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Dog Gone at Penigma

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Member since: Sun Oct 14, 2012, 08:55 AM
Number of posts: 433

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About Social Security being 'on the table

I wrote this originally back in 2011, but in view of the negotiating over the 'grand bargain', it is worth cross posting here from penigma.blogspot.com,
because the GOP and the Tea Party are still trying to do the same thing at the end of 2012 that they were doing after the 2010 election cycle. That we note their failure to come up with anything new, different, or better is important after the latest election cycle, if we don't want a repeat of the last 2 years from them. It's time to tell them to move on, or move on without them or in spite of them. Some things become old and quaint and charming with age, some things become better with age, and some things simply become tedious, like the GOP thinking.

Who Spent the Social Security Trust Fund Money?

Social Security should have a surplus. Republicans and Tea Partiers, like Rand Paul, tell us the money was spent, and they want to change benefits and the retirement age. They hate what they like to call 'entitlements'; they never liked them. Like unions, they have been looking for pretexts to get rid of it.

So..........where is the money, and who spent it? Having spent it, why the hell do they think it is acceptable to simply say, so sad, too bad, and for the government not to pay it back?

Lets take a look at when the money started being spent. That would take us back to George H.W. Bush. It continued under the next president, Bill Clinton; but to his credit, Clinton presided over a booming economy, and handed over a surplus to the Shrub, George 'Dubya' Bush. And that appears to be where the spending went nuts, blowing the balance of the Social Security money with his wars and most of all, with his ill-conceived tax cuts ---- the ones that benefit the wealthy very few, so very, very much more than anyone else.

Let me remind you how much the Democrats had a different taxation program than do the Republicans - and Tea Partiers:

So lets take a look at the money, the missing money, and who paid in that money. Because the people who paid in that money to Social Security have every right to be angry, and to demand that the money be repaid rather than be told they are out of luck.

That would be........the baby boomers. There are quite a lot of baby boomers, they are no small demographic. They are aging, and as they do, they are a force to be reckoned with at the ballot box.

To reprise the history:
Social Security is Short of Funds Because Politicians Spent It

Fund should have $3.7 surplus in 2018 from what baby boomers have paid

"The baby boomers have contributed more to Social Security than any other generation," says economist Allen W. Smith. "They have prepaid the cost of their own retirement, in addition to paying the cost of the generation that preceded them."

Smith points out that the baby boomers have kept their end of the bargain, which was proposed by the Greenspan Commission and enacted into law in 1983. "The higher taxes that were part of the 1983 'solution' to the baby boomer problem have generated the annual Social Security surpluses anticipated so far, and they will continue to do so until 2018," Smith said.

According to Smith, by 2018, the baby boomers will have paid enough extra taxes to have generated a $3.7 trillion reserve in the trust fund, which would be sufficient to pay full benefits until 2042 when the youngest of the boomers would be 78 years old.

"Despite these promises, President Bush has been raiding the trust fund since he took office," Smith said, "and he no longer tries to conceal what he has done. In an effort to muster support for his privatization proposal, he has been openly admitting to the raiding of the fund."

"There may be 'no trust' when it comes to Bush's handling of Social Security money," Smith argued, "but there most certainly is a trust fund. That fund is empty today because President Bush has used the money to pay for tax cuts, the war in Iraq, and many other programs. So, instead of trying to blame the baby boomers for Social Security's current problems, Bush should stop spending Social Security money on other programs and repay the money he has already spent."

As one of those who has been contributing those higher tax contributions into that trust fund, I want that money. I will not accept being told "too bad we spent it, you are S O L" by Republicans and Tea Partiers like Rand Paul. Pay it back, pay it back NOW, and if that means you have to end the damnable Bush Tax Cuts to the wealthy to do that, I don't care. The wealthy may try to keep you on a short leash, Rand Paul, but that is your problem, and your cronies problem.

Don't even think about making it my problem. I vote. I write. I am willing along with the baby boomers to go boom on your behind.

