Tag Archives: Paul Ryan

GOP House passes plan to raise Medicare eligibility age to 67, then turn it over to insurance companies

Time after time, Mr. Donald Trump promised no cuts to Medicare and Social Security, but the current leader of the nation and Republican Party now seems to have a change of heart – to put it very kindly – or he has just wandered even deeper into the swamp.

It could be the President is distracted by his fake plan to lower taxes for the middle class  and so he hasn’t noticed the GOP-dominated House passed its 2018 budget resolution on Thursday by a vote of 219-206. The cunning House Speaker Paul Ryan led his swarm to approve  cutting $1.5 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid. Eighteen Republicans voted against the resolution, along with all the attending Democrats.

Robert Roach, who heads the Alliance for Retired Americans, was furious at the news: Continue reading →

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a boon for corporations, blatant welfare for companies that underpay their workers

Congressional Map TY12

It’s budget season time again. The Washington Post and NYT have already published their obligatory stories on why we need to “reform” Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, because if not, we won’t have hardly any money left to spend on military and discretionary programs. Fox and NBC stations this week said we must “deal” with the budget deficit caused by “entitlement spending.” Paul Ryan has agreed, and so has the Chamber of Commerce. Unfortunately, the White House sees this attack on the middle class as yet another chance to negotiate with Koch and company.

In the midst of self-inflicted austerity talk, Republicans heartily approve of spending billions of dollars to raise the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which currently gives up to $6,143 (tax free) each year to couples and families, who have have lousy paying jobs.

Also in agreement are most Democrat lawmakers, who believe that EITC subsidizing business by supplementing wages is a kind thing to do for the needy.  Looking down from the top, the “little people’s” dependance on the government for their livelihood is not demeaning and demoralizing, just curing social injustice of some sort.

When the wealthy masters of both parties in Congress agree on a policy, it is often wise for the rest of us to duck. The GOP loves EITC, because it rewards employers who pay poverty wages.  Under normal circumstances such wages would lead to bare subsistence livelihoods for workers, increasing turnover and encouraging unions and other “troublemakers” to end working for starvation pay. However, with the middle class taxpayers sending billions of EITC dollars to these underpaid workers, all is well for the employer, who knows the poor will survive to work another day, and the boss can continue to compensate workers below the level of subsistence.

When will Democrats in the WH recognize that most benefits (food stamps, public housing, etc.) for the working poor are just subsidies to corporations, and that the solutions for reducing inequality must instead include higher minimum wages and more public benefits for all Americans – free college, free childcare, free healthcare and free nursing homes? Or do they already know this and have bowed to pressure from lobbies and campaign contributors.

If you wonder which employers are gaining the most from EITC, the graphics here tell the story. Most of the EITC recipients are from states dominated by austerity advocates, right to work laws, and generally low wages.

EITC Percentage of Filers by State

Did you ever wonder why you never heard of wolf chops?

The mistake – that so-called “liberal” progressives almost always make – is to ascribe good intentions to evil persons. They don’t realize that not everyone is kind and reasonable at heart, and yet many of us too often apologize for our zeal, excuse our desire for factual discussion, and basically try to sell our positions to those who could care less.

To me, a progressive explaining the need for Medicare or Social Security to Paul Ryan, is as hopeless as a Jew reading about Talmudic justice to a Nazi guard or a Hamas maniac.

Frederick Douglass was a pacifist until a certain point before the Civil War, but he finally believed that no oppressed people were ever saved by any group but themselves, and then only by political force, or the perceived threat of uprising to defend human rights. He even said on June 2, 1854 the threat of killing a few kidnappers might be the solution to ending kidnapping, when he criticized the Fugitive Slave Act. He scared more than a few evil men.

Martin Luther King was feared by the establishment that saw a million folks very unhappy at one event, millions more ready to join them, and nearly everyone believing Americans could not just talk forever about human rights. There was fear in the air, bigots quaked and laws finally changed.

The urge to conciliate explains how sheep are shorn by the same folks who pat them on the head while alive. The appreciative sheep act docile and friendly, thinking perhaps that subservience will save them from slaughter. Unfortunately for the victims, compromise with evil usually produces just another evil deal.

The next time you enjoy lamb chops, consider why you never hear of wolf chops, and promise yourself not to argue kindness with the Devil, but instead rise up to berate, impugn, disgrace and threaten his malevolence.

GOP thrust to stop transfers between Social Security funds may open a path for new progressive benefits’ improvement

We learned today that there is too much money in the Social Security retirement fund and not enough money in the Social Security disability fund, so the Republican-dominated Congress seems determined to prevent transfers from the “rich” fund to the “poor” fund, allowing both to last until 2033. Otherwise, the disability fund would run out of money next year and the retirement fund would last, well, a lot longer than to 2033.

In the past this transfer was routine for Clinton or Reagan era congressfolks, but the GOP now sees a philosophical issue in this take from rich, give to poor, solution. Ignored is the fact that the past transfers caused a public impression of underfunding of the retirement fund, helped sell naive politicians on raising the retirement age, cutting payments and income taxing as much as 85% of earned benefits – all to the delight of the Paul Ryans of the past.

I think the Republicans are right, but not for some Ayn Randian ideal corruption, but because we are confusing the public, when we raise enough money for retirement payouts on one hand, use some of the money for something else (disability), and then come back in the annual budget battle and proclaim “entitlements (Social Security) must be reformed” because the fund is running out of money in 2033.

A good business owner with two stores, one that makes a fortune and the other that loses a lot, will often take profits from the richer operation to fund the poor one. This is usually temporary, a stopgap until the poor store lowers expenses or increases revenues. In no case would anyone with brains declare that both stores are unprofitable and going broke, when the profits of one are transferred to the other.

The disability fund needs more money. Republicans don’t want to raise the income cap of $117k or hike FICA tax rates. Their solution, as usual, is to cut benefits next year or soon, so the books balance. In this exercise they appear to agree that disability is not retirement, and perhaps some in Congress have seen the light that extra taxes on working people to pay for disability (often even caused by careless employers) is like asking the lobster to heat up the water.

Our Social Security retirement benefit structure, already deeply regressive, should not support disability payments. Revenue to balance the disability coffers should come from general funds, like SSI does, and should be considered part of the public welfare safety net. At the same time Social Security retirement should be recognized as a benefit based on contributions, which it is not at present (the lowest paid beneficiaries receive 90% of prior earnings, the middle – 50%, and the top middle class – just 15%).

In a country not divided by fractional media and political coercion, the public would ask for a fair distribution of retirement benefits, that did not punish the workers, who contributed the most. It would also demand that if additional taxes are needed to balance our disability fund, perhaps new taxes are required of the rich, particularly those who do not pay FICA taxes above $117,000, corporations, or those blessed hedge fund managers who get away with 20% income tax and no FICA contributions.

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