Social security

Keep America at Peace: Keep the Pentagon Sequester

Folks who think that (at the very least) we should be allowed to experience a few years of peace before launching the next military adventure are on the cusp of a major victory in Washington. All we have to do to win this historic victory is maintain the "sequester" cuts to the Pentagon budget that are already planned in existing law. And if we win the next round -- if we avoid any kind of "grand bargain" one more time -- we will likely win forever, because the Pentagon cuts will be an accomplished fact, and when everyone sees that the Earth is still spinning on its axis, we'll all realize that cutting the Pentagon budget is no big deal. The Pentagon will be smaller, the sun will come up in the morning, and life will go on.

This Week, Let's Help Burlington Kill the $1.5 Trillion F-35 Taxpayer Ripoff

We have just a week left to help Burlington, Vermont kill the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the biggest taxpayer ripoff in human history. On Monday, October 7, the Burlington City Council will vote on a binding resolution that would block F-35 warplanes from being based at Burlington International Airport, which is owned by the city.


If the Council votes to block the planes from being based in Burlington, that won't kill the $1.5 trillion F-35 taxpayer ripoff by itself. But it will set a crucial precedent. It will prove that the F-35 is politically vulnerable. It will mark a historic defeat of pork-barrel military Keynesianism by citizen engagement. It would help change the national posture of Democrats on unnecessary military spending. It would help abolish the dogma that Democrats have to support unnecessary military spending when it takes place in their districts.

On April 25, Help MoveOn Kill the Chained CPI and Cut the Pentagon Instead

UPDATE: MoveOn has moved the day of action to Thursday, April 25. All dates in this alert have been changed to reflect this development.

On April 25, MoveOn is calling for actions at Congressional offices across the country in opposition to President Obama's proposal to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits by lowering the cost-of-living adjustment with the "chained CPI."

This is a historic opportunity for the broad public to force a positive change in federal budget priorities. What President Obama, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, and the Washington Post editorial board agree on is that they prefer to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits and raise taxes rather than cut the bloated Pentagon budget. That's what the "grand bargain" is all about.

But the broad, bipartisan public holds the opposite view. Most Americans would rather cut the bloated Pentagon budget, and leave Social Security and veterans' benefits and taxes alone. [1]

Can you help us help MoveOn make history on April 25? We're asking you to do three things:

1. Sign our petition at SignOn:

Cut Social Security & Veterans' Benefits? Cut the Pentagon Instead!
http://signon.org/sign/cut-social-security-veterans?source=c.url&r_by=11...

2. Share our blog post:

On Friday, Kill the #ChainedCPI Cut to Social Security & Veterans' Benefits
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/on-friday-kill-the-chaine_b_...

3. Help organize an action at a local Congressional office on April 25 to deliver our petition:

Host an Emergency mobilization to protect Social Security
http://civic.moveon.org/event/events/create.html?id=&action_id=317

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy

Budget Control Act Military Cuts Will Cover the Social Security Shortfall

A key reason that it's relatively easy to scaremonger about predictions regarding Social Security's finances decades in the future is that the language often used to talk about Social Security's finances isn't immediately comparable to anything else that most people can relate to. A number that isn't comparable to other numbers you know is a meaningless number. How big a difference is seven trillion dollars? It sounds like a huge number. But in a context devoid of comparable numbers, it's a meaningless number.

Responding to the 2012 Social Security Trustees report, Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put the Trustees' projections about the future finances of the Social Security system in the context of the current debate about tax policy:

 

The revenue loss over the next 75 years from making [the tax cuts enacted under President Bush] permanent would be about two times the entire Social Security shortfall over that period. Indeed, the revenue loss just from extending the tax cuts for people making over $250,000 -- the top 2 percent of Americans -- would itself be nearly as large as the entire Social Security shortfall over the 75-year period. Members of Congress cannot simultaneously claim that the tax cuts are affordable while the Social Security shortfall constitutes a dire fiscal threat.