Let that spending of the Social Security Trust Fund become part of the George W. Bush failed presidential legacy. Let the Boomers take the lead in condemning him to history; I'm sure we won't be the last, or the only ones to do so. And Tea Partiers, like Rand Paul? Be on notice, about that missing money? Better start coming up with ways to pay it back, not change the goal posts on us.
Posted by Dog Gone at Penigma | Sat Dec 1, 2012, 09:22 AM (33 replies)

Excellent comparison of the Republican versus Democratic administrations and economic outcomes

I found this to be an excellent summation contrasting and comparing how Republican and Democratic governance has operated. There are some consistent trends in areas like deficits, job creation, etc.

I actually found myself at my computer standing up to give this author and site a standing ovation of one. I hope those who read it will join me in making that a broader round of applause for an excellent pulling together of resources and analysis.

This is an excerpt:
You will often hear critics say that Bush left office with a $454 billion deficit. That was the deficit at the end of 2008 (12/31/2008). Then what accounts for the period from the end of December until the President is sworn into office in late January? Any calculation that begins when President Obama took office or at the end of 2009 (because the President had been in office for a year), is just flat-out wrong.

Here’s how it works...the fiscal year is from October 1 through September 30th. So a President governs for his first 9 months under the budget of the preceding administration.

At the end of the Bush fiscal year, September 30, 2009, the deficit was $1,417,121.

Obama’s first fiscal year, September 30, 2010, the deficit was $1,294,090. The deficit went down!

Obama’s second fiscal year September 30, 2011, the deficit was $1,298,614.

Obama’s third fiscal year August 31, 2012 (latest available), the deficit was $1,164,373.

Unemployment Rates

Clearly Democratic Presidents create more jobs per year than Republican presidents. Unemployment rates are higher under Republicans....it’s just a fact.

Johnson 1966-1969 average unemployment rate of 3.7%.
Clinton 1994-2001 average unemployment rate of 4.9%.
Kennedy 1962-1965 average unemployment rate of 5.2%.
Nixon 1970-1977 average unemployment rate of 6.3%.
Bush 1990-1993 average unemployment rate of 6.7%.
Carter 1978-1981 average unemployment rate of 6.7%.
Reagan 1982-1989 average unemployment rate of 7.3%.

Note: In most cases I have not listed numbers and percentages for President Obama because agencies take so long to formulate the numbers, I found I was unable to verify any of the figures.

Posted by Dog Gone at Penigma | Thu Nov 29, 2012, 04:44 PM (5 replies)

Libertarian Economics, socialism, and Neo-con militarism

cross-posted from penigma.blogspot.com;

I'm in good company being critical of neo-con hawkishness

Ludwig von Mises is a hero for libertarians and Austrian school economists on the extreme right wing. His work is built on the foundational belief of praxeology and the action axiom that relies on people making decisions logically and using reason.

We know this is not the case, we know that many decisions are made illogically, impulsively, emotionally, or simply wrongly based on false assumptions and inaccurate information. In the case of supply side, trickle-down, horse and sparrow economics, no matter how many decades of utter, epic failure are the result, we still have Grover Norquist, and effectively the entire GOP and Tea Party advocating something unreasonable, illogical, and ignoring that it economies that redistribute wealth to a small percentage of rich people, and that create the kind of wealth and income gap that we have in this country - again - inevitably fail to grow their GDP, and are more prone to fraud, corruption, swindling, and catastrophic boom and bust cycles. In short, right wing economics create economies with every possible flaw and blight, and little growth at best, and large contraction at worst.

Mises went running for the U.S. when he became afraid that the Nazis were going to invade Switzerland. They didn't; but that was only because Swiss neutrality was useful for them, and they planned to get around to it further into the war. What I oppose is neo-con militarism, not the usual centrist moderate approach to appropriate military roles - like militarily opposing Nazis.

Mises was of course the mentor of von Hayek, and an extreme right wing nut in his own right, contributing to hate groups like the radical right wing John Birch society. This is ironic, given that the Birchers are anti-Semitic, and Mises was an Austrian Jew, but Mises was anti-socialism (like Hayek, sort of, except when they wanted their own government 'hand outs').

