HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Segami » Journal
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Next »


Profile Information

Member since: Tue May 13, 2008, 03:07 AM
Number of posts: 14,923

Journal Archives

Make House Republicans Middle Class By Paying Them ONLY FOR DAYS ACTUALLY WORKED!

Call these 'MOOCHING, Government Welfare Queens' OUT!!...

Even though House Republicans are going to be in session for only 126 days in 2013, they are still demanding their full $174,000 salary.

Despite this being an off off year election, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has announced that the House will only be in session for 126 days in 2013. The schedule is continuation of the two weeks off one week on schedule that the Republicans implemented when they gained the majority after the 2010 election. The Senate works the opposite schedule. The Senate schedule traditionally has been three weeks on and one week off per month. When the two schedules are examined side by side, it is easy to see why it takes so long to get anything done in Washington. The House has turned their schedule into an obstruction tactic. It is hard to make legislative progress when one body is MIA for two thirds of the year.



During the fight over the fiscal cliff House Republicans will talk how it is imperative that the nation slashes spending without raising tax, but the one thing they won’t mention is how they are adding to deficit by insisting on being paid when they aren’t working. Members of the House are set to be paid $1,380.95 for each day when they are in session in 2013. If they were serious about reducing the deficit, one of the first things that they should do is prorate their pay so that their yearly compensation is based on only the days that they spent in session.

The House salary prorated over 365 days is $476.71. If we pay House members for only the days that they will be in full legislative session in 2013 ($476.71 X 126), their annual salary would drop to $60,065.46. This would net an average savings to the taxpayers of $113,954.13 per member. The total savings on House salaries per year would be over $49.5 million a year. Do this for ten years, and you will shave nearly half a billion dollars off the deficit.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor came prepared with an excuse for why Republicans have decided to pay themselves so much for so few days work. Cantor said, “Time spent in the district between Monday and Friday is essential for meeting with small businesses, employees, seniors, veterans and other local communities during working hours. We will continue to accommodate Members with longer distances to travel home and provide at least one constituent work week each month, with the exception of June.”



Accused Wikileaks Whistleblower BRADLEY MANNING Testifies He Thought He Would "DIE IN CUSTODY"


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, has testified in a courtroom for the first time since he was arrested in May 2010. Speaking Thursday at a pretrial proceeding, Manning revealed the emotional tumult that he experienced while imprisoned in Kuwait after his arrest in 2010, saying, quote, "I remember thinking, ’I’m going to die.’ I thought I was going to die in a cage."

As part of his testimony, Manning stepped inside a life-sized chalk outline representing the six-by-eight-foot cell he was later held in at the Quantico base in Virginia, and he recounted how he would tilt his head to see the reflection of a skylight through a tiny space in his cell door.

Manning could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious of 22 counts against him. His trial is expected to begin in February. He has offered to plead guilty to a subset of charges that could potentially carry a maximum prison term of 16 years.

On Thursday, Democracy Now! spoke about Manning’s case with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently residing inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he sought refuge nearly six months ago.

JULIAN ASSANGE: What is happening this week is not the trial of Bradley Manning; what is happening this week is the trial of the U.S. military. This is Bradley Manning’s abuse case. Bradley Manning was arrested in Baghdad, shipped over and held for two months in extremely adverse conditions in Kuwait, shipped over to Quantico, Virginia, which is near the center of the U.S. intelligence complex, and held there for nine months, longer than any other prisoner in Quantico’s modern history. And there, he was subject to conditions that the U.N. special rapporteur, Juan Méndez, special rapporteur for torture, formally found amounted to torture.

There’s a question about who authorized that treatment. Why was that treatment placed on him for so long, when so many people—independent psychiatrists, military psychiatrists—complained about what was going on in extremely strong terms? His lawyer and support team say that he was being treated in that manner, in part, in order to coerce some kind of statement or false confession from him that would implicate WikiLeaks as an organization and me personally. And so, this is a matter that I am—personally have been embroiled in, that this young man’s treatment, regardless of whether he was our source or not, is directly as a result of an attempt to attack this organization by the United States military, to coerce this young man into providing evidence that could be used to more effectively attack us, and also serve as some kind of terrible disincentive for other potential whistleblowers from stepping forward.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Julian Assange, founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, now under political asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy. He was speaking about Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Assange’s website, WikiLeaks. Manning testified Thursday at this pretrial proceeding for the first time since he was arrested more than two years ago.

