Archive for social security

Social Security and Medicare: "Distinctly good news"

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keep government out of medicare, social security

My favorite columnist at the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik (scroll), has written another excellent piece, this time covering the "no-bad-news day" for Social Security and the "distinctly good news" about Medicare. Sorry, GOP. I know I'm rubbing it in after my post about all those upbeat economic news reports that broke today, but hey, a blogger's gotta do what a blogger's gotta do.

Republicans *coughPAULRYANcough* are just dying to privatize us all into oblivion, which would mean cutting earned benefits for those who rely on them. Way to appeal to voters, GOP. It's a good thing we have Michael Hiltzik around to deliver a more even-handed (read: accurate) approach to informing us about the current state of both Social Security and Medicare.

Take it away, Michael:

"[T]he news is essentially that there is no news" in the reports, as Kathy Ruffing of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a leading expert on Social Security, said during a conference call Monday on the Social Security report.

The trustees still estimate that the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2033 -- same as its estimate last year. The range of estimates -- for these things can never be exact -- places the date at some time between 2029 and 2041. Even then, the trustees say, there will still be enough money coming in to the program each year to pay 77% of currently scheduled benefits. And the trustees do, however, suggest that their best-case scenario for economic growth and other demographic and economic factors is brighter this year than it looked in 2013.

As of now, Social Security is in surplus (by $32 billion last year), and is expected to remain so on an annual basis at least through 2019.

Hiltzik goes on to say that the B Word (bankrupt) is more like the BS Word. His exact phrasing was, anyone who challenges the facts has "given up his or her right to be taken seriously as a policy expert." Are you listening, Wannabe President Ryan?

Now how about Medicare? Is there good news there, too? And if so, would it possibly have anything to do with the O Word (Obamacare)? Don't be silly! Oh wait:

As for Medicare, there's distinctly good news. The continuing drop in healthcare expenses has made Medicare healthier -- the estimated date of its trust fund's depletion has been moved out by four years, to 2030. If you're keeping track, that date has been moved off by a total of 13 years since enactment of the Affordable Care Act.

neener nanner tv

Hiltzik also includes a few warnings, so please link over to read the entire column.

He concludes by rightfully calling out Congress for taking a five-week break just when we need them to "pay attention." He's clearly as miffed at them as we are. One can almost hear him throwing his head back and screaming, "Enough!"

Or as I like to call it, the F G Word (Gaaa!).

Not a skit, our actual Congress, gaa! Maddow

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Calling Robin Hood -- Nefarious Sheriff of Nottingham Has Just Returned

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Robin Hood

As a boy growing up outside Boston, I had a wild imagination and a lot of heroes. There was cowboy favorite Roy Rogers, future space adventurer, Buck Rogers, but most fun was the legendary outlaw, archer Robin Hood. He and his men (plus Maid Marion) were a band of outlaws who found ways to disrupt the mad rantings and oppressive actions of the evil and despotic Sheriff of Notttingham. Let's face it. Without a really awful foe, there's just not a great hero or heroes. And the meanest of the mean was the Sheriff raiding Sherwood Forest.

Paul RyanPAUL RYAN AKA SHERIFF OF NOTTINGHAM

With the good king Richard away fighting religious wars on behalf of  his people, the royal brother and evil, calculating Prince John took the reins of England and trampled justice wherever he found it. His pleasure was in sticking it to the masses and stripping them of all of their earthly possessions. And his did it with his man, the Sheriff of Nottingham.

The results were catastrophic for all but the rich. That select few thrived while the Sheriff demonstrated villainy at the highest level. This guy stopped at nothing as he represented the top 1% of the richest royals out there.

So much for folklore. Whether there really was a Robin Hood or a Sheriff of Nottingham is debatable. The same could be said for Superman, Mighty Mouse, even Underdog.

Mighty Mouse vs Underdog

To get a taste of what's going on in real life, we have to look at the real Sheriff of Nottingham who comes to us straight out of the the Sherwood forest of Wisconsin . The kings of the rich, the Koch Brothers, have deigned him with the powers of the purse-strings. The Sheriff is merely a puppet and he's doing their bidding. With the new Ryan budget, the GOP kings have unleashed the Sheriff on the US masses.

