Does It Matter What The Public Wants Or Needs?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Does it even matter what the public wants anymore?
I guess that’s a rhetorical question these days because more and more obviously the answer is no. It matters what the plutocrats want, and they know how to get what they want. Public opinion is “engineered” or at least “managed.” When it can’t be managed it is ignored and the effort shifts to our elected officials, who are led to believe the public wants what the plutocrats want using elite opinion leaders, astroturf, front groups or flat out cash.
According to polls (and most of these by overwhelming margins):
Things the public doesn’t want:

  • Tax cuts for the rich. For example, this morning’s Progressive Breakfast hilited:

    Another poll shows support for ending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. McClatchy:”…51 percent want to extend the tax cuts only for households making less than $250,000 a year, and 45 percent want to extend the tax cuts for all … Those who want to extend all of the tax cuts, including for the wealthy, include Republicans, tea party supporters, conservatives, Southerners and Westerners, Independents were closely divided, with 49 percent for extending only the ‘middle class’ tax cuts, and 48 percent for extending all of them.”

    P.S. Campaign for America’s Future and CREDO Action have a petition, Tell Congress: Don’t extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Click the link, and add your voice.

  • Cuts in social security. Isaiah Poole wrote last week, Nobody’s Buying The Cut-Social-Security Line,

    A whopping 82% of respondents in the poll oppose Social Security cuts for the purpose of deficit reduction, while only 15% support cuts. What’s particularly telling is the striking uniformity of opinion across the political spectrum: 83% of Democrats, 82% of Republicans, 78% of independents and 74% of Tea Party supporters.

    P.S. Campaign for America’s Future has a petition, Tell President Obama to Reject Social Security Cuts. Click the link and add your voice.
    P.S. Strengthen Social Security is holding a National Call Congress Day on November 30. Click for details.

  • Cuts in Medicare. Republicans figured this out, and ran ad after ad after ad (after ad after ad) telling voters that Democrats should be thrown out of office because they cut $500 billion from Medicare. You saw the ads. (and saw them and saw them and saw them.)
  • Cuts in anything. (Actually, polls show that the public wants cuts in foreign aid.)
  • Corporate-written “free trade” schemes. As Leo Gerard points out in Corporate Rewards: Controlling U.S. Trade Policy,

    In a September poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, 53 percent of Americans said so-called free trade agreements have injured the country. Only 17 percent said those trade schemes benefited the United States. Disgust with these deals spans party lines, including Tea Partiers, 61 percent of whom said they’re bad for America.

    Things the public wants:

  • Jobs. The official unemployment rate is 9.6%. The total including “underemployed” is 15.9%.
  • Unemployment benefits extended. Poll: Majority of voters support another extension of unemployment benefits,

    In a poll released Monday, 73 percent of voters say it’s too early to cut back benefits for those who are struggling to find work as unemployment rate hovers at 9.6 percent….

  • A plan to revive American manufacturing. Election Day Poll: Voters Weren’t Backing Extreme Right Agenda,

    Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that “America is falling behind” in the global economy and that “we need a clear strategy to make things in America, make our economy competitive, and revive America’s middle class.”

  • Rebuild America’s Infrastructure. From the poll cited above,

    Significant majorities in the poll also supported new investments in infrastructure through a national infrastructure bank, and a five-year strategy for reviving manufacturing in America

    So there are things the public clearly wants and doesn’t want. These things are significantly at odds with the things the plutocrats want. If we are still a democracy we will get the things the public wants. If we have completed the transformation to a plutocracy we will get the things the plutocrats want. That’s the definition of the terms.
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  • The Shock Doctrine Push To Gut Social Security And Middle Class

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    Today’s Washington Post has punch two of a one-two punch. Punch one was the Simpson/Bowles “plan” to cut Social Security, cut middle-class tax breaks and programs (and dramatically cut taxes on the rich.) Punch two is pushing this plan hard with headlines claiming this solution is actually popular, while shutting out voices who explain why we shouldn’t do this. This is full-on Shock Doctrine, wait for an emergency like the terrible recession so people are in shock and want solutions, and then change everything so fast they can’t respond while telling them how this is good for them.
    This is how they do it, folks, demonstrated by this story in today’s Washington Post: Consensus is forming on what steps to take in cutting the deficit,

    After an election dominated by vague demands for less debt and smaller government, the sacrifices necessary to achieve those goals are coming into sharp focus. … Smaller Social Security checks and higher Medicare premiums. [. . .] the plan unveiled this month by co-chairmen Erskine B. Bowles … and Alan K. Simpson … has been respectfully received with a few exceptions by both parties. Its major elements are also winning support from a striking line-up of commentators. [. . .] The strange bedfellows are a “testament to the moderate nature” of the ideas under discussion.

