scooter Store. Yes, that’s right. The nation’s largest provider of single-person electric vehicles and power chairs is the target of a federal investigation, probably because many of the people who ride around their “personal mobility devices” don’t actually need them. [...]

Doctors and former employees told CBS that the company would harass physicians with non-stop phone calls and offices drop-ins in order to wear them down. The company even has a special department devoted to getting chairs for patients who had already been ruled ineligible by Medicare. No doubt the pressure comes because their ads guarantee that the chair will be free if they can’t get you qualified. The Scooter Store is so good at getting the chairs that a government audit found that they had overbilled Medicare by over $100 million between 2009-2012. It’s no wonder their ads brag that “No other company will work harder to make you mobile.”

Heh. That reminds me of a day in 2008:

“Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn’t a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — “Government’s not the solution! Government’s the problem!” — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains.

The scooters are because of Medicare,” he whispers helpfully. “They have these commercials down here: ‘You won’t even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!’ Practically everyone in Kentucky has one.”

A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.”

– Matt Taibbi Among the Tea Partiers

More government will hold you back! (unless you’re a Republican)

  
  
  
via sandandglass

But my point is: f*ck you.

Recap / GIFs from the SOTU and the GOP response

Obama’s State Of The Union Address (FULL TEXT) » The President spoke about the policies and issues on which he campaigned AND WON a second term.

PDF from the White House of the policies that the President outlined.

State of the union address: Obama lays down gauntlet »

  • Second term to focus on immigration, gun control, economy
  • Obama: ‘We must pay our bills on time’
  • President announces pullout of 34,000 troops from Afghanistan
  • Calls for increase in minimum wage for US workers


via @Ronc99

Ezra Klein: Imagine, for a moment, that President Obama managed to pass every policy he proposed tonight. Within a couple of years, every four-year-old would have access to preschool. The federal minimum wage would be at $9 — higher than it’s been, after adjusting for inflation, since 1981. There’d be a cap-and-trade program limiting our carbon emissions and a vast infrastructure investment to upgrade our roads and bridges. Taxes would be higher, guns would be harder to come by, and undocumented immigrants would have a path to citizenship. America would be a noticeably different country.


Daily Intelligencer: Joe Biden loved it when Obama suggested that Congress “pass the rest” of his jobs legislation.

“We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.” — President Obama, SOTU 2013


via workingamerica

JM AshbyWhile I will praise this announcement, I expect the Far Right will say it’s too soon, and the Far Left will say it’s too late.

President Barack Obama Blows a kiss to first lady Michelle Obama,
  
via obama2016


via krispycrustacean

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And the GOP’s response, courtesy of their best hope (this week) for 2016:


via inothernews


via theatlantic

Full transcript of Sen. Marco Rubio’s response to the State of the Union »

The State of the Hydration, in “slow-mo” (notice Rubio NEVER loses eye contact with the camera):

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via @jedlewison


…said no one but Fox Nation. (via)


via myhappymachine

FACT CHECK: Under President Obama, federal spending has grown at the slowest rates since President Eisenhower » (via occupy-my-blog)

Other:

Twenty-two Congressmen invited people whose lives have been touched by gun violence, in an effort coordinated by Jim Langevin, Democrat of Rhode Island. Counterbalancing those invitees is a Texas congressman who invited Ted Nugent. Nugent was investigated by the secret service after saying that if President Obama were reelected he, Nugent, would end up “dead or in jail.” Turned out the answer was c) at the state of the union. — guardian.co.uk

Photos of Shitty Pants Nugent during the SOTU here and here and here.

The Red State Malingerers and the Sequester

With the sequester right around the corner, it’s important to point out that it will be Democrats fighting to reduce those automatic cuts to programs that ALL Americans rely on — and who will be trying to reduce some of those cuts with new revenue sources (something Republicans are REFUSING to consider, they say, and something they might be willing to shut down the government over). On the other hand, Republicans will be fighting to slash funding for all those programs so that the military-industrial complex can grow fatter, so that the one-percent can continue opening new off-shore accounts, and so that CEO bonuses can continue to increase exponentially.

Markos reminds the GOP base-rubes that if they’re not related to the Koch Brothers, then it’s actually the Democrats in Congress who will be fighting for their personal interests whether they want to believe it or not:

“… the Right has suddenly gotten a bug up its ass about SSI, as the issue morphs into the new “welfare queen.” But like anything else having to do with federal benefits, guess who is doing the mooching?

