Nel's New Day

November 29, 2012

Stop the GOP in Rolling Back Our ‘Entitlements’

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:20 PM
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Let’s solve the whole deficit by rolling back Social Security and Medicare–that’s what the GOP insists. Just do away with the safety net, and the country will have no problems. As always, they’re wrong. Social Security and Medicare are not the cause of the deficit.

Raising the age for Medicare and voucherizing Medicare would shift costs onto needy people, lead to worse health outcomes, and drive people into poverty. Without enough money to pay for their health care, people will postpone treatment, resulting in higher costs because the health situation will require greater expenditures.  People cut from Medicare rolls would just end up on Medicaid or other government safety nets. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundations estimates that the net federal savings in 2014 of $5.7 billion would cost individuals, employers, and states $11.4 billion—twice as much. Also raising the age of Medicare would save very little because younger seniors, those between 65 and 67, require the least health care.

Raising the “full retirement age” for Social Security would be equally useless. About half of the beneficiaries start drawing benefits at age 62; a total of two-thirds begin their benefits before age 65. Full retirement age is already 66 and scheduled to increase to age 67. Deficit hawks use the excuse of increased life expectancy to increase the age for Social Security and Medicare to 67.  Half the people in the United States, however, particularly the poor and working-class people whose earnings are at or below the median, have a life expectancy at 65 that is unchanged since the 1970s.  In the poorer regions of the U.S., specifically the South, black males have a life expectancy of less than 65, sometimes as low as age 59.  

Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) wants to raise the age for Social Security because it was “never intended as a retirement program” because life expectancy when it was founded was only 63. Yet in 1940, people who got to age 65 still lived for many years. It’s just that more people are living to the age of 65 now, inflating the statistical life expectancy ages. In fact, life expectancy is dropping in the United States.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is now negotiating to decrease the deficit. Consider his past plans. He proposed raising the retirement age to 70 and implemented progressive price indexing as well as privatizing the program. Ryan’s plan would effectively cut benefits for all except 30 percent of the beneficiaries.

Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit because it is fully funded. It’s not an “entitlement program” because people pay into that specific program. With the $2.6 trillion surplus, Social Security can pay at 100 percent for the next 25 years and 75 percent after that. There is no deficit in Social Security; Republicans just want to use it for a cash cow to give money to the wealthiest people in the country.

Changes now can make Social Security self-supporting in perpetuity. Payroll taxes are collected only up to $110,100 in 2012, putting the burden on low- and middle-income workers. Eliminating that cap would allow Social Security to pay full benefits for the next 75 years, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tried to raise the cap last year, but both the GOP and the media ignored his attempts preferring to continue the myth of the “bankrupt” Social Security.

Medicare is also in good shape according to the Medicare Trustee’s annual report from April 2012. “The Hospital Insurance (Part A) Trust Fund has sufficient reserves to pay out the full amount of Medicare Part A benefits until 2024—the same projection made in last year’s report.  Should nothing else change, and the Trust Fund reserves be depleted in 2024, the Trust Fund would still receive sufficient income from the payroll taxes and other revenue through which it is funded to pay 87% of anticipated Part A expenses.” The report is based on a poor economy; projections will improve with the economy.

The future of Medicare would be even rosier if the GOP were willing to curb health care costs. Bargaining for drug prices would save billions. The Independent Payment Advisory Board, created as part of Obamacare to help Medicare control costs, could provide a theory of necessary medical treatments. These are not “death panels,” and the GOP wouldn’t care anyway because they are willing to take people off Medicare and let them die.

The problems with Social Security funding began when Bush borrowed heavily from its surplus to hide the fact that federal taxes didn’t accrue enough revenue to pay for his wars and tax cuts. Wall Street’s failures increased Social Security costs while reducing its revenues. The government owes the Social Security Trust Fund the interest for the money that the government borrowed from the $2.6 trillion surplus, but opponents (think GOP) believe that the government is not obligated to pay this interest. The budget deficit was caused by the wars, the lower taxes, and the Wall Street failures, but conservatives want to blame Social Security.

In fact, the government has borrowed more from the Social Security surplus than it has from any other source in the world, including China. As a result, Social Security now “owns” nearly 18 percent of the federal debt, making it the largest single holder of US debt. The government owes almost twice as much to Social Security as it does to China and Hong Kong.

House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) provided some insight to the GOP Social Security views in a recent NPR interview: “We are going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want it to be.” In other words, the GOP doesn’t want to help people.

Another program that expires if Congress does nothing about it is the unemployment insurance extension. Conservatives don’t want to give one cent to all the people that they call “slackers,” but there’s an important reason for continuing this extension. Extending the current level of jobless benefits from states and federal government throughout the next year will add 300,000 jobs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.  Cutting off this extension will leave 2 million people without any benefits on January 1 and another 900,000 within the next three months.

