Social Security

How to kill Social Security in 2 easy steps

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/09/2017 - 12:13am in

How to kill Social Security in 2 easy steps Here’s Kevin Drum advocating for step 1:  the best way to address retirement security is to continue reforming 401(k) plans and to expand Social Security—but only for low-income workers. Middle-class workers are generally doing reasonably well, and certainly as well as they did in the past. We don’t […]

Strange bedfellows

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 26/08/2017 - 4:43pm in

Via MacroBusiness, here's the TL;DR of the Business Council of Australia's submission to a 2012 Senate inquiry into social security allowances:

  • "The rate of the Newstart Allowance for jobseekers no longer meets a reasonable community standard of adequacy and may now be so low as to represent a barrier to employment.
  • "Reforming Newstart should be part of a more comprehensive review to ensure that the interaction between Australia’s welfare and taxation systems provides incentives for people to participate where they can in the workforce, while ensuring that income support is adequate and targeted to those in greatest need.
  • "As well as improving the adequacy of Newstart payments, employment assistance programs must also be reformed to support the successful transition to work of the most disadvantaged jobseekers."

Not only did the BCA's confederacy of Scrooges suffer unaccustomed pangs of sympathy, the Liberal Party senator chairing the inquiry also agreed that Newstart is excessively miserly. However, he failed to recommend raising the allowance, saying:

"There is no doubt the evidence we received was compelling. Nobody want's [sic] to see a circumstance in which a family isn't able to feed its children, no one wants to see that in Australia. But we can't fund these things by running up debt."

Sigh. (Here we go…) There is no need to "fund these things", whether it be by "running up debt" or any other means. The Federal Government creates money when it spends. We, as a country, run out of the capacity to feed our children when we run out of food. We cannot run out of dollars, since we can create the dollars without limit.

The government does however, at the moment, have a purely voluntary policy of matching, dollar-for-dollar, all spending with government bond sales. There's no good reason for this; as Bill Mitchell says, it's just corporate welfare. Even so, selling bonds is not issuing new debt. Bonds are purchased with RBA credits (or "reserves", if you prefer). The purchasing institution simply swaps a non-interest-bearing asset (reserves) at the RBA for an interest-bearing one (bonds), still at the RBA. It's just like transferring some money from a savings account to a higher-interest term deposit account at a commercial bank; do we say that this is a lending operation? Of course not.

There is no fiscal reason why the government should punish the unemployed to the extent that they become an unemployable underclass. Even if we are generous and assume the good senator and his colleagues on the inquiry are just ignorant about how the economy works, we are still bound to conclude that there must be some (not so ignorant) people in government, who do want to see people suffering for no just reason.

LBJ Launches Medicare: ‘You Can’t Treat Grandma This Way’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 31/07/2017 - 12:53am in

Watching the craziness in the Senate this week, as Mitch McConnell and the GOP’s zealots drove their clown car into a brick wall and yet another effort to take away health care coverage from millions crashed and burned, I thought back to a different turn of events.

It was 52 years ago this Sunday — July 30, 1965. Two American presidents celebrated the birth of Medicare, the most significant advance toward national health insurance in America’s history.   

I was a White House assistant at the time, working for President Lyndon B. Johnson as he coaxed, cajoled, badgered, buttonholed and maneuvered Congress into enacting Medicare for the aging and Medicaid to help low-income people. For all the public displays over the years of his outsized personae and powers of persuasion, this time he had kept a low profile, working behind the scenes as his legislative team and career health care experts practically lived on Capitol Hill, negotiating with members of Congress and their staffs.

From the White House, LBJ worked the phones; invited senators and representatives singly and collectively in for coffee, drinks or dinner; listened attentively in private to opponents and proponents from interests as varied as business, labor, medicine and religion; and kept in his head a running tally of the fluctuating vote count.
 
As it had been for decades, it was a tough fight down to the wire. A look back is instructive, not only to show how long it can take to move a legislative dream to reality but also to illustrate how a president with a grasp of history and knowledge of how government works is crucial to making success possible.

In 1935, when President Franklin Roosevelt first tried and failed to get health insurance included as part of Social Security, I was 1 year old and my family was broke. The Great Depression had ended my father’s tenant farming. He took a job for a dollar a day as a laborer on the construction of a highway in southeast Oklahoma.

Earlier, my mother had lost twin girls — one at birth, the other some months later — because the nearest doctor was too far away to arrive in time to help. My parents moved into town. To pay the doctor who delivered me, my father lugged large stones by hand to the site the physician had bought to build his first office. It’s still there.

At about this time in Washington, Republicans, conservative Democrats and the American Medical Association (AMA) were winning their fight to sink President Roosevelt’s proposal for health insurance. Congress was intimidated, and in August 1935 FDR gave up, signing the Social Security Act without health coverage.   

Eight years later, in the midst of World War II, he once again called for social insurance “that will extend from the cradle to the grave.” And again, his proposal went nowhere.

On FDR’s death, Harry Truman became president. In his 1948 Message to Congress on the State of the Union, he said:  

This great nation cannot afford to allow its citizens to suffer needlessly from the lack of proper medical care. Our ultimate aim must be a comprehensive insurance system to protect all our people equally against insecurity and ill health.

 

Congress still refused to budge. Running for election in his own right that year, and way behind in the polls, Truman won an upset victory after demanding that health care insurance and civil rights be included in the Democratic Party platform. That same year, congressman Lyndon Johnson of Texas, whose home district was Democratic and liberal in a state turning increasingly Republican and conservative, was running for election to the US Senate. He opposed Truman’s health care plan as socialistic and was elected.  

In 1952, Republicans won control of Congress for the first time since 1932 and hardened their stand against a national health care program. War hero Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency for the Republicans. He, too, opposed the plan that had been shelved by Congress before Truman left office.

Ike only was willing to support subsidizing private insurers to cover certain low-income groups and no more. With the continuing opposition of the nation’s doctors — amplified through their political lobby, the AMA, as well as the US Chamber of Commerce — the notion of Medicare appeared finished once and for all.    

Yet when he yielded the presidency to Eisenhower, Truman lamented his failure but was prophetic when he said: “[It] has only delayed and cannot stop the adoption of an indispensable health insurance plan.”