    Consensus? Sharp focus? Here’s your “sharp focus”: The public hates this!
    That headline is the manufactured reality. The real reality is that the public just hates this, and has voted against and will vote against politicians who push it.
    Last month you saw campaign ad after ad hitting Democrats who “cut $500 billion from Medicare,” and Democrats lost the senior vote and the midterms. The public hates this.
    A recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research report showed that an overwhelming 69% of voters agreed that “politicians should keep their hands off Social Security and Medicare” when they address the deficit. The public hates this.
    Only 6% of the public says the government’s priority should be deficits now. The public hates this.
    An AARP poll finds that 90% of people aged 18 to 29 say Social Security is important. The public hates this.
    An NBC/WSJ poll finds that 57% are against cutting Social Security no matter how bad the deficit is. The public hates this.
    A USA Today poll finds that the public by 66/31 says don’t cut benefits to fix the deficit. The public hates this.
    I can continue citing poll after poll; there are no polls that show the public is in any way behind this.
    It’s Clear: The public hates this and will vote out any politician who does this. If you think the public didn’t like the bailouts and the politicians who voted for them, this “Deficit Commission” plan to cut Social Security is the other shoe dropping. Bailouts helped Wall Street and not Main Street and people certainly didn’t like that. But this is paying for bailing out Wall Street by hitting Main Street in the gut. And the public understands this.
    But here is today’s reality: the public hates this, and the corporate media tells you how much you love it. This is how it’s done. You have heard the stories of FDR and LBJ saying “make me do it,” meaning create the public pressure that forces politicians to do act. This is a story of manufacturing consent where the elites, the Peterson Foundation, the President and the corporate right are setting up an appearance of making them do it. (We have a jobs emergency, but we get deficit commissions instead of jobs commissions?)
    The public hates it but the elites are pushing ahead with their campaign anyway. If you remember the “run up” to the Iraq War, opposing voices were simply shut out of the discussion. All the “serious people” were explaining why we had no choice but to invade Iraq. And all the headlines were about the terrible threat that Iraq posed to our very existence. Seriously, it wasn’t just stories about how Iraq was going to drop a nuke on us any second now. Do you remember the smallpox scare?, where you couldn’t listen to the radio, read a newspaper or watch TV without hearing about all the terrible ways Iraq was going to attack us?
    The Simpson/Bowles plan is part of a pre-arranged agenda to gut the middle class and further enrich the wealthy. The media machine is working to convince DC politicians that the public wants this done. They scare people with headlines about the terrifying things that will happen because of deficits. The only viewpoints you hear are the cutters and gutters. Those presenting the ideas the public favors – like the plan offered by Deficit Commission member Rep. Jan Schakowsky that cuts the deficit but actually strengthens Social Securityare not heard. And keep telling people how popular and necessary this is.
    Result? If you are a politician in DC, you really have no way to know how the pubic feels because all you see are headlines like today’s Washington Post, telling you a consensus is forming.
    This is why YOU have to respond and let YOUR members of Congress and Senators know that you are NOT going to go along with this.
    Take Action
    There are things YOU can do! November 30 is a national call-in day to save Social Security.
    Do this: Click here and sign this petition: Tell President Obama to Reject Social Security Cuts “We must send an urgent message to President Obama – to tell him to reject the proposal to slash Social Security benefits coming from the co-chairs of his deficit commission. If President Obama tries to cut Social Security, it would spell political disaster in 2012.”
    Do this: November 30 National Call Congress Day: Hands Off Social Security,

    The Co-Chairs of the National Fiscal Commission have proposed carving up Social Security like a Thanksgiving turkey. They want to increase the retirement age to 69 – making us work longer, deeply cut benefits for middle-class workers and reduce annual Cost of Living Adjustments. We need your help to stop them!
    Join thousands of Americans in a National Call Congress Day on Tuesday, November 30—CAN WE COUNT ON YOU?
    We need your voice to be heard!
    Click here to make the “Count on Me” pledge to add your voice on Tuesday, November 30 and TELL CONGRESS – DON’T CUT OUR SOCIAL SECURITY!

    Please, please click these links and add your voice.
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    What’s Next, Impeachment from the Republicans?

    So much for making nice Mr. President, the gloves are off as the Republican leadership comes out swinging. These folks don’t want to work with you, or your minions or any of us. Just tune into FOX News at any random moment, and the disdain is visceral. And to be blunt, what’s to keep them from starting impeachment proceedings as a tactic to erode your precious time and focus? Not much, if you listen closely to the Senate Republican leadership, the soon to be Speaker of the House, and all the other hooligans over the last few days, and even on the Sunday morning talk shows. Senator Mitch McConnell’s words sure don’t sound like a lullaby to me. Do not be fooled, it may be more than making sure that Obama is a one-term President. These are fighting words: “The only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto…”
    And if that’s not bad enough, there’s dissent and discontent (as usual) among our fellow Democrats. The so-called Blue Dog Democrats are acting out by attempting to distance themselves from the prevailing incumbent-rage by attacking now Speaker Pelosi. Have they no shame? This is self-serving hypocrisy at its worst. Not now kids. Go back to your corner and sing “Kumbaya” to keep from shooting off your big mouths at this fragile time. Enough of your ranks have been lost in this recent election. Stop with the posturing, and the “Anti-Pelosi Caucus.” These types of shenanigans only fuel the fires, and distract us from our goals. Please realize that we are under an unprecedented assault from the rabid Republican leadership. They will attempt to sink the Obama ship at any cost.
    Democrats (Blue Dogs, Moderates, and Progressives) hunker down. Put a stop to the malarkey from the newly anointed Republicans. This “lame duck” session is vital. We have barely two months to protect Social Security for the elders, unwind Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and fund many, many programs. Consider that the Congress may be deadlocked for two years with very little emerging from gridlock, and Pelosi’s steam rolling machine has taken heavy artillery hits. If you feel compelled to beat up on someone or something, go after the bad guys. And pray that all attempts to bring impeachment proceedings against Obama are quashed. This would be a travesty filled with hate and racism from which this country might never recover. Don’t let them take our President away.
    Note: A version of this article was published earlier today in the Huffington Post.

