08/14/2015 archive

Social Security at 80

80 years ago today President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act as a major part of his New Deal. Calls for its privatization started over 30 years ago under Pres. Gerald Ford. We must not let that happen. If anything, it should be expanded as Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed.

Sen. Warren sent an e-mail today reminding us of the vital importance of this program to seniors, the disable and dependent children:

80 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law – and it was in large part thanks to a remarkable woman from Massachusetts: Frances Perkins.

Frances Perkins was FDR’s Secretary of Labor – the first woman in US history to hold a cabinet position. Coming out of the Great Depression, she was a chief architect of the New Deal, and we can thank her for the 40-hour workweek, the minimum wage, and unemployment insurance. She was also the head of the Committee on Economic Security, which created the blueprint for Social Security. God bless Frances Perkins.

FDR and Frances Perkins established Social Security because, as FDR said, “It [would] take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.” In other words, Social Security would be a win-win: good for our nation’s economy and good for the citizens of our nation.

They knew that Social Security was about economics, but it was also about our values. It’s about who we are as a people, and what kind of country we are determined to build. [..]

80 years later, we need Social Security more than ever. People are hitting their retirement years with less savings and more debt. Pensions are disappearing, being replaced by 401(k) plans that leave retirees at the mercy of the stock market. The squeeze on America’s middle class is now a squeeze on America’s retirees.

Social Security benefits are modest – just $1300 a month, on average – but two-thirds of America’s seniors rely on those checks for the majority of their income. For 15 million seniors, Social Security is all that stands between them and poverty.

Social Security is about independence and dignity. It’s no surprise that 79% of likely voters in last year’s election – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – support increasing Social Security benefits. Every person who represents you in Washington, and every person running for President in 2016, should be talking about protecting and expanding Social Security – not cutting it.  

FDR and Frances Perkins knew that you don’t get what you don’t fight for. So today, I’m fighting hard to make sure we don’t cut a dime of Social Security benefits. I’m fighting to protect and expand Social Security – and I hope you’ll fight alongside me.

Decades after Social Security was established, Frances Perkins told the Social Security Administration:

Social Security is so firmly embedded in the American psychology today that no politician, no political party, no political group could possibly destroy this Act and still maintain our democratic system. It is safe. It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States.

Let’s fight to make good on Frances Perkins’ promise by protecting and expanding Social Security.

Thank you for being a part of this, and a special thanks to Frances Perkins – a tough woman with a vision. Happy birthday, Social Security!


She asks us to sign her petition to protect and expand Social Security:

Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income in retirement, and for 15 million seniors – 15 million – this is the safety net that keeps them out of poverty. And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.

The absolute last thing we should do in 2015 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors to keep their heads above water – is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

Join me today – on the 80th anniversary of Social Security – to take a stand: We believe in protecting and expanding Social Security so our seniors can retire with dignity.

We stand with Sen. Warren. Please sign her petition

The Hypocrisy of the Fiscal Conservatives: Funding Sports Stadiums

Last month John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” focused his laser with on the boondoggle of tax payer funded sports stadiums. The practice goes on even though it is a losing proposition for the cities that just lines the pockets of the extremely wealthy franchise owners. In states and cities that are going broke, where the infrastructure is falling apart, schools failing and far right elected officials cut taxes and spending, the one thing that will get money is a sports stadium. In St. Louis, Missouri the court recently rules that the city doesn’t need to ask the taxpayers for permission to build a new NFL stadium:

St. Louis can use city tax dollars to build a new NFL stadium for the Rams without a public vote on the matter, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Frawley ruled on Monday. Critics say the decision calls into question the city’s spending priorities one year after the killing of an unarmed black teenager ignited long-simmering racial tensions and exposed extreme poverty, corruption, and racial bias throughout the county.

A 2002 ordinance requires a city vote before spending public money on a new sports facility. Frawley declared the ordinance invalid, saying portions were “too vague to be enforced.”

Meanwhile, in the state that Charles Pierce calls the Koch Industries subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, staunch fiscal conservative and Tea Party Governor signed legislation to give the New York City bases hedge fund owners of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team millions of tax dollars to build a new arena. David Dayen at Salon fills us in on Gov. Walker’s fiscal hypocrisy:

Herb Kohl, the former Democratic senator, sold the Milwaukee Bucks to two New York-based hedge fund managers, Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens, in 2014; and they immediately demanded a new arena, lest they abandon Milwaukee. Lasry and Edens are worth around $2 billion each, but under the purchasing agreement they would only put up $150 million for the arena, with Kohl kicking in another $100 million. The rest would come from city, county and state taxpayers.

