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.”

###

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.

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.

Fix the Debt: plutocrats are turning up the volume on the class war

“Listening to these people talk about the national economy is like listening to a burglar tell you that you should really polish the silver more often.” Charles P. Pierce

The important thing to understand now is that while the election is over, the class war isn’t.

The same people who bet big on Mr. Romney, and lost, are now trying to win by stealth — in the name of fiscal responsibility — the ground they failed to gain in an open election. […]

Consider, as a prime example, the push to raise the retirement age, the age of eligibility for Medicare, or both. This is only reasonable, we’re told — after all, life expectancy has risen, so shouldn’t we all retire later? In reality, however, it would be a hugely regressive policy change, imposing severe burdens on lower- and middle-income Americans while barely affecting the wealthy. Why? First of all, the increase in life expectancy is concentrated among the affluent; why should janitors have to retire later because lawyers are living longer? Second, both Social Security and Medicare are much more important, relative to income, to less-affluent Americans, so delaying their availability would be a far more severe hit to ordinary families than to the top 1 percent.

Or take a subtler example, the insistence that any revenue increases should come from limiting deductions rather than from higher tax rates. The key thing to realize here is that the math just doesn’t work; there is, in fact, no way limits on deductions can raise as much revenue from the wealthy as you can get simply by letting the relevant parts of the Bush-era tax cuts expire. So any proposal to avoid a rate increase is, whatever its proponents may say, a proposal that we let the 1 percent off the hook and shift the burden, one way or another, to the middle class or the poor. […]

So keep your eyes open as the fiscal game of chicken continues. It’s an uncomfortable but real truth that we are not all in this together; America’s top-down class warriors lost big in the election, but now they’re trying to use the pretense of concern about the deficit to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Let’s not let them pull it off.”

— Paul Krugman: Class Wars of 2012

While finance executives urge Congress and the President to rein in spending, finance companies are raking in profits. [...] Meanwhile, workers are struggling. Average hourly pay, when adjusted for inflation, has fallen 0.7 percent over the past year, according to the Labor Department. And the unemployment rate in October was 7.9 percent — it was at a low of 4.4 percent in May 2007 before the recession. It’s a “zero-sum game,” Moody’s Analytics economist Aaron Smith told The Huffington Post in February. Companies are earning record profits largely because they are squeezing more productivity out of their workers without paying them more. — Corporate Profits Reach Record High, While Workers Struggle

Several CEOs — under the guise of a campaign known as “Fix the Debt” — have recently called for cuts to Social Security and other entitlements. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, for instance, said that “there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised.” “The solutions [to the fiscal cliff] are – it’s the retirement age; means testing Social Security and Medicare,” said Aetna CEO Mark Berolino. [...] Blankfein has nearly $12 million in retirement assets, while Bertolini has $1.5 million. Adding insult to injury, many of the CEOs calling for cuts to the social safety net are underfunding their workers’ retirement accounts — CEOs Looking To ‘Fix The Debt’ By Cutting Social Security Sit On Huge Retirement Accounts

The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks – IPS: The Fix the Debt campaign has raised $60 million and recruited more than 80 CEOs of America’s most powerful corporations to lobby for a debt deal that would reduce corporate taxes and shift costs onto the poor and elderly.

Key findings:

  • The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.
  • The CEOs backing Fix the Debt personally received a combined total of $41 million in savings last year thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts. The top CEO beneficiary of the Bush tax cuts in 2011, Leon Black of Apollo Global Management, saved $9.9 million on the Bush tax cuts. The private equity fund leader reaped $215 million in taxable income last year just from vested stock.
  • Of the 63 Fix the Debt CEOs at publicly held firms, 24 received more in compensation last year than their corporations paid in federal corporate income taxes. All but six of these firms reported U.S. profits last year.

Sign this petition to tell Congress that it’s time to let the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% expire and that they must reject any Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefit cuts.

Super-rich Goldman Sachs CEO wants ‘you people’ to work until age 70

Pat Garofalo reports that Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, whose net worth is $450 million and whose bank received $10 billion in the taxpayer-funded bailout, wants to increase the retirement age to 70, because he believes the proletariat aren’t going to get the “entitlements” they expect:

BLANKFEIN: You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s expectations — the entitlements and what people think that they’re going to get, because it’s not going to — they’re not going to get it.
PELLEY: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid?
BLANKFEIN: You can look at history of these things, and Social Security wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career. … So there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised. But in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.
PELLEY: Because we can’t afford them going forward?
BLANKFEIN: Because we can’t afford them.