Map showing that recipients in Red States are far more likely to be receiving federal disability benefits.

Of the 15 states that have more than seven percent of the population on disability, 10 are Red states. The two states with the biggest percentage of the population on disability—Kentucky and West Virginia—are both VERY Red at the federal level.

And thus continues the greatest of modern political ironies—if Republicans got their way and drowned the federal government in a bathtub, it would be Republicans who suffered most.”

I think we understand how GOP voters are able to twist the logic: they deserve their benefits, while everyone else does not. Sort of like Paul Ryan with his granny-starver budget vs. all those SSI checks he collected for college.

Unfortunately for red-state malingerers, these cuts will not automatically skip over people who like to demand birth certificates, misspell signs, and wear tri-cornered hats. And that’s about the only good news I can offer.

A Nation of Malingerers: from Welfare Queens to Disabled Deadbeats

Paul Krugman remarks on the so far unsuccessful attempts Republicans are making in trying to change their rhetoric:

The growing number of Americans receiving disability payments has, for many on the right, become a symbol of our economic and moral decay; we’re becoming a nation of malingerers. As Jared Bernstein points out, there’s a factual problem here: a large part of the rise in the disability rolls reflects simple demographics, because aging baby boomers are a lot more likely to have real ailments than those same workers did when they were in their 20s and 30s. [...]

And let’s not forget our military veterans — fighting and getting wounded in the Bush Wars. They have also added to the disability rolls. Krugman continues:

What strikes me, however, isn’t just the way the right is trying to turn a reasonable development into some kind of outrage; it’s the political tone-deafness.

I mean, when Reagan ranted about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, he was inventing a fake problem — but his rant resonated with angry white voters, who understood perfectly well who Reagan was targeting. But Americans on disability as moochers? That isn’t, as far as I can tell, an especially nonwhite group — and it’s a group that is surely as likely to elicit sympathy as disdain. There’s just no way it can serve the kind of political purpose the old welfare-kicking rhetoric used to perform.

The same goes, more broadly, for the whole nation of takers thing. First of all, a lot of the “taking” involves Social Security and Medicare. And even the growth in means-tested programs is largely accounted for by the Earned Income Tax Credit — which requires and rewards work — and the expansion of Medicaid/CHIP to cover more children. Again, not the greatest of political targets.

Meanwhile, John Boehner jiggles a shiny thing at the GOP voting-base (which is filled to capacity with “malingerers”), to divert attention away from his party’s budget priorities:

In a special message to the annual anti-abortion protest March for Life, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) vowed that ending abortion would be one of the top priorities of Republicans this year.

“Defending life, of course, is about much more than voting the right way or saying the right things,” he said. “It’s about promoting a culture of life. It’s about understanding that abortion is a defining human rights issue of our time. Because human life is not an economic or political commodity, and no government on Earth has the right to treat it as such.”

“With all that’s at stake, it is becoming more and more important for us to share this truth with our young people, to encourage them to lock arms, speak out for life, and help make abortion a relic of the past,” Boehner continued. “Let that be one of our most fundamental goals this year.”

REALLY! Making abortion a relic is a “top priority” for Republicans this year? If that were true, Republicans would be funding Planned Parenthood and be supportive of educating young people on contraception – they’d be providing young people with free contraception, which has proved to be the best and most successful way to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

According to the GOP, life is sacred until it separates from the womb — it then joins the ranks of the makers or the takers.

Here’s something for the tax-paying ‘Mericans to keep in mind when sequestration hits in 32 days:


via seriouslyamerica

Deficit reduction and priorities


questionall: via thetruthnow.org

And how about all that defense spending when we’ve supposedly ended the Bush Wars? Or all the federal money paid to highly profitable oil companies? Or $77,000 tax deductions for dancing horses for the super rich? The GOP needs to trim their favorite expenditures before they talk about tapping into the safety net that millions must rely on to simply live.

Mitch McConnell’s position on a shutdown: it WILL happen without cuts to the safety net

McConnell’s totally fair and completely rational negotiation strategy so far:

Josh Marshall: “Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated his position this morning: Government will shutdown unless President makes dramatic cuts to Medicare and Social Security. In other words, big cuts to key social insurance programs are not only the price of avoiding what would likely be a catastrophic government shutdown (a real one, not like what we had back in the 90s). But Democrats must also shield Republicans from the political consequences of cutting these programs by cutting them on the Republicans behalf.”