 

Dancing on the Super Committee's Grave, Singing Halleluyah

The spectacle of Democrats and Republicans arguing about who is to "blame" for the "failure" of the "Supercommittee" is certainly tempting for many partisans. But any progressive who participates in the spectacle risks attacking their own interests to the degree that they promote the implicit assumption that the public interest would have been better served if the Super Committee had reached a deal.

 

We shouldn't be arguing about who is to "blame" for this development. We should be arguing about who should be awarded credit for this best-plausible-outcome.

 

We should, to borrow a phrase from Monty Python, be dancing on the Super Committee's grave, singing Halleluyah.

 

Who should get the Academy Award? The AFL-CIO? The Strengthen Social Security Campaign? The Tea Party? All of the above?

 

Indeed, it was a de facto coalition between the AFL-CIO and its friends and the Tea Party and its friends which again defeated the cruel plan of the extreme center to trade Social Security cuts and raising the Medicare retirement age for a relatively meaningless increase on the tax rates paid by rich people.

 

Why meaningless? Because tax rates raised today can easily be lowered in the future. Cutting Social Security benefits by changing the cost-of-living formula and raising the Medicare retirement age are forever.

 

From the point of view of the national aspirations of the indigenous people of the United States, what was the right price to charge for Manhattan Island? Surely the answer is: there was no right price. Cash is ephemeral. Control of territory could be forever.

 

Similarly, there is no amount of increasing taxes on rich people that can compensate low-income workers for cutting their Social Security benefits and taking away their access to Medicare.

 

Sen. Merkley's Harm Reduction Plan for Afghanistan Would Save Lives and Billions

If Senator Jeff Merkley's "expedite the drawdown from Afghanistan" amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act makes a strong showing, that could tip the Obama Administration towards a faster drawdown.

 

That would likely save hundreds of American and Afghan lives - not to mention all the people who wouldn't be physically and psychologically maimed - and could easily save the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars, at a time when the alleged need for fiscal austerity is being touted as a reason to cut Social Security benefits and raise the Medicare retirement age.

 

Everyone knows the Hippocratic Oath: "First, do no harm." It's a great motto to try to live by. But unfortunately, in this life on Earth, "Do no harm" isn't always on the menu at the restaurant. Sometimes, you're already doing harm, and there's no feasible immediate path to zero harm. Sometimes the best you can do in the short run is to reduce the harm as much as possible. And if that's the best you can do, then that is what you must do.

 

It's not politically feasible, unfortunately, to end the war tomorrow. But we could take a big bite out of it in the next week. And that would save many lives and real money. [You can ask your Senators to co-sponsor the Merkley amendment here.]

 

Merkley's amendment (#1174) says:

 

1) the President should expedite the transition of security responsibility to the government of Afghanistan;

 

2) the President shall devise a plan for expediting the drawdown of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan and accelerating the transfer of security authority to Afghan authorities prior to December 2014; and

 

A "Pledge of Resistance" to Defend Social Security (and Defund the Empire)

For the third time in the last 20 years, establishment voices, with high-profile slots in traditional media, are trying to convince the public to accept cuts to Social Security by endlessly claiming such cuts are necessary without giving coherent evidence to justify the claim. Twice, under President Clinton and the second President Bush, these voices were defeated. But they didn't give up. And now they are in striking distance of their goal: the fact that Republicans have taken over the House, combined with the fact that the President appointed a deficit reduction commission which nearly recommended a cut in Social Security benefits, and might well have done so if Rep. Schakowsky hadn't worked to undermine the co-chairs' plan, means that one can't be complacent; some reports have suggested that the President may indicate support for cuts to Social Security in his State of the Union speech. Of the two principal Washington political actors who will shape the outcome - the Republican leadership and the President's team - one is a determined adversary of the public interest, the other a very uncertain ally. The most successful anti-poverty program in U.S. history is again in grave danger.

