Unlike dial up connections where establishing the connection was an adventure and getting disconnected was just a fact of life, a high speed internet connection is always on. While the convenience is nice, consumers should take steps to protect their computers and avoid falling victim to malware that can ruin their browsing experience or, worse [...]
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Posts Tagged ‘Security’
Unlike dial up connections where establishing the connection was an adventure and getting disconnected was just a fact of life, a high speed internet connection is always on. While the convenience is nice, consumers should take steps to protect their computers and avoid falling victim to malware that can ruin their browsing experience or, worse [...]
The security camera on a Las Vegas street catches pissed-off city-slicker Mitt Romney fighting trash-talking cowboy Rick Perry after Tuesday’s GOP debate. When the other Republican hopefuls, along with Anderson Cooper, are unable (or unwilling) to break it up, sheriff … Continue reading
- Haggerty Contract Is Said Backdated (By MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL, Wall Street Journal) Under cross-examination, Mr. Connolly said the mayor lost all control of the .2 million once he sent it to the party. Asked if the mayor could earmark the money specifically for ballot security, Mr. Connolly said he “can make a request” but whether that is “honored or not” is up to the party.
- NY party official testifies at operative’s trial (Associated Press, Wall Street Journal) Haggerty approached Connolly in August 2009 to say that “a donation would be coming from the mayor, and it would be their wish that they would use that toward a ballot security operation” that would run up to .1 million, Connolly told jurors. He said he checked with some people he didn’t name to ensure the arrangement was legal, and then went ahead with it, relying on what Haggerty had told him about the planned operation.
- Testy Mayor Stays Cool on the Stand, Avoiding Potential Fallout (By Jill Colvin, DNAinfo) “How many principals of campaigns really understand campaign finance law?” he said. “No one expects the mayor to know what the money is used for in the end.”
Associated with former Vermont governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, DFA is urging supporters to contact their members of Congress to reject any measures that would weaken the major federal entitlement programs.
“Here are the facts — Republicans don’t have the votes to increase the debt limit without Democrats, but [Republican House Speaker John] Boehner has rejected every Democratic proposal to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the rich, end subsidies for big oil, or close tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas. Instead, Boehner wants to gut Social Security and Medicare,” Michael Langenmayr, DFA’s deputy political director, says in an email.
“Cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid is insane. It will be a punch in the gut to middle class families and will send the country deeper into recession,” he adds. “Thankfully, [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi and progressives in Congress are standing up against John Boehner and his right-wing Tea Party colleagues. We need to let them know that we have their backs.”
The White House and congressional Republicans have been engaged in protracted and high-stakes talks over the course of the federal budget. Conservatives are demanding trillions of dollars in federal budget cuts in exchange for allowing a needed vote on the federal debt limit.
Without an increase in that debt limit, the government is expected to default, on August 2, on its current obligations for the first time in history. The inability of the government to pay its bills would create disaster for the fragile U.S. economy, according to a number of experts. More than 600,000 Americans could lose their jobs as a result of the economic slowdown that a federal default would cause, they say.
The White House has set a deadline of July 22 for any deal, in order to allow enough time for both chambers of Congress to approve needed legislation.
“This is crunch time. Congress has less than two weeks to find a compromise and raise the debt limit. We need to make clear everyone understands that we can’t cut the deficit on the backs of middle class families,” says Langenmayr, who urges supporters to pressure their members of Congress against including cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as part of any budget deal.
The email includes the switchboard number for Congress: (202) 224-3121.
Although the DFA email doesn’t mention the fact, it was President Obama who last week unexpectedly raised the possibility of including Social Security cuts as part of a budget deal.
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.
It is a logical impossibility for Social Security to go bankrupt. We can voluntarily choose to suspend or eliminate the program, but it could never fail because it “ran out of money,”says an article in Forbes:
This belief is the result of a common error: conceptualizing Social Security from the micro (individual) rather than the macro (economy-wide) perspective. It’s not a pension fund into which you put your money when you are young and from which you draw when you are old. It’s an immediate transfer from workers today to retirees today. That’s what it has always been and that’s what it has to be–there is no other possible way for it to work.