To provide more riches and power for the super rich, they want to destroy every and all of the people's programs of survival. They wish to cut Medicare, education funding and loans, Social Security, women's rights, Food assistance, and Health Care. In return the rich get tax relief and the poor get worse living conditions. It must sound fair if you're a royal, but most of us aren't.

There is a Robin Hood who is trying to once again split an arrow down the middle to show up the mad and unconscionable Sheriff Paul Ryan. He's Bernie Sanders. And if you want to see his proclamation of war against the evil doers and their merry band of morons, check this out:

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Don't let Paul Ryan near your money

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Paul Ryan ugh this guy

He's ba-a-ack. Yes, Paul Ryan and his "budget" (quotes required, because it's not a budget, it's a redundantly cruel joke) have returned to make the 99% miserable as it caters to the top 1%.

In his Los Angeles Times column, the brilliant Michael Hiltzik takes Paul Ryan and his Very Serious Plan apart. He rips into Privatize Ryan's latest attempt to screw the middle class and the poor by cutting government programs, killing Medicare and Social Security, and thumbing his nose at everyone who knew better than to vote for him and his "severely conservative" running mate.

Read our lips, Paul: Austerity doesn't work.

Via AusterityNut.com

What's the definition of insanity again? Oh yeah:

insanity doing same thing over different results

Hiltzik also manages to get a word or two in about GW Bush's squandering of the Clinton surpluses on tax breaks for the wealthy and how he spent borrowed funds on wars without bothering to raise income taxes.

Take it away, Michael:

There should be a rule--or even a law--that politicians who propose "fixes" to Social Security should at least show they know something about the program. By that standard, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., would flunk. [...]

But the trust fund is still growing, because Social Security's income streams--the payroll tax, interest on its bonds, and revenues from income taxation of benefits--still are sufficient to cover current benefits, and then some. [...]

As I've written before, when you hear people like Paul Ryan talk as though the country can't afford to pay back the money by redeeming the bonds in the trust fund, what you're hearing is the sound of the wealthy preparing to stiff the working class. [...]

[I]f Ryan has his way, yes, the money will be stolen. It's up to you and me to make sure that doesn't happen. So, to put all these pieces together, there's no "dubious government accounting" involved here--the dubious accounting is all Ryan's. [...]

The most important factor is the one that people like Ryan want you to forget: The money in the Social Security trust fund came directly or indirectly from the payroll taxes paid by millions of American workers--100% of it. It was paid by workers in the trust that the government would pay it back. Paul Ryan is hinting, pretty strongly, that he doesn't want to pay it back. 

So why would you trust him? 

Exactly. Why would anyone trust this guy? Especially after the abysmal response to his previous Kill Medicare/Social Security proposals.

paul ryan really really bad screen grab

Please read Hiltzik's entire piece here.

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Abby Huntsman, "really, really upset about Social Security," would lead her generation into poverty

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Abby Huntsman The Cycle Social Security

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

"Abby Huntsman is really, really upset about Social Security." That's how Michael Hiltzik begins his Los Angeles Times column today, and he is really, really upset about Abby Huntsman's message. We should be, too. Just watch the video above, and then read Hiltzik's dissection below. As the L.A. Times hard copy title put it, "On the reality of Social Security, she tells it like it isn't."

Michael Hiltzik points out how Abby Huntsman is part of a show (The Cycle on MSNBC) that tries to cater to a younger audience, but that doesn't mean she has to lie to them. And mislead them. And be uninformed and pass misinformation on to them. She rants about Social Security going bankrupt, and that her generation will be left with nothing.

As Hiltzik put it, "Unfortunately, almost everything she said about Social Security in the name of making it "sustainable" for her generation was wrong. Dead wrong... And if her generation believes what she said, it's going to be in deep trouble." He goes on to explain how she exaggerated demographics to make her point. Are we surprised? No, we are not.

Hiltzik:

She concludes: "We might disagree about the prescription for the ailing patient, but doing nothing about it--that will lead to none for all, rather than at least some for us."

