And now, they're coming for your Social Security money - they want your fucking retirement money - they want it back - so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you sooner or later. Because they own this fucking place. It's a Big Club: and you're not in it.
"Obama is still trying to win over the Serious People, by showing that he’s willing to do what they consider Serious — which just about always means sticking it to the poor and the middle class. The idea is that they will finally drop the false equivalence, and admit that he’s reasonable while the GOP is mean-spirited and crazy.
But it won’t happen. Watch the Washington Post editorial page over the next few days. I hereby predict that it will damn Obama with faint praise, saying that while it’s a small step in the right direction, of course it’s inadequate — and anyway, Obama is to blame for Republican intransigence, because he could make them accept a Grand Bargain that includes major revenue increases if only he would show Leadership (TM)."
— Paul Krugman gets it right on the rumored Obama budget. This is the classic misstep; sure, it’s purely symbolic, but it moves the discussion to the right, damages what should be a through-line about the worth (and therefore the inviolability of) Social Security, and sets the stage for a Grand Bargain that is even further to the right than this “symbolic” proposal. After all, this is now Obama’s starting position. Any “compromise” will by necessity “hurt” Obama a little more in exchange for exactly zero GOP concessions and, additionally and without regard to any possible outcome, hands the GOP a readymade 2014 advertising campaign about Democrat cuts to your Social Security. It’s just the way Washington works now. And Obama’s people still haven’t figured it out and, apparently, never will.
"The lesson here is simple. At a deep ideological level, Republicans believe that federal bureaucracies are inherently inept, so when Republicans occupy the White House they have no interest in making the federal bureaucracy work. And it doesn’t."
— Kevin Drum, making a point that I’d take even further: The GOP not only has no interest in “making it work,” they have a vested interest in the federal bureaucracy looking as ineffective as possible. That’s the only way to feed the larger narrative that government is bad in every instance, in every venture, and must never be tried as a potential solution for anything. Thus Mitt’s “just let industry clean it up” blather; he knows there will be no challenge, there will be no “so what’s the business model there, exactly and in detail?” question from an ever-pliant media. He can say it with impunity because the GOP has been peddling versions of this line for 20 years now and people have essentially stopped thinking about or even really hearing it. This is also why the Post Office is being run into the ground with malice aforethought; no program major, minor, or indispensable can be seen to work. At best, government programs can only be tolerated. This is why there’s no interest in actually managing defense procurement (which would seem to be a GOP darling on its face). The GOP does want the weapons the better to kill people with; but any overruns are just excellent evidence as to the inability of government to do anything. So why bother actually reigning anything in? Forget those damnable statistics showing the decline in bureaucrats in military procurement exactly tracks the explosion in cost overruns and delays. That’s just numbers. They lie. Follow your gut and most of all your basest fears: government can do nothing and must be eliminated wherever possible. Therefore, more in sadness than in anger, the time has come to eliminate Medicare and Social Security.
Government can do nothing. Go die in the streets. This is who they are.
… it was incredibly irresponsible for NPR to tell listeners in its top of the hour news segment that the market plunged because Standard and Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt. NPR does not know this to be true and it certainly is not obviously the case.
The market that should have been most immediately affected by the S&P downgrade was the U.S. bond market. However bond prices soared in the trading immediately following the downgrade and continued to rise through Wednesday. If there was greater fear that the U.S. would default because of the downgrade, then bond prices should have plunged as investors demanded a higher risk premium. This did not happen.
The most obvious alternative explanation for the plunge in the market is the risk that the euro could break up as the debt crisis spread from relatively countries like Greece and Ireland, to the euro zone giants, Spain and Italy. The prospect of a euro zone break-up raises a real risk of a Lehman-type freeze up of the world financial system. It is far more plausible that this prospect led to the plunge in the stock market than the downgrade by one of three major credit rating agencies.
This point is important because many political actors, including National Public Radio, are trying to use the debt downgrade as an argument for cutting Social Security and Medicare. Their argument will be furthered if they can claim that the downgrade had enormous consequences for the stock market, since so many people involved in political debates (i.e. columnists, policy wonks, reporters, congressional staffers) have substantial amounts of money invested in the stock market.
This is exactly right. All this nonsense about S&P’s downgrade “causing” movement in the US stock market (which, as far as the MSM is concerned, is entirely comprised of the Dow Jones index) is wrong. Foolish, even. This has been reported occasionally, and NPR and other political actors are at least slightly tempering the “S&P caused it!” meme.
