Sunday, February 27, 2011

The End Game

Keefe - The Denver Post - Unions and Middle Class COLOR - English - middle; class; unions; unemployment; homelessness; recession; wisconsin; collective; bargaining, teachers, education

Recent events in Wisconsin really represent the tip of the iceberg regarding a war on the middle class. Bernie Sanders ( I-VT) says that events in Wisconsin will not only lead to the end of collective bargaining but also to the end social safety nets for the middle class such as social security, medicare and unemployment benefits .

SANDERS: What we have to understand is this is not just Wisconsin. This is part of the concerted attack on the middle class and working families of this country by the very wealthiest people in America, the Koch brothers and many others. And you're also right in suggesting that if you look at the end game, what are you talking about?

You're talking about the end of Social Security, privatization of Social Security, massive cuts and privatization of Medicare, major cuts in Medicaid. You're talking about over a period of time, the end of unemployment compensation, the end of the minimum wage or lowering the minimum wage.

What these guys want is to return us to the 1920's when working people had virtually no rights to organize or to earn a decent living. Bottom line today is the top 1% earn more income than the bottom 50%. The top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90%. That gap between the very rich and everybody else is growing wider.

And what the wealthiest people in the country are doing are using their resources to make the attack against the middle class even stronger. They want the destruction of the middle class and almost all wealth in this country to go to the people on top.


Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!!!!

The idiom, "put your money where your mouth is," implies that one should do something rather than just talk about it. Here's an example:
When it comes to the Wisconsin union fights, right-wing pundits Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have a couple of things in common. For starters, have all voiced their opposition to the plight of public employee unions in the state.

On Feb. 18, Limbaugh said on his radio program, "We are either on the side of the Wisconsin protesters or we are on the side of our country." Hannity has featured several guests critical of the union and its supporters, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, on his Fox News television and radio shows.

On the Feb. 18 edition of "The O'Reilly Factor," O'Reilly stated, "Governments can't afford to operate" because of "union wages and benefits." But it turns out that opposing workers' rights isn't the only thing these blowhards have in common.
What they have in common is their hypocrisy!
As it turns out, all three of them belong to the American Federation Television and Radio Artists union (AFTRA), which is the AFL-CIO affiliate for television and broadcast workers.

Yes, you read that right. While Hannity, O'Reilly and Limbaugh have been railing against union workers in Wisconsin, all three of them belong to an AFL-CIO affiliate union.
Words do matter.
Limbaugh said that if you support the protesters than you don't support the country. Does that mean if he doesn't give up his union membership, he would not be patriotic?

Hannity allowed several critics of the Wisconsin protesters to expound on the need to bust the unions. Does that mean if he doesn't give up his union membership, he is pro-union?

O'Reilly believes that governments can't operate if they have to pay out "union wages and benefits." Does that mean that while staying a union member, O'Reilly is preventing the government to work?
One important fact!
Fox programming tends to leave out factual information that doesn't jive with the message they are promoting. For example, the Fox pundits, while criticizing the Wisconsin protests and collective bargaining issue, never mentioned that "out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers."
The word hypocrite has great meaning. That is why Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh really should put their money where their mouth is!

David Fitzsimmons - The Arizona Star - Unions - English - unions, budget, states, teachers, education, costs, GOP, debt, protesters, protests, economy, jobs

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Funding the Public Employee Pension in Wisconsin

Rick Ungar has an exposé on "The Wisconsin Lie Exposed--Taxpayers Actually Contribute Nothing To Public Employee Pensions." Read the UPDATE at the end of the article for further analysis of the issue.

Pulitzer Prize winning tax reporter, David Cay Johnston, has written a brilliant piece for exposing the truth about who really pays for the pension and benefits for public employees in Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans. Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, creates the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not. Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.


How can this be possible?

Simple. The pension plan is the direct result of deferred compensation- money that employees would have been paid as cash salary but choose, instead, to have placed in the state operated pension fund where the money can be professionally invested (at a lower cost of management) for the future.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of deferred compensation from reading about the latest multi-million dollar deal with some professional athlete. As a means of allowing their ball club to have enough money to operate, lowering their own tax obligations and for other benefits, ball players often defer payment of money they are to be paid to a later date. In the meantime, that money is invested for the ball player’s benefit and then paid over at the time and in the manner agreed to in the contract between the parties.