Where Huntsman got this idea is a mystery, because no one who understands the program--from progressive supporters of Social Security to its conservative critics--says anything like that.

The most dire projections of the program's future say that "doing nothing about it"--no benefit cuts, no tax increases--will leave the program still able to pay 75%-80% of scheduled benefits. Not "nothing at all." And that 75% to 80% would still be much more per month 75 years from now than retirees get today.

By the way, it's also untrue that President Obama's budget plan makes "no mention of entitlement reform. None," as Huntsman claims. His budget proposes a very damaging cutback in Social Security disability, as we documented here, as well as changes to Medicare payment formulas to save money.

Huntsman has stitched her spiel together out of scraps and tatters of misinformation, of a sort we've heard from the older generation for years. They're no more accurate coming out the mouths of a "millennial." But it's tragic to see that what she's learned from her elders is how to mislead her public.

That Abby Huntsman is allowed to go on MSNBC and substitute talking points for the truth is, indeed, "really really" upsetting. Click here to demand that MSNBC issue an on-air correction.

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Today Is Bellwether Day In Florida Special Election

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FloridaDavid Jolly             Alex Sink

As goes Florida's 13th district special election today for a seat in the US House of Representatives, so goes the nation. Or at least that's the billing that this contest has been given.

THE HILL:

Lackluster candidates, millions spent, a third-party candidate: Every detail of Tuesday’s special election in Florida’s 13th District makes it unusual, but the bellwether district is still the first indication of the 2014 electoral mood.

The contested office was left vacant  when the late Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) passed away a few months ago. His seat is being touted by both parties as the bellwether - the predictor - of the November midterm elections. The vacant seat, held for 17 years by a Republican is now closely contested. Both parties want this seat so badly to use to boost their close campaigns elsewhere across the country.

If Democrats win, the other state battles won't be over Obamacare. The Republicans will be on the defensive for shutting down the government last year, the long term unemployment benefits, the stifling of a new minimum wage, the immigration bill, cuts to food stamps, and 50 votes taken against Obamacare, wasting millions of dollars of tax payer money.

If the Republicans win, look out. It shows the nation's going to fight every Democratic candidate who stands up or stood up for the ACA, indicating a probably loss of the Senate and possibly losing more seats in the House.

So who did the two parties pick to be the standard bearer for this highly contentious and seemingly important foreshadowing of things to come?Two of the most flawed candidates you could find, Democrat Alex Sink (a woman) and Republican David Jolly (no surprise, a white man.)

Democrats repeatedly attacked Jolly for his lobbying background, pointing to his work for a group that pushed Social Security privatization as evidence Jolly himself wouldn’t protect the program in the senior-heavy district.

A smattering of negative headlines also distracted from the race. They include details about the recently divorced Jolly, 41, dating former employee who is 14 years younger and an accidental car crash he was involved in that left a man dead.

Oh, but the Republicans haven't held anything back either in their mudslinging campaign:

Republicans have hammered Sink on the litany of negative effects of the law [ACA] just ahead of the end of the open enrollment period at the end of March.

“Canceled health plans, higher premiums, Medicare cuts, people losing their doctors, a disaster for families and seniors,” says the narrator in one ad hitting Sink, launched by the Chamber of Commerce

Well, we won't know until tonight which candidate has won. But the stakes are unusually high. And both parties are publicly confessing this race is especially close and extremely important.

Complicating matters is that there's a libertarian, Lucas Overby, who could draw 3 to 4 percent of the vote, a margin that could cost either of the other two candidates.

If they lose, the GOP will point to the deck they say was stacked against them. Even Jolly himself was downplaying his chances on the eve of the election. In a Fox News interview, he told host Neil Cavuto that “the demographics here trend Democrat.”

Well, that's not even closely or remotely true. In this district there's a double-digit Republican advantage. So we'll just have to wait and see if the politics of the future is trumped by the echoes of the out-of-touch Republicans of the past.

Should be very interesting. Bragging rights and strategic planning for both parties are on the line.