    Social Security Proposal: Make Them Work — Longer

    Update – please see RJ Eskow’s post, As The Aging Stoop To Their Labors, Prosperous Pundits Lecture Them About Sacrifice
    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    DC is talking about cutting Social Security for working people at the very same time it is talking about extending tax breaks for the wealthiest people in history. This is a result of our county’s shift away from democracy and toward plutocracy. This post is about the astonishing change in attitude toward regular people that is the result of this shift.
    There is a DC “Deficit Commission” that is supposed to be cutting budget deficits (that result from tax cuts for the wealthy and increases in military spending) but is instead talking about cutting Social Security. Get this: Social Security is a fully-funded program that uses no tax money. By law it cannot borrow so it cannot contribute to the deficit! At the same time, the huge military budget (we spend more than all other countries combined) is completely unfunded and faces a huge shortfall every year — but cutting that is off the table.
    The real problem: Social Security built up a huge trust fund that was spent on tax cuts for the rich, and that money is coming due. DC thinking is to cut Social Security instead of paying back what was borrowed. One proposal under consideration is to raise the retirement age, recently increased to 67, to 70! This at the very time that every social indicator is saying that we should be increasing Social Security and lowering the retirement age. Increasing because people’s savings have been slammed by the financial collapse so they need Social Security as their fall-back position, and lowering because so many people over 50 can’t find work.
    What About The People Affected?
    Almost no one has been talking about how this will effect the people whose benefits will be cut. This is because there has been a change in attitudes in America. We are becoming a not kinder, not gentler nation. The crippled compassion component of conservative ideas about citizenship continues to cut into what’s left of our consciences.
    Kudos to the NY Times for sending a reporter out from a comfortable desk in their air-conditioned offices to look at what cutting Social Security means to actual people who actually work. Retiring Later Is Hard Road for Laborers,

    A new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that one in three workers over age 58 does a physically demanding job … — including hammering nails, bending under sinks, lifting baggage — that can be radically different at age 69 than at age 62. Still others work under difficult conditions, like exposure to heat or cold, exposure to contaminants or weather, cramped workplaces or standing for long stretches.

    A Washington Post story the next day looks at the flood of desperate people trying to get on Social Security disability because their unemployment benefits are exhausted and they can’t find work. Jobless are straining Social Security’s disability benefits program,

    Social Security officials say they are confident that their vetting process screens out most people who might try to get benefits without being qualified. But, they acknowledge, when jobs are scarce, more workers who might otherwise struggle through with their ailments try to secure disability benefits.

    McClatchy looked at desperate older people who can’t get jobs and are “taking early retirement” even though it means dramatically reduced monthly checks. Social Security surplus hit by joblessness, early retirement,

    Led by aging baby boomers and older workers frustrated by the tough job market, record numbers of eligible Americans started receiving Social Security retirement benefits in 2009. . . . Annual jobless rates for men and women age 55 and older were higher in 2009 than at any time since the government started collecting the data in 1948, Johnson said. That forced many to claim retirement benefits at 62, their first year of eligibility, instead of waiting to collect at the full retirement age of 66.

    The findings: People really need the help that Social Security offers.
    Cut Social Security? Really? We spent trillions bailing out the wealthy Wall Street elite, we gave huge tax cuts to the wealthiest people in history, we spend hundreds of billions on unaccountable “defense” contractors with shadowy addresses concentrated around DC, and we are seriously considering cutting Social Security?
    The New American Attitude
    But this is the new America. We’re helping the rich and taking our frustrations out on the unfortunate and weak: “the help.” I wrote about this attitude change in Simpson Social Security Comments Highlight Battle Of Democracy Vs. Plutocracy

    These battles over cutting Social Security and extending tax cuts for the wealthy expose the competing worldviews of We, the People democracy vs corporatist plutocracy. Is our country a community of the people, by the people and for the people? Or are we “the help,” only here for the benefit of the wealthy few.
    In the democracy worldview we are a community that takes care of and watches out for each other. We are each citizens with equal rights and equal value, to be respected equally. Our government and economy are supposed to be for us. In the democracy worldview we should be increasing Social Security’s benefits because people really need it.