The reality is that there ARE some things where war is requisite to economies and societies. Had this nation not opposed the Nazis, we could not have simply defeated them through economic action. Sadly, Mises, and his legacy, the Mises Institute, which has close ties to political figures like Rand Paul, promote ideology without requiring that it function successfully in the real world.

This is as true of Mises work as it is of the Libertarians who love him, or the idiot Tea Party who tend to be functionally illiterate on the subjects of history and economics.

For example, it is perfectly consistent with the positions of the Mises Institute, which are supposed to be true to the thinking of Ludwig von Mises, to be in many respects antagonistic towards democracy. It is not hard to understand why the extreme right wing would be comfortable with voter suppression or election tampering, or even election rigging, if they distrust and oppose our democratic process.

from Wikipedia:

The Institute is generally critical of statism and democracy, with the latter being described in Institute publications as "coercive",[16] "incompatible with wealth creation"[17] "replete with inner contradictions"[18] and a system "of legalized graft."[16]

If you view the desirable goal to be accumulation or creation of wealth for a few, and any government regulation which resist the redistribution of wealth to only a few people, then everyone else becomes expendable, and it becomes reasonable to try to exclude them from participation.

Of course the reality is that those economies have been most effective that are combination economies - a mix of capitalism and socialism. They have the strongest, most efficient and productive economies with solid growth and productivity; but they also tend to be somewhat socialist in providing good public education, social safety nets, free universal health care, and higher taxation rates than those favored by the extreme right. They tend to fund their infrastructure sufficient to maintain and expand it, and they tend to have strong labor advocacy and participation in their economies. Unions are included in government; government does not try to eradicate it. The result is as much or more freedom, a healthier, more productive and better educated population, and healthier and more functional societies as measured by metrics like ethnic and gender equality.

As I noted in a recent post, I find the laissez-faire capitalism of Libertarians to be a thin disguise for justifying institutionalizing inequality, by trying to decry it as 'socialism' when what it really is amounts to rapacious wealth redistribution to the rich, and creating a lack of freedom, equality, and economic growth. It is antithetical and oppositional to 'we the people'. We is you-and-I, not I, at the expense or inequality of You, (singular OR plural).

The thinking of Rand Paul, and those like him in his supportive base, come as much from the ideology of the Austrian School as a jaundiced view of world history and government.
Posted by Dog Gone at Penigma | Tue Nov 27, 2012, 04:20 PM (0 replies)

F-You, Rand Paul, and the Tea Party you rode in on

Either people are equal, or they are not.

Women are people.

Corporations are not people.
Posted by Dog Gone at Penigma | Tue Nov 27, 2012, 03:05 PM (5 replies)

End the unfair Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, because

Posted by Dog Gone at Penigma | Mon Nov 26, 2012, 11:45 AM (0 replies)

Another example of the high cost of low prices - in lives

Those low prices at WalMart do not come as a result of happy elves in cozy Northpole workshops working amidst candy cane pillars and leisurely hot cocoa breaks with fresh baked cookies made by Mrs. Claus.

Those low prices result from other people being exploited and even killed in other countries, keeping their wages at a poverty level, and artificially forcing down our compensation for hard work here too.

It is an illusion which is a kind of shell game, a trick, that puts money in the pockets of the rich, but ultimately takes that money out of our pockets too... and which kills people in foreign countries. We used to have these kinds of tragedies in the United States, before we improved our own labor standards, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire back in 1911.

News accounts indicate that when the fire broke out, and workers wanted to leave, they were ordered back to work, and prevented from evacuating before the fire advanced. That was reported in the 1911 fire as well; and in both fires, women jumped to their deaths when they could not escape the flames.

Shouldn't we have come further than this in 101 years?