The demise of Hostess Brands is a prime example of why we need to keep Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the unemployment insurance extension. The company is doing just fine, thank you. They have 110 potential buyers salivating to take over the company, complete with Ho Hos and Ding Dongs—not to mention the infamous Twinkies. The court has given permission to give bonuses up to $1.8 million to the company’s top executives while all 19 corporate officers and “high level managers” must be employed for the next year. If all goes well, two of the officers will get even more bonuses in addition to their high salaries. CEO Gregory Rayburn, the “restructuring expert,” receives $125,000 a month.

While these corporate leaders, who drove the business into the ground, are making millions, 15,000 workers have lost their jobs, and none of the workers will get retiree benefits that they were promised. These people paid into the safety net; they deserve to receive them now. All of us deserve these benefits instead of giving the money to the wealthy.

August 12, 2012

Ryan’s Policies Hurt People

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:45 PM
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The most important fact to know about Paul Ryan’s budget plan is that it doesn’t help the deficit.

Who benefits from Ryan’s budget plan?

Big Oil: Ryan supports $40 billion in subsidies for big oil while eliminating billions of dollars from investments to develop alternative fuels and clean energy technologies to serve as substitutes for oil–$3 billion in 2013 alone. He has a practical approach toward this policy: with his wife, Ryan owns stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the energy companies that benefit from the oil subsidies. Ryan’s father-in-law, Daniel Little, runs these families.

The Defense Budget: Ryan wanted so desperately to increase the DoD budget that he accused generals of lying about their support for Obama’s $487 billion cuts in the military budget for the next ten years.  His proposed increases give extravagant benefits to military contractors.

Paul Ryan and His Family: Ryan and his wife own stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the energy companies that benefit from the oil subsidies. Ryan’s father-in-law, Daniel Little, runs these families. As a millionaire, Ryan will also benefit in decreased taxes from his budget plan.

Mitt Romney: Using his 2010 tax return—the only year that has been made public—in which Romney paid 13.9 percent, Ryan’s plan would drop Romney’s tax rate to approximately 0.82 percent. Most of Romney’s income came from capital gains, interest, and dividends which wouldn’t be taxed under Ryan’s vision for America. The elimination of the estate tax by Ryan’s plan would also give Romney’s heirs extra tens of millions of dollars.

And All the Other People in the Top 1 Percent!

Who loses with Paul Ryan?

The Bottom 98 Percent: Ryan plans to raise taxes on the middle class and cut them for millionaires, reducing federal tax collections by about $4.5 trillion during the next decade. If he balances the budget by matching the loss with cuts in programs, 62 percent of the savings would come from programs that benefit lower- and middle-classes—the same people who are already getting a tax increase.

Children: Ryan proposes cutting $1.1 billion from early childhood education, supports cuts to education funding, and tries to slash Title I grants (especially special education). He also approves of massive teacher layoffs.

Women: Ryan co-sponsored a “personhood” amendment, declaring any zygote a “person,” an amendment that would eliminate in vitro fertilization and popular forms of contraception as well as any abortions, no matter what the need. As a Catholic he believes that all religious institutions should have the right to keep their private insurance programs from providing contraception. Ryan has cast 59 anti-choice votes and repeatedly co-sponsored and voted for the Federal Abortion Ban, a law that criminalizes some abortion services, endangers women’s health, and carries a two-year prison sentence for doctors. Paul Ryan voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act,” allowing women to sue for gender discrimination in the workplace when they learn about the inequity.

The Poor: Paul Ryan’s budget cuts SNAP grants by 18%. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) grants, also known as food stamps, has kept 3.9 million Americans (equivalent to the entire population of Oregon), including 1.7 million children, out of poverty and allowed them to keep their families from going hungry. This plan drastically cuts jobs, leaving 174,000 people out of work. The plan removes two to three million people  from food assistance and 280,000 low-income children from receiving free school meals. More than three-fifths of Ryan’s proposed cuts attack poor people in SNAP, welfare, Medicaid, job training, etc.

Veterans: Ryan doesn’t mention the word “veteran” in his 100-page-plus plan, but he calls for across the board spending freezes and cuts, cutting $11 billion from veterans spending at a time when 45 percent of the veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning with multiple health issues, more than double the percentage of those who came back from the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

People Paying into Medicare and Social Security: Ryan plans to make Medicare a voucher system that would pay less and less to seniors for their private insurance as the years go on. He also wants to raise Medicare’s age of eligibility to 67. Ryan views Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” and advocates for privatizing the retirement benefit by investing it in stocks and bonds. (Think about the affect on the elderly who invested in the stock market after  the loss of trillions of dollars in the economic crisis of 2008.)

People Looking for Jobs: Ryan’s budget would result in 4.1 million lost jobs in 2 years. Ryan’s budget calls for massive reductions in government spending. He has proposed cutting discretionary programs by about $120 billion over the next two years and mandatory programs by $284 billion, which, the Economic Policy Institute estimates, would suck demand out of the economy and “reduce employment by 1.3 million jobs in fiscal 2013 and 2.8 million jobs in fiscal 2014, relative to current budget policies.”

