• Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: Obama’s “mess of pottage”

    2013-04-11 06:45:46View | Delete

    ThumbnailBarak Obama is the first Democratic president to advocate cutting Social Security benefits. Whatever happens next, this is a historic change of direction for his party and an ominous turning point for the American social/economic compact. In the Bible—Book of Genesis, to be precise—Esau returns, exhausted and famished, from working in the fields, and sees his [...]

  • Yes – Tom Harkin recently submitted some very promising legislation that incorporates some of the ideas mentioned above. Bernie Sanders has been pushing raising the cap from some time. And on a slightly different note, I was delighted to see the AFL-CIO recently start encouraging discussion of improving Social Security benefits – something that’s tragically been lost from the debate for too long. Social Security could be a lot better for a lot of groups in society, such as widows, surviving children, and people who spend their careers almost entirely in low-wage jobs. I’m glad that labor is turning its attention to this.

  • Raising the cap: gets a t least some lip-service from the Bowles-Simpson report – in other words, from the center-right – but they always couch it as a backup – start it, say 20 years from now, if nothing else works. They’d rather start with fairly brutal measures like raising the retirement age.

  • There are some, for example by the Center on two very good think-tanks, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (cbpp.org) and Center on Economic and Policy Research (CEPR.net). But just look at the effect that Social Security has had during the post-housing bubble recession 0- the elderly were one of the few groups that kept spending. And there is also some good research from Frida Berrigan at New America Foundation on the surprisingly low multiplier effect of Pentagon spending.

  • I’ll get right to Ellen’s first question. But first, thanks for hosting me, Ellen – it’s a great privilege to have one of the very best journalists in America running the show today.

    There are quite a few other good ideas for improving Social Security’s funded status besides raising the cap. Another is to dedicated another levy – perhaps a financial transactions tax or a revived estate tax – to Social Security alongside the payroll tax. Flexible benefit programs aren’t taxed. They ought to be, since they’re an increasingly large part of workers’ compensation – and the proceeds could also be used to support Social Security. The simplest thing would be to raise payroll taxes for everyone – but very gradually, over a period of decades, such that it doesn’t affect people’s purchasing power. The common denominator here, of course, is that all of these ideas involve raising taxes on some one. But that’s no reason they – or some combination of them – shouldn’t at least be considered. America is getting older. We will have more elderly to provide for. There’s no getting around the fact that it’ll cost us more than it has in the past if we don’t want to send the elderly to the poorhouse – or their children’s guest rooms.

    If we want to minimize the tax burden from Social Security, however, there’s one way to do it – give America a raise! Real wages have stagnated in this country since the mid-1970s, except for a brief spurt at the end of the 1990s. This is the main cause of the shortfall in Social Security’s 75-year funding. Social Security depends on payroll tax receipts. If real wages aren’t going up,payroll tax receipts stagnate too. I think Washington could do us a lot more good if stops obsessing over the alleged “insolvency” of Social Security and starts considering how to create well-paying jobs – jobs with a future to replace the hollowing out of American manufacturing. That means spending money on education, training, infrastructure, revisiting job-killing deals like NAFTA. But it’s essential. Finding creative ways to raise money from different sources for Social Security is fine, but it’s basically bailing out a leaky boat. In the end, Social Security depends on payroll tax receipts that rise at a healthy pace. The way to plug the leak for the long run is to get wages growing at a healthy pace again. If we don’t, this country will have a hard time in the future paying for any of the things we collectively provide ourselves with. Not just Social Security.

    Are these things being seriously considered on Planet Washington? Not much, unfortunately. If they’re to be addressed, the Progressive Caucus needs to grow considerably larger.

  • Hi Bev

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: ALEC’s bigger target: Social Security

    2012-04-30 08:06:48View | Delete

    ThumbnailThe low-key “legislative exchange” group has been in the news a lot, promoting right-wing bills in state governments. But it seeks a role on the national level as well. One of its longtime targets is one of the biggest: Social Security. The American Legislative Exchange Council is taking some flack – and burnishing its conservative credentials [...]

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: What’s the Matter with Chisago County?