And that’s what Democrats have to negotiate with. Wouldn’t it be great if any Republican in the House or the Senate was willing to state exactly what they want to cut in the SS or Medicare programs? That will never happen though — too many elderly, white Social Security recipients / Fox “news” viewers vote Republican.

Everything you need to know about negotiating with the GOP in one paragraph

“Today’s Republican Party thinks the key problem America faces is out-of-control entitlement spending. But cutting entitlement spending is unpopular and the GOP’s coalition relies heavily on seniors. And so they don’t want to propose entitlement cuts. If possible, they’d even like to attack President Obama for proposing entitlement cuts. But they also want to see entitlements cut and will refuse to solve the fiscal cliff or raise the debt ceiling unless there are entitlement cuts.”

Ezra Klein

Did Boehner give the President a choice between Plan B or the fiscal cliff?

Brian Beutler reports on John Boehner’s comments to reporters yesterday at the Capitol:

“Tomorrow the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American — 99.81 percent of the American people,” he said, referring to his own so-called Plan B. “Then the President will have a decision to make. He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.”

That sounds like he’s giving Obama a choice between Plan B or the fiscal cliff. No more negotiations over a broader deficit reduction plan.

Boehner did not take any questions from the press, but a spokesman for the speaker affirmed that the lines of communication with the White House remain open and that Boehner was not signaling the end of negotiations.

Whether or not he’s foreclosing on further negotiations before the end of the year, Boehner did suggest that he’d entertain further negotiations over a “balanced” plan in the future.

Steve Benen thinks Boehner “is now giving ultimatums and preemptively trying to avoid blame for the increasingly likely failure.”

As a rule, officials only start preemptively trying to avoid responsibility for failure when they expect to get blamed. For that matter, it’s also a reliable rule that those saying my-way-or-no-way are not serious about working out an acceptable compromise.

One question to keep an eye on, which we do not yet know the answer to: after Obama and Boehner got awfully close to a deal over the weekend, did Republicans move away from the bipartisan agreement because Boehner deemed it insufficient or because his caucus told him to deem it insufficient? It’s been an ongoing problem in the GOP conference for two years — their leader is more often taking orders than giving them.

Regardless, if the talks collapse, as now appears likely, it’ll be the second time in two years in which Obama offered a congressional Republicans a very generous offer — to the consternation of the president’s own allies, it’s basically a center-right package — on an issue they occasionally pretend to care about, only to have GOP officials refuse to compromise.

President Obama urged the GOP to quit playing reindeer games with the welfare of the country: “I don’t know how much of that just has to do with [the idea that] it is very hard for them to say yes to me,” Obama said at a press conference to announce a new task force to prevent gun violence. “But, you know, at some point, you know, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters and think about what’s best for the country.”

The administration argues that the “Plan B” would mean that scores of wealthy earners would keep getting substantial tax breaks while 2 million Americans would lose unemployment insurance. “That violates the core principles that were debated during the course of this election and that the American people determined was the wrong way to go,” Obama said. That premise, however, has been vigorously disputed by Republican leaders, who say that the “Plan B” legislation would immediately prevent tax hikes on the middle class, which the White House has always called its top priority in the negotiations. [...]

While Obama said he understands lead negotiator Boehner faces “challenges” within his caucus from rank-and-file members fearful of a primary challenge from the right, he accused GOP heavies of keeping on their “partisan war paint” long after Election Day.

“I think an environment needs to be created within not just the House Republican caucus but also among Senate Republicans that say the campaign is over, and let’s see if we can do what’s right for the country. At least for the next month. And then, you know, we can reengage in all the other battles that they’ll want to fight.”

Jonathan Chait:

“Everybody knows what happens in January. Both sides ought to be able to anticipate it and make the deal they could make then now. Business types have therefore assumed a December deal would happen. If this was a business deal between two rational people, that’s what would happen.”

But we are not dealing with rational people here. We are dealing with House Republicans. As Republican Tom Cole gently put it, by way of describing his colleagues’ implacable hatred of taxes, ‘It’s who they are. It’s the air they breathe. It’s what the Republican electorate produces.‘”

“If Boehner strikes a deal before January, Republicans will suspect he gave away revenue he could have fought for. But if he refuses, the House Republicans will see for themselves what happens. The revenue will go away on its own, over Boehner’s objections. All Obama has to do is continue to make clear he will not under any circumstances extend any tax cuts on income over $250,000 a year. Then he has nearly all the revenue he needs, and he can offer Republicans a deal they would never walk away from. They might try to get that deal in December, but January remains the best bet.”