There appears to be every indication that productivity increases should be sufficient for the Baby Boomers to retire AND allow the rest of us enjoy even higher standards of living (assuming the compression of wages ends). That’s good news. In fact, it’s the only news that’s important./
I’m not telling you whether you should be for or against Social Security, but the argument that it is going bankrupt is a non-starter. It is much ado about nothing.
Read the full article @ Forbes
President Barack Obama used the August 14, 2010 anniversary of Social Security to trumpet Democrats’ support for the popular program and accuse Republicans of trying to destroy it.
President Obama promises to protect Social Security [3:15]
Seventy-five years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Social Security into law, Obama said in his August 14, 2010 weekly radio and Internet address: “We have an obligation to keep that promise, to safeguard Social Security for our seniors, people with disabilities and all Americans — today, tomorrow and forever.” [Text of speech]
Sen. Bernie Sanders Cutting Medicare Is NOT the Answer
Some Republican leaders in Congress are “pushing to make privatizing Social Security a key part of their legislative agenda if they win a majority in Congress this fall,” Obama said.
He contended that such privatization was “an ill-conceived idea that would add trillions of dollars to our budget deficit while tying your benefits to the whims of Wall Street traders and the ups and downs of the stock market.”
Democrats adamantly oppose any cut in benefits to reduce costs and some won’t accept a gradual increase in the retirement age, something that was done in the last overhaul in 1983. Republicans say an increase in Social Security taxes is out of the question, even for the wealthy.
House Republican Leaders, including Congressman Pete Sessions, the man responsible for getting Representative Steve Fincher (TN-08) re-elected, introduced legislation to end Social Security as we know it – starting immediately. Fincher already voted for the controversial Republican plan to end Medicare, while protecting subsidies for Big Oil and tax breaks for millionaires, and increasing the debt ceiling by trillion.
“After following his Republican leadership and voting to end Medicare, Tennessee seniors deserve to know whether Representative Steve Fincher supports the Republican Leadership scheme to end Social Security as we know it,” said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Everyone knows we need to cut spending and reduce debt, but Fincher and House Republican leaders continue protecting taxpayer giveaways for Big Oil companies and tax breaks for millionaires instead of protecting Social Security and Medicare. Apparently, ending Medicare wasn’t enough for Representative Steve Fincher’s Republican leadership, now they’re focusing on ending Social Security as well.”
House Republicans propose Social Security opt-out. “House Republicans on Friday introduced legislation that would allow workers to partially opt out of Social Security immediately, and fully opt out after 15 years.” The measure was introduced by NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (TX-32) and Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (TX-05) among others. [The Hill, 6/6/11]
Voted for the 2012 Republican Budget Proposal that would “essentially end Medicare.” Representative Steve Fincher voted to end Medicare by supporting the Republican budget. The Wall Street Journal reports “The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the health-care bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a program that directly pays those bills.” [H Con. Res. 34, Vote #277, 4/15/11; Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11]
National Debt Ceiling Increases Trillion Under GOP Budget. Under Ryan’s plan, the national debt ceiling would still increase trillion, and forces an additional .8 trillion in debt over ten years. [H. Con. Res. 34 (Page 5); Los Angeles Times, 4/15/11]
Republican Budget Cuts Taxes for Wealthy, Corporations. An April 2011 New York Times editorial wrote that the Republican budget plan “envisions lower taxes for the wealthy than even George W. Bush imagined: a permanent extension for his tax cuts, plus large permanent estate-tax cuts, a new business tax cut and a lower top income tax rate for the richest taxpayers.” In addition, the corporate tax rate would be cut even lower, to 25 percent. [New York Times, Editorial, 4/6/11; Bloomberg, 4/08/11]
House break-ins skyrocketed 24 percent in Boston last year, shattering the security of renters and homeowners who…
Here’s the answer in case you aren’t into reading. Not if The Republican Party gets its way.
Agricola Virginia News
Let me put it to you straight up. If it made sense to you to vote for republicans in the last election you probably won’t notice the things they take away from you and those around you as they balance the budget on your back and protect big business and the rich from pain. You have volenteered to fill in and look out for your parents and grandparents as their benefits diminish and you have demonstrated that you couldn’t care less about your own retirement and future medical coverages. You were gullible enough to think the republican party cared about you. To the point, you are well below average in thinking ability, you are a republican. The GOP represents big business period, Not You.
