Sunday, October 20, 2013

Borrowing From Social Security

The U.S. borrows money by selling U.S. Treasury Bonds. As the Social Security Trust Fund contains only U.S. Treasury Bonds, it would make no sense to borrow from the trust. The only way for Congress to use the Trust Fund to make funds available for other purposes would be by defaulting on Treasury Bonds held by the trust. That would not be "borrowing", it would be theft of money paid by low and middle income workers (income over a certain amount, currently $113,700, is exempt from payroll taxes). Also, the only reason the Trust Fund contains bonds worth $2.6 trillion is that the trust fund was built up in anticipation of the retirement of baby boomers.

Reduction of Social Security retirement benefits is another oft touted solution to budget problems. But since Social Security has its own revenue stream, reducing benefits only affects the Social Security Trust Fund. Payroll taxes collected in excess of benefits paid out (a surplus) are put into the trust fund. Should there be more benefits paid than payroll taxes collected (a deficit), U.S. Treasury Bonds in the trust fund are redeemed in order to pay those benefits. The cash paid out by the treasury would most likely be obtained by the sale of U.S. Treasury Bonds to other investors. So with Social Security running either a surplus or a deficit, the national debt is not affected. Reducing benefits only affects the trust fund, and only affects the long term health of Social Security. Including Social Security figures as part of the regular budget's numbers is misleading and unethical, and people who propose reducing benefits as part of a deficit reduction plan are simply lying.

So the next time someone proposes using Social Security to help with deficit reduction, ask yourself what their real motivation is. It most certainly is not the national budget.

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Entitlements" At Risk From Radical Conservatives (Republicans)

Cut Social Security? When it has its own revenue stream and does not contribute to the national debt? That is just plain ignorance, stupidity and gall. It sounds like a step in the direction of dismantling Social Security. Apparently the party of "every man for himself" wants to get their hands on both the $2.5 trillion Social Security Trust Fund and the administrative fees financial service companies would demand if Social Security was privatized. And what percentage of their income do the 1% contribute to Social Security? At most, $14,099 a year (12.4% of $113,700) out of how ever many millions of dollars of income they have.

And what effect would cutting benefits have? Since benefits are paid out of Social Security's own revenue stream (payroll taxes) assisted perhaps by money from the Social Security Trust Fund, there would be absolutely no effect on the nation's deficits and debt (unless you are miscounting deficits by including Social Security surpluses or deficits which only affect the Trust Fund itself).

The Affordable Care Act is a capitulation giving in to Republican demands (a Democrat super-majority in the Senate in 2009 and 2010 is a myth). So now they think it won't work? Even though it is a Republican plan? Progressives and sane people would have preferred a single-payer government run plan which would have kept health care costs low and administrative fees negligible while guaranteeing access for all Americans. We are the richest nation in the world, yet our health care system costs twice as much and is less accessible than that of all other Western industrialized nations. But hey, we are exceptional.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Collin Peterson Enabled Republicans To Shut Down The Government

On Sept. 30, 2013, on the eve of the shutdown of the federal government, the House Rules Committee voted for a rules change to prevent House Democrats from calling for a motion to vote on the Senate's clean continuing resolution. The rules bill, as passed by the full House on October 1st as H.R. 368, forbid anyone except “the Majority Leader or his designee” from bringing a clean continuing resolution to the floor for vote.

Seven Democrats crossed party lines to vote for that resolution which gave Eric Cantor, and only Eric Cantor, the ability to bring forth a vote on a clear CR to get the government working again.

The Republican's motivation for the rule change was that with no clear CR vote possible, House Republicans could then "insist" on their latest spending bill, including the anti-Obamacare provision, and request a conference with the Senate to resolve the two chambers' differences (House Republicans had for months refused to confer with the Senate). And unless those anti-Obamacare provisions were included in the final bill, Republicans, as they had threatened for months, would shut down the government.

Under normal House rules, according to House Democrats, once the House bill with its amendments had been rejected again by the Senate, then any member of the House could have made a motion to vote on the Senate's clean continuing resolution bill. Such a motion would have been what is called "privileged" and therefore entitled to an immediate vote of the full House. At that point, Democrats say, they could have joined with moderate Republicans in approving the motion and then in passing the clean Senate bill, averting or ending a shutdown.

Here's the rule in question, House Rule 22, clause 4 (page 910 of Rules of the House of Representatives):
"When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged."
The House Rules Committee voted the night of Sept. 30 to change that rule. Collin Peterson (MN-7) was one of the members on the House Rules Committee who voted yes.

Not only was that a vote to retain House amendments to the CR bill, but language was included dictating that the privileged motion formerly available to any House member under House Rule 22, when made in relation to H.J. 59 (the continuing resolution bill), "may be offered only by the Majority Leader or his designee." So unless House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wanted the clean Senate spending bill to come to the floor, it wasn't going to happen. And it didn't.

On Oct. 1st, 2013, at 1:10 a.m., the full House of Representatives voted to implement H.R. 368. Collin Peterson was one of only a handful of Democrats to vote yes. With that vote, Collin Peterson not only was agreeing to the one year delay in implementing certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act, he was also voting to prevent a clean continuing resolution bill from even being voted on by the House without the approval of Eric Cantor. He was voting with Republicans for a government shutdown.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Message to my Senators

House Republicans have gone off the deep end. Their philosophy is every man for himself, which is that of Mr. Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life", the meanest man in town.

I don't see any sense of social responsibility from these radical conservatives.

Don't give in to these bullies. They don't understand the meaning of compromise, and despite their rhetoric have no interest in anyone except the 1% who fund their re-elections.

Please do not compromise with these plutocratic idiots who are doing their best to return us to the age of robber barons and to 1890.

Stand firm on the budget and the Continuing Resolution. Our healthcare should not be held hostage!

Grover Norquist Doesn't Know History

Written comment in response to Grover Norquist's Huffington Post article of 10/1/2013, "How We Got to 'Shutdown'":

Do people even know that Democrats never had a super majority in the Senate in 2009 and 2010 due to Al Franken (D-MN) not being able to take his seat for six months due to a contested election, along with the illness of another Senator and the death of Ted Kennedy?

Don't talk to us about Dems being able to pass whatever they wanted in 2009 and 2010. It didn't happen.

The ACA is a compromise bill. It is a Republican plan with no public option, and is a give-away to insurance companies. You want real health care reform? Try single payer health care funded by taxes, not insurance funded primarily by private businesses and corporations (how does that make us competitive on a global scale?).

Do we really want the Republican version of every man for himself? Think of Mr. Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life", the meanest man in town. We don't want freedom from healthcare. We would rather be healthy enough to work.