Deficit Commission Co-Chair: Social Security T-Bills Have “Been Used”

It’s astonishing, watch the video to see Alan Simpson, Co-Chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (“Deficit Commission”) explain that buyers of US T-Bills don’t necessarily need to get paid back because the money has “been used”!
Background: In the 1980s the Social Security payroll tax was increased, supposedly to set aside funds to cover the retirement of the post-WWII baby-boomer generation. But this extra revenue was instead used to give huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. (Yes, that’s right, they taxed working people and used the money to cut taxes for the rich.) So now that the boomers are retiring the money is needed. They want those bonds paid back now to cover Social Security payments.
The Commission: Now there is the Deficit Commission looking into how to raise money to cover what the government handed out as tax cuts to the rich. Rather than get the money from where the money went, the plutocrats are instead trying to convince people that it would make more sense to just cut Social Security instead, so they don’t have to pay it back. The commission is meeting in secret, preparing to recommend cutting Social Security benefits. Hence the nickname for the Commission: “Catfood Commission,” because cutting Social Security would force as many as 1.5 million old people into poverty and eating cat food for dinner because it costs less.
After Bush and Wall Street destroyed the economy older people were laid off in waves (because they’re past a certain age), can’t get jobs (because they’re old), now have been denied extended unemployment and denied COBRA subsidies. Now they’re called “lazy”. They’re threatened with the humiliation of drug tests. And finanlly, the Catfood Commission, meeting in secret, threatens any retirement security they have. Digby calls it “simple cruelty.” And, as sTiVo pointed out in a comment at Open Left yesterday,

Since raising the retirement age is now on the table as a solution to the non-problem of Social Security, it is VITAL to raise this issue. WHAT JOBS????

Here is a simple idea for the deficit commission: everyone knows — every one of us knows — that the deficit was caused by tax cuts for the rich and huge increases in military spending. So to fix the deficit … Duh? Can we connect the dots?
Connect the dots:But connecting those dots between the obvious causes of the deficit and the way to fix the deficit is beyond the mental abilities of people in “The Village.”
The Simpson Video: Alex Lawson of of Social Security Works confronted Simpson leaving one of the secret meetings Thursday with a video camera and asked some questions about this. The video is above, transcript excerpts below: (h/t Jane Hamsher)
LAWSON: But what about the $180 billion in surplus that it brings in every year?
SIMPSON: There is no surplus in there. It’s a bunch of IOUs. … It’s 2.5 trillion bucks in IOUs which have been used to build the interstate highway system and all of the things people have enjoyed since it has been set up.
LAWSON: Two wars, tax cuts for the wealthy.
Jane Hamsher writes,

Simpson starts from the premise that the Treasury will default on the bonds issued to the Social Security trust fund, because all the best people apparently know that it’s better to default on America’s senior citizens and plunge them into poverty than it is to default on, say, the Chinese.
. . . The commission is also looking into cutting Medicare benefits, because the deal guaranteeing no-bid Medicare contracts to the pharmaceutical industry by both Republicans and Democrats can’t possibly be abrogated. The committee claims it’s independent, but it’s not THAT independent. So, old people, too bad for you.

This is really important. They increased the Social Security tax on working people, gave the money out as tax cuts for the wealthy, created deficits on purpose to defund government, created a huge debt mess, and now the next stage of this plan is to gut social programs.
This is what the Deficit Commission is about. Tax cuts for the rich and military spending caused the borrowing and raising taxes on the rich can stop it. But the plan was to force a perception of a debt emergency to stampede people into accepting a dismantling of government that works for We, the People, and provides for us, empowers us and protects us. This is the confrontation of plutocracy vs democracy. We can’t let them get away with it.
What can you do? Visit Social Security Works, get on their mailing list or follow them on Twitter.
Get mad.
And get informed.
This post originated at Open Left.

First They Called Unemployed “Lazy,” Now Call Them Druggies!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Before you read on, yes this is for real. Yes, Democrats are joining with Republicans to fight help for the long-term unemployed. Yes, members of Congress are blaming the unemployed, calling them names, and proposing that the unemployed be publicly humiliated. And yes, for some reason they think this will win them votes. If you have the stomach for it, read on.
Do you remember last month when members of Congress said that people are unemployed because they are “lazy?”
Wasn’t that insulting enough? Apparently members of Congress think it was not, and now want to insult the unemployed even more by adding a good, strong dose of humiliation to their lives.
As Digby wrote the other day after a previous episode of Democrats joining with Republicans to block help for the long-term unemployed, “This is simple cruelty at this point.”
Not cruel enough, apparently. Sen. Hatch wants unemployed to face mandatory drug tests. What is Hatch’s reasoning for a requirement that the unemployed publicly humiliate themselves?