Does anyone believe that, in the case of the ball player, the deferred money belongs to the club owner rather than the ball player? Is the owner simply providing this money to the athlete as some sort of gift? Of course not. The money is salary to be paid to the ball player, deferred for receipt at a later date.

A review of the state’s collective bargaining agreements – many of which are available for review at the Wisconsin Office of State Employees web site - bears out that it is no different for state employees. The numbers are just lower.

Check out section 13 of the Wisconsin Association of State Prosecutors collective bargaining agreement – “For the duration of this Agreement, the Employer will contribute on behalf of the employee five percent (5%) of the employee’s earnings paid by the State.

Johnston goes on to point out that Governor Walker has gotten away with this false narrative because journalists have failed to look closely at how employee pension plans work and have simply accepted the Governor’s word for it. Because of this, those who wish the unions ill have been able to seize on that narrative to score points by running ads and spreading the word that state employees pay next to nothing for their pensions and that it is all a big taxpayer give-away.

If it is true that pension and benefit money is money that already belongs to state workers, you might ask why state employees would not just take the cash as direct compensation and do their own investing for their retirement through their own individual retirement plans.

Again, simple.

Mr. Johnston continues-

Expecting individuals to be experts at investing their retirement money in defined contribution plans — instead of pooling the money so professional investors can manage the money as is done in defined benefit plans — is not sound economics. The concept, at its most basic, is buying wholesale instead of retail. Wholesale is cheaper for the buyers. That is, it saves taxpayers money. The Wisconsin State Investment Board manages about $74.5 billion for an all-in cost of $224 million. That is a cost of about 30-cents per $100, which is good but not great. However it is far less than many defined contribution plans, where costs are often $1 or more per $100.”

If the Wisconsin governor and state legislature were to be honest, they would correctly frame this issue. They are not, in fact, asking state employees to make a larger contribution to their pension and benefits programs as that would not be possible- the employees are already paying 100% of the contributions.

What they are actually asking is that the employees take a pay cut.

That may or may not be an appropriate request depending on your point of view – but the argument that the taxpayers are providing state workers with some gift is as false as the argument that state workers are paid better than employees with comparable education and skills in private industry.

Maybe state workers need to take pay cut along with so many of their fellow Americans. But let’s, at the least, recognize this sacrifice for what it is rather than pretending they’ve been getting away with some sweet deal that now must be brought to an end.

UPDATE: Since this post was published earlier today, many commenters have made the point that, while it is true that it is state employees’ own money that funds the pension plan, when the pension plan comes up short it is up to the taxpayer to make up the difference.

There is some truth in this – but not as much as many seem to think. Because the pension plan is a defined benefit plan – requiring the state to pay the agreed benefit for however long the employee may live in retirement- if the employee lives longer than the actuarial plan anticipated, the taxpayer is on the hook for the pay-outs during the longer life.

But is this the fault of the state employees? The pension agreements are the result of collective bargaining. That means that the state has every opportunity to properly calculate the anticipated lifespan and then add on some margin for error. What’s more, the losses taken by the pension funds over the past few years can hardly be blamed on the employees.

Take a look at what Sue Urahn, an expert on the subject at the Pew Center on the States, has to say about this when describing the $1 trillion gap that existed between the $2.35 trillion states had set aside to pay for employees’ retirement benefits and the $3.35 trillion price tag of those the end of 2008-

To a significant degree, the $1 trillion reflects states’ own policy choices and lack of discipline:

  • • failing to make annual payments for pension systems at the levels recommended by their own actuaries;
  • • expanding benefits and offering cost-of-living increases without fully considering their long-term price tag or determining how to pay for them; and
  • • providing retiree health care without adequately funding it

Via Pew Center on the States

That is the point. While the governor of Wisconsin is busy trying to shift the blame to the workers in an effort to put an end to collective bargaining, the reality is that it was the state who punted on this – not the employees.

Further, by the state employee unions agreeing to the deal proposed by Walker on their benefits (as they have despite Walker’s refusal to accept it) they are taking on much - and possibly all – of the obligation out of their own pockets.