For more. we’re joined by Michael Ratner. He’s president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a lawyer for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and he just got back from attending the pretrial hearing of Bradley Manning yesterday at Fort Meade.

Michael, describe the scene in the courtroom.

MICHAEL RATNER: You know, it was one of the most dramatic courtroom scenes I’ve ever been in. I mean, for days we’ve been waiting to see whether Bradley Manning was going to testify, and it’s testimony about the conditions he was held in really for almost two years, but certainly the part in Kuwait and Quantico. And we didn’t have—we’ve seen him in the courtroom, but we didn’t see him ever take the stand. So we’re sitting in this small courtroom. There’s all of these guys in these formal-dress blue uniforms. I mean, they look like those Custers or Civil Wars with those little things on their shoulders, epaulets. And then, all of a sudden, we come back from lunch, and David Coombs, Bradley’s lawyer, says, "Bradley Manning will come to the stand."

And you could have heard—I mean, the room was just mesmerized by what was going to happen next. And he says to Bradley, "I know you may be a little nervous about this. I’ll ease you into it." When Bradley opened his mouth, he was not nervous. I mean, he was—the testimony was incredibly moving, emotional roller coaster for all of us, but particularly, obviously, for Bradley and what he went through. But it was so horrible what happened to him over a two-year period. But he described it in great detail in a way that was articulate, smart, self-aware. I mean, he knew what was going on. He tried to make it so that they wouldn’t keep him on the suicide risk, they wouldn’t keep him on preventive injury status, where he didn’t have clothes and all of that. And he couldn’t do it. And he kept trying it, and they kept lying to him. And it was really dramatic.

What came out—what it began with was really his arrest in late May of 2010. He was almost immediately taken to Kuwait. And that’s where—really where they got him in a way that really, for a period of time, almost destroyed him. They put him into cages that he described as eight-by-eight-by-eight. There were two cages. He said they were like animal cages. They were all—they were in a tent alone, just these two cages, side by side. One of them had whatever possessions he may have had; one of them, he was in, with a little bed for a rack and a toilet, dark, in this cage for almost two months. He was taken out for a short while and then, without explanation, put back in the cage, meals in the cage, etc., all of that.

And then—wait until you hear this. They would wake him at night at 11:00 p.m., 10:00 or 11:00, and his day—or night—was all night, and he was allowed to go back to sleep at 12:00 or 1:00, noon, the next day. So when we think about what happened to people at Guantánamo or sensory deprivation or what McCoy says in his books on torture, what are they trying to do except destroy this human being?

And he said, "For me, I stopped keeping track. I didn’t know whether night was day or day was night. And my world became very, very small. It became these cages. And I’m person," he said—this was really, I thought—all of us really were interested in it. He said, "I’m someone who likes current events. I take a broader view of the world." And he gave an example of the oil spill in the Gulf. And he said, you know, "When that ended," and he said, "my world all of a sudden was totally confined to these cages." And that was almost two months in Kuwait, something that none of us really knew about for this period. And he went on to talk about then what happens when he went to Quantico.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Michael, you’re describing a person who was the exact opposite of some of the portraits of him that have come out from some supposed supporters of his, but also people who have had grudges against him, of being an unstable—an emotionally unstable person. The sense that you got of how intelligent and how clear he was about what was happening to him?

MICHAEL RATNER: Even one of the psychiatrists who testified and who was one of the psychiatrists who said this guy should never have been put on prevention of injury or suicide risk when he was at Quantico—that was right after Kuwait—said he’s highly intelligent. And you could see that. And the image was just at the—as you’re saying, Juan, was the opposite of what I would have thought going in there, of this sort of—of this person who couldn’t make their way in the world, of who just, you know, was unable to really function. This person was articulate, strong, self-aware, as I said, and it was—and very sympathetic. I mean, very sympathetic. And not even a shade that he shaded anything, not anything close to, you know, mendacity, lies, nothing. This was incredible testimony.

AMY GOODMAN: The psychiatrist who treated Bradley Manning while he was in prison at Quantico Marine brig testified on Wednesday that commanders there consistently ignored his medical advice and continued to impose harsh restrictions on Bradley Manning, even though he posed no risk of suicide. Captain William Hoctor said he treated prisoners at Guantánamo but had never encountered military officials so unwilling to heed his medical advice. He testified and said, "I had been a senior medical officer for 24 years at the time, and I had never experienced anything like this. It was clear to me they had made up their mind on a certain cause of action, and my recommendations had no impact," he said. Michael Ratner?