    2012-02-15 15:28:18View | Delete

    ThumbnailThe solid middle class citizens of our economically beset nation are sorry that their growing dependence on government handouts is bankrupting the federal government. If they could possibly send the money back, they would. But they can’t, and so the poor get less. That seems to be the message of a major New York Times feature on the [...]

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: Demanding the Possible from Social Security

    2012-02-09 12:28:21View | Delete

    Thumbnail The dead-end debate over Social Security’s solvency has long stymied any discussion of how to improve the program for its participants. Now may be the time to break that logjam. Here’s a way that progressive lawmakers can help to do so. Hard as it is to conceive, the last time a significant improvement was made for [...]

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: Newt Gingrich Can’t Get With the Program

    2012-01-25 07:17:20View | Delete

    ThumbnailWhy is the Republican Party leadership so scared of Newt Gingrich? Putting aside his generally abrasive personality, his loud streak of megalomania, and his tendency to self-destruct – OK, that’s a lot! – it’s hard to think of much in the way of substantive policy matters that sets the former House speaker apart from the rest [...]

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: How Much Do We Care About the Elderly?

    2011-03-15 11:03:17View | Delete

    That’s the real issue behind the Social Security debate – and the deficit fight as well. But it’s almost impossible to have a constructive public discussion about the elderly and the share of the economy they occupy so long as deficit hysteria continues. Don’t go to Pete Peterson’s Fiscal Times for balanced reporting on Social Security and [...]

  • Ted Nugent, the “Motor City Madman” of ’70s hard rock, has a plan to fix Social Security: Eliminate it. And make workers under 45 pay to wind it up. With enemies like this, does Social Security even need friends? At this point in his demented career, The Nuge – Tedly, Uncle Ted, what have you – [...]

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: Social Security: It’s All in the Adjectives

    2011-02-13 22:55:55View | Delete

    People who want to cut Social Security benefits to lower future budget deficits are “reasonable” and “serious.” Moreover, economists have reached a “consensus” that this should be done. People who oppose balancing the budget on the back of Social Security recipients are “denialists” whose views are “maddening,” “crackpot,” “strident.” The cartoonist R. Crumb once advised a [...]

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: Social Security: What’s in It for Wall Street?

    2011-01-28 15:30:40View | Delete

    Thumbnail What do Wall Street financial advisers tell their clients about Social Security? That they shouldn’t count on it. In fact, ex it out of your planning altogether. But behind the scenes, brokers and advisers eagerly use Social Security as a marketing opportunity – even bringing in experts from the Social Security Administration itself to educate them [...]

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: Paul Ryan’s Hammock

    2011-01-27 10:59:21View | Delete

    How stands the Social Security discussion in Washington following State-of-the-Union night? More or less where it was before. Which, for defenders of the program is mostly not good. President Obama honored his pledge to congressional Democrats over the previous weekend not to endorse cuts to the program. In fact, he went a bit farther, rejecting any [...]

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: The Payroll Tax: Just Another Tax?

    2010-12-17 05:55:31View | Delete

    What does it mean that the U.S. no longer has a permanent tax code? That every major tax Americans pay, including income tax and the payroll tax covering Social Security, is now a temporary measure subject to — effectively — mandatory revision by Congress in the next one to two years? With passage of the Obama-McConnell [...]

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: The Greed of the “Bottom Half”

    2010-11-29 10:22:19View | Delete

    We’ll shortly be hearing the objections of deficit hawks to the deficit reduction package Demos, The Century Foundation, and the Economic Policy Institute. No doubt they’ll echo the criticisms that have already been leveled at the deficit-shrinkage roadmap Rep. Jan Schakowsky put on the table earlier this month. To get a sense of what those criticisms [...]

  • Eric Laursen wrote a new diary post: Framing the Schakowsky Plan

    2010-11-17 12:53:44View | Delete

    Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s deficit reduction proposal is a game changer: a serious, moderate, balanced blueprint for addressing the nation’s long-range fiscal challenges, by a leading progressive lawmaker. How her colleagues on the president’s deficit commission respond to it will be a test of how serious they really are about solving the deficit puzzle in a fair [...]

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