Tag Archives: Washington Post

The Soft Underbelly

Having failed in numerous frontal assaults on Social Security, the Republican congressional leadership several years ago adopted a new strategy for dismantling the program: attack and demonize Disability Insurance, which they consider to be its soft underbelly. With this week’s passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, they drew blood.

We’ve been hearing it for years now: Disability Insurance is overgenerous, fraud-ridden, a well-intentioned program that’s mutated into a form of middle-class welfare. Criteria for awarding benefits need to be tightened, or the $150 billion DI trust fund will go bankrupt. The traditional solution for imbalances in Social Security’s trust funds—shifting money between the DI and the Old Age and Survivors’ (OASI) fund—shouldn’t be used unless “substantive reforms” are implemented.

How wonderful, then, that according to the Wall Street Journal, “Social Security will get its first upgrade since the 1980s to fix Disability Insurance,” thanks to a kumbaya moment between the White House and congressional Republican and Democratic leaders. The two-year Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, Continue reading The Soft Underbelly

“Octomom” and the racial double standard

Social Security’s right-wing critics like to argue that a program guaranteeing a minimal income in old age undermines the family by discouraging working people from having children—and that the resulting decline in the birthrate undermines Social Security. Yet, the right also likes to vilify people of color who have too many children. Could it be that we’ve got a double standard here?

Remember when Nadya Suleman was always in the news ? Perhaps you remember her by her media epithet: Octomom.

Suleman was the 33-year-old Los Angeles mother of six who, in 2009, gave birth to octuplets after receiving fertility treatments, allegedly to qualify for more government assistance and launch a reality-TV career. Single and unemployed, “Octomom” became the focus of bobble-head media outrage in the early years of the Great Recession, a ready target for pundits looking for a way—any way—to deflect attention from the sins of the Wall Street elite. To the reliably quotable Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, Suleman was “dizzy, selfish,” the living symbol of America’s national decline. Her statements that she never meant to give birth to octuplets—plausible though they were—somehow never seemed to convince mainstream journalists in possession of what they thought was a story.

What does all this have to do with Social Security? We’ll get to that shortly. But first, an update on one of the more remarkable media circuses of the past few years.

Continue reading “Octomom” and the racial double standard

Why You Should Celebrate Social Security’s Birthday on Aug. 14

Social Security’s 77th birthday comes up on Tues., August 14. The Alliance for Retired American is planning events all over the country to celebrate (see details below!). As well it might – Social Security’s benefit checks keep 20 million people out of poverty every year and are helping to prop up consumer spending while the rest of us dig ourselves out of debt. Some people, however, would prefer you stayed home.

I recently spoke with a prominent, U.S.-based money manager for an unrelated project. First, he lambasted the Federal Reserve for keeping interest rates too low, “monetizing the debt,” and preventing a much needed dose of government austerity. Then he told me why Continue reading Why You Should Celebrate Social Security’s Birthday on Aug. 14

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

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

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

Hail Mary! Co-Chairs Spin While Deficit Commission Staggers Toward Deadlock

I’ve been saying for months that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is probably doomed. The co-chairs, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, appear to agree.

So my first real question is, What have these people been doing with $500,000 of the taxpayers’ money for the past nine months? Lori Montgomery in the Washington Post reports that many of the commission’s 18 members were “startled” by the Bowles-Simpson plan, which Bowles himself called a “starting point.”

Starting point? Are you kidding? This commission was empaneled in February and held its first – official – meeting in May. It’s now less than three weeks Continue reading Hail Mary! Co-Chairs Spin While Deficit Commission Staggers Toward Deadlock

Annenberg “Fact-Check” of Dems’ Blasts against GOP on Social Security Needs Correcting

Are Democratic candidates smearing their Republican adversaries as Social Security privatizers? The corporate media buys the GOP line that Democrats’ attacks are a desperation move and that privatization is so far off the table it’s not worth mentioning. Wrong!

For a president widely characterized as being “adrift” this summer, Obama stirred up quite a fuss with his August 14 radio address, in which he took Republicans to task for supporting Social Security privatization. Here’s what he said:

Continue reading Annenberg “Fact-Check” of Dems’ Blasts against GOP on Social Security Needs Correcting

No, Personal Savings Won’t Be Your Main Retirement Income!

It’s amazing how persistently certain elements of popular myth hang on: for example, in the pages of the Washington Post.

A Sunday Post op-ed by retired NPR producer Jonathan Kern uses some tough love to convince feckless members of Generations X and Y (if not Z) that they need to “seriously bulk up savings,” now, or risk not being able to eat in their old age. He writes:

“If your junior-high soundtrack was more Bangles or Britney than Beatles, I am going to try to scare some sense into you with three words about life in retirement, based on personal experience: The paychecks stop.”

Kern cites a recent study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute to the effect that Continue reading No, Personal Savings Won’t Be Your Main Retirement Income!

Obama’s $250 “Bribe” for Seniors

The administration’s proposed extra payment to seniors is being called “bribery” and an undeserved windfall. But how about calling it what it really is: “not nearly enough”?

Reuters reports that the Senate yesterday defeated a measure to give a check for $250 to Social Security recipients and the disabled. The 50-to-47 vote wiped out what would have been a $13 billion, one-time expenditure.

The news item, as it appeared in the Washington Post, noted with evident satisfaction that the vote was “a setback for the powerful seniors’ lobby.”

That’s at least a bit less melodramatic than some of the language that greeted the Obama administration last fall when it first proposed the extra payment. “Shameless.” “Bribery.” “Depressing spectacle.” “Pure political pandering.” Those were some of the printable responses.

Continue reading Obama’s $250 “Bribe” for Seniors