MICHAEL RATNER: No, yesterday when I was in court, they put up another—they put another psychiatrist on, the defense did, Ricky Malone, who had been head of like—very substantial psychiatrist, head of Walter Reed at some point, in forensic psychology. And he said essentially the same thing. He said, "I went in there. I treated Bradley Manning. I gave him, you know, a sleep medication when he needed sleep. And I went to the person who ran that brig, and I kept saying he does not have to be on POI," that’s short for preventive injury, "he doesn’t have to be on suicide risk watch."

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what that means when he’s put on those.

MICHAEL RATNER: Right, I’m glad you asked that, because this was so dramatic. They showed a video at some point at the trial of what—of where Bradley Manning was kept. And he’s kept—there’s no natural light. If he presses his face to the screen—it’s not really bars, it’s like a square screen—he could see the reflection of light on the floor at the end of the hall. Immediately across from his cell is the observation booth that looks right into him, so even if he goes to the bathroom and sits on the toilet, they see everything he does. There’s a bright light on him—again, sensory stuff, if you look at that—24 hours a day.

They show in the video, when they—when they actually—something happens where they decide they’re going to put him—he’s always on POI, but they’re going to put him back on suicide risk. And they showed the video of—it’s videoed—of him passing his clothes through the mail, through the little hatch, out of the prison. And then, that—

AMY GOODMAN: Like a mail slot.

MICHAEL RATNER: Like a mail slot. And that night, he’s standing there stark naked. They only show you the top, but he’s standing there stark naked in front of these really beefy, big marines in camouflage. That’s the scene you see.

And then there’s another video showing, asking—he’s trying to ask, "Why am I here? What did I do wrong?" And they’re lying to him. One of them says—one of them, who’s—you know, who’s playing like Mutt and Jeff, he’s saying, "Well, you’re a great—if I had a hundred, you know, defendants like you—or prisoners like you, it would be—you know, I would be great." They’re lying to him all the time.

And what comes out, because as that video—as that clip you read, Amy, of the psychiatrist, is that it never happens, really never happens, that the head of a brig disregards psychiatric information like they were given about Bradley Manning. And here they did. And so, the question you have to ask yourself is, where was that order coming from? We know there was a three-star general involved. How much did it go up to the Pentagon?

AMY GOODMAN: Who was the three-star general?

MICHAEL RATNER: I don’t remember his name.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is, of course, all under President Obama.

MICHAEL RATNER: Right. Right, that’s correct. I mean, this was—and that cell, when he’s in that cell—I mean, when we talk about the light on, when he sleeps on that little bunk and his—he’s facing—he has to face the light so they can observe him. If he turns over to avoid the light, they come in, and they wake him up. That’s night. Day—what happens during the day? He’s in that cell 23-and-a-half hours a day, maybe 20 minutes of what they call sunshine exercise, which is just nothing. And what can he do? Because he’s on duty, supposedly, he has to either stand or he can sit on that metal bunk with his feet on the ground and can’t lean against anything. That’s 10 or 15 hours a day of what you have to call sensory deprivation.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Michael, I’d like to ask you about—given that he’s been under these conditions now for two-and-a-half years, it’s not surprising that he would be attempting to try to negotiate some kind of a plea deal on a reduced sentence. Could you talk about that part, that aspect of what happened with the court?

MICHAEL RATNER: Yeah, yeah. Let me back up on that for one second, because he was in Kuwait 'til end of July 2010. He then was taken to Quantico ’til April or so of 2011. That's the nine months that this hearing is really about and whether the charges should be dismissed because of the serious misconduct and torture and cruel treatment by the government.

So, then he was taken to Leavenworth. And just as an illustration of how he did not have to be treated like he was treated at Quantico, they put on the head of Leavenworth brig by telephone yesterday, and she said, "Well, as soon as he got here, he went right into medium security." And that’s the best you can do when you’re pretrial. Then, you mix with the population. You get—you get all your hygiene items.

There’s a scene in this—in this—and he talks—where he has to actually beg for a piece of toilet paper. He has to stand in front—at Quantico, stand there with no shirt on, with his boxers, and said, whatever, "Corporal something, this is Corporal Manning, or Private First Class Manning, can I have a piece of toilet paper?" And he has to stand there at attention, while he’s begging for a piece of toilet paper.