As a result, the taxpayers do not contribute to the public employee pension programs so much as serve as insurers. If their elected officials have been sloppy , the taxpayers must stand behind it. But if the market continues to perform as it has been performing this past year, don’t be surprised if the funding crisis begins to recede. If it does, what will you say then?

All information needs to be on the table in order to make informative decisions on any issue . With the decline of independent objective journalism, finding information and truth becomes a necessary element to understanding the reality of each issue.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Walker's Faked Budget Crisis

On February 21, 2011, Rachel Maddow explained how , "Gov. Scott Walker Has Faked a "Budget Crisis." It's not about money, it's about union busting. Finance is just a pretext!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reject the "Conservative Worldview." Do Something!!!

george lakoff

I am posting George Lakoff's article, What Conservatives Really Want, because I believe that what Lakoff says is important for all Americans to read.
—Dedicated to the peaceful protestors in Wisconsin, February 19, 2011

The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.

The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on.

Budget deficits are a ruse, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin, where the Governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement.

Deficits can be addressed by raising revenue, plugging tax loopholes, putting people to work, and developing the economy long-term in all the ways the President has discussed. But deficits are not what really matters to conservatives.

Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life.

In the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama accurately described the basis of American democracy: Empathy — citizens caring for each other, both social and personal responsibility—acting on that care, and an ethic of excellence. From these, our freedoms and our way of life follow, as does the role of government: to protect and empower everyone equally. Protection includes safety, health, the environment, pensions and empowerment starts with education and infrastructure. No one can be free without these, and without a commitment to care and act on that care by one’s fellow citizens.

The conservative worldview rejects all of that.

Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don’t think government should help its citizens. That is, they don’t think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility.

But where does that view of individual responsibility alone come from?

The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don’t have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally.

The market itself is seen in this way. The slogan, “Let the market decide” assumes the market itself is The Decider. The market is seen as both natural (since it is assumed that people naturally seek their self-interest) and moral (if everyone seeks their own profit, the profit of all will be maximized by the invisible hand). As the ultimate moral authority, there should be no power higher than the market that might go against market values. Thus the government can spend money to protect the market and promote market values, but should not rule over it either through (1) regulation, (2) taxation, (3) unions and worker rights, (4) environmental protection or food safety laws, and (5) tort cases. Moreover, government should not do public service. The market has service industries for that. Thus, it would be wrong for the government to provide health care, education, public broadcasting, public parks, and so on. The very idea of these things is at odds with the conservative moral system. No one should be paying for anyone else. It is individual responsibility in all arenas. Taxation is thus seen as taking money away from those who have earned it and giving it to people who don’t deserve it. Taxation cannot be seen as providing the necessities of life, a civilized society, and as necessary for business to prosper.

In conservative family life, the strict father rules. Fathers and husbands should have control over reproduction; hence, parental and spousal notification laws and opposition to abortion. In conservative religion, God is seen as the strict father, the Lord, who rewards and punishes according to individual responsibility in following his Biblical word.

Above all, the authority of conservatism itself must be maintained. The country should be ruled by conservative values, and progressive values are seen as evil. Science should NOT have authority over the market, and so the science of global warming and evolution must be denied. Facts that are inconsistent with the authority of conservatism must be ignored or denied or explained away. To protect and extend conservative values themselves, the devil’s own means can be used against conservatism’s immoral enemies, whether lies, intimidation, torture, or even death, say, for women’s doctors.

Freedom is defined as being your own strict father — with individual not social responsibility, and without any government authority telling you what you can and cannot do. To defend that freedom as an individual, you will of course need a gun.

This is the America that conservatives really want. Budget deficits are convenient ruses for destroying American democracy and replacing it with conservative rule in all areas of life.

What is saddest of all is to see Democrats helping them.

Democrats help radical conservatives by accepting the deficit frame and arguing about what to cut. Even arguing against specific “cuts” is working within the conservative frame. What is the alternative? Pointing out what conservatives really want. Point out that there is plenty of money in America, and in Wisconsin. It is at the top. The disparity in financial assets is un-American — the top one percent has more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent. Middle class wages have been flat for 30 years, while the wealth has floated to the top. This fits the conservative way of life, but not the American way of life.