A hundred and one years later......we haven't learned from those mistakes, or we have forgotten how bad it is when labor is paid to little, valued too little, exploited and treated as expendable, which is what this is. The people who died in this fire are human beings, every bit as much as those American women who died in 1911. We need to find the same outrage in our hearts for these people. That outrage, to be sincere, means not participating in the exploitation of low prices that come at this cost in human life and suffering. Don't trust the assurances that these factories are safe or humane; they are not. They are not paid fairly, they work in horrible and unsafe conditions, men, women and children, but especially women.

from CBS news and the AP:

Bangladesh fire kills 112 at Wal-Mart supplier

Garment factory had received 'medium risk' assessment in 2011
A fire engulfed a garment factory outside Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, trapping many workers and killing at least 112 people in the building without emergency exits.
Authorities said the fire started on the ground floor late Saturday and spread upward, cutting off staircases and preventing workers' escape. Some survivors were rescued from the eight-storey building's roof.
The building was a factory operated by Tazreen Fashions Ltd., a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which supplies Wal-Mart, Ikea and other major retailers in the U.S. and Europe.
An army employee inspects the burnt interior of the factory in Savar.An army employee inspects the burnt interior of the factory in Savar. (Andrew Biraj/Reuters)By Sunday morning, firefighters had recovered 100 bodies, fire department Operations Director Maj. Mohammad Mahbub told The Associated Press. He said another 12 people who had suffered injuries after jumping from the building to escape the fire later died at hospitals. The death toll could rise as the search for victims was continuing, he said.
Local media reported that up to 124 people were killed in the fire. The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear, and authorities have ordered an investigation.
Army soldiers and paramilitary border guards were deployed to help police keep the situation under control as thousands of onlookers and anxious relatives of the factory workers gathered at the scene, Mahbub said. He would not say how many people were still missing.


Posted by Dog Gone at Penigma | Mon Nov 26, 2012, 10:36 AM (0 replies)

sad but all too true - so you have to ask why ...

some people still believe this stuff, under all the different names it has had, dating back to when it helped create the problems of the Gilded Age.

cross-posted from penigma.blogspot.com:

Posted by Dog Gone at Penigma | Mon Nov 26, 2012, 08:35 AM (2 replies)

A smart t-shirt

While I generally reject bumper sticker thinking, this is longer, and summarizes the reality very well.

I was dragged as a kid to hear economists and market / investment analysts (stock market) for years. Nothing that I am hearing from the right makes sense as demonstrable, proven effective economics. It seems to be theory that the economic illiterate take as gospel when it is preached to them by the right wing propaganda machine. They don't fact check it, they don't question it, they proceed with the logic that no one can create a job or start a business unless they are already rich, as if that conveys some sort of magical powers.

The reality is that people who have ideas start up businesses all the time, and that large or small, business expansion tends to occur using borrowed money rather than being fully financed by the start up individual. What is absolutely necessary for any success is a market, customers, buyers, clientele. Those are what you get with people who are paid adequately. Supply side economics do not work. Demand side economics does.

Posted by Dog Gone at Penigma | Sat Nov 24, 2012, 11:45 AM (11 replies)

An interesting analysis of Hayek, Friedman and their contribution to modern conservative ecoomics

As I read the thinking from the right on economics, and in particular the references to Hayek and the Austrian School, I frequently wonder just how well those who name drop those two names really know and understand the totality of their thinking. But then I also find that to be true of those who claim to be supporters of Ayn Rand. Too often, too many on the right seem to have only the most shallow knowledge of the actual works of those they claim to follow or promote.

The following book review from the New Republic seems to come to some of those same conclusions.

From the New Republic:

Hayek, Friedman, and the Illusions of Conservative Economics

The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression
By Angus Burgin
(Harvard University Press, 303 pp., $29.95)

(Hayek on the left)

JUST AS I WAS wondering how to start this review, along came the Sunday New York Times Magazine with a short article by Adam Davidson with the title “Made in Austria: Will Friedrich von Hayek be the Tea Party’s Karl Marx?” One Tea Party activist reported that his group’s goal is to fill Congress with Hayekians. This project is unlikely to go smoothly if the price of admission includes an extensive reading of Hayek’s writings. As Davidson remarks, some of Hayek’s ideas would not go down well at all with the American far right: among them is a willingness to entertain a national health care program, and even a state-provided basic income for the poor.