He was right. The battle heated up. In 1957, the AFL-CIO brought its 14 million members to the fight. The American Hospital Association, which bore the brunt of the problems older people encountered as they aged, signed on, too.

Public opinion was swinging in favor of national health insurance. When John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were nominated as the Democratic ticket in 1960, they made health care for Social Security retirees a major plank in the platform and endorsed a bill in the Senate that in time would become Medicare.

Though he was Kennedy’s running mate, Johnson was still the powerful Senate majority leader, that body’s top Democrat, and responsible for steering its legislative agenda. After a long day on the campaign road, or in the Senate, we would get to his home late and he would stay up until after midnight, making phone calls to one or another member of Congress urging passage of the Medicare bill.

Despite his efforts, it failed by four votes. LBJ had studied the polls and knew public opinion was building for national health insurance; he feared this defeat might cost Democrats the election. It didn’t, although the margin of victory was incredibly slim. As soon as they were inaugurated, now President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson championed yet another effort known as the Medical Care for the Aged bill. Still adamantly opposed by the Republicans and the AMA, it also failed — this time by two votes.

In early 1963, the bill was reintroduced in Congress, only to fail again. Some observers again pronounced it once and forever toast. But in November of that year, an assassin killed John Kennedy, tragically catapulting Lyndon Johnson into the White House. Just days later, in a dramatic speech to Congress and the nation, he slowly and deliberately drawled: “Let us continue!” With that challenge, LBJ set out to enact Kennedy’s legislative agenda — with a good chance, he thought, of passing the Medicare bill.

As before, the opposition fought back with everything they had, which now included the AMA’s new pitchman, Ronald Reagan. Not yet a candidate for public office, the actor was hired to warn the country against letting government get between doctors and their patients. He made a popular recording played at thousands of small meetings around the country in which attendees heard his pitch warning of “socialized medicine” and predicting “behind [Medicare] will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country.” Just think if he’d had Twitter.

Our strategy that year came to naught, producing in the early fall a stalemate. The Senate actually did pass a national health care bill for the elderly (despite the opposition of the Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who interrupted his campaign and returned to Washington to vote no). But the powerful and conservative Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Wilbur Mills, would not agree to a medical care provision of any kind. A conference meeting to work out differences between the House and Senate ended in deadlock.

Johnson gritted his teeth and returned to the campaign, winning a four-year term in his own right.

Elections matter — surely no one doubts that fact anymore — and the ’64 election mattered dramatically. Not only did it deliver LBJ a landslide victory, but it brought Democrats their biggest majorities in the House and Senate since FDR. “If we can’t get Medicare through now,” the president told me after the election, “we don’t deserve what we just won.”

So as soon as he and Vice President Hubert Humphrey were inaugurated in January 1965, we started over. You can get a glimpse of the intensity of LBJ’s drive from a conversation I had with him around that time. With others, I had urged that the new bill include a provision for a retroactive increase in Social Security payments as an economic stimulus. He called me to say okay, but wanted me to understand it wasn’t because of the economy:

…My inclination would be … that it ought to retroactive as far back as you can get… because none [of the elderly] ever get enough. They are entitled to it. That’s an obligation of ours. It’s just like your mother writing you and saying she wants $20, and I’d always sent mine a $100 when she did. I never did it because I thought it was going to be good for the economy of Austin. I always did it because I thought she was entitled to it. And I think that’s a much better reason and a much better cause and I think it can be defended on a hell of a better basis…. We do know that it affects the economy… it helps us in that respect. But that’s not the basis to go to the Hill, or the justification. We’ve just got to say that, by God, you can’t treat grandma this way. She’s entitled and we promised it to her.

 

He understood the legislative process like no one I ever met. “Nothing given, nothing gotten — that’s the rule!” he told us in an Oval Office meeting on how to break yet another Capitol Hill deadlock. He sent his senior legislative aide to play sweet with a still-recalcitrant Wilbur Mills and warned, “I’ll tell you this, Wilbur Mills will take your pants off unless you’ve got something that he’s got to trade for.” When Mills still wouldn’t budge, the president let loose a string of invectives that would have made even Anthony Scaramucci blush. The next day he was courting Mills again, as if nothing had happened.

As the cherry blossoms bloomed that spring of ‘65, the president thought Congress was moving too slowly. The civil rights movement was under siege in the South, violence was continuing against blacks and we were working around the clock to pass legislation  to end discrimination. Even so, he wouldn’t let us slow down on Medicare — or other pending priorities. When he thought we were lagging, he took us to the woodshed, as you can see in a telephone conversation with Vice President Humphrey and me:

They [the House and Senate] are bogged down. The House had nothing this week — all goddamn week. You and Moyers and Larry O’Brien [his chief congressional expert] have got to get something for them. And the Senate had nothing… So we just wasted three weeks… Now we are here in the first week in March [1965], and we have just got to get these things passed… You’ve got to look each week and say, what is the Senate doing in committee this week and when will they be through, what is the House doing… You’ve got to be running into these guys [members of Congress] in the halls, and going over and having a drink with them in the evenings… I’ll put every Cabinet officer behind you, I’ll put every banker behind you, I’ll put every organization that I can deliver behind you… I’ll put the labor unions behind you.

A few days later, breakthrough. LBJ’s now-gentler courting of Wilbur Mills paid off, and the House Ways and Means chairman pieced together a bill from several options championed by different interests. He got it past the committee’s conservative coalition with a straight party vote, 17-8.   

Remembering our defeat the previous fall, our team fretted over how to make the final sale to the full House and Senate. The president had some more advice for us. As he told Larry O’Brien, the White House chief legislative honcho: Give bragging rights to anyone who voted on the final version of both Medicare — and the big education bill also in the pipeline:     

[Tell them] that every guy that votes for Medicare and education, his grandchildren will say my grandpa was in the Congress that enacted these two… So it makes ‘em proud. And they can go back home and say I was one of the 54 [who voted yes], or my daddy was one of the 54… so all his children and grandchildren are bragging about being one of the 54.