    An effect of moving to plutocracy is that the rest of us need to “know our place.” I mean, just who do we think we are? We have been acting like we own this place, like We, the People are in charge here! We think we are entitled to … entitlements. Things have changed and we need to get with the new program. Our job now is to shut up and be thankful for anything we receive the the behest of the country’s new owners.
    This is the new attitude: Make Them Work – Citizens As “The Help”

    That’s right, you have to make them work, or they’ll just sit around and wont be “productive.” They wont face up to the “consequences” of unemployment. These parasites will just suck the blood out of the producers. You hear language like this all the time from conservatives. The unemployed are “lazy,” or “on drugs” etc. They are not “productive.” They are mooching off the rest of us.
    This is all in sharp contrast to the noble rich, who are an entirely different species biologically and spiritually. They are the “wealth producers” who we must treat with kid gloves and certainly not ask them to pay for their use of infrastructure or government services lest they decide to stop working. They just want to keep working, and what they do is so important, so pure, so necessary to the sustenance of the rest of us that they must be coddled at all times lest we lose their golden-egg magic touch!

    This is the new attitude: If You Feed Them They Breed — And Other Dehumanizing Conservative Idiocy We Should Ignore

    The latest nonsense they are spreading is that helping the unemployed keeps them from finding jobs. Good Lord! This is basically the old “if you feed them they just breed” storyline. They say “it makes them dependent” as if hard-working people laid off because of Wall Street’s scams are squirrels. Or, to hear the nasty way conservatives talk about these human beings, they are like rats. “Hobos,” one Congressman called the unemployed! And the DC elite listen, chuckle and repeat.

    This battle over Social Security, at the very same time as DC fights over extending tax cuts to the wealthiest people in history, points out how it will be as our democracy slides away. If we sit back and accept these changes, we lose. To fight this we need to come back to an understanding of what it means to be a citizen in a country where We, the People are supposed to be in charge. A government of We, the People should be about taking care of each other, protecting and empowering each other and respecting each other. WE are supposed to be the boss of you here. And we are supposed to be in charge.
    Please add your name to the “Hands Off Social Security” petition. The Deficit Commission should get on to figuring out how to reduce the deficit (clue: it was caused by tax cuts for the rich and military spending increases) and keep their hands off Social Security!
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    Social Security: Policy By Fairy Tale

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    Lots of kids believe in Santa Claus. This is because people repeat the fable to kids over and over, telling them that Santa Claus will deliver presents to them if they’re good. And then there’s the Boogeyman, the “amorphous embodiment of terror.” In some regions stories of the Boogeyman are repeated and repeated, and to keep the Boogeyman away little children do what they are told.
    A popular Boogeyman is “Social Security is going broke.” This fable originated from a 1983 Cato Institute Journal document, “Achieving a Leninist Strategy” by Stuart Butler of Cato and Peter Germanis of the Heritage Foundation. The document laid out a long-term strategic plan to dismantle Social Security. Part of the idea was to manufacture public beliefs like those we hear repeated (and repeated and repeated) today, “Social Security is going broke” and “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”
    Meanwhile a popular Santa Claus myth tells the pubic that energy independence can be achieved at low cost if only we would open up more land (and sea) to oil drilling.
    Enter Rick Berg, candidate for Congress in North Dakota. Berg is proposing to scare away the Boogeyman by bringing in Santa Claus to fight the good fight. News story, Berg proposes Social Security fix,

    Drilling for oil underneath western North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park and other federal lands nationwide could be a way to ensure Social Security funding for the long haul, Republican U.S. House challenger Rick Berg said.
    During a meeting with The Forum’s editorial board Wednesday, Berg discussed his ideas for how to make the Social Security system viable for future generations. He said one option is drilling for oil and other mineral resources on federal government land.

    Oh yeah, there is one more thing that is repeated over and over. The other day I wrote, “The way a lobbyist argues for or against anything today is to say it will create or cost jobs.” And right on queue, here’s Berg:

    Berg told the editorial board his proposal was just one way the government could add more money into the Social Security system.
    “It needs to be solvent, and I’m supporting putting more money in that — mineral money in there — and getting people working again,” he said.