Democrats help conservatives by not shouting out loud over and over that it was conservative values that caused the global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a greed-is-good ethic.

Democrats also help conservatives by what a friend has called Democratic Communication Disorder. Republican conservatives have constructed a vast and effective communication system, with think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of trained speakers, vast holdings of media, and booking agents. Eighty percent of the talking heads on tv are conservatives. Talk matters because language heard over and over changes brains. Democrats have not built the communication system they need, and many are relatively clueless about how to frame their deepest values and complex truths.

And Democrats help conservatives when they function as policy wonks — talking policy without communicating the moral values behind the policies. They help conservatives when they neglect to remind us that pensions are deferred payments for work done. “Benefits” are pay for work, not a handout. Pensions and benefits are arranged by contract. If there is not enough money for them, it is because the contracted funds have been taken by conservative officials and given to wealthy people and corporations instead of to the people who have earned them.

Democrats help conservatives when they use conservative words like “entitlements” instead of “earnings” and speak of government as providing “services” instead of “necessities.”

Is there hope?

I see it in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands citizens see through the conservative frames and are willing to flood the streets of their capital to stand up for their rights. They understand that democracy is about citizens uniting to take care of each other, about social responsibility as well as individual responsibility, and about work — not just for your own profit, but to help create a civilized society. They appreciate their teachers, nurses, firemen, police, and other public servants. They are flooding the streets to demand real democracy — the democracy of caring, of social responsibility, and of excellence, where prosperity is to be shared by those who work and those who serve.
Reject the "Conservative Worldview." Do Something!!!

Exaggerations and Fear-Mongering in Congress

Pat Bagley - Salt Lake Tribune - Rhetorical Civility COLOR - English - Civility, Rhetoric, Obamacare, GOP, Dems, Democrats, Health Care, Reform, Right, Left, Tucson, Shooting, Giffords, Obama, Boehner 
On February 18, 2011, Republicans in the House debated budget amendments to strip funding for President Obama's new health care reforms. 
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said the health-care overhaul law was the "worst bill that has ever been passed in the history of Congress."

Rep. Steve King (R- IA) said the health reform laws represent the "largest taking of American liberty in the history of this country." 
In response to the remarks of Gingrey and King, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) excoriated her Republican colleagues.
"We have to respond to someone who got up and actually said this is the worst bill that's ever been passed. What about the slave laws? What about the fugitive slave laws. How dare anyone suggest this is the worst bill when we give opportunity to all Americans. This amendment should be denied...There are Republicans who believe we should provide health care for America."
NBC's Luke Russert took a look at Gingrey's statement while he also considered the nation's history.
Some historians may argue that the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 or the Sedition Act of 1918, which essentially made it a crime to criticize the U.S. government, may be worse -- as they were a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Another black eye in the nation's history, the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which allowed for slavery to exist beneath the 36-30 parallel was passed by Congress in an effort for America to continue as a half slave and half-free state.

Perhaps the worst bill passed by Congress is the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This legislation called for all runaway slaves to be returned to their masters. The only thing needed to track and apprehend a slave was a sworn affidavit from a master. Also, the slave had no right to jury trial or right to testify on their behalf.

So as this contentious debate on an amendment to defund health-care reform goes forward in 2011, it's important to remember that our nation has come a long way since 1776 and seen its fair share of egregious legislation that has had to do with human rights.
Let's break-down the words of Gingrey and King:
This is the "worst bill that has been passed"...the "largest taking of American Liberty" the "history of Congress"... in the "history of this country."
Both Sheila Jackson-Lee and Luke Russert note the lack of historic knowledge in the statements of Gingrey and King. It is imperative that lawmakers stop using scare tactics and broad exaggerations as the basis for their positions on issues. It should be the facts, stupid!

