Monday, August 27, 2012

The People Have Spoken: But Will the Neoliberal Elites Listen?

"The American economy is no longer based on competition among more or less equal private capitalists. It is now dominated by huge corporations that, contrary to classical economic theory, control demand rather than being responsive to the demands of the market."  - 

D. Stanley Eitzen and Maxine Baca-Zinn, In Conflict and Order, p. 343.

That is the question that must be asked in the wake of an Associated Press- GfK poll on public attitudes toward Social Security, with the primary finding that 53% would rather see taxes increased than benefits cut. Only 36% opt for cutting benefits, by comparison. Well, duh? What would you expect when more than 48% currently rely on Social Security as their sole source of income, and 95% of these people (most infirm, disabled or well over 70)  wouldn't be able to work to make up lost benefits if their lives literally depended on it. So, we can say - according to the time honored cliche - they know what side their bread is buttered on.

In the words of one elder, 77-year old widow Marge Youngs, from Toledo, Ohio ('Poll: Raise Taxes to Save Social Security', Denver Post, today, p. 14A):

"Right now it seems that we're taxed too much, but if that would be the only way to go, I guess I'd have to be for it to preserve it. It's extremely important to me, it's most of my income."

Indeed. But let's first clear up one of Marge's misperceptions: we are NOT "taxed too much". This is imbibing the Repubs' (especially Grover Norquist's) kool aid. As a percentage of GDP taxes are their lowest in nearly 50 years.  Excluding Chile and Mexico, the United States raises less tax revenue, as a share of the economy, than every other industrial country.

THIS is the reality! So, common sense and rational response dictates that raising revenues- taxes would be the primo and foremost solution beyond making cuts which would have devastating effects. In fact, there are good arguments that Social Security benefits ought to be increased. (Especially with a large swatch of retirees not earning squat on interest bearing accounts, and food prices set to soar next year.)

Besides, the simplest solution of all would simply be to expose more of income to payroll tax collection. Currently, only the first $110,000 of income is subjected to the FICA (withholding tax). Obama in 2008 advocated raising the bar to all incomes over $250,000, but even this is chintzy given Social Security's projected shortfalls. The program is facing serious (but not overwhelming, like Medicare) long term problems, most engendered by congress critters pilfering and raiding the program - to the tune of more than $2.56 trillion -plus over the decades, mainly to cravenly hide the actual deficits. (See attached graph.)

The Neoliberal,  lying elites meanwhile want to blame the now retiring millions of Boomers for the Trustees' projection that Social Security will only be able to pay out 75% of benefits by 2033, but they are wrong. The "Boomer" problem was actually solved back in 1983 at the behest of then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, and agreed to by Ronald Reagan. To that end, the FICA taxes were increased to 6.2%. But the Neoliberal scum would have you believe that this was never done, or as Robert Samuelson once wrote me in a response email when I noted it in a letter sent to him: "That was nearly 30 years ago, look at all the inflation since." Oh yeah? How 'bout instead looking at all the massive thievery from the program the past 11 years? (See bottom green inset table for amounts raided since 2000).

Why do I refer to Neoliberal scum? Because that is what these miscreants are! They peddle the propaganda that "markets" must rule over all and sundry, but as the quote at the top discloses, "free markets" are a myth and have been since the 1920s-30s, or maybe earlier. Never mind, the Neolibs don't want anyone violating their precious Pareto optimality conditions, meaning no one ought to be collecting diddly simply by meeting a certain age requirement or breathing.

Perhaps the best summary take ever on the Neoliberal vermin was penned by Baltimore Sun columnist Jay Bookman more than 15 years ago ('The New World Disorder Evident Here, Abroad')

"The global economy has been constructed  on the premise that government guarantees of security and protection must be avoided at all costs, because they discourage personal initiative. In times of crisis, however, that premise cannot be sustained politically. In times of trouble it is human nature to seek security and protection and to be drawn toward those who promise to provide it. That is how men such as Adolf Hitler, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin came to power, with disastrous consequences. "

This correctly sums it up, and why the Neoliberal -"pro market god"  Elites will likely ignore the latest poll, as they've ignored others. Thus, look for the Neolibs in both parties to recommend instead adopting a disgusting revision of the COLA, probably in the form of the despicable "chained CPI" which assumes when prices of say bacon go higher, the elderly will turn to Spam, when Spam prices go higher, they will turn to small pieces of beef jerky, and when those latter go higher, well they will turn to cat food. In other words, we call it the "Catfood Progression Indicator" COLA. You "progress" to cheaper and cheaper options as your grocery bills keep increasing.

In terms of who is trusted more to protect Social Security, Obama and Romney poll almost neck and neck with the Mittster getting 44% support and Obama 47%. I suspect Obama is within the measured uncertainty mainly because of his ill-advised "Deficit Commission" which played directly into the Neolibs' disgusting hands and onto the Repuke -Norquist wicket. (Tabbing two Neolib whores, Alan B. Simpson and Ernest Bowles, to head this commission didn't help) Worse, was when Obamanites remotely mentioned using the Chained CPI as a "solution" - confirming many oldsters' worst fears that Obama might not be as protective of Social Security as he'd earlier let on. This has died down for now, but we are still reading of ominous news items that - if re-elected- Obama intends to "cooperate more" with Republicans next year on getting legislation passed. I thought we already proved that's a non-starter, Mr. Prez. I say if you win, use your "political capital" and tell the repups to fuck themselves. Drop the Nice Guy persona already! Keep up the Chicago tough guy shtick. You're gonna need it!

Sadly, too many of the young under-30 sprats have imbibed too much kool aid. One guy named "Jeff Victory" quoted in the D. Post piece blabbed, ignorantly:

"Barack has already shown he's going to give anything free out to everyone he possibly can. I'm going to go with Romney on that one."

Oh yeah? Then you deserve to suck on the shit balls that Romney will serve up and which you will be expected to live on, if you make it to 65 or 69 (if the Rs get their way and increase the age for full benefits). Another thing this moron misses is that Social Security is NOT welfare, it's not "free" - we have paid into it our whole working lives! Maybe we can make excuses that this moron saw the moronic new movie "Obama's America 2016" or some title to that effect. (What I couldn't believe is the report in today's paper that it reached number 8 at the box office with a $6.2 million take. I could not believe that many stupid people were willing to shell out good money to watch propaganda, especially from a Neoliberal hack named Dinesh D'Souza.  Then I realized most had to be Repubs, or Ayn Rand Groupies.

The bottom line is if Obama is re-elected, as he ought to be, he needs to lay out a serious plan to save Social Security and one that doesn't entail using "Republican " solutions! That would not be why we re-elected you, Sir!

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