 

Medicare passed the House by a vote of 313-115. But in the Senate, liberal Democrats added $800 million to its cost, outraging conservatives (and vexing LBJ, who knew such overreach would give opponents more fuel to attack).  

Back the bill went to a conference committee between the House and Senate. Then to the House floor again, where it survived more than 500 amendments before passing on July 27 by majority vote, 307-116. One day later the Senate passed it, 70-24. All that was needed now was the president’s signature and Medicare and Medicaid would become the nation’s first public health insurance programs.  

And that’s how it came to pass that 52 years ago, on the morning of July 30, 1965. President Johnson loaded up two planeloads of dignitaries and headed toward Independence, Missouri, hometown of former President Harry Truman. He intended to sign the bill at the side of the man whose original proposal LBJ had dismissed as socialism. Now he revered Truman as “the real daddy of Medicare.” Here’s the actual moment Medicare became the law of the land:

President Lyndon Johnson flips through the pages of the Medicare bill for former President Harry Truman in Independence, Missouri on July 30, 1965. Johnson flew to Independence to sign the bill in front of Truman, the man who originally proposed the legislation almost two decades before. Behind Johnson and Truman are Mrs. Johnson (left), Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Mrs. Truman. (Photo by Bettmann Collection via Getty Images)

President Lyndon Johnson flips through the pages of the Medicare bill for former President Harry Truman in Independence, Missouri on July 30, 1965. Behind Johnson and Truman are Mrs. Johnson (left), Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Mrs. Truman. (Photo by Bettmann Collection via Getty Images)

 

After signing the bill, Lyndon Johnson turned to Harry Truman and signed him up as Medicare’s first beneficiary. It was high drama, touched with history, politics, sentimentality, showmanship and compromise.

The legislation was far from perfect. LBJ once told me never to watch hogs slaughtered before breakfast and never ever show young children how legislation gets enacted.

Too much secrecy surrounded the bill’s passage. Even as the president signed it into law, we weren’t sure of all that was in there. As some principled conservatives warned, there were too few cost controls. The experts feared copays and deductibles would become a burden.  

“Those can be fixed,” LBJ said, “once it sinks in that Medicare is here to stay.”

Meanwhile, as historian Robert Dallek has written, although Medicare and Medicaid did not solve the problem of care at reasonable cost for all Americans, “the benefits to the elderly and the indigent… are indisputable.”

Perhaps the biggest mistake was one of imagination — our failure to anticipate the advent of new and expensive technology to treat the sick or the demand on the system that would rise from a burgeoning population. That spring President Johnson had warned, “We will face a new challenge and that will be what to do within our economy to adjust ourselves to a life span and a work span for the average man or woman of 100 years.”

That, and the cost, we reckon with today.

Now that the eight-year effort of conservatives to repeal the Affordable Care Act (itself a flawed but significant extension of the effort to help more people get decent coverage) is stalled, the next steps are crucial. Going back to the status quo — a system driven by the profit motive and rationed health care based on income — is unthinkable. At the website Common Dreams, Dr. Carol Paris, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, writes:

“Clearly, the system is broken. Like a cracked pipe, money gushes into our health care system but steadily leaks out. Money is siphoned into the advertising budgets of insurance companies and the army of corporate bureaucrats working to deny claims. Even more dollars are soaked up by the pockets of insurance CEOs who have collectively earned $9.8 billion since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. Nearly a third of our health care dollars go to something other than health care.”

Yes, our health system is broken, but broken systems can be fixed — not easily, but they can be fixed.  

Watching recent events, I thought of the long and arduous process I’ve just related, the many steps that brought Medicare into being, and how I was afforded a modest role in the supporting cast.

I came away from the experience with three lessons. First, whether health care is a right may be debatable, but it assuredly fulfills a basic human need — and without it, human beings without means will live and die suffering unduly.

Second, building that more perfect union which the founders of this republic defined as the mission of government has always been slow, hard, acrimonious, frustrating, tiring and elusive, because we as individuals are ourselves imperfect and because there are always among us those predators who regard democracy as an obstacle to their avarice.

Against such realities, the only way for democracy to succeed is for enough people to take up the cause where and when they can, as so many did for Medicare and are doing now for our eroding social covenant. That’s the third lesson I learned: It is harder to build something than to burn it down, but build we must.

 
Note: I am greatly indebted to Larry DeWitt, the historian of the US Social Security Administration, whose outstanding research and organizing talents have helped so many of us recollect with greater accuracy and context such experiences as I have recounted here. The author of numerous articles and essays — including “The Medicare Program as a Capstone to the Great Society — Recent Revelations in the LBJ White House Tapes,” on which  I have often relied — Mr. DeWitt also created http://www.socialsecurity.gov/history, one of the largest history-related web sites in the federal government. It’s a national treasure.  Check it out.

— Bill Moyers

The post LBJ Launches Medicare: ‘You Can’t Treat Grandma This Way’ appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

The Secret Health Care Bill

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/06/2017 - 5:00am in

This post originally appeared on Robert Reich’s blog.

The Senate’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not a health care bill. It’s a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, paid for by a dramatic reduction in health care funding for approximately 23 million poor, disabled and working middle-class Americans.

America’s wealthiest taxpayers (earning more than $200,000 a year, $250,000 for couples) would get a tax cut totaling $346 billion over 10 years, representing what they save from no longer financing health care for lower-income Americans.

If enacted, it would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.

That’s not all. The bill would save an additional $400 billion on Medicaid, which Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are intent on shrinking in order to cut even more taxes for the wealthy and for big corporations.

If enacted, it would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.

This disgrace is being proposed at a time when the nation’s rich own a higher percentage of the nation’s wealth and receive the highest percent of America’s income since the era of the Robber Barons of the late 19th century.

Almost all of the transfer is hidden inside a bill that’s supposed to be a kinder and gentler version of its House counterpart, which Trump called “mean, mean, mean.”

Look closely and it’s even meaner.

The Senate bill appears to retain the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies for poorer Americans. But starting in 2020, the subsidies would no longer be available for many of the working poor who now receive them, nor for anyone who’s not eligible for Medicaid.


