Tag Archives: deficit

Social Security: It’s All in the Adjectives

People who want to cut Social Security benefits to lower future budget deficits are “reasonable” and “serious.” Moreover, economists have reached a “consensus” that this should be done. People who oppose balancing the budget on the back of Social Security recipients are “denialists” whose views are “maddening,” “crackpot,” “strident.”

The cartoonist R. Crumb once advised a young protege that to be good at the craft, he needed to draw his subject accurately – but then exaggerate it just a little bit. In polemical writing, adjectives are that little bit of exaggeration. Sprinkled sparingly through an otherwise competently argued piece, they create a slightly distorted view of the writer’s opponents without making the writer sound too angry or confrontational. The cumulative effect is stark: those on the same side as the writer are intelligent and reasonable. Those on the other side are not.

The adjectives applied to defenders of Social Security, quoted above, aren’t from Fox News, the Cato Institute, or a Rush Limbaugh broadcast. They are drawn from Continue reading Social Security: It’s All in the Adjectives

Paul Ryan’s Hammock

How stands the Social Security discussion in Washington following State-of-the-Union night? More or less where it was before. Which, for defenders of the program is mostly not good.

President Obama honored his pledge to congressional Democrats over the previous weekend not to endorse cuts to the program. In fact, he went a bit farther, rejecting any plan that would include “slashing benefits for future generations.”

There’s more to say about that. But first, what about Paul Ryan and that Michele Bachmann? Continue reading Paul Ryan’s Hammock

Schakowsky’s Deficit Reduction Plan Is Game Changer

Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s deficit reduction proposal is a game changer: a serious, moderate, balanced blueprint for addressing the nation’s long-range fiscal challenges, by a leading progressive lawmaker. How her colleagues on the president’s deficit commission respond to it will be a test of how serious they really are about solving the deficit puzzle in a fair and equitable way.

Jan Schakowsky is sometimes described as “one of the most liberal members” of the commission. But the deficit reduction plan she released on Tuesday is moderate, sensible, and actually more effective at lowering the deficit over the next few years than the plan co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles tabled last week ($427 billion in savings by 2015, vs. $250 billion). Continue reading Schakowsky’s Deficit Reduction Plan Is Game Changer

How the Public Really Thinks About Social Security

Just because the AmericaSpeaks “Our Budget, Our Economy” forum produced encouraging results are Social Security’s friends, doesn’t mean we should assume that deliberative forums like this one are a reliable tool for determining what the public really thinks about this issue – or any other.

What do three high-profile, deficit-related projects – the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the June 26 AmericaSpeaksOur Budget, Our Economy” forum, and the 2010 Fiscal Forum (held April 28) – have in common? All are fully or partially funded by Pete Peterson, the multi-billionaire co-founder of the Blackstone Group. Together, they form a three-pronged strategy to get around an intractable problem: namely, that while the Washington/Wall Street elite are in agreement that Social Security must be cut, the public are not.

That’s clear from “Understanding Public Opinion on Deficits and Social Security,” the excellent paper that Benjamin I. Page and Lawrence R. Jacobs published just before the AmericaSpeaks event. In it, Continue reading How the Public Really Thinks About Social Security

Washington: Behind Closed Doors

Will the deficit commission find ways to keep the public out as it contemplates Social Security and Medicare cuts? It’s happened before. The pieces may already be in place for it to happen again.

“Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors,” sang the late, great recording artist Charlie Rich. Evidently, that’s the one thing Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, agree on when it comes to the president’s deficit commission.

The commission, which began meeting on Tuesday, has been barraged with letters demanding that it conduct all of its meetings – including those held by subgroups of the 18 commissioners – out in the open. One came from Michigan Rep. John Conyers and 15 other Democratic House members, another from House Republican minority leader John Boehner of Ohio. The third was signed by 77 social service organizations ranging from the NAACP to Vietnam Veterans of America.

What are they so worried about? Boehner’s letter asks, pointedly, why Continue reading Washington: Behind Closed Doors

“Gaming” the System, Again

The Bowles-Simpson deficit commission is hoping a computer game will educate Video Nation on the need for fiscal austerity. It’s been tried before.

The Website Industry Gamers reports that Erskine Bowles, co-chair of President Obama’s deficit commission, has approached Microsoft about creating a deficit-reduction video game to help “educate” the public about the need for fiscal austerity. Bowles, apparently, sees the commission’s work as not just to suggest ways to cut the deficit but to convert the unconverted.

To anyone who was around and thinking about the deficit during the first Clinton administration, the deja vu is overwhelming. Back then, Bill Clinton, in appreciation of Bob Kerrey’s vote for his first big package of economic legislation, let the Nebraska senator run a Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform: the direct precursor of Obama’s Continue reading “Gaming” the System, Again