“This amendment is a way to help people get off of drugs to become productive and healthy members of society, while ensuring that valuable taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted.”

Previously the reasons for not helping the unemployed included President Obama saying, “government can’t create jobs,” or ideological nonsense like it is not government’s role, or the deficit is too big, or they are lazy. But I think this one takes the cake. Now the excuse for Congress’ inaction on the economy is that the unemployed are out of work because they are on drugs.
It is enough to make me want to go get stoned. Come to think of it, California will be voting on legalizing pot in November! If members of Congress keep spouting this nonsense, keep refusing to act on jobs and keep taking it out on the unemployed, the poor and the elderly, we might see a migration west of people looking for a different kind of relief.
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Obama: We’ve Been Outflanked, Cap & Trade Dead

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The headline of my local paper today is Obama: Act on clean energy. (But a different headline online – do they do that just to mess up bloggers?)
In the speech the President paid homage to President Carter’s efforts to change America’s energy policies, saying,

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

Then the President said we have been outflanked on the coming green manufacturing revolution by countries like China,

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

Cap And Trade Dead
In the Huffington Post today, Teryn Norris, Director of Americans for Energy Leadership writes that the President also signaled the death of cap and trade legislation,

Instead of using last night’s prime-time opportunity to push cap and trade … President Obama pressed the reset button on energy and climate policy, saying he was “happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party, as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.” He made no mention of setting a price on carbon or establishing an emissions cap and trade system.

Others are trying to get things done on this front. Norris discusses the emerging Innovation Consensus,

The energy innovation consensus currently includes dozens of Nobel Laureates, Breakthrough Institute, Brookings Institution, National Commission on Energy Policy, Third Way, Association of American Universities, Clean Air Task Force, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, Google, and Americans for Energy Leadership, among others. The latest group to join is the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), made up of several of the nation’s top business leaders: Bill Gates, Jeff Immelt, John Doerr, Chad Holliday, Norm Augustine, Ursula Burns, and Tim Solso. Last week, these leaders released a new report, “A Business Plan for America’s Energy Future,” calling for major new federal investment in clean energy technology RD&D — at least $16 billion annually, more than triple the current level (see our news roundup).

Here is the problem. Action on energy requires direct government action and rejection of deficit hysteria to do it. But every single initiative of the Obama Presidency has been blocked by powerful interests, playing on the use of the filibuster on almost every major bill in the Senate. Health care reform was severely weakened by the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies. Financial reform has been severely weakened by the financial lobbies. Jobs measures and further stimulus have been blocked by a strategic lobbying campaign to make people think the Bush-created deficit must be cut first. Now cap and trade may have been killed by the oil and gas lobbies.
We are in a direct confrontation between the big corporations and We, the People over who will run things and control the resources of the United States, and We, the People are losing. There is time to turn it around, but only if we recognize this battle for what it is.
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The Speech

Damage control. Not much else. Obama has moved from Hope and Change to wondering why those nice Republicans won’t vote for things even after he gives away everything in the bills that was good for the country.
Another reaction: Obama’s Oil Spill Speech: Running On Empty

Obama’s Speech – The Carter Context

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
“The moral equivalent of war.”
Tonight President Obama will talk about the Gulf oil catastrophe, and, hopefully, overall energy and climate policy. A look back at President Carter’s fight over energy brings some context to this situation.
On April 18, 1977, 33 years ago, President Jimmy Carter gave a White House speech on energy and asked the country to change direction.

“Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly.”

Carter said solving this energy problem would be “The moral equivalent of war.” Please, please read the speech, and its ten principles. It will help set the stage for understanding where we are today.

If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions.
But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time.
That is the concept of the energy policy we will present on Wednesday. Our national energy plan is based on ten fundamental principles.
The first principle is that we can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it and if the people understand the seriousness of the challenge and are willing to make sacrifices.