Do the Math! A Solution for WI

Do the Math!  Here's one Wisconsin resident's solution to the deficit problem.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shocking..Appalling...GOP's War on Women

“If you aren't completely appalled then you haven't been paying attention”

This war is not new. GOP strategists are escalating the Republican War Against Women that has been going on since the '80s.  However, this new wave of attacks also has a front of women voicing their opposition to the feminist agenda.
Palin and her mama grizzlies are a twenty-first century upgrading of the backlash against women and minorities strategy that put Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bush II in the White House. These angry women are the bait, stirring a pot of discontent against the Obama Presidency. Their candidacies are the first act in a plan by the Republican right—now joined by its Tea Party allies and supply-side libertarians—to run the Republican party .
Their goal is the White House and a radical redirection of American government that will rollback much of the New Deal and Great Society policies. They seek repeal of many of the laws of the last thirty years that opened opportunities for those left out of America's mainstream— women, minorities, gays and immigrants.
It is engineered by a new generation of Republican tacticians who have built their strategy on the foundation laid in the original Republican War Against Women. That earlier crew—composed of Reagan's campaign team, new right and religious right leaders—orchestrated the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, opposed affirmative action, federal money for child care and numerous policies aimed at making life better for women and their families.
The centerpiece of this war has always been women's reproductive health. Through the 1970s and 1980s, abortion was its principal issue. Now they have expanded their opposition to stem cell research and contraception.
For these 2010 angry women candidates, opposition to abortion remains the keystone of their political philosophy. But they downplayed abortion in their campaigns, instead attacking big government spending and high taxes.
Don't be fooled, the 'Good Ole Boys' are still in control
The strategic aim of this newest version of the backlash strategy is to weaken the Democrat's attraction to its strongest constituency, women voters. This year it had three parts:
1- To energize large numbers of Republican women voters through the campaigns of the radical Republican women candidates.
2- To use this Republican female energy to attract independent women who occasionally voted Republican and want lower taxes and less government.
3- To make Democratic women feel a sense of hopelessness, to encourage a lack of enthusiasm for voting, to alienate them from Obama.
What is surprising is how long it took this male-dominated, backlash political machine to recognize that the path to control of state houses, Congress and the White House was with feisty right-wing women candidates.
The Republican War against Woman has not ended. But it's got Palin, Michele Bachmann, re-elected to her Minnesota congressional seat, and now Nikki Haley and Susana Martinez leading it. 
1) Republicans not only want to reduce women's access to abortion care, they're actually trying to redefine rape. After a major backlash, they promised to stop. But they haven't yet. Shocker.
2) A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to "accuser." But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain "victims."
3) In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. (Yep, for real.)
4) Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids. 
5) In Congress, Republicans have a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.
6) Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids' preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working.
7) And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool.
8) Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.
9) Congress just voted for a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country.
10) And if that wasn't enough, Republicans are pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program. (For humans. But Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses. You can't make this stuff up).
Nope, you can't make this stuff up.  It is real, it is powerful and it cannot be dismissed.


1. "'Forcible Rape' Language Remains In Bill To Restrict Abortion Funding," The Huffington Post, February 9, 2011

"Extreme Abortion Coverage Ban Introduced," Center for American Progress, January 20, 2011

2. "Georgia State Lawmaker Seeks To Redefine Rape Victims As 'Accusers,'" The Huffington Post, February 4, 2011

3. "South Dakota bill would legalize killing abortion doctors," Salon, February 15, 2011

4. "House GOP Proposes Cuts to Scores of Sacred Cows," National Journal, February 9, 2011

5. "New GOP Bill Would Allow Hospitals To Let Women Die Instead Of Having An Abortion," Talking Points Memo, February 4, 2011

6. "Republican Officials Cut Head Start Funding, Saying Women Should be Married and Home with Kids," Think Progress, February 16, 2011

7. "Bye Bye, Big Bird. Hello, E. Coli," The New Republic, Feburary 12, 2011

8. "House GOP spending cuts will devastate women, families and economy," The Hill, February 16, 2011

9. "House passes measure stripping Planned Parenthood funding," MSNBC, February 18,2011

"GOP Spending Plan: X-ing Out Title X Family Planning Funds," Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2011

10. Ibid.

"Birth Control for Horses, Not for Women," Blog for Choice, February 17, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Myths and Fabrications of Social Security