Here’s the sad part. You and people who think like you are controlling the United States House of Representatives. The rich are getting richer, jobs routinly are outsourced to foreign shores and the middle class is disappearing into the ranks of the working poor.
Republicans support the dismanteling of social security and the end of medicare and the eradication of unions. Taxes on the upper classes and big business are being reduced at the same time that taxes on the poor and middle class are rising. What in the name of God do you people stand for? The GOP has No Positive Agenda. You have No answers. As was once said “Any Jackass can kick down a barn. We need someone who can build one.”
It appears that our country will be destroyed from the ignorance within and not from enemies invading our shores. Here is how the republicans have the future planned. Medicare is privatized. Seniors get a voucher to buy private insurance, and the voucher’s growth is far slower than the expected growth of health-care costs. Medicaid is also privatized. The employer tax exclusion is fully eliminated, replaced by a tax credit that grows more slowly than medical costs. And beyond health care, Social Security moves to a system of private accounts that CBO says will actually cost more than the present arrangement. In a few short years under the Republican plan seniors will know a level of poverty that is unimaginable. Republicans want to rob the social security fund of its surplus trillions of dollars and send it to their business buddies on wall street.
The proposal would shift risk from the federal government to seniors themselves. The money seniors would get to buy their own policies would grow more slowly than their health-care costs, and more slowly than their expected Medicare benefits, which means that they’d need to either cut back on how comprehensive their insurance is or how much health-care they purchase.
Alhambra Virginia News
Medicare currently pays providers less and works more efficiently than private insurers, so seniors trying to purchase a plan equivalent to Medicare would pay more for it on the private market. A functioning system that provides health care to seniors is being dismanteled rather than fine tuned and adjusted.
Drip . . drip . . . drip . . .
Little by little, chink by chink, SS will become ever more elusive, more impermanent. Republicans will steal it by making it the opposite of a lockbox – they’ll borrow against it, put more and more contingencies on it, make it ever more incorporeal by raising the retirement age. They’ll demonize those who take it – heck, they do that now. They’ll sow the seeds of despair . . . in conversations over the water cooler, people nearing their retirement years will express their disolutioned, skeptical opinion that they’ll ever receive their first dime before they die of cancer or hard work.
Meek Democrats and Blue Dogs won’t reveal the Republicans plan or put up much opposition because they get their campaign monies from big business also. There is not much time left to see the light, big business owns the republican party lock stock and barrell and has made impressive inroads into purchasing the democratic party. Democrats need to take a close look at the weakened sell outs in their mist.
Tomorrow every Democrat in the House should be lined up for their chance to address the body at the podium on CSPAN and point out what the Republicans are up to. Democrats should push this story on the media and make every American knows what the republicans are up to. And every single GOP House member that appears on CNN or MSNBC or one of the morning shows should HAVE to answer the question of if they agree with these “visionaries” in the Republican Party. Once you lose something it is double hard to ever get it back. I am dam tired of our governments every action being something to help big business or wall street.
If this is allowed to slide under the radar, if the big business interests that controll the republican party are allowed to win then shame on every person in any leadership position in the Democratic Party. You will have shown without a doubt that you do not deserve to lead this country. Democrats need to develop a fight back instinct. Democrats today seem to have a hide and keep quiet and hope the problems go away instinct. Only the corrupt republicans who get money from coperate interests are vested in this fight. Regular non thinking republicans might just get their backs up when they realize how big money is using them. It could take a little time for these small time servant republicans to open their eyes but it is up to us to try and get their attention.
Amherst County Allwood Virginia News
Republicans Really Do Want To Cut Social Security And Medicare and regular working repulicans are blissfully unaware of the effect his will have on them, their children, parents and grandparents. Regular working republicans do two things. They hate liberals and democrats and President Obama and they believe anything republican leadership tells them without question. Questioning the sanity of what republican leadership tells them will take care of their hate. If anyone thinks only liberals and democrats get social security and medicare they are mistaken.
After their attempt to privatize Social Security in 2005 was met with widespread public outcry, the GOP’s strategy on Social Security has been two-fold. First, Republicans deny they are interested in privatization. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) recently told the Wall Street Journal that “no one has a proposal up to cut Social Security,” (his own book proposes doing so), while conservatives in the media have tried to argue that Republicans don’t actually want to privatize Social Security.