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Elizabeth Warren Unleashed - Her Roar Backs Down 'Third Way' Think Tank

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lions roar

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been constantly on the attack over Wall Street gaming us, playing the public for fools on an uneven playing field. Plainly put, they refuse to pay their fair share. Recently that's brought out some ringing criticism from the Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank. Democrats for years have been known for in-squabbling. Lately it's been a Republican trait, but the exclusivity and even civility seems to be waning. Democrats are picking on each other. That's what's cost them in the past, and may hurt them again in the 2014 elections.

Responding to Senator Warren's call to increase, not trim Social Security benefits...

BUZZFEED:

Third Way’s Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler wrote Monday that “nothing would be more disastrous for Democrats” than to embrace the economic populism of Warren and New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. Warren responded Wednesday with a letter to several major financial institutions, asking them to disclose donations to think tanks — seen as a thinly veiled reference to the op-ed.

That hit a nerve, for sure. Senator Warren's attacks continued on their tactics. HUFFPO: 

The Massachusetts Democrat said that Wall Street's push to cut Social Security is part of a broader agenda. "It's part of the larger issue about a rigged playing field. They don't wanna pay more, they don't wanna pay a fair share. I believe everybody should pay a fair share," she said. "That's how we make sure people can retire with dignity. That's not what Wall Street wants to do."

Third Way's spokesman responded by saying that under Warren's plan, Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase's CEO, would be entitled to a higher Social Security payout.

"Oh please. I'm out there working for Jamie Dimon the same way Dick Cheney is out there trying to save the environment," Warren said.

Senator Warren, you tell 'em. Third Way is a think tank. Make them pay when they don't think. Seems that when you dish it back at them, Democratic ears prick up. And you're retort has even cracked through the Third Way think tank's leaders. They don't even agree with themselves, evidently.

Rep. Joe Crowley, a New York Democrat who is an honorary co-chair of Third Way, told BuzzFeed that he did not agree with Third Way on all issues, especially on Social Security, but he would “continue to work with them.”

It's nice to know someone has our backs. Now keep on 'em. Don't let up. We need you and your progressive thinking. Seniors are, as you say, for the most part separated from poverty by Social Security. They can't afford any cutbacks. Not if they want to live out their lives with a modicum of dignity. The seniors who helped build this country deserve that at the very least.

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A Letter From Elizabeth Warren

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Elizabeth Warren

This came in to me today -- and I'm sure it was sent to many, but I think it's important for all to read. Social Security effects us all, whether its contributing, or receiving. We must protect it.

US Senate letterheadNovember 20, 2013

David --

I spent most of my career studying the economic pressures on families – people who worked hard, played by the rules, but still found themselves hanging on by their fingernails to a place in the middle class.

A generation ago, middle class families could put away enough money during their working years to make it through their later years with dignity. But since that time, the retirement landscape has shifted dramatically against our families.

A third of working families on the verge of retirement have no savings of any kind. Another third have total savings less than their annual income. Just as people need to rely more than ever on pensions, employers have replaced guaranteed retirement income with 401(k) plans that leave retirees at the mercy of the market. And 44 million workers don't even have access to that sort of plan.

Add all of this up, and we're left with a retirement crisis – a crisis that is as real and as frightening as any policy problem facing the United States today.

Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day. Will you join our national pledge to protect Social Security?

Today, there is a $6.6 trillion gap between what Americans under 65 are currently saving and what they will need to maintain their current standard of living when they hit retirement.

Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income in retirement, and for 14 million seniors – 14 million – this is the safety net that keeps them out of poverty. God bless Social Security.

And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.

Let's look at the facts: Social Security will be safe for the next 20 years and even after that will continue to pay most benefits. With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years – and could even increase benefits.

The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors to keep their heads above water -- is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

If we want a real middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country, then we must take the Retirement Crisis seriously. Sign our national pledge to protect Social Security for America's seniors.

The conversation about retirement and Social Security benefits is not just a conversation about math. At its core, this is a conversation about our values.

I believe we honor our promises, we make good on a system that millions of people paid into faithfully throughout their working years, and we support the right of every person to retire with dignity.

Let's make sure my colleagues in Washington know that our values are America's values. Sign our pledge now.

Thank you for being a part of this,

Elizabeth

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