Joe Conason wonders, Why are some Pundits and Politicians Hell-Bent on Undermining Social Security, in Spite of Its Success and Strength?
I don't need no stinking facts!
Among the mysteries of modern politics in America is why so many of our leading pundits and politicians persistently seek to undermine Social Security, that enduring and successful emblem of active government. In the current atmosphere of budgetary panic, self-proclaimed "centrists" are joining with ideologues of the right in yet another campaign against the program -- and yet again they are misinforming the public about its purposes, costs and prospects.
Among the puzzling aspects of the crusade against Social Security is the zeal that animates its enemies, as if the present and future recipients of those monthly checks were somehow fattening themselves at the expense of future generations. Whatever drives these well-fed but poorly informed commentators, it isn't the facts.
Social Security provides support.
First, let's remember that Social Security actually provides support at a very modest level. Last year, the average retirement benefit was $1,170 a month, or about $14,000 a year, with the average disabled worker or widow receiving slightly less. (It would be wonderfully educational for the cable talkers and newspaper editorialists to live on that amount for a few months -- they would not only lose weight but gain empathy.)
The US lags behind other countries in the amount of support.
Remember, too, that despite our status as the largest and most productive economy in the world, Social Security is among the least generous retirement programs among all the developed nations. As a percentage of the average worker's pre-retirement wages, the benefit has been declining for years and will continue to fall without any further cutbacks.
The check that used to replace 39 percent of worklife income will replace only 31 percent by 2031. Compare that with the average wage replacement in the nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) -- which was roughly 61 percent last year.
This is support that has been relied on by low waged workers.
More important than those comparative statistics is the fact that the great majority of Social Security beneficiaries have no other cushion for their retirement -- not because they were lazy or improvident, but because their wages were simply too low to permit much savings, let alone investment.
The foes of Social Security insist that they have no desire to force the elderly to eat cat food or go homeless -- as they did in the years before the program existed. But we must cut drastically, they cry, because we can simply no longer afford the "entitlements" that we have bestowed so lavishly upon the old and the poor.
Medicaid should not be confused with Medicare .
Whenever someone starts to talk about "entitlements," keep in mind that they are either trying to bamboozle or they've been bamboozled themselves. Under that category, most commentators mix up Medicaid and Medicare -- two programs that are indeed endangered by rising health care costs -- with Social Security, which will be solvent until at least 2037 and can easily be made solvent for decades to come with minor changes. This is a rhetorical deception perpetrated countless times every day in nearly every media outlet.
Fiscal challenges of Social Security can be solved without bankrupting the nation
The actuarial experts whose job is to monitor Social Security's fortunes have long assured us that small and gradual rises in the tax revenues that support Social Security, accompanied by small and gradual shifts in benefits over the coming years, will solve whatever fiscal challenges the program may eventually confront. There is no reason to panic, and there is certainly no reason to consider wholesale changes in benefits.
Wall Street will gain if Social Security is gutted
Well, there is a reason, but only if your real aim is to destroy the system and replace it with something less useful but more profitable. Wall Street and its servants on Capitol Hill have lusted after Social Security's revenues for many years. And they regard the current uproar over the budget as a fresh opportunity to get their hands on a trillion-dollar bonanza. Given their record in recent years, it is all too easy to imagine how badly that would work out for everybody -- except them, of course.
It's the Facts Stupid!
As consumers we all must listen to a variety of opinions and look beyond rhetoric to fact.  Today however, it is difficult to find politicians who in theory should be working for the people who they represent.  Instead, many politicians appear to work harder for the fat cat money changers on Wall St, the lobbyist who represent one side of the issue or corporations who  only look out for the interests of their stockholders.  As well it is more difficult to find independent, objective and reliable journalists to report on the lies, misrepresentations and lack of reporting of important issues.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

GOP and Right-Wing Attack Mode

Mike Lane - Cagle Cartoons - Choice for Women - English - Women, rights, voting, sufferage, pro-choice, abortion, campaign, 2004, right, suffragette, woman, abortions, choice, decision, reproductive rights, campaigns, candidate, insist, insisting 

Gail Collins makes a strong case that "tens of millions Americans who oppose abortion because of deeply held moral principles" have attached themselves to a political movement that "seems to have come unmoored from any concern for life after birth" in her article, The Siege of Planned Parenthood.
“What is more fiscally responsible than denying any and all funding to Planned Parenthood of America?” demanded Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, the chief sponsor of a bill to bar the government from directing any money to any organization that provides abortion services.