    Yes, that’s the ticket. Santa Claus fights the Boogeyman, and delivers jobs. All we have to do is open up national parks to oil drilling.
    Social Security isn’t broke, doesn’t need fixing, and the last thing we need is more drilling. We need a Renewable Energy Standard and we need to set a price on carbon to trigger the new green technology revolution, get us off of oil and coal and create millions of jobs.
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    SS On The Table, But BS Not?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    The President has a commission looking at ways to reduce the budget deficits which were caused by tax cuts for the rich and military spending increases. Social Security – which has no legal authority to borrow money, so it can’t contribute to deficits – is on the table for cuts, at least as far as We, the People are allowed to know. (The commission meets in secret.) That’s BS.
    Another reason we know SS is on the table is that almost all of the members of the commission have spoken in the past of their inclination to cut or privatize the program. That’s BS.
    Republican members of the commission have said in advance that taxes will not be on the table. That’s BS.
    In fact, conservatives of both parties are arguing to extend the expiring Bush tax cuts for the rich! That’s BS.
    The country spends up to $1.2 trillion a year on wasteful, bloated military and related programs, more than all the rest of the countries on earth combined, but the commission isn’t talking about cutting that down to, say, only three times our nearest possible competitor? That’s BS.
    Social Security being involved with this commission at all is BS. If they want to cut something they should cut the BS.
    If you want to fix the deficits, fix the problems that caused the deficits, not things that can’t. Speaker Pelosi said in July that talking about SS and the deficits are like apples and oranges. With this in mind Rep. Raul Grijalva says Congress should preempt this, and demand that Social Security be left alone.
    Ask the candidates in your district and state to sign the Hands Off Social Security pledge, and check the list to see who else is on board.
    Also, please visit Strengthen Social Security where you can sign up for information, and to follow them on Twitter and/or Facebook.

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    Simpson Social Security Comments Highlight Battle Of Democracy Vs. Plutocracy

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    Former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson is co-chair of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission. This is what he said the other day about the relationship between the American people and our government:

    “We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits!”

    This country that was once run by We, the People with government “of the people, by the people and for the people” has become instead a country where the ruling elites can talk about the public as babies, the unemployed as parasites who are jobless because they are “lazy.” The prevailing attitude about the public, from the new Versailles that has grown up around Washington, DC — what bloggers call “the village” seems to be if you feed them they will breed.
    Look at the weird situation we are in today. The wealthy are wealthier than ever. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is bigger than ever. Big corporate profits are soaring and the too-big-to-fail multinational corporations have more power than ever. At the same time wages that were stagnant for decades are now dropping, people with jobs are working longer and harder, more of our people are unemployed and unemployed for longer, more without health insurance, more are depending on food stamps for basic nutrition, more are losing their homes than ever with bankruptcies soaring, and small businesses are barely hanging on or are going under at an alarming rate.
    But what are our political leaders up to? On the one hand, the deficit commission is focused on cutting Social Security (which does not contribute to the deficit or debt) at a time when more people need it and need it more than ever. On the other hand many in the Congress are looking for ways to extend the deficit-causing Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%.
    And few are talking about our government hiring or helping the unemployed, stimulating the economy, or holding the bad actors who caused this mess accountable. In fact, far from talking about helping our fellow citizens, our ruling DC elites have a different view of things entirely. We, the People are just in the way. It is our own tit-sucking fault, they say, and we need to step up and sacrifice because we are not doing enough to help the people who really deserve it: the producers, the “job creators.”
    Did you catch the rhetorical trick I used above? I said “our” people, and “our” government. How quaint. You don’t hear that kind of talk much anymore. Instead you hear about “personal responsibility,” which makes everything that is done to someone by the wealthy and powerful their own fault.
    This Is About Democracy vs. Corporatist Plutocracy
    These battles over cutting Social Security and extending tax cuts for the wealthy expose the competing worldviews of We, the People democracy vs corporatist plutocracy. Is our country a community of the people, by the people and for the people? Or are we “the help,” only here for the benefit of the wealthy few.
    In the democracy worldview we are a community that takes care of and watches out for each other. We are each citizens with equal rights and equal value, to be respected equally. Our government and economy are supposed to be for us. In the democracy worldview we should be increasing Social Security’s benefits because people really need it.
    In the plutocratic worldview held by conservatives and corporatist moderates we are “the help,” 310 million loafers (“parasites” is the Randian word) sucking their ” unearned sustenance” (more Rand) from the tits of the milk cow when we all ought to be working harder because the portfolios of the “achievers” (and more) are down a bit. Your value to society is only what you “produce.” Your role otherwise is to “consume.” In that worldview the wealthy deserve tax cuts and the parasites shouldn’t be getting Social Security checks at all.
    So what is it going to be? Will we see and understand ourselves as citizens, who share this country on an equal basis with the rich and the poor, with rights and entitlements, deserving dignity, respect, protection and empowerment from a government that is of, be and for We, the People? Will we demand those things and fight for them? Or will we quietly yield those hard-won rights to our “betters” and allow ourselves to be told what to do, fleeced by giant corporations, hoping to get a flat-screen TV out of the deal if we behave?
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    Congress: Act Now To Preempt The Catfood Commission

