Tag Archives: Tea Party

A momentous—and ominous—week for Social Security

The last week of June saw the effective end of DOMA and passage of a landmark Senate immigration reform bill. Both will widen access to Social Security, although the exact extent is still unknown. But it also saw the Supreme Court wipe out the enforcement mechanism for the landmark Voting Rights Act. The latter, unfortunately, will have a powerful if indirect effect on the future of Social Security, making last week less of a cause for celebration than it might have initially appeared.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the operative provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, opening the way for federal recognition of same-sex marriages, was an astonishing and welcome development for equal rights and social justice in America. It also represents the first major expansion of Social Security in 40 years. There are well over 130,000 same-sex marriages in the U.S. today—over 115,000 with children—and that number will no doubt burgeon as more non-traditional couples add the prospect of Social Security, Medicare, and other federal benefits into their personal finance calculations.

The just-passed Senate immigration reform bill represents, at least potentially, an even greater expansion, enabling millions of undocumented workers to start accumulating benefits under Social Security. There are a lot of ifs here: Continue reading A momentous—and ominous—week for Social Security

It’s All About the Taxes

It’s a simple question that progressive types – and many non-Washingtonians, for that matter –ask themselves all the time: If Social Security needs more money in coming decades, why not just raise the payroll tax? It’s how we’ve done it in the past, why can’t we just do it again? The reason is that the far right and the center-right – Washington’s Very Serious People – have agreed that the low-tax regime they’ve collaborated on putting in place for the affluent is here to stay, along with the income inequality it’s helped to spawn.  There will be no further increases, even in a comparatively un-progressive levy like the payroll tax, they insist.

It’s not news that you can’t mention the words “tax increase” in Washington without someone attaching an epithet like “job-killing” or “politically unpopular” to them as a matter of reflex. This goes for the payroll taxes that fund Social Security as for any other tax. House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan says Continue reading It’s All About the Taxes

Live from the Village: Social Security and the Washington Press Corps

Frustrated defenders of Social Security have been wondering for years why the Washington Press Corps – the elite of American journalism – are so nakedly eager to see our national retirement system gutted. FAIR explained it to us back in 1996. Time for a revisit.

In the classic ’60s TV series The Prisoner, a disgruntled espionage agent resigns. He is then kidnapped and taken to the Village, a deceptively innocuous  seaside community where everybody is happy and content to believe exactly what they’re told, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Washington – by which I refer to Pennsylvania Avenue, K Street, the think-tank community, Georgetown, and their various satellites – is a little like The Village in that Continue reading Live from the Village: Social Security and the Washington Press Corps

What’s the Matter with Chisago County?

The solid middle class citizens of our economically beset nation are sorry that their growing dependence on government handouts is bankrupting the federal government. If they could possibly send the money back, they would. But they can’t, and so the poor get less. That seems to be the message of a major New York Times feature on the American social safety net. Reading between the lines, it tells us something quite different, and more interesting.

The New York Times ran an informative, engrossing, and very long front-page feature last Sunday on who gets the most from the social safety net. The basic, though muddled, message was that middle class households are sopping up more of what were intended to be anti-poverty programs. In so doing, they’ve become a danger to the nation’s future solvency. But they need the money and don’t know how to stop.

The article misrepresents these programs in a variety of ways – quite a few, in fact. For one thing, it lumps in Social Security and parts of Medicare, which are fully paid for by workers’ contributions, with programs like school lunches, food stamps, and Medicaid, Continue reading What’s the Matter with Chisago County?

Newt Gingrich Can’t Get With the Program

Why is the Republican Party leadership so scared of Newt Gingrich? Putting aside his generally abrasive personality, his loud streak of megalomania, and his tendency to self-destruct – OK, that’s a lot! – it’s hard to think of much in the way of substantive policy matters that sets the former House speaker apart from the rest of the Republican presidential field.

Oh yes, there’s one thing.

Early last month, when it still seemed that Mitt Romney’s anointment as GOP nominee was a matter of course, the editors of the Wall Street Journal took Gingrich for his position on, of all things, Social Security. The Journal has been pushing for Social Security privatization for decades, but strangely, Continue reading Newt Gingrich Can’t Get With the Program

Who’s Going to Defend Social Security?