The usual discredited arguments propped up this deal. Wisconsin lawmakers promised great economic benefits from a new downtown arena. Walker said repeatedly it would be cheaper to keep the Bucks in Wisconsin than to lose them to some other city. This ignores the fact that the alternate universe where Wisconsinites don’t have a Bucks game to attend in April is not necessarily to sit in their homes and contemplate the darkness of existence. They’d maybe go out to dinner, with the economic activity simply substituted.

Numerous (pdf) studies (pdf) have shown (pdf) no economic benefits (pdf) to building a new stadium; it’s just something rich people say to get someone else to pay for the construction. Seattle is not a deserted wasteland because they lost the SuperSonics in 2008. They’re doing okay.

None of this mattered to politicians who could tell sports fans they “saved the Bucks,” however, and the legislature, with Walker’s prodding, agreed to cover $250 million of the $500 million needed to build the stadium. Walker’s budget literally cuts $250 million for the state university system, precisely the public share of the arena. They’re paying for it partially through borrowing, which adds interest. And if you tally up other subsidies like property tax abatements and sales tax exemptions, the 20-year cost could be as much as $500 million. That’s effectively the entire cost of the arena itself, and taxpayers will have no ownership stake in the property.

The host of MSNBC’s “All In,” Chris Hayes discussed the deal with David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute and Kavitha Davidson, sports columnist at Bloomberg View.

What Charlie said:

Contrary to what I predicted, so far at least, Scott Walker has proven to be something of a lemon as a national candidate. He is even more charisma-challenged than I thought he was, and he can’t get out of his own way on most major policy issues.  Beating up English teachers and bum-rushing grannies out of the state capitol will only get you so far. And this gift to a couple of hedge-fund buckaroos is making nobody except those two guys happy. This is how Ben Carson ends up in second place in Iowa.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: Coke Tries to Sugarcoat the Truth on Calories

The Coca-Cola Company, which has suffered a large decline in consumption of sugary sodas as consumers worry about obesity, has formed a new organization to emphasize exercise as the best way to control obesity and to play down the importance of cutting calories.

Coke and other beverage makers have long funneled money to industry-leaning scientists and formed innocent-sounding front groups to spread the message that sugary sodas have no deleterious effect on health and should not be taxed or regulated. The new organization, the nonprofit Global Energy Balance Network, is the latest effort to put a “science based” gloss on industry positions, as described by Anahad O’Connor in The Times. [..]

Meanwhile, the evidence continues to mount that sugar-sweetened drinks are a major contributor to obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and that exercise makes only a modest contribution to weight loss compared to ingesting fewer calories.

Paul Krugman: Bungling Beijing’s Stock Markets

China is ruled by a party that calls itself Communist, but its economic reality is one of rapacious crony capitalism. And everyone has been assuming that the nation’s leaders are in on the joke, that they know better than to take their occasional socialist rhetoric seriously.

Yet their zigzagging policies over the past few months have been worrying. Is it possible that after all these years Beijing still doesn’t get how this “markets” thing works?

The background: China’s economy is wildly unbalanced, with a very low share of gross domestic product devoted to consumption and a very high share devoted to investment. This was sustainable while the country was able to maintain extremely rapid growth; but growth is, inevitably, slowing as China runs out of surplus labor. As a result, returns on investment are dropping fast.

Nancy Altman: Social Security at 80: Defending a Program Which Has Defended All of Us

Social Security was signed into law eighty years ago, on August 14, 1935. In those eight decades, it has taught us a number of important lessons.

Social Security has demonstrated that there are some undertakings that government does better than the private sector. Social Security is more efficient, universal, secure, and fair than any counterpart private sector arrangement is or could be.

Social Security has also taught us that some people hate government no matter how effective it is, and will say just about anything to prevent its good work. Indeed, these opponents of government fight hardest when a government program works well, because it undermines their bias that government is the problem, when government is, in truth, often the best or even the only solution. And so they really hate Social Security. It works so extraordinarily well that it is a shining example of government at its best.

David Cay Johnston: Enforcement for white-collar crime hits 20-year low

The donor class doesn’t want to be policed by Congress

Congress is starving federal white-collar law enforcement – a subtle and lucrative favor to the crooks and connivers among the political donor class. The move is costing honest people everywhere, damaging economic growth and perverting government.

This year the number of federal white-collar crime prosecutions will be about 37 percent below 20 years ago, when Bill Clinton was in the White House.