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    The President has appointed a commission to study ways to reduce the deficit, but the only thing anyone is hearing from this commission (they meet in secret) is that they are going after Social Security instead. For this reason it has become known as the “Catfood Commission” instead of the “Deficit Commission” because any reductions in benefits will force so many older Americans to eat catfood instead of more expensive human food.
    Congress should preempt the commission from targeting Social Security by making it clear that they will not accept cuts or an increase in the retirement age.
    Social Security cannot legally borrow, so it is not possible for it to add to the deficit at all. In fact it is entirely self-funded and has a huge surplus. But Presidents Reagan and the Bushes borrowed from Social Security to give those huge tax cuts to the rich, and the money is coming due. This is the reason Social Security is the focus of the commission instead of the things that actually caused the deficits and debt. They are trying to find ways to avoid having to pay that money back to Social Security. Congress should tell the commission to look at the real causes of the deficits and debt and not at Social Security which does not contribute to deficits and debt.
    Every one of us knows that the deficits come from the tax cuts for the rich and huge military spending increases of recent decades. Those tax cuts were the direct cause of the deficit and debt problem. The military increases are a second cause of the problem. Social Security was never a cause of the problem — it isn’t allowed to borrow and instead ran a huge surplus. The clear way to fix the problem is to restore tax rates to pre-deficit levels and cut the military budget to pre-Cold War levels.
    Representative Raul Grijalva, Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says that Congress should preempt the catfood commission by making it clear that they will not accept cuts in Social Security. In fact the program actually needs to be expanded. In a call today, Grijalva said, (from notes)

    “Long term we should be promoting preservation, strengthening Social Security now instead of playing hide-the-ball to see what commission does. It is ironic that all we hear from the commission is Social Security, but nothing about taxation of upper 2 percent, and other things are off the books like the wars, and the trillions of deficit spending they caused. Nothing should be off the table. Defense spending and taxation have to be part of it, we have to close corporate loopholes, address corporate taxation, royalty relief for use of public lands. At what point do we repeal tax cuts?”
    “It took a long time to build this debt. We should conquer the deficit over 10 years or so. There are ways to do that. But Social Security is one important issue that should be taken off the table, it does not add to debt. It should not be a factor.”
    Members of Congress should state NOW they will not support cuts in Social Security, and pre-empt what the commission might say, state their opinions now. They wold be wise to represent constituents on this. There is no risk attached to doing that.

    Members of Congress are asked to take a pledge to protect Social Security. The pledge reads:

    Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives and contributed to it. Social Security is a promise that must not be broken. If you pay in, then you earn the right to benefits for yourself, your spouse and your dependent children when you retire, experience a severe disability, or die.

    Click here to see who has taken the pledge, and please call your member of Congress and Senators and ask them to take the pledge.
    Also, please visit Strengthen Social Security where you can sign up for information, and to follow them on Twitter and/or Facebook.

    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    Social Security – A Divide Between DC And The Rest Of Us

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    The DC-elite think that “the responsible thing to do” is to cut Social Security benefits. The public who they are supposed to represent overwhelmingly thinks that Social Security is one of the few remaining lifelines and must not be cut. The public strongly favors investing in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, returning to taxation of the wealthy and corporations — especially Wall Street, and cutting back the enormous military budget as the key ways to address the budget deficit.
    This morning the results of a new poll were announced, and politicians would do well to take note. The poll, A Research Study On Investment and Deficit Reduction, By Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Democracy Corps, Campaign for Amerca’s Future is described as follows:

    Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation, according to a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner commissioned by the Campaign for America’s Future and Democracy Corps, with support from MoveOn.org; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Service Employees International Union.

    I’l like to bring that first sentence out and repeat it so that it is clear: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
    And again: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
    There is a brief slide show of the results here, a comprehensive Powerpoint presentation is online here, and full poll results are available here.
    Key findings of the poll:

  • 68 percent said they would oppose making major spending cuts in Social Security and Medicare to reduce the deficit, while 28 percent said they would favor cutting those programs. That included 61 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of independents.
  • Strong majorities support progressive solutions for addressing the federal deficit: 63 percent back lifting the Social Security cap on incomes higher than $107,000 a year; 64 percent would favor eliminating tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs; 62 percent would support a tax on excessive Wall Street bank profits.
  • Strong majorities also oppose common conservative proposals for addressing the budget deficit: 65 percent oppose raising the Social Security retirement age to 70; 65 percent oppose replacing Medicare with a private sector voucher; 62 percent oppose a 3 percent federal sales tax; 60 percent oppose raising the Medicare age from 65 to 67.
  • More people support a message that embraces the need for both investments in our future and reduce the deficit over time (52 percent) than a message that only stresses cuts in spending (42 percent). Also, almost equal percentages of respondents were favorable toward “a plan to invest in new industries and rebuild the country over the next five years” (60 percent) and “a plan to dramatically reduce the deficit over five years” (61 percent).
  • 62 percent of respondents support more federal to states once they understand that the aid comes in the context of states laying off teachers, first responders and other essential workers due to the recession. That includes 55 percent of independents and 48 percent of Republicans.
  • 60 percent of those surveyed responded positively to an economic message that said that “we have a budget deficit, but … we also have a massive public investment deficit” that requires us to “rebuild the infrastructure that is vital to our economy” and to the economic growth that will “generate revenues to help pay down the budget deficit.” This message tests better than any other progressive message on investment as well as more conservative messages focused on spending cuts.
  • Click here for more on the poll.
    Click here to see which members of Congress have signed the “Hands Off Social Security!” pledge
    Click here to sign the petition: Hands Off Social Security!
    Click here to visit Strengthen Social Security … don’t cut it.
    One more time: Politicians will face major voter backlash if they advocate cuts in Social Security benefits or choose deficit reduction over job creation.
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    Is It A Social Security OR A Deficit Commission?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    Ever since President Obama set up the Deficit Commission all the talk has been about Social Security? Why?
    Social Security is separate from the rest of the US budget, is separately funded, has a huge trust fund and, most important: Social. Security. Does. Not. Contribute. To. The. Deficit. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said it best at Netroots Nation last month, calling it “apples and oranges,”