MORE ON Health & Science


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks toward his office at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on June 22, 2017. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Senate Health Bill Would Revamp Medicaid, Alter ACA Guarantees, Cut Premium Support

BY Julie Rovner | June 22, 2017

Another illusion: The bill seems to keep the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. But the expansion is phased out, starting in 2021.

The core of the bill — where its biggest savings come from — is a huge reduction in Medicaid, America’s health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled.

This, too, is disguised. States would receive an amount of money per Medicaid recipient that appears to grow as health care costs rise.

But starting in 2025, the payments would be based on how fast costs rise in the economy as a whole.

Yet medical costs are rising faster than overall costs. They’ll almost surely continue to do so — as America’s elderly population grows, and as new medical devices, technologies and drugs prolong life.

Which means that after 2025, Medicaid coverage will shrink.

The nonpartisan Urban Institute estimates that between 2025 and 2035, about $467 billion less will be spent on Medicaid than would be spent than if Medicaid funding were to keep up with the expected rise in medical costs.


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The US Capitol in reflection on the side of an ambulance in Washington on Monday, June 26, 2017, as the Senate grapples with health care legislation. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

GOP ‘Health’ Bill: Death, Disaster and Gilded Age Greed

BY Richard Eskow | June 26, 2017

The states would have to make up the difference, but many won’t want to or be able to.

One final major deception. Proponents of the bill say it would continue to protect people with pre-existing conditions. But the bill allows states to reduce insurance coverage for everyone, including people with pre-existing conditions.

So insurance companies could technically “cover” people with preexisting conditions for the cost of, say, their visits to a doctor, but not hospitalization, drugs or anything else they need.

The Senate bill only seems like a kinder, gentler version of the House repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but over time it would be even crueler.

Will the American public find out? Not if McConnell can help it.

He hasn’t scheduled a single hearing on the bill.

He’s shut out major hospitals, physician groups, consumer advocates and organizations representing millions of patients with heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses.

McConnell thinks he’s found a quiet way not only to repeal the Affordable Care Act but also to unravel Medicaid — and funnel the savings to the rich.

For years, Republicans have been looking for ways to undermine America’s three core social insurance programs — Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. The three constitute the major legacy of the Democrats, of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. All continue to be immensely popular.

Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is almost part of that legacy. It’s not on quite as solid a footing as the others because it’s still new, and some wrinkles need to be ironed out. But most Americans support it.

Now McConnell believes he can begin to undo the legacy, starting with the Affordable Care Act and, gradually, Medicaid.

But he knows he has to do it in secret if he’s to be successful.

If this shameful bill is enacted, McConnell and Trump — as well as every Republican senator who signs on — will bear the burden of hundreds of thousands of deaths that could have been avoided, were they not so determined to make rich Americans even richer.

The post The Secret Health Care Bill appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Counterpunch: Manchester Terror Attack Blowback from Western Imperialist Recruitment of Salafi Terrorists

I’ve mentioned several times over the past week or so the hypocritical smears the Tory press – the Torygraph, Scum and Heil – have published claiming that Jeremy Corbyn was a supporter of IRA terrorism, and, by implication, of the Manchester terror attack last Monday. Corbyn wasn’t. He did support attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Troubles through negotiation, something Thatcher and the Tories loudly denied they were doing, but did anyway. Both the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Times have hailed the Labour leader as a man, who strove for the best for the people of Ireland and Ulster. Ian Paisley’s wife even said that Corbyn was courteous and polite.

So, not quite the fanatical supporter of Irish nationalist terrorism these papers wanted to smear him as.

And the Tories, under Thatcher, did their own supporting of terrorist violence in Ulster. Peter Taylor’s 1999 documentary, Loyalists, featured interviews with leading Ulster Loyalist politicos and terrorists, one of whom admitted that they were getting information from British intelligence in the late 1980s allowing them to kill members of the IRA and other Republicans.

And that hasn’t been the only incident, where terrorists supported by the British state have committed atrocities. The last one was just a week ago. In Manchester.

Jim Kavanagh writing in Counterpunch has a piece pointing out that the family of the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, were members of a Libyan Islamist terrorist group, who were given sanctuary in Britain as part of NATO’s recruitment of such terrorists in their campaign to overthrow Colonel Qaddafy. He attacks the racist double standards of the western media, for giving massive attention to attacks like this in the West, while paying much less attention to the other victims of Islamist violence in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Such as Mali, where 100 people, mostly Russians, Chinese and Africans, were butchered by two Islamist terrorists at the Bamako hotel a few years ago.

He reminds his readers that, despite Qaddafy’s own political posturing, Libya was a secular state with the highest standard of living in Africa. And Qaddafy himself hated and persecuted the Islamists. The late ‘mad dog of the Middle East’ and his son, Saif, even tried to warn Blair, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that if he was killed, the terrorists would move on to attack Europe and there would be a massive influx of refugees into the continent.

Kavanagh also reproaches American liberals for believing that you can be politically liberal, and still support western imperialism. He states that Barack Obama and Killary, whose gloating over the death of the Libyan dictator was particularly repulsive, have so far presided over more carnage than Donald Trump. American liberals are deluded if they believe that they can unleash and then contain the Islamist terrorists they have recruited, armed and trained at will. He compares terrorist atrocities like that committed in Manchester to the film ‘Groundhog Day’, whose hero is doomed to go through the same day again and again. And this, he feels, will continue until something immeasurably more horrific finally wakes Americans up to the horrific reality.

He states

Last Monday, jihadi suicide bomber Salman Abedi blew himself up at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 people. Salman grew up in an anit-Qaddafi Libyan immigrant family. In 2011, his father, Ramadan Abedi, along with other British Libyans (including one who was under house arrest), “was allowed to go [to Libya], no questions asked,” to join the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an al-Qaeda-affiliate, to help overthrow Qaddafi. In Manchester, as Max Blumenthal puts it, in his excellent Alternet piece, it was all “part of the rat line operated by the MI5, which hustled anti-Qaddafi Libyan exiles to the front lines of the war.” In Manchester, Salman lived near a number of LIFG militants, including an expert bomb maker. This was a tough bunch, and everybody—including the cops and Salman’s Muslim neighbors—knew they weren’t the Jets and the Sharks. As Middle East Eye reports, he “was known to security services,” and some of his acquaintances “had reported him to the police via an anti-terrorism hotline.”

