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A Pop-Up, Class War, Attack-Doll.

9:17 am in Uncategorized by TomThumb

This fellow shows up for class war in his “all deficit reduction, all of the time” mode in the New York Times Op-Eds. I already wrote about his exaggeration of the current costs of Medicare and Social Security. And, about his minimization of the negative impact of the chained cpi, which I view as a tax just for being old and poor.

Today he’s holding his small plastic class war protest sign again: The ‘we cannot afford Social Security and Medicare’, and its all so ‘unsustainable’. He fails to mention that his gang pays taxes so low that America is ranked below Greece in terms of low income taxes. (24% to Greece’s 30% income taxes paid).

When he pops-up is important too. He’s there to cheer-on the President to make deeper cuts, just after the 2014 budget is presented. He’s just-in-time to suck all of the oxygen out of the media so that they cannot represent the fair budget of the CPC; (the CPC budget is the one that actually taxes capital gains like regular income.)

Where he pops-up is important. A media which pledges allegiance to the agenda of the wealthy and of the powerful. The Wall Street clown car media with its passenger side door for MBAs,lawyers and accountants, and its Drivers’ side door for CEOs.

Who he works for is important: Finance. Wall Street. The 1%. The top 20% who own 80% of America. This Wealth Inequality youtube shows how little the bottom 80% owns. The folks who depend upon Medicare and Social Security the most, the bottom 40%, own almost nothing.

What he does deserves special scrutiny: It’s called a Class war. Class War is where their gang, the haves,  take things that don’t belong to them, from people who have almost nothing but Medicare and Social Security left,  for their gang* to steal.

*hired thugs, corrupt politicians……

Mr. Lew to Berlin: Don’t Do What Obama Is Doing Here

9:31 am in Uncategorized by TomThumb

I. Treasury Secretary Lew Goes to Berlin, NPR interviews him about the budget

Portrait of Treasury Secretary Lew

Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew told Germans to cut austerity measures while President Obama pushes them at home.

Treasury Secretary Lew goes to Berlin. Mr. Lew encourages Europeans to reduce their austerity measures because they are ruining their economies. He wants Europeans to spur their demand or spending. That is a good suggestion.

Lew has pressed European officials to moderate austerity measures in order to boost growth, and called on surplus countries like Germany to boost their consumption to help pull the continent out of the doldrums.

Schaeuble and Lew tried to play down any differences in their views, however, with the German arguing that growth and budget consolidation were not mutually exclusive.

NPR’s Mr. Green asks Mr. Lew (in Berlin) what he thinks about President Obama’s budget. Mr. Lew gives the official party response of how Mr. Obama has been offering the same budget policies for years and they are a reasonable mix of cuts to entitlements and increases in tax revenues. Mr. Green works really hard to ask about the similarities between austerity in Europe and austerity at home. But phrases like ‘long term fiscal constraint’, and ‘finding the sensible center’ act like intellectual razor wire and fill the interview with a wordsmith’s version of a room full of those small annoying plastic styrofoam packing pebbles.

II. What Obama Is Doing Here At Home

President Obama is persistently focusing his Presidential policy on deficit reduction and austerity in Federal and State spending. Since 2011, there have been 2 fronts in the Austerity war.

Two Visible Fronts in the Austerity War:

1. The Sequester cuts impact a range of government programs and services. 784 billion dollars in cuts over the next ten years. The cuts reduce spending on the Federal workforce and cause furloughs costing (of up to) 20% of workers’ salaries. Medicare is cut 2% per year under the Sequester rules. At any time the Sequester could be reversed through passing Conyers & Sanders sponsored bill, HR 900. The Sequester is a deliberate tool created to force all parties to pass the Grand Bargain.

2. The Grand Bargain consists of proposed cuts to the social insurance programs. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are in the crosshairs. Gaius Publius outlined seven areas which have historically been under attack in the Grand Bargain offers. You should read his article as he explains how each one of the seven cuts would impact Americans.

Less visible fronts in the austerity wars:

Cutting the Federal Work Force. Indirectly creating pressures to cut worker’s wages. Advocating against government job creation. Expansion of military commitments and spending in Africa, Asia, The middle East. Offering government subsidies to oil and energy companies. Permitting further, ongoing inflation of commodities like food and energy through financial speculation. Privatizing public services such as health care through the ACA, & changes to Medicare and Medicaid, subsidizing health insurance companies. Blank check spending on Security Theatre programs such HS, CIA, FBI, NSA. Propping up Wall Street & Banks through the $85 billion dollars/month Fed buying program. Starving savers through keeping interest rates at near zero. Absence of any Works Progress Administration, guaranteed jobs programs. Strangulation of TANF, Food Stamps, Housing Subsidies for low-income families. No advocacy for a guaranteed income for low-income families. Continuation of public assistance work requirements for homeless people. The ongoing privatization of the public education system.