Your question, Juan, what the lawyer has said, David Coombs, the lawyer for Bradley Manning, has said, they are trying to force Bradley Manning into testifying if he knows anything, which we—you know, probably falsely, because we don’t think there’s anything there—but against my client, Julian Assange. They are trying to break Bradley Manning.

What’s remarkable is that he still has this incredible dignity after going through this. But I think all these prison conditions were—sure, they were angry at Bradley Manning, but in the face of that psychiatric statement, that this guy shouldn’t be kept on suicide risk or POI, they’re still keeping him in inhuman conditions, you can only ask yourself—they’re trying to break him for some reason. The lawyer, David Coombs, has said it’s so that he can give evidence against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

AMY GOODMAN: So this pretrial hearing, where does it lead? There—he is talking about these conditions that many have said amount to torture. What could it lead to?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, the lawyer, David Coombs, has asked for two things. He said, "I’ve asked for dismissal of all the charges, because the government essentially has dirty hands." They can’t do this to people and still go charge them with crimes. And that has happened rarely, but it has happened, where the government engages in such bad conduct that they’re saying, even if it’s not about the truth of what happened and the facts, we’re going to get rid of the case.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And he’s also asked for 10 days’ credit for every day that he was held in those kind of conditions?

MICHAEL RATNER: Right. So he’s held, I think, some 293 days. He would get credit for almost—you know, a number of years off his sentence. In the end, he’s asked for 10 for one, understanding that he may not win ultimate dismissal.

But what it also really did is it showed us how this government—and when Julian Assange said yesterday on your show, Amy, this is really about the U.S. being on trial, that’s what this is. This is how the U.S. treats—treats people who, in my view, have taken heroic actions around disclosing secrets of this government.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does this possible plea mean, where he admits that he gave documents to WikiLeaks but will not plead guilty to aiding the enemy?

MICHAEL RATNER: Right, I want to explain it as simply as I can.

AMY GOODMAN: And we only have 30 seconds.

MICHAEL RATNER: OK, I’ll do it. OK, what it means is—he said, "I’ll accept responsibility for mishandling of documents." Potential sentence, the judge said, is 16 years. If the judge accepts the plea, the prosecutor does not have to. Or the prosecutor can accept the plea but can still prove that he aided the enemy and try and get a more severe sentence.

So the question here is going to be, is the prosecutor going to stop at the 16 years maximum sentence, or is the prosecutor going to go on and try and get Bradley Manning life? My opinion, of course, is the prosecutor ought to stop. Bradley Manning, you know, is someone who has disclosed some of the most important secrets of our government having to do with torture and wars and U.S. complicity in human rights violations.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a lawyer for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, just came back from the pretrial hearing where Bradley Manning testified for the first time in court.



Nate Silver TAKES A SHOT At Politico

New York Times polling guru Nate Silver took aim at Politico’s brand of reporting on Friday, saying the Washington-based news outlet covers politics like sports but “not in an intelligent way at all.”

Reflecting on Politico’s pre-election criticism of his FiveThirtyEight model, Silver told Grantland’s Bill Simmons on his “B.S. Report” podcast:

What was remarkable to me is that you had some, like, journalist for, um, Politico, or something … who, like, tweeted … ‘All Nate’s doing is averaging polls and counting electoral votes?’ … ‘That’s the secret sauce?’ It’s like, well, yeah, and the fact that you can’t comprehend that very basic thing … that says more about you than, than about me, right?”

The tweet Silver is referring to came from Politico’s Jonathan Martin, and actually reads: “Avert your gaze, liberals: Nate Silver admits he’s simply averaging public polls and there is no secret sauce.” Martin linked to a piece by his Politico colleague Dylan Byers, who wrote the definitive piece of Silver skepticism during the 2012 cycle. In the piece — headlined “Nate Silver: One-term celebrity?” — Byers considered the possibility of Silver’s star power dimming if Mitt Romney became president.

“Prediction is the name of Silver’s game, the basis for his celebrity,” Byers wrote in late October. “So should Mitt Romney win on Nov. 6, it’s difficult to see how people can continue to put faith in the predictions of someone who has never given that candidate anything higher than a 41 percent chance of winning (way back on June 2) and — one week from the election — gives him a one-in-four chance, even as the polls have him almost neck-and-neck with the incumbent.”