Could it be any clearer? The Abedi family was part of a protected cohort of Salafist proxy soldiers that have been used by “the West” to destroy the Libyan state. There are a number of such cohorts around the world that have been used for decades to overthrow relatively prosperous and secular, but insufficiently compliant, governments in the Arab and Muslim world—and members of those groups have perpetrated several blowback attacks in Western countries, via various winding roads. In this case, the direct line from Libya to Mali to Manchester is particularly easy to trace.‘

‘The jihadi attackers in Mali and the jihadi bomber in Manchester were direct products—not accidental by-products, but deliberately incubated protégés—of American-British-French-NATO regime change in Libya, a project that was executed by the Obama administration and spearheaded by Hillary Clinton.

Before the glorious revolution, Libya under Ghaddafi had the highest standard of living of any country in Africa, according to the UN Human Development Index. Before the jihadi onslaught backed by NATO bombing campaign, Ghaddafi’s Libya was an anchor of stability in North Africa, as even the U.S. and British governments knew and acknowledged, per a 2008 cable from American foreign service officer Christopher Stevens, published by Wikileaks:

Libya has been a strong partner in the war against terrorism and cooperation in liaison channels is excellent…Muammar al-Qadhafi’s criticism of Saudi Arabia for perceived support of Wahabi extremism, a source of continuing Libya-Saudi tension, reflects broader Libyan concern about the threat of extremism. Worried that fighters returning from Afghanistan and Iraq could destabilize the regime, the [government of Libya] has aggressive pursued operations to disrupt foreign fighter flows, including more stringent monitoring of air/land ports of entry, and blunt the ideological appeal of radical Islam.

The US-British-French-NATO humanitarian intervention put an end to that by overthrowing the Libyan government under entirely phony pretexts, in contravention of fundamental international law, and in violation of the UN resolution they claimed as a justification. The executioners and beneficiaries of that aggression where the jihadis who have been rampaging from Mali to Manchester. It’s a bright, clear line.

Ghaddafi himself warned Tony Blair that “an organization [the LIFG].has laid down sleeper cells in North Africa called the Al Qaeda organization in North Africa.” Ghaddafi’s son, Saif, warned that overthrowing Libya’s would make the country “the Somalia of North Africa, of the Mediterranean” and “You will see millions of illegal immigrants. The terror will be next door.”’

Manchester is the latest iteration of a scenario we’ve gone through so many times now, like some groundhog-day dream. At the end of my post two years ago, I was urging and hoping that Americans would wake up. But a lot of American liberals and lefties, including Berniebots, still like to imagine there’s a political space they can inhabit called Progressive Except Imperialism. There isn’t. Imperialism with Social Security and Medicare and Obamacare—even single-payer healthcare—is imperialism, and it’s reactionary and supremacist. Equal-opportunity imperialism is imperialism. African-American, women, Latinx, or LGBTQ presidents, generals, and drone operators do not make it any less criminal, or dangerous, or any less inevitably erosive of all those cherished progressive domestic programs.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/29/no-laughing-matter-the-manchester-bomber-is-the-spawn-of-hillary-and-baracks-excellent-libyan-adventure/

The recruitment of Islamist terrorists goes back further than Blair, Bush, and Obama and Killary, right back to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher gave sanctuary in this country to Islamist terrorists as part of the proxy war against the Russians in Afghanistan. She and Ronnie celebrated them, because they were anti-Communists fighting against ‘the Evil Empire’. And the Russian ambassador told the Americans that once the Salafists had finished with them, they would come for America.

And this came horribly true on 9/11. Having defeated the Soviet Union, the Saudi-backed terrorists believed they could bring down the other superpower, America.

As for Thatcher, one of the terrorists she gave asylum to in Britain was a monster, who blew up a plane-load of schoolchildren flying to Moscow in order to kill the Soviet officers also on board.

And the same Islamists she settled in Britain became part of the wider underground of radicalised Islamist discontent.

Corbyn never supported terrorism. But Thatcher, and her New Labour protégé, Tony Blair, certainly did. And the results were Loyalist terrorists acting as Thatcher’s death squads in Ulster, and Islamist terrorism in Britain.

And Theresa May made it all easier for the Manchester bomber and those like him by cutting the numbers of the police force, armed forces and border guards. And when members of Her Majesty’s finest tried to warn of her of this danger, she sneered at them.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to reverse all this. Which, despite all the Tory screaming and posturing, trying to portray them as the party of great war leaders since Churchill, Corbyn and the Labour party represent this country’s best hope of peace and security.

Vote Labour on June 8th.

Mind the growing retirement gap

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/04/2017 - 11:00pm in

unequal_soup_business_desk

I find myself thinking more these days about the fairness of Social Security and other government retirement benefits.

One reason, of course, is because I’m getting close to retirement age—and, as I discover each time I raise the issue with students, young people don’t think about it much.* Another reason is because Social Security (in addition to Medicare, Disability, and other programs) is the way the United States creates a collective bond between current and former workers, by using a portion of the surplus produced by current workers to provide a safety net for workers who have retired.

That represents a kind of social fairness—that people who have spent a large portion of their lives working (most people need 40 credits, based on years of work and earnings, to qualify for full Social Security benefits) are eligible for government retirement benefits provided by current workers. Another aspect of that fairness is the system should and does redistribute from those with high lifetime incomes to those with lower lifetime incomes. While that makes the actual “rates of return” unequal across groups, it’s designed to provide a floor for the poorest workers in society.

Many people consider the U.S. Social Security system fair on those two grounds. That’s true even though some people, by random draw, may live longer than others. However, as Alan J. Auerbach et al. (pdf [ht: lw]) report, that fairness may be put into question if there are identifiable groups that vary in life expectancy, “as this introduces a non-random aspect to the inequality.”

Here’s the problem: retirement benefits in the United States are increasingly unequally distributed on a non-random basis. As I’ve written about many different times (e.g., here, here, and here), there’s a gap in life expectancies between those at the bottom and top of the distribution of income. And the gap has been growing over time.