“S&P downgrade caused massive loss of wealth in DJI; therefore Social Security and Medicare must be cut; elimination is the GOP’s preferred outcome, therefore the “sensible center” is merely devastating cuts followed on every few years with more “sensible” cuts until we reach said elimination. This is the only Serious Position possible on the issue when one considers the facts of the S&P downgrade and its devastating impact on the Dow. Why, some say that as much as $1T in wealth evaporated. We simply must act to cut Social Security. Everyone knows it is the problem here.”
There will be nothing else. No other opinion will be allowed, and if directly challenged by the reality of the situation, reporters and pundits will characterize the truth as simply one other fringe “opinion” that the dirty fucking hippies are pushing again, and no better or worse than the obvious fallacy that was created by them simply because said fallacy has been widely reported. When (and if) directly challenged on the ontogeny of said MSM-created fallacy, they will elect to “leave it there,” declare it “complicated,” or, in the case of Cokie herself, sputter about it being “out there.” You heard it here first.
"We’re seriously talking about defaulting on our debt, and cutting Medicare and Social Security, so that Google can keep paying its current 2.4 percent effective tax rate and GE, a company that received a $140 billion bailout en route to worldwide 2010 profits of $14 billion, can not only keep paying no taxes at all , but receive a $3.2 billion tax credit from the federal government. And nobody appears to give a shit. What the hell is wrong with people? Have we all lost our minds?"
— Matt Taibbi (via paxamericana)
No, Matt, we haven’t lost our minds. Instead, we’ve all been told for twenty years that government can do nothing right, that taxes are the root of all evil, and that anyone else receiving so much as one red cent of guvmint money is a freeloader and likely a sub-human of some variety.
Where’s the Left’s Grover Norquist, out there day in and day out agitating and extracting oaths over Social Security or Medicare or in favor of single payer health care? Where have they been for twenty years, messaging relentlessly, and not just when their pet subject is “in the news” for a week or two (and we’re lucky to get that)? Where have the folks been who organize guaranteed primary challenges of Democrats and Republicans who stray from their oaths? Where is the Progressive News Network, the most popular national news organ on television, daily vomiting outright lies and relentless spin tuned to the broader national political message and aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator?
Until some version of one or all these things show up: we will fail. This is why.
…if even 1/50 of the austerity-induced decline in current output flows through to reduce the economy’s productive potential, that austerity today worsens the debt burden.
This is an unusual result: it applies only to a country with a substantial fiscal multiplier that can fund its debt at very low interest rates. But we are a country with a substantial fiscal multiplier that can fund it’s debt at very low interest rates…
Indeed we are. But no one seems interested in noticing. We can borrow against a 10-year Treasury at a 2.96% yield. The money behind that rate is clearly not concerned with either deficits or the capability of the United States to meet the debt incurred by their purchase yesterday or all the days before that. As Jared Bernstein notes, the current “budget math” still strongly favors a jobs target and not a deficit target.
This is very simple stuff. How many ways do you have to prove that cuts today worsen our long-term fiscal situation before somebody with a D after their name starts talking about this in a compelling, no-nonsense fashion? We can borrow, cheaply, and those dollars (when pumped into the economy) would hasten the closing of our current output gap. This would simultaneously a) obviate the need for further borrowing, b) close the revenue shortfalls of Great Recession, and c) coupled with a do-nothing legislative approach relative to the Bush tax cuts would almost entirely close the existing budget deficits within a few years.
But, by all means, let’s go on pretending that deep, punitive cuts to the social safety net and eliminating access to abortions are the only Serious Person positions possible given the current situation.
"Today’s seniors and near-seniors spent much of their working lives in that postwar world, with their incomes rising, investments gaining, their health increasingly secure, and their retirements predictable. Everyone 55 and younger spent his or her entire working life in an economy where all those trends had stalled or reversed […] The Ryan plan, in other words, delivers to the older generation exactly what they’ve had all their lives — secure and predictable benefits — and to the next generation, more of what they’ve known — insecurity and risk."
— Mark Schmitt, writing for The New Republic.
Yep. This sort of “I’ve got mine, time to raise the ladder” thinking pretty much defines the modern GOP. No surprise it’s also trending their mean voter age higher and higher and higher. Sustainable!
E.J. Dionne posits that the coming “Ryancare” enforced destruction of Medicare will either be Obama’s defining moment or the final end of progressive government in America:
Americans are about to learn how much is at stake in our larger budget fight, how radical the new conservatives in Washington are, and the extent to which some politicians would transfer even more resources from the have-nots and have-a-littles to the have-a-lots.
