Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Senate Shocker

Well, all I can say is that it's about time. A few Senate Democrats appear to be struggling to break loose from the gilded gridlock of Washington groupthink, boldly suggesting (in so many words) that the talented Mr. Obama's plan to cut Social Security benefits is a plan hatched in sociopathic hell.

It seems it was only a month ago that the debate was not over whether to inflict more misery on the old, the disabled, widows, orphans and veterans, but over how much pain to dish out. A Senate bill turning the whole fraudulent deficit scold argument inside out had been moldering in obscurity since last spring. But Iowan Tom Harkin's plan, called the Strengthening Social Security Act, has suddenly started picking up sponsors. Maybe the Democrats are realizing that Obama's centrist coat-tails are getting a tad frayed, given the plummet in his approval rating down into that magical minus-40 territory. They're probably afraid for their own re-election chances if they go on record impoverishing the poor even more than they have already. Maybe they've noticed that a left-of-center upstart crashed  the preapproved-by-Wall Street gates and just won the New York City mayoralty in a landslide. Maybe they're catching a whiff of the smoke from the peasant torches, finally hearing those faint faraway cries of anguish coming nearer and nearer to the Washington bubble-dome.

Politicians never do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts. They do the right thing out of fear. A bottom-up earthquake is starting to tickle them in their Birkenstocks. A zephyr from the left
is starting to ruffle their coiffures.

Harkin's bill, now co-sponsored by Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mark Begich of Alaska, would do three things to strengthen Social Security:
 Strengthen Benefits by Reforming the Social Security Benefit Formula: To improve benefits for current and future Social Security beneficiaries, the Act changes the method by which the Social Security Administration calculates Social Security benefits.  This change will boost benefits for all Social Security beneficiaries by approximately $70 per month, but is targeted to help those in the low and middle of the income distribution, for whom Social Security has become an ever greater share of their retirement income.
Ensure that Cost of Living Adjustments Adequately Reflect the Living Expenses of Retirees: The Act changes the way the Social Security Administration calculates the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA).  To ensure that benefits better reflect cost increases facing seniors, future COLAs will be based on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).  Making this change to Social Security is expected to result in higher COLAs, ensuring that seniors are able to better keep up with the rising costs of essential items, like health care.
Improve the Long Term Financial Condition of the Trust Fund: Social Security is not in crisis, but does face a long-term deficit.  To help extend the life of the trust fund the Act phases out the current taxable cap of $113,700 so that payroll taxes apply fairly to every dollar of wages.
There have always been Democrats feebly "fighting back" against Chained CPI -- simply defending the status quo. For example, last spring some House progressives penned yet another mealy-mouthed letter to Obama, politely asking him to cease and desist. They made no demands of their own. They only asked that impoverished seniors not be forced to eat cat food. They didn't  have the chutzpah to actually demand that the living standards of retirees be improved. Until now.

So, what could be next? The Democratic sponsors of Medicare for All  having the chutzpah to speak up for their own legislation instead of half-heartedly defending Obamacare? Liberals administering a litmus test, threatening to withhold their donations and votes unless their Democratic reps make a severe left turn away from the big money of their big corporate austerian donors?

Anything's possible in a world where another big city mayor is publicly complaining that he can't remember smoking crack because he was in an alcoholic stupor at the time.


Noodge said...

"Anything's possible in a world where another big city mayor is publicly complaining that he can't remember smoking crack because he was in an alcoholic stupor at the time."

Best line I've heard in a long, long time.

Thank you for that. :-)

Pearl said...

The problem is Karen, how do we get Medicare for everyone that will only
partially cover people and get it out of the hands of the private interests
who are grabbing their share of the profits in it? As Bernie Sanders
recently stated, "We need a political revolution in our country today."
I hope he runs for President on a Third Party ticket.

And noodge: We in Canada are happy to see Toronto's Mayor Ford plastered all
over the national papers in the U.S. Although he is a subject for ridicule,
he is causing great harm to Toronto where my daughter lives. We can thank
the people who voted him in and support him who are teaparty transplants. However, I think all this national coverage in the U.S. will help getting him removed where several excellent people are waiting to step in.
Prime Minister Harper is also in hot water and hopefully will be voted out
of office in 2015. I hope I live long enough to see all this all happen.

Karen Garcia said...


You are right in that Medicare covers only 80% of bills, theoretically leading to bankruptcy in the event of a catastrophic or chronic illness. Some people have supplemental insurance through the predatory free market, others pay out of pocket, others who qualify have the slack taken up by Medicaid. Sometimes providers will simply agree to "accept assignment" on whatever Medicare pays, since it pays more quickly and unquestioningly than the parasitic gamers who often drag the process out in hopes docs and patients will just give up. The ideal single payer would be a hybrid of Medicare and Medicaid for everybody, getting the free market out of health care entirely.

ste-vo said...

You wrote...
"Anything's possible in a world where another big city mayor is publicly complaining that he can't remember smoking crack because he was in an alcoholic stupor at the time."

My head exploded. I shared on Face Book that comment. I agree 1000% w/ Noodge. That is one specular sentence and captures the zeitgeist.

Kudos, thanks for you honesty! You amaze me.

Cirze said...

I just hope that whiff is of the fire from the coming revolutionary forces and not the reconfigured concentration camp ovens.

It's about time for these programs to be demanded as due and already paid for, and ain't it grand that Tom Harkin is in the lead?

You rock, K. As usual.

I had wanted to compliment your Tom Ripley metaphor yesterday but a health emergency stole my evening so, thanks, for the brilliance then as well as today's!

I've thought often of the Ripley Effect (since I first viewed the movie and then read the fascinating book) as the thug psychopathic fixation of the emotionally damaged desiring to be perceived as cool (superior) holding the entire US hostage since my first glance of Ronnie Raygun's troops.

Can you think of any of them who don't fit this mold?