Fig1

That result is confirmed by Alan J. Auerbach et al.: for the male birth cohort of 1930, life expectancy at age 50 rises from 26.6 to 31.7—a difference of 5.1 years. For the 1960 cohort, the lowest quintile has a slightly lower life expectancy than the 1930 cohort but then rises a level of 12.7 years higher for the top quintile, “indicating a very large increase in the dispersion.”

Fig2

Not surprisingly (since benefits rise with earnings), Social Security benefits also rise with income quintiles. Thus, for example, for men in the 1930 cohort, workers in the lowest quintile can expect to receive, on average, $126 thousand in benefits over the rest of their lives (discounted to age 50), while workers in the top quintile can expect to receive $229 thousand, or 82 percent more than the lowest income workers.

What is particularly troubling is how the results change when we move to the 1960 cohort. The additional 6-8 years of life expectancy for the top three quintiles lead to large increases in expected Social Security benefits, with benefits for the top quintile reaching $295 thousand. The difference between the highest and lowest quintiles is then expected to be $173 thousand, or 142 percent of the lowest income workers’ benefit.

According to the authors of the study,

These results suggest that Social Security is becoming significantly less progressive over time due to the widening gap in life expectancy.

Not only does the growing gap in life expectancies undermine the basic fairness of the Social Security system. It calls into question capitalism itself.

 

*For understandable reasons. I certainly didn’t think about retirement at that age. (I barely thought about getting a job. I just presumed I would—and would be able to—at some point.) However, when students are induced to do think about retirement, as I’ve written before, most take it for granted that Social Security is doomed. While they expect to pay into Social Security, they don’t expect to receive any Social Security benefits when they retire. Then, of course, I explain to them that making only one change—raising the taxable earnings base—would eliminate the projected deficit and keep Social Security solvent forever.

Tagged: capitalism, fairness, inequality, life expectancy, Social Security

Resurrecting Another ‘Big Lie’: The Myth of Social Security as ‘Ponzi Scheme’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/04/2017 - 3:36am in

In these pestilent, perilous times, when the very idea of distinction between truth and falsehood is under siege, it’s more critical than ever to keep a sharp lookout for destructive false analogies. Without an anchor in provable fact it’s dangerously easy to get taken in by them. So I am particularly exasperated by a sample dished up by scaremongers, namely that the Social Security program, our rock of security and stability for an aging population for the last 80 years, is a Ponzi scheme — a swindle designed to cheat Americans out of their money with false promises.

This especially ugly lie resurfaces periodically like the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman and is just as devoid of proof, but at least those fakes are harmless. The same can’t be said of the presumed equality between Ponzi’s scam and Social Security, which was aired during last fall’s campaign by such eminent would-be Republican candidates as Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul in the gang scrimmages that passed for debates. In condensed form, here’s why.

Charles Ponzi was undeniably a swindler. In 1919 he was a resident of Boston, an apparently well-liked, clever and gregarious “businessman,” with a secret past that included two felony convictions and imprisonments, one for check forgery and the other for a role in a scheme to smuggle illegal immigrants from Canada into the United States.

Think about what the tea party-dominated Republicans are actually saying: That this government-run public insurance program which for more than two generations has allowed seniors to live their post-working lives with a modicum of dignity and security is identical with a genuine criminal enterprise. It’s beyond outrage.

In the start of the boom year that we call the Roaring ’20s he launched a new con, promising investors in a securities firm that he set up, that he would double their money in 90 days or increase it by half in 45. Skipping the details, which can be found easily in many search engines, it involved speculation in foreign postage stamps, which in itself was legal. Palpably impossible promises were not. All the same, suckers lined up in their thousands, as Ponzi himself blossomed out with a lifestyle appropriate to a millionaire, supposedly thanks to his personal investment. So did some of the early dupes — the catch being that Ponzi was paying them and himself with the deposits of later starry-eyed dreamers of overnight riches that he had not yet used to buy more stamps. Ponzi was, however, caught in his own trap of clearly false promises. There was no possible way that the profits on any investment could earn such mountainous rewards in so short a time. Ponzi soon found himself sinking deeper into debt. Financial reporters and officials smelled a rat and before Ponzi could take the money and run, if that was his intention—and even if not — he was arrested in the summer of 1920 on mail fraud charges and sent to prison for 14 years.

Bear that demonstrated fact in mind. Though the cheat itself may have predated Ponzi, his name clung to it, and by definition a “Ponzi scheme” is a criminal enterprise to fleece the gullible.

Now consider Social Security. It was launched by act of Congress in 1935, in the pit of the Great Depression. It is a completely self-funded program fed by a mandatory payroll tax, each worker and employer putting in a percentage of the worker’s salary. The annual retirement benefits vary and are paid basically out of the sum collected from that tax. If, after the paying the benefits, there is a surplus left in the Treasury, it goes into a dedicated fund, popularly called a lockbox, from which future benefits are paid.

And here is a bedrock reality: The system works. Through the years, despite sweeping changes in the economy, the size and longevity of the population, and changing ratios of retirees to still active workers, all of which required adjustments, Social Security has paid the beneficiaries in full and on time. The first one was a Mrs. Ida May Fuller, who got a check for $22.54 on Jan. 31, 1940. A little less five months later, on June 14, I was enrolled in the program on my first job as an office boy. The minimum wage, which I received at that time, was $12 for a 40-hour week. I still proudly show my original signed card. Not only does the system work but the evidence is overwhelming that public opinion from all points of the political spectrum is rightfully determined to preserve it.

Now think for a moment about what the tea party-dominated Republicans are actually saying: That this government-run public insurance program which for more than two generations has allowed seniors to live their post-working lives with a modicum of dignity and security is identical with a genuine criminal enterprise. It’s beyond outrage. It is a super falsehood spewed out of the publications of well-funded right wing think tanks and the mouths of well-paid right-wing radio and television liars.

What they claim is that the lockbox is a fraud, an accounting trick. It’s filled with government bonds, which are simply IOUs to ourselves, and will decline in value as the national debt, swollen by “entitlements” like Social Security and Medicare (but not gigantic military expenditures) mounts toward the stratosphere. They point to borrowings from it under certain legally permissible circumstances as “raids” to fund such sinful extravagances as programs to feed hungry children, fund research into curing treatable diseases or provide temporary unemployment benefits to working families whose jobs have been outsourced or automated.