The second tactic has been to obfuscate their privatization plans by sugarcoating them in flowery, palatable language. President Bush’s privatization plan is a prime example. In his 2005 State of the Union, President Bush said we needed to “save” Social Security and give younger workers a “better deal” by having “voluntary personal retirement accounts,” the poll-tested language for privatization. Bush now says his greatest failure was not privatizing Social Security. George W. Bush had so many failures it would take a panel of wise men to pick the worst.
Amherst Virginia Brightwell Mill News
However, such rhetoric belies their record. A thorough review of the voting records and statements of Republicans in Congress reveals a critical mass of GOPers who have supported privatizing Social Security. In total, 47 percent of House Republicans and 49 percent of Senate Republicans are on record supporting the privatization of Social Security. Some, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), want to go even further and “wean everybody” off of Social Security altogether.
Republicans in Congress have long operated by the “majority of the majority” principle, whereby legislation is only advanced by a GOP Speaker if it is supported by a majority of Republicans. With many prominent GOP candidates in favor of privatizing or eliminating Social Security, including Rand Paul, Ken Buck, Dan Coats, Sharron Angle, Dan Benishek, Ben Quayle, Star Parker, and Jesse Kelly, it’s likely that a GOP-controlled Congress would have the necessary votes to revisit the issue.
Each year there is a report on Social Security so let’s look at the encouraging findings by the agency’s trustees, who include the secretaries of Labor, the Treasury, and Health and Human Services.
The trustees indicated that the program has made it through the worst economic downturn in its life span essentially unscathed. In fact, by at least one measure it’s fiscally stronger than a year ago: Its projected actuarial deficit over the next 75 years (a measurement required by law) is smaller now than a year ago.
The old age and disability trust funds, which hold the system’s surplus, grew in 2009 by 2 billion, to .5 trillion. The program paid out 5 billion to 53 million beneficiaries — men, women and children — with administrative costs of 0.9% of expenditures. For all you privatization advocates out there, you’d be lucky to find a retirement and insurance plan of this complexity with an administrative fee less than five or 10 times that ratio.
This year and next, the program’s costs will exceed its take from the payroll tax and income tax on benefits. That’s an artifact of the recession, and it’s expected to reverse from 2012 through 2014. The difference is covered by the program’s other income source — interest on the Treasury bonds in the Social Security trust fund.
Amherst County Clifford Virginia News
And that, in turn, leads us to the convoluted subject of the trust fund, which for some two decades has been the prime target of the crowd trying to bamboozle Americans into thinking Social Security is insolvent, bankrupt, broke — pick any term you wish, because they’re all wrong. The trust fund is the mechanism by which baby boomers have pre-funded their own (OK, our own) retirements. When tax receipts fall short, its bonds are redeemed by the government to cover the gap.
Despite what Social Security’s enemies love to claim, the trust fund is not a myth, it’s not mere paper. It’s real money, and it represents the savings of every worker paying into the system today.
What trips up many people about the trust fund is the notion that redeeming the bonds in the fund to produce cash for Social Security is the equivalent of “the government” paying money to “the government.” Superficially, this resembles transferring a dollar from your brown pants to your gray pants — you’re no more or less flush than you were before changing pants.
But that assumes every one of us contributes equally to “the government,” and by equal methods — you, me and the chairman of Goldman Sachs.
The truth is that there are two separate tax programs at work here — the payroll tax and the income tax — and they affect Americans in different ways. The first pays for Social Security and the second for the rest of the federal budget.
Most Americans pay more payroll tax than income tax. Not until you pull in 0,000 or more, which puts you among roughly the top 5% of income-earners, are you likely to pay more in income tax than payroll tax. One reason is that the income taxed for Social Security is capped, at 6,800. (My payroll and income tax figures come from the Brookings Institution, and the income distribution statistics come from the U.S. Census Bureau.)
Amherst County Naola Virginia News
Since 1983, the money from all payroll taxpayers has been building up the Social Security surplus, swelling the trust fund. What’s happened to the money? It’s been borrowed by the federal government and spent on federal programs — housing, stimulus, war and a big income tax cut for the richest Americans, enacted under President George W. Bush in 2001. Thats right, your SS money paid for the Bush tax cuts and now Republicans don’t want to pay the SS Fund back.