LGBT People: Ryan voted in 1999 in favor of banning same-sex couples from adopting in the District of Columbia and voted against the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011. In 2003, Ryan voted in favor of the Marriage Protection Act, which would have prevented federal courts from considering and possibly overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Ryan also voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that passed the House in 2009. More recently, he supported an initiative in Wisconsin to ban marriage equality.

Students: Ryan wants to eliminate Pell Grants for more than 1 million students. He claims that Pell Grants, which help cover tuition costs for low-income Americans, don’t go to the “truly needy.” Ryan’s father died when Ryan was 16; he used his Social Security funds for school costs. He doesn’t want young people to have the advantages that he did. He also voted in favor of deceptive marketing by for-profit colleges, the focus of a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation.

Immigrants: Ryan buys into the myth of the grotesquely-named “anchor babies” accusing women of coming to the United States to get citizenship for their newborns. The myth has already been debunked because undocumented men far outnumber undocumented women and most women don’t get pregnant until they are already in the United States for at least a year. Yet Ryan felt that this was an appropriate discussion for a Town Hall meeting in Wisconsin.

People Who Believe in Freedom from Fundamentalist Religion: Ryan made the following statement in his determination to abolish the health care plan: “We disagree with the notion that our rights come from government, that the government can now grant us and define our rights. Those are ours, they come from nature and God, according to the Declaration of Independence.”

People Who Need the Planet to Continue to Exist: Ryan has accused scientists a conspiracy to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change” and argued that snow invalidates global warming. He hopes to Ryan has voted to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting greenhouse pollution, eliminate White House climate advisers, block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters like the drought devastating his home state, and eradicate the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E). His budget also threatens national security because it cut the funding for the agency that works to keep loose nuclear material out of enemies. Ryan voted to eliminate light bulb efficiency standards and voted to expedite the approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

How much compassion does Ryan have for his constituents? When they annoy him, he has them arrested. Last fall at one of Ryan’s “Pay to Play” town hall meetings, a 71-year-old man complained about Ryan taking away money that he had paid into programs. Police dragged the man out of the meeting, shouting, “On the ground, on the ground.” Ryan turned to the crowd and joked, “I hope he’s taken his blood-pressure medication.”

Religious groups are frustrated with Ryan’s plan. Leaders of a coalition of nuns in the United States described his budget as “immoral” and “unpatriotic,” and Sister Simone Campbell said, “[The Ryan Budget] rejects church teaching about solidarity, inequality, the choice for the poor, and the common good. That’s wrong.”

Catholic bishops even agree with the nuns. A few months ago, 60 Catholic social justice leaders, theologians and clergy released this statement: “This [Ryan] budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good.” Ryan claimed that his Catholic faith inspired the budget, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops fired back that the GOP measure “fails to meet these moral criteria.”

Comedian Andy Borowitz said about Ryan, ”The man of the hour used his brief remarks to lay out his vision of America, saying that billions of dollars could be saved by eliminating food, clothing, and shelter.” This is close to the truth of Ryan’s plan.

Paul Ryan may have difficulty in connecting his budget plan to the philosophy of his beloved Ayn Rand. While her books focus on the belief that people who produce things should receive the financial benefit, only two of the wealthiest people in the United States, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison, actually produce something to earn their wealth. The rest operate as middlemen for financial transactions, made their money through margin, earn profits from other people’s labor through capital ownership (think Bain Capital), or inherit their money. The vast majority of the top 1 percent of the wealthy in this country fit into this category.

Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress, summarizes the issues surrounding Romney’s pick for VP: “Mitt Romney has been cowed by the right wing into choosing an extreme vice presidential nominee who will alienate moderate voters.” The choice reveals Romney to be “unwilling or unable to stand up to the far-right of his party and select a vice-presidential candidate that is both able to be president on day one and capable of governing by reaching across the aisle.”

Republicans joined her in reacting negatively to Romney’s selection of Ryan. Republican strategist and former Romney adviser Mike Murphy said, “Paul Ryan is a star. I hope one day I will get to vote for him for President. But right now, in this election, he’s the wrong choice for VP.” Yesterday, the conservative blog The Fiscal Times published a column explaining why Romney will not select Ryan for VP and pointing out many of the disadvantages listed above—and this from the conservatives.

Romney is already trying to distance himself from the Ryan plan by saying that he already has a plan. Yet the far right is praising the Ryan plan and will be disappointed if Romney rejects it. Independents are not as enchanted with the Romney plan.

Murphy’s concern is that a debate about cutting entitlements isn’t the path to GOP victory. I hope so!

One more thing: the Ryan Plan doesn’t reduce the deficit!




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