The “Ponzi scheme” lie folds neatly into the prediction of the doomsayers that the growing number of retirees combined with the shrinking of the work force is leaving the yearly intake less than the outgo and will soon cause the system to go broke, ultimately leaving current and future beneficiaries — the old and the young as high and dry as Ponzi’s victims.

The math is not wrong. But it is a problem that can be fixed with adjustments to the tax to boost collections, and a start might well be made by raising the cap that allows salaried employees to escape payment after their paychecks reach $118,000 and the tax is a smaller bite out of their income — a regressive idea if ever there was one. Or by other reasonable adjustments to retirement age, the percentage of deductions in the payroll tax, the progressive taxation of the benefits, or means tests to eliminate the rich from the system altogether. I would personally deplore that last option because it violates the concept of social insurance rather than handouts to the improvident. In any case measures like these could extend the life of the system for decades.

Ah, yes, but that’s when the shortfalls are considered a problem, not a crime, and the doomsayers of the far right want it to be a crime because it fits so neatly into their longstanding basic agenda of demonizing government as the root of all evil. The mindset of the Wall Street plutocrats, whose greed has no limits, and their free market ideologue allies is one that aches at the very thought of some public service that could be turned into a fountain of private profit. They claim that deregulation and return to “free market” economics is the pathway to prosperity for all. Their recent success in pushing public policy in that direction has given us the “honor” of having the greatest income inequality in much of the developed world.

The “Social Security is a Ponzi crime” scam continues because it is essential to the deceptive mythology of unregulated capitalism’s billionaire class, and it is especially cruel because it has already convinced many young workers that in fact they will never receive a penny in Social Security benefits and struck fear into the hearts of those already collecting benefits that they will lose them — the young and the old alike. That is both vicious and cruel, and to expose and denounce it, especially in this age of flourishing frauds, is the duty of any rational and fair-minded person.

The post Resurrecting Another ‘Big Lie’: The Myth of Social Security as ‘Ponzi Scheme’ appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Wait: Maybe Europeans are as Rich as Americans

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/11/2015 - 1:54am in

I’ve pointed out multiple times that despite Europe’s big, supposedly growth-strangling governments, Europe and the U.S. have grown at the same rate over the last 45 years. Here’s the latest data from the OECD, through 2014 (click for larger):

Screen shot 2015-11-06 at 5.19.42 PM

And here’s the spreadsheet. Have your way with it. More discussion and explanation in a previous post.

You can cherry-pick brief periods along the bottom diagonal to support any argument you like. But between 1970 and 2014, U.S. real GDP per capita grew 117%. The EU15 grew 115%. (Rounding explains the 1% difference shown above.) Statistically, we call that “the same.”

Which brought me back to a question that’s been nagging me for years: why hasn’t Europe caught up? Basic growth theory tells us it should (convergence, Solow, all that). And it did, very impressively, in the thirty years after World War II (interestingly, this during a period when the world lay in tatters, and the U.S. utterly dominated global manufacturing, trade, and commerce).

But then in the mid 70s Europe stopped catching up. U.S. GDP per capita today (2014) is $50,620. For Europe it’s $38,870 — only 77% of the U.S. figure, roughly what it’s been since the 70s. What’s with that?

Small-government advocates will suggest that the big European governments built after World War II are the culprit; they finally started to bite in the 70s. But then, again: why has Europe grown just as fast as the U.S. since the 70s? It’s a conundrum.

I’m thinking the small-government types might be right: it’s about government. But they’ve got the wrong explanation.

Think about how GDP is measured. Private-sector output is estimated by spending on final goods and services in the market. But that doesn’t work for government goods, because they aren’t sold in the market. So they’re estimated based on the cost of producing and delivering them.

Small-government advocates frequently make this point about the measurement of government production. But they then jump immediately to a foregone conclusion: that the value of government goods are services are being overestimated by this method. (You can see Tyler Cowen doing it here.)

That makes no sense to me. What would private output look like if it was measured at the cost of production? Way lower. Is government really so inefficient that its production costs are higher than its output? It’s hard to say, but that seems wildly improbable, strikes me as a pure leap of faith, completely contrary to reasonable Bayesian priors about input versus output in production.

Imagine, rather, that the cost-of-production estimation method is underestimating the value of government goods — just as it would (wildly) underestimate private goods if they were measured that way. Now do the math: EU built out governments encompassing about 40% of GDP. The U.S. is about 25%. Think: America’s insanely expensive health care and higher education, much or most of it measured at market prices for GDP purposes, not cost of production as in Europe. Add in our extraordinary spending on financial services — spending which is far lower in Europe, with its more-comprehensive government pension and retirement programs. Feel free to add to the list.

All those European government services are measured at cost of production, while equivalent U.S. services are measured at (much higher) market cost. Is it any wonder that U.S. GDP looks higher?

I’d be delighted to hear from readers about any measures or studies that have managed to quantify this difficult conundrum. What’s the value or “utility” of government services, designated in dollars (or whatever)?

Update: I can’t believe I failed to mention what’s probably the primary cause of the US/EU differential: Europeans work less. A lot less. Like four or six weeks a year less. They’ve chosen free time with their families, time to do things they love with people they love, over square footage and cubic inches.

Got family values?

I can’t believe I forgot to mention it, because I’ve written about it at least half a dozen times.

If Europeans worked as many hours as Americans, their GDP figures would still be roughly 14% below the U.S. But mis-measurement of government output, plus several other GDP-measurement discrepancies across countries, could easily explain that.

Cross-posted at Angry Bear.

 

Related posts:

  1. Eating the Seed Corn? Consumption in the American Economy Since 1929
  2. No: Less Consumption Does Not Cause More Investment
  3. Why Does Y Equal Real GDP?
  4. Mankiw: Do Equity Analysts Create Prosperity?
  5. Why Prosperity Requires a Welfare State


Galbraith: Is This the End for the Deficit Drones?

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Public opinion is turning on those who seek to cut our social safety net.