Where Does Grover Norquist GET HIS FUNDING And WHO Does HE GIVE IT TO?

The king of the no-tax pledge has been a force to be reckoned with in the GOP, but where does he get his funding from and who does he give to? Reuters TV takes a look.

Obama’s Gets PAYBACK For 2010 Bush Tax Cut by Using Christmas to Pressure the GOP

Remember in 2010 when House Republicans used the threat of throwing millions into poverty at Christmas in order to get the Bush tax cuts extended? President Obama does. In 2012, he is getting payback.

During his remarks the president admitted that he missed being on the campaign trail, and having a conversation with America. Obama repeated his belief in the middle class, and when people can get ahead through hard work. Obama, “I want to reward manufactures and small businesses like this one that create jobs in the United States.”

The president said the fiscal cliff is not some run of the mill debate. The president laid out two paths for the fiscal cliff debate. Congress does nothing and taxes go up on families and business. Obama said, “If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their taxes go up on January 1. Every family, everybody here, you’ll see your taxes go up on January first. I’m assuming that doesn’t sound to good to you. That’s sort of like the lump of coal you get for Christmas. That’s a Scrooge Christmas.”

Obama argued that because people would see a huge tax hike, businesses would have fewer customers, and the economy would stall. The second path was Congress extending the tax cut for 98% of Americans and 97% of small businesses. He reminded everyone that people making more than $250,000 would still get a tax cut on their first quarter million dollars earned. The president repeated his message that the American people need to urge Congress to pass the middle class tax cut extension.




Rick Santelli Explodes At CNBC Guest, Walks Off Camera

Twerp a$$hole Santelli meltdown at 2:22

Rick Santelli Explodes At CNBC Guest, Walks Off Camera: 'I Can't Even Talk About It Anymore'

Bloomberg On FISCAL CLIFF: " Nothing's Gonna Happen On January 2 "

Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning said that all the talk of a "fiscal cliff" is little more than a media marketing gimmick.

"Nothing's gonna happen on January 2," he said during his regular Friday morning appearance on the John Gambling radio show. "The stock market may react poorly. I'm not even sure of that. But there's no cliff. This is just something that plays well on your radio show and in the newspapers."

President Barack Obama and the Republican House don't appear to be any closer to an agreement on how to avoid the huge spending cuts and tax increases that will, absent a compromise, kick in at the start of the year. Bloomberg today noted that it will take a while for those spending cuts and tax increases to be felt (hence his argument that the "cliff" is more of a slope), but that the danger is real, particularly in the event the federal government reduces charitable contribution and state and local tax deductions.

"If they were to reduce the deductability of state and local taxes, a place like New York would be very severely hurt," said Bloomberg.
(According to Charles Lane in the Washington Post, "Two states, California and New York, reaped almost 30 percent of the deduction’s value in 2009." "The other thing is, if they were to eliminate or reduce the ability to deduct charitable contributions," Bloomberg continued. "The federal government and state governments are defunding higher education and even regular education throughout this country. It's a disaster. But it would be so much worse if they couldn't at least turn to private sector people and say, 'Hey, help us here.'"


Great American Retirement SCAM: Why The Wealthiest U.S. CEOs Want To TAKE AWAY Your Social Security

As the fiscal cliff debate takes center stage in the national conversation, a well-financed lobbying blitz is underway—one that bills itself as a “non-partisan movement to put America on a better fiscal and economic path.” Who are these dedicated, do-gooders who want nothing more in life than to save us from plunging over the cliff while solving our national debt problems and return prosperity to all Americans? Meet the “Fix The Debt” gang—a collection of more than 80 of the nation’s most powerful and wealthy CEO’s who have generously committed their time, money and lobbying efforts to contribute a solution to the nation’s debt crisis in the effort to avoid an economic disaster. And what do these great Americans have in mind as the recipe to cure our national ills? A plan that leaves it to the poor and middle-class to pay off our burgeoning debt through the scaling back of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Certainly, there is nothing particularly new about the notion of the 1 percent looking to entitlements as the solution to debt, but these clever executives have added a few wrinkles to the plan that are well worth noticing as these corporate leaders are not simply content to simply lay the debt on the shoulders of those least able to bear it—they intend to make billions in the process. Their proposal comes complete with ideas ranging from granting themselves some sweet tax breaks via a change in the tax laws that would allow their companies to return overseas profits to the US tax free—instantly dropping some $134 billion to their companies’ collective bottom line—to a well buried benefit that will earn them billions as a direct result of modifying Social Security to delay benefits to the millions who will suffer. And all of this—they would have us believe—is in the interest of serving their country.