The source of confusion here is that there was a Good Hayek and a Bad Hayek. The Good Hayek was a serious scholar who was particularly interested in the role of knowledge in the economy (and in the rest of society). Since knowledge—about technological possibilities, about citizens’ preferences, about the interconnections of these, about still more—is inevitably and thoroughly decentralized, the centralization of decisions is bound to generate errors and then fail to correct them. The consequences for society can be calamitous, as the history of central planning confirms. That is where markets come in. All economists know that a system of competitive markets is a remarkably efficient way to aggregate all that knowledge while preserving decentralization.

But the Good Hayek also knew that unrestricted laissez-faire is unworkable. It has serious defects: successful actors reach for monopoly power, and some of them succeed in grasping it; better-informed actors can exploit the relatively ignorant, creating an inefficiency in the process; the resulting distribution of income may be grossly unequal and widely perceived as intolerably unfair; industrial market economies have been vulnerable to excessively long episodes of unemployment and underutilized capacity, not accidentally but intrinsically; environmental damage is encouraged as a way of reducing private costs—the list is long. Half of Angus Burgin’s book is about the Good Hayek’s attempts to formulate and to propagate a modified version of laissez-faire that would work better and meet his standards for a liberal society. (Hayek and his friends were never able to settle on a name for this kind of society: “liberal” in the European tradition was associated with bad old Manchester liberalism, and neither “neo-liberal” nor “libertarian” seemed to be satisfactory.)

The Bad Hayek emerged when he aimed to convert a wider public. Then, as often happens, he tended to overreach, and to suggest more than he had legitimately argued. The Road to Serfdom was a popular success but was not a good book. Leaving aside the irrelevant extremes, or even including them, it would be perverse to read the history, as of 1944 or as of now, as suggesting that the standard regulatory interventions in the economy have any inherent tendency to snowball into “serfdom.” The correlations often run the other way. Sixty-five years later, Hayek’s implicit prediction is a failure, rather like Marx’s forecast of the coming “immiserization of the working class.”

Posted by Dog Gone at Penigma | Fri Nov 23, 2012, 02:49 PM (0 replies)

The Demos Report

I was impressed with the research and conclusions of the report done by Demos, intro below:

Retail's Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy

November 19, 2012 Catherine Ruetschlin

With more than 15 million workers in the sector, and leverage over workplace standards across the supply chain, retail wields enormous influence on Americans’ standard of living and the nation’s economic outlook. It connects producers and consumers, workers and jobs, and local social and economic development to the larger US economy. And over the next decade, retail will be the second largest source of new jobs in the United States.1

Given the vital role retail plays in our economy, the question of whether employees in the sector are compensated at a level that promotes American prosperity is of national importance. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical retail sales person earns just $21,000 per year. Cashiers earn even less, bringing home an annual income of just $18,500.2

The continued dominance of low wages in this sector weakens our nation’s capacity to boost living standards and economic growth. Retail’s low-wage employment means that even Americans who work full-time fail to make ends meet, and growth slows because too few families have enough remaining in each paycheck to contribute to the broader economy.

Tracking the emerging effectiveness and extent of the protests today - Black Friday - I wrote about it here:
Where I am NOT going today is shopping at WalMart]
It appears Minnesota will be part of the larger national effort to gain social justice and a living wage from WalMart. I'm not sure for whom I have the greater sympathy - those who spent long hours in single-digit wind chill weather for cheap stuff, crowding into stores with other combative shoppers, or the people who have to assist them in those stores, or who are standing outside to protest.

The most worthwhile effort seems to be those opposing greed, not acting on it.

For an estimated/ approx. $0.15 per shopping trip, it is estimated in a recent study by Demos that we could simultaneously improve the economy, pay retail workers a living wage so that the government would not need to subsidize the profits that go to the Walton family as just one more example of extracting wealth from the 99% for the 1%. AND requiring a living wage, along with the provisions of the ACA / 'Obamacare' would also ultimately benefit business as well.

However because of the focus by business on short term maximum gain that extracts every possible profit, at the expense of long term benefit and sustainability, that is something that will have to be brought about by regulation, rather than voluntary participation. I am not optimistic that protests alone, no matter how widely supported, will overcome that short term greed driven thinking.

Posted by Dog Gone at Penigma | Fri Nov 23, 2012, 02:21 PM (0 replies)
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