The “new” death panel: raising the age of Medicare eligibility

At least for lower wage earners:

Andrew Sullivan: We know that average life expectancy went up less than 5 years overall in this period. But what’s somewhat stunning is how much of a disparity there is in these gains. The top half of earners gained more than 5 years of life at age 65. The bottom half of earners, though, gained less than a year. [...] If you raise the age of eligibility by two years, then you are taking away more years of Medicare than half the country gained in longer life. Moreover, we’ve already taken away these people’s Social Security. The Greenspan Commission in the early 1980s made it so that the retirement age is already 66. It’s scheduled to rise to 67. So those at the bottom half of the socioeconomic ladder have already lost more years of Social Security than they’ve gained in years of life expectancy at 65.

Life_Expectacy

Poll: majority of Americans want taxes raised on the wealthy, Republicans continue to stall

Reuters: “Negotiators warned the showdown could drag on past Christmas. A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll released late on Wednesday …held the potential to shake up the stalemate. Three-quarters of those surveyed, including 61 percent of Republicans, said they would accept raising taxes on the wealthy to avoid the so-called cliff, as Democratic President Barack Obama is demanding.

“With Republicans in Congress already divided, that rejection by their own supporters of the core demand of Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner could further weaken his position.

“Both sides refused to give any ground in public, one day after what Boehner described as a “frank” conversation with President Barack Obama about the remaining hurdles to a deal.”

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I’m quite sure the Republicans in Congress don’t give a damn what their base wants if it interferes with the happiness of their wealthy benefactors.

Also why isn’t there more discussion about cuts to defense spending — why are we now only discussing cuts to the safety net? And that goes for both Republicans and Democrats.

Pres. Obama and Minority Leader Pelosi on raising the eligibility age of Medicare

President Obama: “When you look at the evidence it’s not clear that it actually saves a lot of money. But what I’ve said is let’s look at every avenue, because what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations, the current path is not sustainable because we’ve got an aging population and health care costs are shooting up so quickly.” [from an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters which aired Tuesday night.]

Nancy Pelosi: “On paper, it appears to save money for the federal government. In practice, it simply shifts the cost of health care to newly uninsured 65- and 66-year-olds, forcing them to pay more for their care out of their own pockets. It makes older Medicare beneficiaries pay higher premiums.” [from a USA Today op-ed published on Tuesday.]

Sounds like a “no” to me.

Further proof that Republican-voting seniors (and near-seniors) were duped

Raw Story: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is encouraging Democrats to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits because the programs are “things we don’t absolutely need.”

“Speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopolous on Sunday about the so-called fiscal cliff, Coburn said that he would be willing to accept tax hikes for the top 2 percent of earners if Democrats and President Barack Obama agreed to reform Social Security and Medicare.

“The ABC host pointed out that Obama’s health care reform law had already achieved about $716 billion in Medicare savings and many Republicans — including former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney — ran against those cuts.

“The $700 billion in savings doesn’t save the government a penny because what it does is takes that $700 billion and spends it on other people,” Coburn insisted. “We’ve seen the president demand that we’re going to solve 7 percent of this problem [with tax hikes on the rich] but he’s totally inflexible on the other 93 percent.””

Think Progress: “On Sunday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) conceded that Democrats have won the debate on raising taxes on the richest Americans and said that he would likely vote to increase rates on the top 2 percent of Americans in order to shift the debate to cutting entitlement programs and improve the GOP’s leverage in the debate over how to avert the so-called fiscal cliff…

“CORKER: The Republicans know they have the debt ceiling, that is coming up around the corner, and, the leverage is going to shift, as soon as we get beyond this issue. The leverage is going to shift, to our side where hopefully we’ll do the same thing we did last time and that is if the president wants to raise the debt limit by $2 trillion we get $2 trillion in spending reduction and, hopefully, this time, it is mostly oriented towards entitlement and with no process. [...]“

If you voted Republican to ‘save’ Social Security and Medicare from big, bad Barack Obama, consider yourself had. Consider yourself a base rube.