In wars, sometimes there comes a moment when the tide turns. The collapse of Ludendorff's offensive in 1918 presaged the Armistice;  failure in the Ardennes meant the end for Germany in 1944.  

Today we have two drone wars in a similar state. One is mainly in Pakistan. Built on a gee-whiz technology that can't do what it promised, this war has claimed too many victims for too little effect. It is a diplomatic disaster and its days are numbered, almost surely, for that reason.

The other drone war is in Washington. The drones are in groups with names like the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Campaign to Fix the Debt. They drone on, and on, about the calamities that await unless we cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

That the goal of the deficit drones is to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid has been plain for years to anyone who looks at where the money comes from. It comes largely from Peter G. Peterson, a billionaire former secretary of Commerce under Nixon, who is Captain Ahab to Social Security's Moby Dick. And when one trick, such as privatization, falls flat, his minions always have another, whether it's raising the retirement age or changing the COLA. But a cut by any other name is still, and always, just a cut.

Peterson's influence is vast; practically the entire DC mind-meld has bought his line to some degree.   

The other day I was on CNBC, supposedly to discuss the debt ceiling, but the topic was Social Security all the way. My host, Andrew Ross Sorkin, was very blunt: “If now isn't the time to cut entitlements,” he asked, “when would be?” My answer – in a word, never – is not one he seemed to have thought possible before.

Yet there is no good reason to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. These are insurance programs. They keep the elderly, their survivors and dependents, and the disabled, out of dire poverty. We can afford this. There is also no financing problem; if there were, investors would not be buying 20-year US bonds at 3 percent. These days when some economists say that cuts are needed, they say it's only for show – to establish “credibility.” Old-timers may remember, that's what DC insiders once said about the war in Vietnam.

And like Vietnam, this war is getting old. We're beginning to realize, we don't need it. If the United States really faced some sort of deficit or debt crisis, something would have happened by now. Simpson and Bowles – those brave men who were going to lead us toward budget balance – who remembers them? The super-committee? The fiscal cliff? All gone. Yet Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are still here. The economy is still stable. And interest rates are still low. The debt ceiling? On that, the president stood up and the Republicans gave way.

It's true that the sequesters and the continuing resolution lie ahead. But if you are going to refuse blackmail over the debt ceiling, why yield to it on anything else? The blackmailers must know by now which side the public will take.

And then on Monday we heard from President Obama. As part of his great speech, which settled so many questions, he gave a little economics lesson. Here's what he said:

“The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

This is exactly right. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not merely a transfer from the young. They are part of the fabric of our lives. They free us all – every single one of us, young and old  – to be less worried, less fearful, a bit more independent, and a little less cautious than otherwise. Certainly old people are better off when they have a regular income and health insurance. But working people are also better off, directly and indirectly, every day.

There are some, like Mr. Peterson and his allies, who don't like this. Their motives are plain. But now the president seems to have made his choice. The word he used was “commitment.” Again, exactly so. That's what Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are. President Obama  took a great step, when he said so.

Now it's time for Congress to stand with him, to say no to blackmail, no to fake fixes, no to disguised cuts, no to fear -- and no to those deficit drones.  

James K. Galbraith is the author of “Inequality and Instability:  A study of the world economy just before the Great Crisis.”   He teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

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6 Reasons the Fiscal Cliff is a Scam

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/11/2012 - 3:53am in

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The so-called "fiscal cliff" is a mechanism for rolling back Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Stripped to essentials, the fiscal cliff is a device constructed to force a rollback of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as the price of avoiding tax increases and disruptive cuts in federal civilian programs and in the military.  It was policy-making by hostage-taking, timed for the lame duck session, a contrived crisis, the plain idea now unfolding was to force a stampede.

In the nature of stampedes arguments become confused; panic flows from fear, when multiple forces – economic and political in this instance – all appear to push the same way.  It is therefore useful to sort through those forces, breaking them down into separate questions, and to ask whether any of them justify the voices of doom.

First, is there a looming crisis of debt or deficits, such that sacrifices in general are necessary?  No, there is not.  Not in the short run – as almost everyone agrees.  But also: not in the long run.  What we have are computer projections, based on arbitrary – and in fact capricious – assumptions.  But even the computer projections no longer show much of a crisis. CBO has adjusted its interest rate forecast, and even under its “alternative fiscal scenario” the debt/GDP ratio now stabilizes after a few years.

Second, is there a looming crisis of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, such that these programs must be reformed?  No, there is not.  Social insurance programs are not businesses. They are not required to make a profit; they need not be funded from any particular stream of tax revenues over any particular time horizon.  Reasonable control of health care costs – public and private – is necessary and also sufficient to keep the costs of Medicare and Medicaid within bounds.

Third,  would the military sequestration programmed to start in January be a disaster?  No, it would not be.  Military spending is set in any event to decline – and it should decline as we adjust our military programs to our national security needs.  The sequester is at worst harmless; at best it's an invitation to speed the process of moving away from a Cold War force structure to one suited to the modern world.

Fourth, would the upper-end tax increases programmed to take effect in January be a disaster?  No, they would not be.  There is no evidence that the low tax rates on the wealthy encourage them to spend or invest, no evidence that higher tax rates would deter the spending and investment that they might otherwise do.

Fifth, would the middle-class tax increases, end of unemployment insurance and the abrupt end of the payroll tax holiday programmed for the end of January risk cutting into the main lines of consumer spending, business profits and economic growth?  Yes, over time it would.  But the effects in the first few weeks will be minimal, and Congress could act on these matters separately, with a clean bill either before the end of the year or early in the new one.

Sixth, what about all the other cuts in discretionary federal spending?  Yes, some of these would be very damaging if allowed.  Simple solution: don't allow them.

In short, Members of Congress: if you can, just pass the President's bill on middle-class taxes, and, if you can, eliminate the domestic sequester. Then, please go home.  Enjoy the holidays. Come back in January prepared to extend unemployment insurance, to phase out the payroll tax holiday gradually, to restore stable funding to necessary programs and to start dealing with our real problems:  jobs, foreclosures, infrastructure and climate change.

James K. Galbraith is the author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too, and of a new preface to The Great Crash, 1929, by John Kenneth Galbraith. He teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

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