So, how does this clever little plan work? Prepare to be amazed. It’s no accident that these 80 individuals are paid the big bucks for running our largest corporations. When it comes to sticking it to the other guy in order to make big money for their side of the bargaining table, these people clearly have no equals. First, a little background to set the stage— While only 41 of the companies led by these CEOs even have a retirement plan for their employees (leaving their workers heavily reliant on their Social Security benefits), only 2 of the companies represented in the group are current in their contributions—leaving 39 that have fallen way behind on their employee plan contributions….about $103 billion behind. Keep that figure in mind as we will return to it shortly.

Also keep in mind that these companies have allowed their employee retirement plans to remain seriously underfunded while managing to continue to put away millions of tax free dollars in their executive retirement plans, all of which appear to be fully funded. To expand on the true nature of what is going on here, I turn to a fascinating study out this week from the Institute For Policy Studies entitled, “A Pension Deficit Disorder: The Massive CEO Retirement Funds and Underfunded Worker Pensions at Firms Pushing Social Security Cuts.” If you read nothing else this year, you really should review this easy to follow report containing some truly illuminating bits of information. But a warning—if you take medication for high blood pressure, you are going to want to pop a few beta blockers before proceeding as the study is highly likely to make your diastolic and systolic readings go a bit haywire.

From the report:

- The 71 Fix the Debt CEOs who lead publicly held companies have amassed an average of $9 million in their company retirement funds. A dozen have more than $20 million in their accounts. If each of them converted their assets to an annuity when they turned 65, they would receive a monthly check for at least $110,000 for life.

- The Fix the Debt CEO with the largest pension fund is Honeywell’s David Cote, a long-time advocate of Social Security cuts. His $78 million nest egg is enough to provide a $428,000 check every month after he turns 65.

- Forty-one of the 71 companies offer employee pension funds. Of these, only two have sufficient assets in their funds to meet expected obligations. The rest have combined deficits of $103 billion, or about $2.5 billion on average. General Electric has the largest deficit in its worker pension fund, with $22 billion.


To recap—these CEO’s can retire and expect a huge check each and every month for the rest of their lives from their corporate retirement accounts amassed and fully funded at the very same time they have failed to fund their employee corporate retirement accounts to the tune of $103 billion—and now they want to take away Social Security benefits.




Let's LOWER, NOT RAISE Medicare Age

Even though raising the Medicare retirement age is both deeply unpopular with voters and a terrible policy that saves the federal government only a modest amount of money, it is still treated by the Washington media as an idea to be seriously considered. During what little TV news I’ve watched in the past week, I have seen multiple elected Democrats asked about it. If we are going to be discussing changing Medicare eligibility age to reduce the deficit what we should be talking about is lowering it.

The CBO has previously stated that offering a public option partially based on Medicare rate to everyone in the new Affordable Care Act exchanges would save roughly $15 billion a year. This means if we were to only allow adults between, say, the ages 50-65 on the exchange to effectively “buy into Medicare early,” it should produce smaller but still real savings for the federal government.

What makes an early Medicare buy-in a good deficit reduction idea is that it is also just good policy. Unlike raising the Medicare retirement age, which would force millions of regular Americans to pay more for health care, creating an early Medicare buy-in would save both the government and regular people money. Politically, an early Medicare buy-in is also radically more popular with voters.

Of course, it is only the unpopular ideas that make regular people worse off that are considered serious in this current debate. The “deficit debate” really isn’t about reducing government spending or making it more efficient.
It is sacrifice in the most traditional sense of the word. There seems to be a belief among our leaders and top media organizations that if we do the fiscal equivalent of throwing enough old people into a volcano, the market gods will finally show us favor with a bountiful harvest.



GALBRAITH: Here's Why We Should LOWER The Retirement Age

Last night, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein came out of the CEO meeting with President Obama and said that the President's plan to avert the fiscal cliff was "very credible." It's still not clear what mix of spending cuts and tax hikes Obama is focusing on, but we do know that Blankfein, like many other CEOs, thinks that an increase in the retirement age is something that we should be shooting for as a way to alleviate the perceived entitlement crisis.