In other words, money from the taxpayers at the lower end of the income scale has been spent to help out those at the higher end. That transfer — that loan, to characterize it accurately — is represented by the Treasury bonds held by the trust fund.
The interest on those bonds, and the eventual redemption of the principal, should have to be paid for by income taxpayers, who reaped the direct benefits from borrowing the money.
So all the whining you hear about how redeeming the trust fund will require a tax hike we can’t afford is simply the sound of wealthy taxpayers trying to skip out on a bill about to come due. The next time someone tells you the trust fund is full of worthless IOUs, try to guess what tax bracket he’s in.
It should come as no surprise that one of the leading advocates for cutting Social Security benefits or raising payroll taxes is the Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson, who has pumped millions into an alarmist campaign about the federal deficit.
But ask Peterson, who made his money as a hedge fund manager, about closing the enormous tax loophole enjoyed by hedge fund managers — it costs the Treasury a couple of billion dollars a year — and he warns that it would force hedge funds to move overseas, which would be bad for the U.S. economy. This is the sort of argument my mother used to describe as: “I like me, who do you like?”
Amherst County Peddlar Mill Virginia News
The trust fund may not last forever, but reports of its demise are certainly premature. The trustees say it will be drawn down to zero in 2037, at which point the program will only have enough money coming in from taxes to pay 78% of the benefits due under current law. So sometime in the next quarter-century — but by no means right now — does anything have to be fixed, say through a hike in the payroll tax ceiling (or, better, its elimination)?
That 2037 deadline, in truth, is a moving target. It’s based on long-term projections, which become more uncertain the further out you look. The estimated date is very sensitive to forecasts of immigration, wage and economic growth, and birth and death rates, all of which are uncertain. Over the last 10 years, it has fluctuated between 2037 and 2042, mostly due to economic factors. It has held steady at 2037 for two years despite the downturn, but that’s still better than the projection in 1998, which was for exhaustion in 2032.
In short, if the new trustees report gets examined wisely and responsibly, it should put an end to all the current talk about raising the retirement age or cutting benefits. Social Security doesn’t contribute a dime to the federal deficit, and in these days of market stagnation and cutbacks in pensions, it has never been more important to millions of Americans. The Pete Petersons of the world should find themselves a different target.
Now that Republicans have made huge gains in the last election they are being asked about what specifically they would to balance the budget in the future. Throughout much of the 2010 campaign Republican candidates would simply speak of “cutting spending.” Even the Republican “Pledge to America” contained no specifics plan that would actually balance the budget. As many journalist pointed out, cutting “pork barrel” spending and other discretionary projects gets the country nowhere near a balanced budget. Really balancing the budget would require either raising tax rates or cutting the politically sacred programs of Social Security and Medicare.
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) both signal a willingness to cut the benefits to Social Security and Medicare in order to achieve their spending cut goals.
In the first part of the interview Senator DeMint is pressed as to how he would cut spending enough to balance the budget. Sen. DeMint claims that the GOP would not cut Social Security and Medicare, but Demint cites Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future” as a path that Republicans could follow to balancing the budget. Either Senator DeMint does not know of Rep. Ryan’s plan or he does not think everyone else knows what is in it. Rep. Ryan’s plan would dramatically reduce the benefits people would receive under Social Security within ten years. Rep. Ryan’s plan would also completely privatize Medicare by giving seniors a voucher to purchase their own health care insurance. Seniors, under Rep. Ryan’s plan, would be left to fend for themselves in the private market with their voucher. The voucher’s value would not even come close to keeping up with the pace of increasing health care costs. If seniors could not find a plan that was cheap enough they would either have to make up the difference or simply go without insuarance. If this is the only realistic plan that Republicans have (by all indications it certainly is) then the GOP certainly plans on cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits in the future.
Senator-elect Rand Paul is less coy about his plans to balance the budget. Paul admits that he will have to consider reducing benefits in the future under Social Security and Medicare.
However, Paul claims that he will not be reducing benefits for current seniors or those about to retire. What Paul neglect to mention is that nearly every working American is already entitled to full benefits under Medicare and Social Security. Anyone who gets a paycheck stub can see that a portion of their pay goes to Social Security and Medicare. If Paul reduces benefits in the future, he effectively reduces the benefits that everyone is currently paying for through the current system. Every working American has effectively bought a future benefit plan, and Paul has has admitted that he will seek to reduce the benefits of that plan.
