Saturday, March 12, 2005

Letter to Editor on Social Security "crisis"- follow the money to see who profits!

Astute Harvard Business School student George W. Bush, daydreaming about the day 30 years hence when he can explain his Social Security reform plan to select, hand picked, gullible audiences

"I want that dumb public money coming across my desk." Gleeful stock broker contemplating the future if President Bush's privatization proposal becomes law.

Dear Editor,

The average person might believe President Bush when he says that the status of the Social Security Trust Fund is a present day "crisis" because, based on current projections, by the year 2042, the fund will be "bankrupt." What President Bush doesn't say, because it would defeat his proposal- the specifics of which is still a secret he won't share- is that in his dictionary, if the Trust Fund can only pay you 99 percent of what it owes you, then the system is "bankrupt." Of course, the "crisis" could easily be fixed simply by removing the current $87,000 cap on income taxed for Social Security and by requiring the superwealthy living off their interest and capital gains to pay their fair share of taxes. Currently, a billionaire who doesn't work a minute a year and who annually earns $100 million in interest or capital gains will not pay a penny in Social Security taxes. (As a sidenote, if President Bush gets his way, they also won't pay a penny in Federal income taxes.) In stark contrast, a manual laborer who works 50- 60 hours a week and earns $40,000 a year, will pay over $6,000 a year into Social Security. Should the laborer die before his 65th birthday, he will never get back a dime of the tens of thousands of dollars he contributed to the system.

If you are wondering why the President thinks that Social Security is a "crisis" needing fixing because in 38 years it may not be able to pay back 100 cents on every dollar owed, but he has no plans to resolve either Medicaid or Medicare spending (Medicare's trust fund will really be broke in less than 15 years) or the current federal budget shortfall of over $400 billion every year, you only have to talk to investment bankers and CEO's who hold stock options from their publicly traded companies. Here's two quotes, courtesy of "The Cunning Realist" website (, from President Bush's financial backers who are the real motivating factor behind his push for Social Security "reform:"

"I want that dumb public money coming across my desk."

"This executive sees one shining beacon in the fog of increasingly strict accounting standards and a difficult business environment: The prospect of Social Security reform. He told me that he and many of this colleagues at other companies favor the creation of private accounts, because a new source of demand for his stock will help compensate for the increasing unattractiveness of his company from an investment perspective."

Now, if you still think the President has your best interests at heart when he says private accounts is the best solution to the "crisis," ask him where he plans on getting the money to make up the immediate shortfall in Social Security taxes if his privatization proposal (whatever it is) is put into effect. Answer: the government will have to borrow the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to pay its current obligations to Social Security recipients, increasing our dangerous budget deficit to even higher levels.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Taxes: hiding the goodies for the wealthy

Some years ago I wrote an op-ed piece for our local paper where I suggested that we divide up our current tax system into two separate systems: one a tax system, and the other called the "Office of Giving Money Away."

The tax form would be three lines with no deductions or credits for having children, owning a home, paying alimony, and so forth.

And people who wanted money for having 10 children, owning a palace with a million dollar mortgage, or paying $100,000 a year in alimony, would apply for government money and receive a check.

The idea was obviously for fun, but the object lesson is real: how long do you think the current tax system would last if average people realized that renters get nothing, homeowners with mortgages of less than $100,000 might save a few hundred bucks, and people with $10 million homes save tens of thousands on their taxes?

If the government wrote wealthy people a check for $50,000 every year and gave nothing to poor renters, the system would collapse overnight. Instead, the current system festers on because the grossly unfair disparities are effectively hidden from view.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Accuracy in Labeling: Fantasists versus Realists

"George Bush and Tom Delay are moderate conservatives." from Al.

What exactly is it that George Bush and Tom Delay are attempting to "conserve?" Not the environment. Not the economy. Not jobs. Not the military. Surely not America's position of leadership and respect in the world. Perhaps they are conserving "traditional American values" but only so long as that doesn't interfere with their heavy contributors' (Viacom? GE?) ability to make a buck over pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Labels are meaningless when one side- radical Republicans- gets to choose for everybody, including our party. I prefer my suggestion that we ditch the "liberal versus conservative" model and switch to "fantasists versus realists." The key difference between modern Democrats and modern Republicans is that Republicans would rather govern a country using their ideology, ignoring inconvenient facts- and the Constitution- that get in the way of their fantasy.

In contrast, modern Democrats aren't wedded to an ideological viewpoint, but are more interested in what works, while respecting the worth of individual human beings and the rule of law. We're the ones who balanced the budget, presided over welfare reform (albeit grudgingly), and, in spite of Republican propaganda to the contrary, did more to improve the modern military under Carter and Clinton than occurred under Reagan and Bush. We're for judges who will strictly interpret the law and the Constitution, because the written law is much more favorable to civil rights than the so called conservative judges can stand. The real "activist" judges are the right wingers, because our Constitution as written and amended is a very liberal document.

In short, modern Democrats look more like 1950's Republicans- without the McCarthyist Fascist overtones. We're the realists, with our feet on the ground, but our aspirations still reach to the clouds.