How many of us will retire at 65-67 (to receive full SS benefits) and live for another 30 fuckin’ years?! And, by the way, something I’ve been paying into since I was 16-years-old and won’t stop paying into for the next FIFTY YEARS or so really isn’t much of an ENTITLEMENT is it?  As Garofalo points out:

“For starters, Social Security can pay full benefits for decades without any changes at all. (Imagine the accolades that would received if any other federal program had guaranteed funding for that stretch of time.) One simple change, raising the cap on the payroll tax, can guarantee that the program will pay nearly full benefits for three-quarters of a century. In the meantime, Social Security is statutorily barred from adding one dime to the federal deficit, so cutting it doesn’t change the nation’s deficit or debt picture.

Raising the retirement age, meanwhile, adversely impacts those workers most in need of a robust social safety net. While a year or two of extra work may not seem like much to a Wall Street CEO with his cushy corner office, for a factory worker or janitor, it can mean real problems. Life expectancy is only increasing for wealthier workers in non-physical jobs. Poorer workers doing physical labor have not seen the same gains. Overall, raising the retirement age to 70 would “cut benefits for the average retiree by 19 percent.”

Related: 

(Nov 8, 2009) – Goldman Sachs chief: “I’m just a banker doing God’s work”

(Jun 28, 2011) — Less than three years after receiving $10 billion in bailout money from American taxpayers, Goldman Sachs informed its employees recently that it will fire 1,000 workers in the United States and elsewhere, shifting their jobs to the cheaper Singaporean labor market. – ThinkProgress

(Apr 13, 2012) — Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein’s compensation increased 14.5 percent to $16.2 million in 2011 despite a sharp decline in profits and share price during the year, leaving the bank open to more attacks on its pay policies. …Goldman earned a $2.5 billion profit during 2011, down from $3.6 billion in 2010, and its share price fell 46 percent last year, amid a slowdown in investment banking deals and volatile trading conditions. Management reduced the average employee’s pay by 15 percent in 2011, to $367,057. That compares with a pre-crisis high of $568,732 per employee in 2007. The median household income in the United States is about $50,000. – Reuters

Pres. Obama on Romney’s math: it doesn’t work

“Keep in mind that military spending has gone up every year I’ve been in office. We spend more than the next ten countries combined… what you can’t do is spend 2 trillion dollars in additional spending the military isn’t asking for, 5 trillion in tax cuts… and then somehow you’re going to cut the deficit with what we have left. The math doesn’t work.”

— President Obama, taking the opportunity of a question on military spending to again veer the topic towards something a little more domestic, and one of his more effective attacks on the Romney economic plan (via shortformblog)

Romney’s idea that retirement age should be “slowly increased”

Dylan Matthews: “[Mitt Romney] suggests that the retirement age should be “slowly increased to account for increases in longevity”… Cutting a year of benefits for a poor retiree means much more than cutting a year for high earners. This will also hurt workers in physically intensive jobs more than those with less straining work. A mason who lifts heavy stones all day is likely to have to retire at 62, and take a lower Social Security payment as a result. By contrast, people with mentally engaging and physically non-taxing jobs, such as reporting or think tank work, are likely to want to work well beyond 65. Raising the retirement age won’t hurt the latter group as much as the former.”

— Raising the Social Security retirement age hits the poor the hardest (via sarahlee310)

Someone who’s never had to do a job that requires you to stand or involves manual labor — all day, every day — might decide that slowly raising the retirement age (to never, eventually) is a great idea. It’s called austerity, people. Those tax cuts for the Koch brothers don’t pay for themselves!

Related: 

Paul KrugmanDeath by Ideology

Romney-Ryan: short on facts and specifics, long on malarkey


Joe Biden, during last night’s debate: “Folks, follow your instincts. With regard to Social Security, we will not privatize it. If you listened to Mitt Romney and the Congressmen, during the Bush years, imagine where all of those seniors would be now if the money had been in the market. Their ideas are old, and their ideas are bad, and eliminate the guarantee of Medicare.”