This is how senior citizens are rewarded by the Republicans they were duped into voting for.
New Republican legislation in the House and Senate would force the U.S. government to reroute huge amounts of money to China and other creditors in the event that Congress fails to raise its debt ceiling.
“I intend to introduce legislation that would require the Treasury to make interest payments on our debt its first priority in the event that the debt ceiling is not raised,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
If passed, Toomey’s plan would require the government to cut large checks to foreign countries, and major financial institutions, before paying off its obligations to Social Security beneficiaries and other citizens owed money by the Treasury — that is, if the U.S. hits its debt ceiling. Republican leaders insist they will raise the country’s debt limit before this happens. But first, they’re going to try to force Democrats to accept large spending cuts, using their control over the debt limit as leverage. That means gridlock, and the threat that they’ll come up short.
That’s where Toomey’s idea supposedly comes in. And yet, according to the Treasury Department, his plan wouldn’t actually avoid a default, or its catastrophic consequences.
“his idea is unworkable,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin in a statement. “It would not actually prevent default, since it would seek to protect only principal and interest payments, and not other legal obligations of the U.S., from non-payment. Adopting a policy that payments to investors should take precedence over other U.S. legal obligations would merely be default by another name, since the world would recognize it as a failure by the U.S. to stand behind its commitments.”
Now the thing you have to remember here is Social Security is a pay-go system. It works like this. The money taken out of my paycheck goes directly to supporting my 88 year old grandfather now. I get an I.O.U. When I retire, my children and grandchildren pay into the system and their money goes to support me. It’s the best form of social security system in the world and the most successful government program to date in many ways. What’s more, it doesn’t impact the deficit or the debt in any way. Not one penny of our national debt can be traced back to social security. Thing is, Republicans have wanted to cut the program since it began back in the thirties and are still after it.
Mark my words, in some way they’re going to have a vote on cutting the program, be it through a rather pitiful looking Trojan Horse like this bill or through some other manner like raising the retirement age. Contrast that with the position taken by Democratic Leader Harry Reid who said simply, “Social Security is off the table.”
ACVDN Bottom Line
I am tired of Republican lies.
Faulconerville Virginia News
On August 14th Social Security was 75 years old
and for 75 years republicans have tried to kill it.
Here are two numbers that should warm the heart of anyone who wants to end sectarian bickering and build a bipartisan consensus for change:
68% of likely voters polled believe that we should not cut Social Security and Medicare to reduce the deficit.
60% of Republicans agree.
These figures are from a new poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner on behalf of the Campaign for America’s Future and DemocracyCorps, with support from MoveOn.org. They tell us that the Democrats have a winning issue for November’s elections. All they have to do is strongly reaffirm the President’s campaign pledges for Social Security.
As Robert Borosage explains, the poll shows overwhelming support for a progressive political agenda not unlike the one described by President Obama last year as a “New Foundation” for growth. There are those who have suggested that the Democrats should downplay progressive policies, because only 20% of people polled describe themselves as “liberals.” But these numbers show that there’s overwhelming support, often even among Republicans, for policies that are typically labelled “progressive.” It turns out that the new political truism is correct: When it comes to good economic policy, the old labels of “left” and “right” don’t apply.
We’ll focus on Social Security here. A recent AARP poll echoed Greenberg’s findings: Voters strongly oppose Social Security cuts, and all segments (including younger voters) would rather pay more in taxes to protect their benefits. Democrats are sending a decidedly mixed message on this hot-button issue, and these poll findings show them a way forward. If the President reiterates his campaign promises — lift the payroll tax cap, with no benefit cuts — and if House and Senate candidates do the same, that could put them on the road to political recovery.
Voters across the board believe that Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts should not be used to balance the budget. 65% of voters polled support lifting the cap on Social Security payroll taxes (which currently apply to the first 6,000+ of income) rather than cutting benefits, while an equal number (65%) oppose increasing the Medicare eligibility age for 65 to 67.
Voters also oppose increasing the Social Security retirement age, yet John Boehner floated the idea of raising it to 70. And he’s not the only Republican on the anti-Social Security warpath: Rep. Paul Ryan’s alternative economic plan would slash benefits from 16% to 28% long-term, while Dick Armey and a host of other Republicans are pushing for privatization plans that would cut guaranteed benefits.
