Posts Tagged ‘Social Security’

Congress: Where Failure is Always an Option

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Chart courtesy of the office of Senator Michael Bennet

Already less popular than Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez, BP during the oil spill, Nixon during Watergate, lawyers, the IRS and Paris Hilton, Congress seems intent on finding a new bottom in the hearts of the public. The so-called congressional Super Committee’s failure to find even modest savings and revenues to address the federal deficit is just one more example why people seem to really despise Congress.

There is plenty of blame to go around on both sides and this is not an opinion forged out of a need to sound non-partisan. The combination of cowardice and partisanship is very, very powerful and both Democrats and Republicans are proving that, in this Congress, playing politics trumps national interest every time.

Democrats have not been serious about addressing the cause of much of our deficit-spending- entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Why? Because the choices are painful and politically unpopular. Republicans, to their credit, finally gave in a tiny little bit and for the first time in recent memory, agreed to a modest rise in tax revenues but then sabotaged the whole thing by demanding that the Bush tax cuts not be allowed to expire at the end of the year- without identifying ways to pay for them.

With this failure, Congress has now opened the door to more failures over the next couple of months. Extended unemployment benefits may not happen. Keeping payroll tax cuts going into next year are, inexplicably, at risk.

Worst of all, Congress is expected to debate over the weeks ahead, whether to water down, delay or eliminate the triggered cuts that were supposed to take place if the Super Committee failed to do its job. The idea was that these cuts, many of them amounting to deep slashes in Pentagon spending, would surely pressure lawmakers into making a deficit deal. After all, who wants to be blamed for weakening America’s military?

If they try to weasel out of those triggered cuts, you can kiss even our AA+ S&P rating goodbye.

Clearly, no one cares up there on Capitol Hill. They don’t care if America is downgraded by credit agencies. They don’t care about endangering national defense. They don’t care about the unemployed. They don’t really care about reducing deficits. They give all the above considerable lip service- but the results tell the real story about the priorities of our politicians. They care about only two things; immediate political survival and getting on the gravy train when they leave Congress so they can continue to enrich themselves.

Representatives from both sides took to the Sunday talking-head shows to blame each other and finger point. No last-minute emergency negotiations. No burning the midnight oil. No college try. Nothing.

They are, however, working on the statement expected today- describing their failure to reach a deal. Maybe they won’t find a way to agree on that either.

Social Programs: Disconnect Between Congress and the Public

As Democrats and Republicans go hurtling toward draconian deficit reduction with their hair on fire- new polling suggests they do so at their own risk. Solid majorities don’t want anyone messing with the grand social safety net.

Here are the major findings according to Andrew Kohut, President of the Pew Research Center:

On the broad question of whether it is more important to reduce the budget deficit or to maintain current Medicare and Social Security benefits, the public decisively supports maintaining the status quo. Six-in-ten (60%) say it is more important to keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are; only about half as many (32%) say it is more important to take steps to reduce the budget deficit.

Most Americans also oppose making Medicare recipients more responsible for their health care costs and allowing states to limit Medicaid eligibility. About six-in-ten (61%) say people on Medicare already pay enough of their own health care costs, while only 31% think recipients need to be responsible for more of the costs of their health care in order to make the system financially secure.

So where is this great clamoring for deficit reduction that both parties seem convinced is rampant? And where is the anti-government fever that is also seen as a given?

Republicans face far more serious internal divisions over entitlement reforms than do Democrats. Lower income Republicans are consistently more likely to oppose reductions in benefits – from Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid – than are more affluent Republicans.

Overwhelming numbers of Americans agree that, over the years, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have been good for the country. But these programs receive negative marks for current performance, and their finances are widely viewed as troubled.

The negative marks for current performance, by the way, come from those who haven’t actually been using these programs much. Those who do- the elderly- think they work just fine:

People ages 65 and older are the only age group in which majorities say the three major entitlement programs work well; seniors also overwhelmingly say it is more important to maintain Social Security and Medicare benefits than to reduce the budget deficit. Those 50 to 64 also broadly favor keeping benefits as they are. Younger Americans support maintaining Social Security and Medicare benefits, but by smaller margins than older age groups.

It’s ironic that most lawmakers seem to fear the wrath of the public if they don’t cut these entitlement programs. Based on these polling numbers anyway, what they may need to fear are the political consequences of creating gaping holes in the public safety net at a time of genuine economic uncertainty.

God’s Intentions

So Rush Limbaugh said last Friday that the Iceland volcano was God’s reaction to passage of major health reform legislation. You laugh? I think Rush is on to something here.

Here’s the exact quote:

You know a couple of days after the health care bill was signed Obama was walking around saying hey you know I am looking around the Earth hasn’t opened up, no Armageddon out there the birds are still chirping. I think the Earth may have opened up. God may have replied. This volcano in Iceland has grounded more airplanes. Air space has been more affected than even after 9/11 because of this plume, because of this ash cloud.

Ok, sure, I see the cause-and-effect relationship. God does not want health care reform and therefore decides to let loose a huge ash cloud that cripples those healthcare-reform-loving European countries.

This has caused me to now wonder what God might have been saying through a number of other natural disasters and calamities over the years.

The Great San Francisco Earthquake, San Francisco, California. April 18, 1906, 5:12am:

President Theodore Roosevelt had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to negotiate peace in the Russo-Japanese War. Clearly, this was God saying, “Ok, Buster, Mr. President, Mr. Rough Rider, stop your egotistical meddling in the affairs of other nations and here’s a little calamity that ought to keep you busy for a while- in your own backyard- Mister Know-it-all.”

The Hindenburg Disaster, Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, May 6, 1937, 7:25pm:

God sets off a spark on the outer cover at the rear of the German dirigible and within 34 seconds, the entire airship is engulfed in flames as hundreds of thousands listen to a live radio broadcast of the disaster. This was also the year a freshly re-inaugurated Franklin Roosevelt made employers and employees in the United States pay 1% of all income toward Old Age Benefits- the dawn of Social Security. Hello. Like this wasn’t God saying, “Yo, Roosevelt, you patrician socialist, let’s unleash a little hell on earth in the state adjacent to the one you used to govern. Teach you to take care of old people, Mr. New Deal.”

Mt. St. Helen’s Volcanic Eruption, Skamania County, Washington state, May 18, 1980, 8:32am:

God unleashes an earthquake that causes the Mt. St. Helen’s volcano that had been dormant for 100 years to erupt and turn the area into a barren, moon-like landscape. At the time, Major League Baseball was considering expansion and Vancouver, British Columbia, was in the running to get its own team. Clearly, this was God saying, “No! We already have baseball teams in Montreal and Toronto. Let this volcanic eruption, visible in Canada, be fair warning that there are already enough Canadian teams in baseball.”

In Conclusion

Pat Robertson was quite clear about the Haitian earthquake and the practice of voodoo. Rush, as we know has weighed in on the Iceland volcano and health reform. There are the three obvious examples listed above. We could go on and on. There’s just no telling the various connections God finds before he unleashes one of his mighty lightening bolts at something flammable or explosive to teach us all a serious lesson about one thing or another.