We failed to act soon. And we face an economic, social and political crisis that threatens our free institutions.
It turned out to be a very, very hard fight. The right’s new network of corporate-funded “think tanks” was setting up shop and beginning to spread their poisonous, divisive, anti-government propaganda. They didn’t like the idea of government trying to solve problems. The big oil giants certainly didn’t want government researching alternatives to their gravy train. We understand the right’s operation today, but people did not yet understand what was going on because the country had never been subjected to a destabilization campaign of this magnitude — from the inside.
You can really feel the effect of the right’s campaign when you read a speech Carter gave two years later. On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter gave what is called the “Crisis of Confidence” speech. It’s also known as the “Malaise” speech. I consider it to be one of the great speeches by a President. Carter again talked to the country about energy policy, pleading with people to take this seriously. He said, “The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.”
Well, we didn’t face them. Instead the country elected Reagan who immediately took the solar panels off of the White House, killed mass transit and alternative energy programs and steered the country on a path of toward dominance by the wealthy and big corporations – especially oil companies.
Now it is 2010, we have been at war in the Middle East for years, carbon in the air is raising the planet’s temperature and melting the Arctic ice cap, and … the oil in the Gulf. President Obama is giving his first Oval Office speech this evening and all of this is the broader context. Will he take on the entrenched interests that defeated Carter and brought us Reagan and later the two oil-company executives who invaded Iraq, encouraged buying Hummers and left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit?
As Carter said, “It is a clear and present danger to our Nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.”
Energy speech:

Crisis of confidence speech:

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Reagan Revolution Home To Roost — In Charts

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I amwas a Fellow with CAF.

It seems that you can look at a chart of almost anything and right around 1981 or soon after you’ll see the chart make a sharp change in direction, and probably not in a good way. And I really do mean almost anything, from economics to trade to infrastructure to … well almost anything. I spent some time looking for charts of things, and here are just a few examples. In each of the charts below look for the year 1981, when Reagan took office.
Conservative policies transformed the United States from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in just a few years, and it has only gotten worse since then:

Working people’s share of the benefits from increased productivity took a sudden turn down:

This resulted in intense concentration of wealth at the top:

And forced working people to spend down savings to get by:

Which forced working people to go into debt: (total household debt as percentage of GDP)

None of which has helped economic growth much: (12-quarter rolling average nominal GDP growth.)

Please leave a comment pointing people to a chart with a change after Reagan took office. How about a chart that shows America’s investment in maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure over time?

Sometimes it can be so obvious where a problem comes from, but very hard to change it. The anti-government, pro-corporate-rule Reagan Revolution screwed a lot of things up for regular people and for the country. Some of this disaster we saw happening at the time and some of it has taken 30 years to become clear. But for all the damage done these “conservative” policies greatly enriched a few entrenched interests, who use their wealth and power to keep things the way they are. And the rest of us, hit so hard by the changes, don’t have the resources to fight the wealth and power. (Speaking of which, you can donate to CAF here.)

Look at the influence of these entrenched interests on our current deficits, for example. Obviously conservative policies of tax cuts and military spending increases caused the massive deficits. But entrenched interests use their wealth and power to keep us from making needed changes. The facts are here, plain as the noses on our faces. The ability to fight it eludes us. Will we step up and do something to reverse the disaster caused by the Reagan Revolution or not?

Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation
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Why Is Science Declining In The US?

It’s not about fixing the schools or the students, it’s about whether they can get jobs when they complete their education.
The Real Science Gap | Miller-McCune Online,

It’s not insufficient schooling or a shortage of scientists. It’s a lack of job opportunities. Americans need the reasonable hope that spending their youth preparing to do science will provide a satisfactory career.

This is an important article.

For the great majority, becoming a scientist now entails a penurious decade or more of graduate school and postdoc positions before joining the multitude vainly vying for the few available faculty-level openings. Earning a doctorate now consumes an average of about seven years. In many fields, up to five more years as a postdoc now constitute, in the words of Trevor Penning, who formerly headed postdoctoral programs at the University of Pennsylvania, the “terminal de facto credential” required for faculty-level posts.
. . . Many young Americans bright enough to do the math therefore conclude that instead of gambling 12 years on the small chance of becoming an assistant professor, they can invest that time in becoming a neurosurgeon, or a quarter of it in becoming a lawyer or a sixth in earning an MBA. And many who do earn doctorates in math-based subjects opt to use their skills devising mathematical models on Wall Street, rather than solving scientific puzzles in university labs, hoping a professorship opens up.