You’d think this would be a winning issue for Democrats. Nancy Pelosi apparently agrees, since House Dems have made Social Security a core campaign theme for House Dems this year. The GOP assault on Social Security may help explain why, despite a terrible economy and the anti-incumbent trend for off-year elections, the Republicans aren’t getting much traction with voters. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll suggests that, in Ezra Klein’s words, “voters don’t like anyone.” Their enthusiasm for both parties is low. They disapprove of the President by 48% to 47%, but — in an intriguing finding — 58% say he’s doing about as well as expected and 12% say he’s doing better than expected.
The implication of the NBC/WSJ poll is that voters don’t believe that anybody in Washington is representing them. That’s understandable: The Greenberg poll shows widespread hostility toward Social Security benefit cuts, yet virtually everybody in one party wants to cut them while the other party is sending mixed messages.
Speaker Pelosi has been trying to pull her party in the right direction. She made a good statement when the annual Trustees Report was released, and her comments at Netroots Nation were powerful and effective: “When you talk about reducing the deficit and Social Security, you’re talking about apples and oranges.” Yet her statement last month on the topic seemed a bit more ambiguous: “We remain dedicated, in FDR’s words, to providing ‘some measure of protection’ to our workers for the long term.”
And, at the same time, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has been strenuously undercutting the Speaker’s position on this issue. He’s been saying things like “everything needs to be on the table” in Social Security discussions.
Raising the eligibility age is a benefit reduction — as Dean Baker explains, raising the retirement age to 70 would be a 15% benefit cut. Yet Hoyer continues to express sympathy for the idea, and has even goes so far as to express openness to privatizing the plan (which would have left many seniors destitute if Bush had succeeded in implementing it in 2005).
The Greenberg poll suggests that beleaguered Congressional Democrats would benefit from defending Social Security, and in Shermanesque terms. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, Chair of the Social Security Subcommittee, offers a good example of how it can be done. “Even a phased-in adjustment in the age would change the terms of the deal,” says Pomeroy. “That is completely unacceptable… it would be a breach of faith with 53 million present …… recipients and tens of millions to follow.” That message will resonate strongly with Congressional voters this fall — including Republicans and independents. More Dems should follow Pomeroy’s lead.
The President’s has an ambiguity problem on this issue, too. His Deficit Commission has become a political liability for him, since its chairs persist in sending the signal that Social Security cuts are on the table for them — and therefore implicitly for the President.
Even more “moderate” Commission members are stoking fears about the program while taking Candidate Obama’s preferred solution — raising the tax cap — off the table.
The President himself was explicit about his intentions for Social Security during the campaign. He called for lifting the cap on payroll taxes, which would solve Social Security’s (relatively minor) financial problems for the foreseeable future, and explicitly rejected either benefit cuts or raising the retirement age. These new poll
results show he got it exactly right.
Social Security offers an opportunity for Democrats to persuade swing voters while at the same time reassuring and pleasing their base. Robert Gibbs’ “professional left” controversy led to him to make the comment, presumably on behalf of the White House, that liberals in Obama’s base will show up to vote in 2010. But will they? While Democrats still approve of the President by a vast majority, Gallup’s tracking polls for the last nine months show
him slipping from a high point of 87% to 80%, a 7-point drop.
Approval among self-described liberals, a core Obama constituency, has slipped from a high of 80% to the current 72%. 71% of Democrats oppose raising the retirement age to 70, while 65% want to see the payroll cap raised – and the vast majority of those who hold these opinions feel “strongly” about it.
Imagine: Politicians can energize and reinforce their base, while at the same time attracting indepentents and persuadable members of the other party — using the same issue. It’s like a gift from the gods. All it takes to accept that gift is firmness and clarity.
Senate Democrats met recently to reinforce their campaign strategy against the Republicans: ”Contrast, contrast, contrast.” They were handed pocket cards that highlighted their talking points: “Democrats are on the side of the middle class.” The ideal way to support their strategy, and their party’s overall goals, is by defending Social Security – clearly, unequivocally, and forcefully.
That’s the political dimension of this issue. But the best news of all is this: It’s good policy, too.
Richard (RJ) Eskow, a consultant, writer and a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future. This post was produced as part of the Strengthen Social Security campaign.