And you wonder: Will President Obama welcome the responsibility of engaging the country in this big argument, or will he shrink from it? Will his political advisers remain robotically obsessed with poll results about the 2012 election, or will they embrace Obama’s historic obligation — and opportunity — to win the most important struggle over the role of government since the New Deal?
And that’s exactly what this is. If you “privatize” Medicare, you are in effect creating a real live death panel for those individuals who cannot afford to pay the difference between the arbitrarily low payments (pegged to the dollar circa 2010) that will be made in the name of “cost containment.” Scare quotes there because such a move is categorically not cost containment; it is payment containment, or total government outlay containment, if you will. Costs will still rise, whether that rise is at the rate of inflation or at some other rate doesn’t really matter: the payments are locked, now and forever, to roughly today’s value. It is therefore only that fraction of individuals that are capable of paying the difference between real cost and subsidized value that will be “contained.” This number of individuals will, of course, be diminished day by day, year after year after year, as the subsidy represents lower and lower actual healthcare buying power. This is how Ryancare “works.” Hope you’ve been rather aggressive and uniformly successful with your by then privatized “Social Security” 401(k). Because you’re going to need it. Cat food doesn’t buy itself, after all. Otherwise, kindly go die in the streets.
In a decade or two, yes, even the very wealthy will begin to feel that pinch and there might be some movement to address the issue. But, by then, assuming all goes to Ryan’s master plan, tax revenue will have ratcheted to such historic lows (the other part of this “plan” is to limit next year’s spending to a fractional percent of the previous year’s, regardless of inflation and actual vs. projected economic output or overall economic conditions) that the federal government will have drowned itself in a teacup and will be laughably incapable and plainly impotent relative to doing anything about it. Problem solved! Think of how free we’ll all feel on that wonderful day!
And but so: do I think Obama will rise to this particular challenge? No I do not. Nothing coming out of the administration leads me to believe he or his advisers have any interest whatever in fighting for the future of Medicare, much less Social Security (which, having its own funding source, is utterly secure for decades to come: so Serious People all know that we must act now to destroy it because otherwise it won’t be there! This makes sense to our Beltway Punditocracy.). The administration and, by and large, The Body Democrat will remain in their defensive crouch, trying not to “screw up” 2012 with a lot of progressive mumbo-jumbo, because, as any Serious Person can tell you, those dozens of Tea Partiers that showed up in DC the other day are the ones that run the country, now and forever, without any regard to election results, polling data, or the stated wishes of the American People at large. Those 100k that showed up in the tundra of Wisconsin? Just out of town Union thugs. No reason to pay attention to them at all. They’ll only win in 2012 if ACORN steals the election for them.
Digby nails it…and gets the result into The Hill, where the intended audience might actually have to face the facts:
Even worse […] is the common assertion by these millionaire pundits that “we all” must sacrifice for the greater good and allow Social Security to be slashed. This is usually spoken with such a tone of lugubrious forbearance that one imagines they would like us to believe that while they might be forced to become Wal-Mart greeters in their elder years, patriotic duty demands we all pitch in. They seem to have no idea that the median wage in this country in 2009 was $26,261 — sadly, lower than it was in the year 2000. (Even when you average in the billionaires, it was only $39,269.) Clearly, the average political TV host takes home many times that wage, so this idea that “we” are all “sharing” in the proposed sacrifices is a bit much, particularly in light of the recent extension of the Bush tax cuts, hailed in the media as the greatest piece of legislation since the founding of the republic.
Social Security benefits are entirely self-financing. They are paid for with payroll taxes collected from workers and their employers throughout their careers. These taxes are placed in a trust fund dedicated to paying benefits owed to current and future beneficiaries.
For years, the surpluses in the Social Security trust fund have helped to mask our deficits elsewhere. Now that we are paying Social Security back, the problem is not with Social Security, but with the rest of the budget. In 2001 and 2003, Washington cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and later expanded Medicare without paying for it. Blaming Social Security for our fiscal woes is like blaming you for not saving enough in your checking account because the bank lost all depositors’ money.
Replace “Washington” in the second-to-last sentence with “Republicans and the Bush Administration rammed through” and we are in full agreement. Now if we can just get serious people talking in these terms on the serious Sunday morning shows (and etc…) every week for the next 20 or so years, the logical argument can finally begin on equal footing.