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Arts of Magnification, Minimization, And Intimidation

7:25 pm in Uncategorized by TomThumb

Intimidation (“How Dare You Demand Special Consideration!”)

Seems like the enemies of Social Security and Medicare will pull out every trick they know to achieve their goal.  Today an otherwise astute economist told a reporter that disabled Vets had to take a cut in their benefits just “like everyone else”, in a scold, as if they were asking for special consideration. They said that they had already made sacrifices for their country and gave the answer that it is unfair to change the terms of the contract after you have already finished your side of the deal. She was firm, and insisted that there would be no carve outs for special groups. Did she miss the Gene Sperling memo?

A few weeks ago White House economist, Gene Sperling, was all over Reddit promising that the chained cpi would have special protective carve outs for the vulnerable: For Vets and disabled folks, and for the very elderly who would experience the deepest cuts from their Social Security benefits. (Then it turned out that every group is vulnerable because all are going to be hurt by cuts under the chained CPI.) Broken promises?

Minimization

In an non-fact based Op-Ed in the NYTimes, Rattner claimed that a 1,ooo dollar benefit would hardly be hurt at all by the chained cpi. His graph showed the increasing impact of the chained cpi cut over a ten year period. So what’s the problem? The graph did not show how the cuts would  aggregate to 3% of benefits at ten years, 6% at twenty years and 9% at thirty years. And, the Social Security benefit cut needed to be multiplied by 12 to present the total of the cuts per year, and then compounded, over a specific period. That is what is wrong. And account for inflation through COLA. He made the numbers look small by only looking at a small looking number. The real impact of the chained cpi is larger. More like this:


Chart of SSI under CPI

Magnification (Exaggeration)

In the same non-fact based Op-Ed in the NYTimes, Rattner claimed that unfunded liabilities owed by this generation extended to “almost 60″ Trillion dollars.  He alleged that cumulative debts including the current deficit and future Social Security and Medicare unpaid for benefits meant that cuts had to be made: “now! now! now!” His numbers reflect the multiplication of a coefficient representing a guessed-at, actuarial gap in future projected revenues and benefit payments, over the almost infinite horizon of 75 years. No wonder his graph shot skyward at a 45 degree angle. He wrote as if there were no future revenues, production gains, wage increases, and maybe even a scrapped FICA cap so people like him can pay their fair share of taxes. Social Security would be perfecto if deadbeats earning more than 113K per year had to contribute their fair share to the Trust fund.

Medicare will require price controls to bring healthcare costs down, but beneficiaries of Medicare are not the problem, high prices are.

This is a graph of medical spending on retirees. Not bad. Most of the rise is due to “other factors.” And recent spending is down:

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The Visible Watermark of A Confiscatory Threshold.

11:04 am in Uncategorized by TomThumb

The Cyprus ‘bail-in’ is merely to settle the casino banking debts of large investors, bankers, financiers…..who have seen a 121 % increase in their incomes while ordinary worker’s wages stagnated. Greek bonds that went bad in the recent past, have been placed on the shoulders of the ordinary Cypriot.  The IMF and Euro ministers were happy to make oligarch’s debts into Cyprus’s national debts.

The  designated Russian ‘bad guys’ and their money left the Cyprus island long before the draconian IMF and EU punishments arrived in Brussels last night. I recommend the Iceland rebellion solution. Tell the folks in Brussels where they can stuff it.

I would be complicit with banks stealing from small uninsured savers, entrepreneurs, small businesspersons in Cyprus…….. mortgage holders, and those about to be dispossessed of houses, jobs and well-being, if I chose to sit around, to keep mum, and watch passively as this theft occurs.

The panic began ten days ago when the Brussel’s crew demanded a percentage of bank depositors accounts, less for insureds and more for those in the uninsured (>100K Euros).  The final deal places the burden on pensioners and small businesses with uninsured amounts of more than 100,000 Euros.

For a pattern-maker, a sudden change in the pattern adds a new dimension:  The Cyprian cuts for uninsured depositors is now the visible watermark of a confiscatory threshold: that of arbitrarily taking small depositors’ monies from their bank accounts. This is important because if it stands, it will signal that any person’s savings account is no longer fully safe.

I see no difference between taking money from savers and from small business accounts, and stealing from earned benefit social insurance programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Both were created from personal income, from payroll taxes, from general income taxes, and both were supposed to be protected by governments responsible for the security of such resources.

The pattern of austerity now adds a new facet: confiscation rationalized as a rescue.  But the pattern is not merely composed of shrinking government and  through allowing anti-worker and anti-union forces to succeed, off-shoring manufacturing jobs, and attacks on social insurance programs and civil liberties. Unfair tax policies allow revenue to escape untaxed. Neither US 2014 budget (R or D) makes capital gains taxable as normal income. Neither budget demands a Wall Street financial transactions tax. Neither budget raises income tax rates to fair levels.