The decline grows from our corrupt campaign finance system, which by its nature shifts the focus of elected leaders away from crimes in the C-suites to harsh enforcement of laws on the streets.

The reduction in prosecutions for white-collar crimes was revealed in Department of Justice data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

Daphne Aviatar: Stalled 9/11 Case Is Another Reason to Close Guantanamo

The military commissions have once again cancelled two weeks’ worth of hearings scheduled in the case of the five alleged plotters of the September 11 attacks. Although the attacks themselves took place nearly 14 years ago, the five men accused of masterminding the deadliest terror attack to ever take place on U.S. soil are still nowhere near trial. As President Obama wrangles with his own defense department over how to keep his promise to close the prison, the stalled 9/11 case stands as one of the many glaring reasons he should be sure to get it done.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants have been described as an obstacle to Obama’s closing Guantanamo, because Congress has blocked the administration’s ability to transfer them to the United States for trial. But their case is actually one of the strongest reasons, as a matter of justice for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, for the U.S. government to shutter the prison and its flailing justice system once and for all.

Clive Stafford Smith: The military ignores Obama’s order to release Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo

Recent history demonstrates that if President Barack Obama, arguably the most powerful person on planet Earth, wants to prioritize almost anything – from pardoning 46 convicted drug felons to bombing a foreign country without the consent of Congress – little can stand in his way. Why, then, is Shaker Aamer not home in London with his wife and four children? [..]

On Thursday, we came a little closer to understanding the reason that Aamer’s youngest child, Faris – who was born on Valentine’s Day 2002, the day that Aamer was rendered to the detention center at Guantánamo Bay – has never even met his father. The Guardian revealed that “the Pentagon [is] blocking Guantánamo deals to return Shaker Aamer and other cleared detainees.” President Obama, it seems, has personally ordered Aamer’s release, and his subordinates have ignored and thwarted his order.

However, Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution provides that the “President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States”. Under Article 90 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to disobey an order in peacetime is punishable by life in prison. If we believe the Pentagon theory that we are involved in a “Global War on Terror”, then there is an ongoing war, and the punishment for disobeying orders is death.

The Breakfast Club (Wild and Crazy Summer)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Truman announces Japan’s surrender in World War II; Blackout hits Northeast U.S., Canada; FDR signs Social Security; British troops arrive in N. Ireland; A strike in Cold War Poland; Steve Martin born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I actually credit Twitter with fine-tuning some joke-writing skills. I still feel like I’m working at it. Steve Martin

On This Day In History August 14

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 14 is the 226th day of the year (227th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 139 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

On this day in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the Social Security Act. Press photographers snapped pictures as FDR, flanked by ranking members of Congress, signed into law the historic act, which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. FDR commended Congress for what he considered to be a “patriotic” act.

U.S. Social Security is a social insurance program that is funded through dedicated payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). Tax deposits are formally entrusted to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, or the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund.

The main part of the program is sometimes abbreviated OASDI (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) or RSDI (Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance). When initially signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as part of his New Deal, the term Social Security covered unemployment insurance as well. The term, in everyday speech, is used to refer only to the benefits for retirement, disability, survivorship, and death, which are the four main benefits provided by traditional private-sector pension plans. In 2004 the U.S. Social Security system paid out almost $500 billion in benefits.

By dollars paid, the U.S. Social Security program is the largest government program in the world and the single greatest expenditure in the federal budget, with 20.8% for social security, compared to 20.5% for discretionary defense and 20.1% for Medicare/Medicaid. Social Security is currently the largest social insurance program in the U.S., constituting 37% of government expenditure and 7% of the gross domestic product and is currently estimated to keep roughly 40% of all Americans age 65 or older out of poverty. The Social Security Administration is headquartered in Woodlawn, Maryland, just to the west of Baltimore.

Social Security privatization became a major political issue for more than three decades during the presidencies of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Just The Nightly Show (Bernie Keeps It 100)

Remember, CT stands for Completely True.  Or Connecticut, take your pick.  We publish only the most scurrilous rumors.

Tonightly Mike Yard investigates conspiracy theories with HUD Secretary Julian Castro.  Larry asks Bernie Sanders to Keep It 100.

Our panel is Ophira Eisenberg, Michael Rapaport, and Mike Yard.

Sanders, Bernard Sanders

Larry’s been mainlining politics since Jon’s departure.  I sort of like it.  I have no idea what’s happening next week.  Larry doesn’t believe in Comedy Central’s website.