Planned Parenthood doesn’t use government money to provide abortions; Congress already prohibits that, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. (Another anti-abortion bill that’s coming up for hearing originally proposed changing the wording to “forcible rape,” presumably under the theory that there was a problem with volunteer rape victims. On that matter at least, cooler heads prevailed.)
Rape isn't rape unless it is forced 

The House of Representative Republicans recently  removed  a controversial "forcible rape" provision from their "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" after  enormous outside pressure. "Rape is only really rape if it involves force.  So says the new House Republican majority as it tried to change abortion law."
The original language from the Hyde Amendment—which bans federal funding for abortions through Medicaid except in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother's life—will replace the "forcible" provision, said a spokesman for Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who introduced the bill. The move comes in response to heavy criticism in recent days from outside advocacy groups including and Emily's List and the growing #dearjohn campaign, aimed at House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), that opposed the abortion funding bill. Read more about about the House GOP's backtracking here.
Jon defines "forcible rape" 

Comedy Central's "Daily Show" added fuel to the fire Wednesday night, when Jon Stewart prompted a mock debate with correspondent Kristen Schaal on what exactly is meant by "forcible rape."

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Anti-abortion groups
Planned Parenthood does pay for its own abortion services, though, and that’s what makes them a target. Pence has 154 co-sponsors for his bill. Also, Live Action is an anti-abortion group that recently through a sting operation they tried to tie clinic staff from 12 Planned Parenthood clinics in six states to to child prostitution. Deja vu the right's Acorn sting.

“Planned Parenthood aids and abets the sexual abuse and prostitution of minors,” announced Lila Rose, the beautiful anti-abortion activist who led the project. The right wing is currently chock-full of stunning women who want to end their gender’s right to control their own bodies. Homely middle-aged men are just going to have to find another sex to push around.

Live Action hired an actor who posed as a pimp and told Planned Parenthood counselors that he might have contracted a sexually transmitted disease from “one of the girls I manage.” He followed up with questions about how to obtain contraceptives and abortions, while indicating that some of his “girls” were under age and illegally in the country.

One counselor, shockingly, gave the “pimp” advice on how to game the system and was summarily fired when the video came out. But the others seem to have answered his questions accurately and flatly. Planned Parenthood says that after the man left, all the counselors — including the one who was fired — reported the conversation to their supervisors, who called the authorities. (One Arizona police department, the organization said, refused to file a report.)

Still, there is no way to look good while providing useful information to a self-proclaimed child molester, even if the cops get called. That, presumably, is why Live Action chose the scenario.

“We have a zero tolerance of nonreporting anything that would endanger a minor,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. “We do the same thing public hospitals do and public clinics do.”
Life after birth! 
The "pro-life" movement promotes the belief that a human being has the 'right to life.' The efforts against Planned Parenthood are basically focused on an opposition to abortion.   But Planned Parenthood provides women with many other important services.  As Gail Collins note, what about concern for life after birth?

But here’s the most notable thing about this whole debate: The people trying to put Planned Parenthood out of business do not seem concerned about what would happen to the 1.85 million low-income women who get family-planning help and medical care at the clinics each year. It just doesn’t come up. There’s not even a vague contingency plan.

“I haven’t seen that they want to propose an alternative,” said Richards.

There are tens of millions Americans who oppose abortion because of deeply held moral principles. But they’re attached to a political movement that sometimes seems to have come unmoored from any concern for life after birth.

There is no comparable organization to Planned Parenthood, providing the same kind of services on a national basis. If there were, most of the women eligible for Medicaid-financed family-planning assistance wouldn’t have to go without it. In Texas, which has one of the highest teenage birthrates in the country, only about 20 percent of low-income women get that kind of help. Yet Planned Parenthood is under attack, and the State Legislature has diverted some of its funding to crisis pregnancy centers, which provide no medical care and tend to be staffed by volunteers dedicated to dissuading women from having abortions.
It's about controlling women's bodies, Stupid!!!
In Washington, the new Republican majority that promised to do great things about jobs, jobs, jobs is preparing for hearings on a bill to make it economically impossible for insurance companies to offer policies that cover abortions. And in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry, faced with an epic budget crisis that’s left the state’s schools and health care services in crisis, has brought out emergency legislation — requiring mandatory sonograms for women considering abortion.