For retired persons who rely on savings accounts for security, the ZIRP (low interest) policies of the Fed have reduced their income severely. Coupled with President Obama’s stated interest in reducing the size of social insurance programs, (his emphasis on making cuts to Social Security and Medicare), retired persons have been subjected to political stress too. Who is on their side? Certainly not the beltway folks who manufacture their own statistics so that they can  conflate old people with a Federal deficit.  There is plenty of money and influence for rich people. But in the new confiscatory  part of the pattern there apparently is no safety for retired persons with Social Security benefits and savings accounts.

 

Two Myths.

7:14 pm in Uncategorized by TomThumb

We spend too much on the elderly.

Below find a graphic demonstration of poverty among seniors in different countries in addition to a side-by-side comparison of amounts spent on seniors in different countries within the OECD. (courtesy of IPS).

Snapshot- 65 living in Poverty

The U.S. is closest to Mexico on the elder poverty level scale. (We spend a whopping 6% compared to 12% in France and 10.7% in Germany.)  Given that so many seniors live in and near to poverty, should we really consider cutting their Social Security benefits with a chained CPI?

The “extra cost” of the retiring elderly is the reason medical costs will“bankrupt” us.

Below find a graphic demonstration of the minimal influence of more people retiring when compared to the influence of increases in the other costs and prices of medical care. (From the President’s Economic Plan.)

Medical spending on Retirees

The green line represents the impact of the aging population.  The orange band represents population growth. The blue area represents the “other reasons” for the cost of healthcare. The trend is toward lower expenditures in recent history, but since year 2000, it looks like the blue area has increased by 200+billion dollars. Could that increase just be CEOs’ salaries, shareholder dividends and excessive profit?

Below find a graph showing the expected growth in Medicare spending with two possible trajectories:

Projected Medicare Spending

If Medicare spending follows the ‘red’ bottom line, instead of following the blue line with its automatic link to GDP growth, the situation does not appear to be a ‘crisis’.

Obama is talking about more means-testing for Medicare. Medicare is already means-tested. Should we start means-testing folks at a lower, small family, poverty-line income  level?  The Obama plan talks about increasing cost-sharing from patients. Why? How cheap can you get?

The President’s Economic Report (Chapter 5) does not mention instituting price controls (so that the MRI which only costs 99.00 to operate does not cost the patient 995.00). Medical price controls would be a better place to start rather than cutting Social Security and asking people to pay more for Medicare insurance and medical services.

 

Notes for an imaginary margin:  A friend reports that on a recent visit his small city hospital was empty, “like a tomb”….  My local hospital doctor told me that they had ‘a great year’.  Really? ….. An uninsured man who injured himself while fixing his car went to the discount store and bought antibiotic cream and gauze and sterile tape. It is 600.00 flat to show up at the local ER and to request crisis care. ……In a nearby city, an auto repair garage is charging 108.00 an hour for mechanic work: its repair bays are empty and its parking lot is empty, and the guys are sitting around like crows on a wire….. I know many unemployed people including my own person. There are many my age who are sheltering and supporting their adult children…….. I don’t have any graphs for the realities in my imaginary margin. There is a yawning, seemingly insurmountable, big gap between my world and the Beltway mythologies. End of parallel reality statement.

Obama’s Right-Hand-Man Offers Social Insurance Program Cuts, Again.

5:41 am in Uncategorized by TomThumb

Gene Sperling

Gene Sperling

How many times can the Obama administration offer cuts to the social insurance system, before Americans realize that the focus on government deficits is just a ruse?

The mendacious focus on the deficit is just a tool to drive cuts in our social insurance programs, the only part of the government that is truly paid for through income taxes and FICA. The assault on working people continues:

According to this report, Gene Sperling, a senior White House economics adviser, offered to cut social insurance programs as a solution to the sequester budget cuts. Yesterday.

From a CNN Program:

President Barack Obama raised anew the issue of cutting entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security as a way out of damaging budget cuts, a White House official said on Sunday, as both sides in Washington tried to limit a fiscal crisis that may soon hit millions of Americans.

Signaling he might be ready to explore a compromise to end automatic spending cuts that began late Friday, Obama mentioned reforming these entitlement programs in calls with lawmakers from both parties on Saturday afternoon.

“He’s reaching out to Democrats who understand we have to make serious progress on long-term entitlement reform and Republicans who realize that if we had that type of entitlement reform, they’d be willing to have tax reform that raises revenues to lower the deficit,” White House senior economic official Gene Sperling said on Sunday on the CNN program “State of the Union.”

Obama and the Democrats are only interested in keeping taxes low for rich people and corporations. If it is hard for you to  believe this is true, think of this koan, “Cuts to earned benefits are a form of taxation.” But only for people with incomes below the FICA cap of about 113K.

And, for Gene Sperling, this has been his plan for a long time.

This We-Must-Make-Cuts policy is 180 degrees opposed to what small business owners say.  And if you ask the American people, the majority are opposed to cuts to social insurance programs too.

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