Strangely enough, it’ll probably be the Republican right. Once again.

Congressional Republican and Democratic leaders have chosen the members of the “Super Congress” that will determine round two of the spending cuts – and, possibly, tax increases – under the Budget Control Act of 2011. As expected, the GOP members are all hardliners on taxes – so much so that they all received the blessing of Citizens for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist. (I mentioned tax increases above because the joint deficit committee has the right to include them in its legislation, not because there’s much chance it will.)

Most of the attention, therefore, has focused on the Democratic members. Continue reading Who’s Going to Defend Social Security?

Fixing Social Security: Ted Nugent Speaks Truth to Power

Ted Nugent, the “Motor City Madman” of ’70s hard rock, has a plan to fix Social Security: Eliminate it. And make workers under 45 pay to wind it up. With enemies like this, does Social Security even need friends?

At this point in his demented career, The Nuge – Tedly, Uncle Ted, what have you – is an American institution, a living, breathing parody of contemporary rugged individualism that Glenn Beck and the Tea Party would have to invent if he wasn’t already roaming the Upper Midwest.

As occasional readers of our right-wing op-ed pages know, he’s also a political scientist of sorts.  This month, he’s challenging the Republican Party to put its money where its mouth is on Social Continue reading Fixing Social Security: Ted Nugent Speaks Truth to Power

Thomas Paine, the Tea Party, and Social Security

Sixteen Republican Senate candidates – almost half the field – have stated their support for diverting some portion of Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts. That reflects the impact on the GOP of the Tea Party movement, which so loves to wrap itself in the cloak of America’s revolutionary past. At least one Founding Father – the most famously revolutionary of them all – would not have recognized their vision of America as his. But he would have found much to admire in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s.

Say what you want about the Tea Party – its devotees truly love the Founding Fathers. And the Constitution, as narrowly interpreted. Wikipedia defines the “Founding Fathers” as

the political leaders who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 or otherwise took part in the American Revolution in winning American independence from Great Britain, or who participated in framing and adopting the United States Constitution in 1787-1788, or in putting the new government under the Constitution into effect.

That surely makes Thomas Paine a Founding Father. So what would today’s Minutemen (or Minutepersons) make of Paine? Better yet, what would he make of them?

Paine is an uncomfortable presence for conservatives, and isn’t much read these days by Americans who like to call themselves “patriots” Continue reading Thomas Paine, the Tea Party, and Social Security

A Short Guide to Social Security Doublethink

Figuring out what Social Security’s critics really want is sometimes difficult. They’ve become so afraid of being tarred as “privatizers” that they’ve developed an elaborate vocabulary of code words to soften the edges of their positions on the issue. A closer examination clears away some of the fog, however.

The polite way to describe them is “terms of art.” George Orwell came up with a cruder but more forceful alternative: doublethink. Either way, the language that Social Security’s critics use to state their position is calculated to calm the fears of the vast majority of Americans who don’t want to see the program privatized. This has been going on for at least 15 years, ever since the first serious proposals to carve private accounts out of the program were tabled on Capitol Hill and Democrats pounced on them. Today, if use of the term “privatization” is the litmus test, there’s only one lawmaker in Congress Continue reading A Short Guide to Social Security Doublethink

Why Do We Keep Calling Tea Partiers “Anti-Government”?

Conservatives, including those of the Tea Party variety, aren’t “anti-government.” In most respects they are pro-government to the point of authoritarianism. What they really oppose is any form of cooperative or collective solution to the problems of a complex industrial (or post-industrial) society – especially when the beneficiaries are people they regard with suspicion or fear.

The Tea Party movement has done the larger conservative cause a big favor by giving it a fresh patina of sexiness. I’m not referring here to Sarah Palin, or to Rand Paul’s curly locks, but to the slightly outlaw, vaguely anarchistic, allegedly leaderless image the Tea Partiers like to project – and that the corporate media have bought into so readily. Continue reading Why Do We Keep Calling Tea Partiers “Anti-Government”?