    To change Social Security in order to balance the budget, they aren’t the same thing in my view,” the Democrat said today at the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas. “When you talk about reducing the deficit and Social Security, you’re talking about apples and oranges.”

    So is it a DEFICIT commission or is it a SOCIAL SECURITY commission? If it is a deficit commission, then stop all of this talk about cutting Social Security, please, and start talking about the deficit. Everyone knows the deficit was caused by tax cuts for the rich and the huge increases in military spending that occurred under Reagan and then again under Bush II. (Note – there is no more Soviet Union.)
    If you want to fix the deficit then get the money from where the money went. If you decide that it IS a deficit commission, it isn’t hard to know what to do. (Please, click through, it’s not hard.)
    But instead, every day now, there is another round of attacks on Social Security. For example, this just in: Social Security, the trust fund and funny money, in today’s Washington Post, talks about the Social Security Trust Fund as “funny money.” The Trust Fund is all T-Bills. I would worry that the Chinese, Japanese and other major T-Bill holders are very, very nervous about talk like this. The Social Security T-Bills are the same T-Bills as theirs.
    And this just in: Opposing view on retirement income: Let’s upend Social Security, in today’s USA Today by Dick Armey, who was one of the corporate-funded astroturf organizers of the Tea Party “movement.” Let’s take a closer look at some of Armey’s arguments. He writes,

    The nation’s largest entitlement program is officially in the red.

    No it is not. Not if you count the huge trust fund and the interest it receives from that. It is not “in the red” officially or even when you just make things up.

    In less than 20 years, just two workers will be forced to pay the benefits of every one retiree.

    This is not how Social Security works, and has nothing to do with anything. It’s one of those made-up arguments that is designed to bamboozle people.

    President Obama’s deficit commission is considering an increase in both the retirement age and payroll taxes to “fix” the compulsory Social Security system.

    True. But why? Social. Security. Does. Not. Contribute. To. The. Deficit.

    Americans should ask, if Social Security is such a great program, why is it mandatory?

    Because otherwise too many people wouldn’t put anything away and would have to live on welfare, which the rest of us pay, instead of a good program that people pay into themselves.

    Workers should have the choice about whether they want to remain in the current system or invest in a personal saving retirement account, which would allow them to have complete control over their retirements funds and pass the remaining balance to family members.

    Because then you would have to know in advance how long you will live, which no one can do, in order to know how much to pay yourself each month from your savings. And, the money from people who die is used to give more to the people who live. Anyway, everyone already has the option to save outside of the Social Security program.
    Anyway, it goes on like that, with trick after smooth trick being used to try to bamboozle people. Slick Wall Street salespeople like Dick Armey, Pete Peterson, and the rest are after our savings, and are using every trick in the book to fool us.
    Here is the root of the attacks on Social Security: Social Security is the primary symbol of government of, by and, mostly, for the people. This is because it is a government program that works, works well, is solid, and has helped a lot of people! People who don’t like government really, really don’t like Social Security — because it works.
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    What Social Security Report SAYS Vs What They Tell You It Says

