Monday, May 10, 2010

Wall Street's attempt to cut Social Security and Medicare

Derailing the Wall Street Attack on Social Security
Monday 10 May 2010
by: Dean Baker, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Emboldened by the fact that none of them have gone to jail for their role in the financial crisis, the Wall Street gang is now gunning for Social Security and Medicare, the country's most important safety net programs. Led by investment banker Pete Peterson, this crew is spending more than a billion dollars to convince the public that slashing these programs is the only way to protect our children and grandchildren from poverty.

Peterson has so much money to spend on this crusade that he can't even use it all up in the normal practice of buying think tank studies that support his position. Therefore he has sought out other mechanisms to support his attack. For example, he has funded a nationwide propaganda push called "America Speaks," which is designed to get ordinary citizens to agree with his Social Security slashing plans by giving them such a limited range of options to deal with scary deficit projections that they have no alternative []

Peterson is also funding a high school curriculum in the hopes of indoctrinating the nation's young with his quest. He has even created a news service called the "Fiscal Times". The Fiscal Times intends to plant deficit scare stories in newspapers that are desperate for copy now that they have downsized their news staffs. Peterson's son assembled the staff from the large group of journalists displaced by the collapse of the newspaper industry.

Peterson even funded the creation of a game "budget ball" to convince young people that taking away grandma and grandpa's Social Security and Medicare can be fun. Of course we haven't said a word about all the politicians of both political parties that this crew owns.

When kids get scared watching a horror flick, we tell them to repeat: "it's only a movie." As the Peterson gang ramps up its anti-Social Security and Medicare crusade, it is important to remember: "it's just Wall Street propaganda."

They have lots of ways to make the deficits and debt look really really scary. Remember, these are professionals, just like the folks that make those Hollywood horror flicks. But, knowledge of some basic facts will protect you and your children.

First, there are no remotely plausible projections that do not show that our children and grandchildren will be far wealthier on average than we are today. The standard projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that real wages will be more than 50 percent higher in 2040 (after adjusting for inflation) than they are today. This means that even if our children faced a huge 5 percentage point increase in taxes, they would still be left with 40 percent more income on average than do workers today.

Insofar as our children face a threat of declining living standards it is from the growing inequality, which is redistributing most income gains upward. If the trend towards increasing inequality continues than many young people will have lower standards of living than their parents. However, intra-generational inequality gets little attention from Pete Peterson and his Wall Street gang.

The near-term (next 10 years) budget projections show deficits that will be comparable to what we had in the 80s and early 90s, once the economy recovers from the collapse of the housing bubble. The deficits projected for late in this decade are largely attributable to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the extra interest burden created by borrowing for these wars and the Bush tax cuts, as well as the deficits needed to boost the economy out of recession. The story of profligate spending – apart from on these wars – is an invention of the Wall Street gang.

Finally, the really big deficit horror stories coming from this crew are derived from projections that our broken health care system just keeps getting worse. The United States already spends more than twice as much per person on health care as the average for other wealthy countries. This gap to projected to grow ever larger over coming decades.

More than half of all health care spending is paid for through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, therefore if these health care projections prove accurate, we will have very serious budget problems. Of course, we will also have enormous economic problems since no one will have any money left over after paying for their health care.

This situation should emphasize the urgency of fixing the health care system, but the Peterson Wall Street gang instead sees it as a reason to yelp about the budget deficit. Fixing the health care system would mean hurting the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and other powerful interest groups aligned with the Wall Street gang. It is easy to design policies that would substantially reduce costs. However, the Peterson Wall Street gang would rather take away Medicare and Social Security benefits from retired workers than take away profits from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

As we get further into the year, the Wall Street crew is planning to escalate their propaganda. But don't let them scare you – the problem is that too much money is going to people like them, not Medicare, Social Security and other key programs that support the public.

Sunday, May 2, 2010



It's wrong in Arizona (click here to take action to protest Arizona's new immigration law) and it would be wrong for the rest of the county too:

Dems spark alarm with call for national ID card

By Alexander Bolton - 04/30/10
A plan by Senate Democratic leaders to reform the nation’s immigration laws ran into strong opposition from civil liberties defenders before lawmakers even unveiled it Thursday.

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.

The proposal is one of the biggest differences between the newest immigration reform proposal and legislation crafted by late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.

It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.

“The cardholder’s identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the microprocessing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer,” states the Democratic legislative proposal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a civil liberties defender often aligned with the Democratic Party, wasted no time in blasting the plan.

“Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives. Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy — one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel.

“America’s broken immigration system needs real, workable reform, but it cannot come at the expense of privacy and individual freedoms,” Calabrese added.

The ACLU said “if the biometric national ID card provision of the draft bill becomes law, every worker in America would have to be fingerprinted.”

A source at one pro-immigration reform group described the proposal as “Orwellian.”

But Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), who has worked on the proposal and helped unveil it at a press conference Thursday, predicted the public has become more comfortable with the idea of a national identification card.

“The biometric identification card is a critical element here,” Durbin said. “For a long time it was resisted by many groups, but now we live in a world where we take off our shoes at the airport and pull out our identification.

“People understand that in this vulnerable world, we have to be able to present identification,” Durbin added. “We want it to be reliable, and I think that’s going to help us in this debate on immigration.”

Implementing a nationwide identification program for every worker will be a difficult task.

The Social Security Administration has estimated that 3.6 million Americans would have to visit SSA field offices to correct mistakes in records or else risk losing their jobs.

Angela Kelley, vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said the biometric identification provision “will give some people pause.”