Twenty years ago, Social Security was called the "third rail" of U.S. politics. Touch it, you die. But it turned out that was not true. The Establishment greedheads were not, in fact, afraid to try to mess with this wildly popular program. Maybe Wall Street political power is the third rail.

In these two decades, Social Security hasn't been the third rail. Instead, it's been the Grey Goose of folk song legend. The knife couldn't cut him and the fork couldn't stick him. Try as they might, they couldn't kill him. Can the Grey Goose survive the next assault?

A Progressive Primary to Push for Jobs and End the Wars

It's bad enough that we lost progressive champions like Russ Feingold, and that the leadership and committees of the House will be taken over by advocates of domestic austerity and endless war. In addition, the airwaves and print media will now be filled with pundits saying that the lesson of the election is that Obama must move to the right and cut the budget, except the military. But the worst thing we must now face is that the 2010 election is likely a preview of 2012, unless at least one of two things happen: decisive federal action to boost economic growth and employment, now much more difficult to achieve than before, and some dramatic new element is introduced into our national politics that changes the character of national debate.


Jonathan Chait pointed out last week that based on the state of the economy, historical trends predicted a Democratic loss of more than 40 seats, enough for Republicans to take the House. In other words, on average, based on historical trends, the fate of the election was sealed when the Obama Administration proposed and Congress enacted an economic stimulus package that was much too small to counter the fall in domestic demand resulting from the collapse of the housing bubble. Everything else that happened in the election has to be judged according to the baseline expectation of the Democrats losing at least 40 seats - enough to lose the House - due to the failure to restore economic growth and employment with a sufficient stimulus to counteract the fall in private economic demand.

US vs. Brazil: A Tale of Two Elections

Next week the Western Hemisphere will see a tale of two elections: two elections that have a number of key features in common, and some key points of divergence. In common: the incumbent center-left faces a challenge from the Right. The head of state, the incumbent leader of the center-left, will not be on the ballot, but the election is widely viewed as a referendum on his policies.


Election Day is "the poll that matters," but the key divergence is that on Sunday in Brazil, the center-left is forecast to coast to victory, while on Tuesday in the U.S., the Right is widely forecast to make big gains, with better than even odds of taking the House.

What explains this divergence?

There are many factors, of course, but there is one key cause: in Brazil, Lula brought home the bacon, in economic indicators of the quality of life, for the Workers Party's electoral base: working people. Measured unemployment in Brazil is now at a record low of 6.2 percent.

When the majority of voters in Brazil ask themselves, "are we better off now than we were before the Workers Party came to power," this is the reality that they reflect on: the Brazilian economy has performed much better for working people during the Lula years than during the eight years of opposition candidate Jose Serra's party. Per capita income grew by 23 percent from 2002-2010, as opposed to just 3.5 percent for 1994-2002. The minimum wage, in real terms, grew by 65 percent during Lula's presidency. This is more than three time the increase during the prior eight years.

In Brazil, as in the U.S., a significant rise in the real value of the minimum wage lifts not just the workers who are at the very bottom of the wage distribution, but the much larger group of workers whose wages are near the bottom.

Britain's Budget Cuts - Will the Bell Toll For Us?

This week, the British government announced plans to cut its military personnel by 10 percent, scrap 40 percent of the army's artillery and tanks, and withdraw all of its troops from Germany within 10 years, the New York Times reports. The plan will involve a cut of about 8 percent in real terms in Britain's annual defense budget, significantly less than the 10 to 20 percent cuts that were under discussion. The Times attributes the reduced military cuts, in part, to US government pressure.

The reduced cuts in military spending are expected to lead to increased cuts in domestic spending:

 

The more modest scale of the military cutbacks placed extra strain on the government's overall effort to save more than $130 billion through spending cutbacks by 2015, a commitment that will require other government departments to make cutbacks averaging 25 percent. [my emphasis]

This what we have to look forward to with a Republican Congress: demands for budget cuts from which military spending is largely spared and which therefore will fall on domestic spending, like Social Security.