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    The Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees today released their report on the Status of the Social Security and Medicare Programs. Here is what it says:
    Social Security Just Fine Until At Least 2037
    The summary of the report says, “The financial outlook for Social Security is little changed from last year. The short term outlook is worsened by a deeper recession than was projected last year, but the overall 75-year outlook is nevertheless somewhat improved…” and is otherwise fine until at least 2037 with no changes.
    It is just fine forever, in fact, if we do something simple like raise the “cap” on earnings that are taxed to pay for the program. (That’s right, when you make more than a certain income level you stop paying the tax!) Compare that to the military budget. We spend more than $1 trillion on military and related programs each year – more than every other country combined – and unlike Social Security that is completely “unfunded,” and adds to the deficit.
    Medicare Outlook Improved Substantially
    The report also says, “The outlook for Medicare has improved substantially because of program changes made in the [Health Care Reform Bill]”
    Those Are The Facts
    Those are the simple facts: everything is fine. Everything will be fine. There are some things that should be changed to make them even more OK than they are. They are good programs that demonstrate that government works.
    So What’s The Problem?
    The Social Security program collects money via the “payroll tax.” Much, much more money — trillions — has been collected than needed to be paid out to cover the coming retirement of the “baby boomers,” and the extra — the “trust fund” — was invested in US Treasury Bonds.
    Under Reagan and then both Bushes that money was borrowed from the trust fund and used to give huge tax cuts to the wealthy. (Clinton was paying it back but Bush II cut taxes again for the wealthy.) Now those boomers are beginning to retire, and the trust fund money that was borrowed and given out to the rich is needed back to cover their retirement. The obvious solution is to get the money from where the money went. But those who it went to are trying to stop the obvious from happening. They say we should cut benefits, make us retire at 70, anything to keep them from paying back what is owed to the retirees.
    Oh, and there is another conservative complaint about Social Security. Social Security is very successful and popular, and is a constant, living proof that government of the people, by the people and for the people works and works really well. Among a certain crowd, that just can’t be allowed to stand.
    So now, let the anti-tax, anti-government conservative bamboozlement begin.
    Let The Bamboozlement Begin
    The anti-government conservatives are using several approaches to undermine public confidence in the program (and therefore government). MoveOn.org has a “Top 5 Social Security Myths” page up that is worth looking at.
    Myth: Social Security is going broke.
    Myth: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.
    Myth: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.
    Myth: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs.
    Myth: Social Security adds to the deficit.
    Please go to the website to learn the truth about these myths. And please answer with those facts when you hear people spreading these myths.
    Let’s see how the conservatives are doing at spreading myths today, and how the mainstream media covers it:
    Heritage Foundation: Once Again, the Social Security Trust Fund Has No Money in It
    Washington Times: Social Security in the red for first time ever (Note – that’s only if you don’t count the interest that the trust fund earns. Just more bamboozlement.)
    FOX News: Social Security 2010 Outlays to Exceed Receipts
    CNN: Social Security: More going out than coming in
    NPR: 2010 Social Security Outlook: Not Great
    CNBC: Social Security 2010 outlays to exceed receipts
    That’s just a quick sampling. Compare what these headlines lead you to believe to the facts above. When was the last time you saw a headline that reads, “Massive military budget causes huge federal deficit“? Right. Bamboozlement, plain and simple. Expect to see a lot more like these. Don’t fall for it.
    Social Security Is Not Broken
    Social Security is not broken. If we fight the myths and the anti-government lies it will be there for all of us.
    Here is a statement by Nancy Altman, co-chairman of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, a coalition of 60+ organizations, representing over 30 million Americans:

    “Every year, the trustees’ reports become an excuse for fear mongering by those who should know better. This year, the news is especially good for Medicare, thanks to the enactment of health care reform. The news for Social Security is even better, revealing once again that Social Security’s promised benefits are fully affordable without benefit cuts and without increasing the retirement age. Poll after poll reports that’s what the American people want. Unfortunately, we know there are some in Washington, including a few members of the Administration’s fiscal commission, who will use this report to try to advance their agenda of cuts to Social Security benefits, including rising the retirement age. Politicians should stop scaring the American people. Social Security is strong and should be strengthened, not cut. The reality is the biggest threat to Social Security is the politicians in Washington who continue to play politics with this issue.”

    Send a message to the politicians: No increase in the retirement age. No privatization. No Social Security cuts. Go to ourfuture.org/nosocialsecuritycuts.
    Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

    If 60+ Organizations Representing 30+ Million People Gave a Press Conference In A Forest …

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    If more than 60 organizations representing more than 30 million people gave a press conference in a forest and no media covers it … will these 30-plus million people still vote against politicians who vote to cut Social Security benefits? You can bet your seat in Congress they will!
    Last week leaders of more than 60 national organizations that represent more than 30 million Americans held a press conference to announce a campaign to protect Social Security. Also this weekend the Tea Party held a national rally in Philadelphia and approximately 300 people showed up. (A local Apple Store opening drew more people.)
    So which do you hear more about in the media, the Tea Party, or the 30-million-strong campaign to protect Social Security? Do I need to answer that?
    At Columbia Journalism Review, Trudy Lieberman writes in,
    Who Will Tell the People?,

    . . . when it comes to Social Security, the MSM, where most Americans still get their news, have been MIA. You could almost say that Social Security has become the MSM’s third rail. For the most part, nobody wants to touch it. [. . .] It has been this way all year, ever since Obama established his deficit commission in January, thus raising the stakes for Social Security. The MSM’s treatment of the program is all the more puzzling since any changes the commission brings forth will be far more important to most Americans than health reform ever was or will be. A vigorous public discussion has yet to take place, and the commentary so far has been framed mostly by one side of the issue—the deficit hawks, privatizers, and Peter G. Peterson acolytes who believe Social Security (and other entitlements) are causing the deficits.

    Politicians, do not be fooled by one-sided coverage of the Social Security issue. 60+ organizations representing 30+ million members will carry more weight on election day than corporate-funded astroturf “Tea Party” organizations that can’t get more than 300 people to a national rally.
    Citizens, demand that your representatives take the pledge to protect Social Security. Click here: Hands off Social Security: No increase in the retirement age, no privatization, no Social Security cuts. Sign the petition to your member of Congress.
    Campaign for America’s Future is tracking which representatives are and are not signing the pledge. Click here to watch the list grow.