This is actually common conventional wisdom (we're living longer, we have a debt problem, so let's modestly increase the retirement age), but there are some holdouts who disagree. Economist James K. Galbraith of the University of Texas made the argument in early 2011 that if anything, we should be talking about lowering the retirement age. We talked to Galbraith on the phone today to discuss this idea, as well as his assessment of the Fiscal Cliff talks and entitlement (a word he hates) situation in general. He still likes this idea. With unemployment near 8%, he still thinks that it makes sense, at least temporarily, to reduce the retirement age, to let people get benefits earlier, and to clear up the job market.

He explains:

My argument is that you have a phenomenon which is very well known called the Baby Boom which is out there and the Baby Boom is a portion of older workers who are approaching, but in many cases are not at, the retirement age. They are, particularly those who have been working in real jobs, I'm not talking about professors or journalists, but people who actually - you know, move boxes, inventory, or stand at checkout counters for a living. When unemployed, they have a very difficult time getting a new job and early retirement is intrinsically attractive.

Why aren't they taking it? Possibly because it's not attractive enough, possibly because they're a little too young. So the solution is to make the early retirement available for a limited period, let's say three years...and let the people who take it at 62 get a better deal than they get now so that a higher fraction of the working population will take it at 62.

But what about the general entitlement problem, and all the debt we're drowning in?

Galbraith calls this "propaganda" that's been pushed for decades by the same people, who have made predictions that have never come true. He specifically called out old writings (from the '80s and '90s) of anti-debt activist Pete Peterson.

The whole notion that there's this great deficit crisis which can only be dealt with by cutting SS, Medicare, and Medicaid, that's just - it's a relative recent front in a very old propaganda war. People who have been, for decades, blathering on about the disaster in SS, Medicare, and Medicaid. I highly recommend the back issues of the New York Review Of Books, which lists Peter G. Peterson, who prowled on about this.

If there is a problem, he says, it's not the government's expenses per se, but that costs for covering the elderly's healthcare are expensive regardless of who's paying for them:

If you're asking whether there are problems with Medicare and Medicaid, the standard answer on that is health care costs are the problem, and that is not dependent upon whether or not you are on a private or public insurance scheme. In fact, Medicare pays less to providers than private insurance does. The reason doctors accept Medicare patients is that unlike private insurers, Medicare actually writes the checks and pays people, which doctors like. I suppose you've encountered doctors who have had problems getting cash out of insurance companies, if you haven't, I'll say you haven't encountered a doctor.

The key point which he emphasized over and over again is that changing who pays for people doesn't change the burden. And if anything, if you're worried about generational dependency, you should be in favor of the current structure of Social Security, which makes workers set aside money for their retirement, so that they're not dependent on their children.



Medicare CUTS Reportedly Part Of Framework For “FISCAL CLIFF” Deal

As the talks over a budget deal heat up, reports of an early framework to avoid the “fiscal cliff” show that cuts to entitlements could be a key part of the negotiations.

Politico reports on the early shape of the deal:

Cut through the fog, and here’s what to expect: Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion — the middle ground of what President Barack Obama wants and what Republicans say they could stomach. Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion — and perhaps a lot more, to get Republicans to swallow those tax hikes. There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and “war savings.” And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two men had what one insider described as a short, curt conversation Wednesday night — but the private lines of communications remain very much open.


“[Obama] is committed, every time he talks about this, to a balanced approach that includes both, you know, revenues, spending cuts and savings through entitlement reforms,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, according to the New York Times.


Democrats like Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin have said that they will fight any attempts to cut Obama’s health care law or privatize Social Security and Medicare.

”Those conversations should not be a part of a plan to avert the fiscal cliff,” Durbin said this week. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt, recently made a similar argument: “Do not cut Social Security, do not cut Medicare, do not cut Medicaid and do not provide more tax breaks to the top 2 percent, who are doing phenomenally well and, in many cases, have never had it so good.”


But Roll Call reports that some liberals are resigned to the fact that in order for a deal to be reached, some cuts to entitlements will have to be made:

Paul Van de Water, senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said most Democrats will accept some changes in entitlement programs, provided Republicans go along with substantial revenue increases. “But it’s going to be a tricky balancing act,” he said.


Today, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and senior White House aide Rob Nabors will meet with leadership of both the House and the Senate to further discuss a possible deal.

Go to Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Next »