Our Common Good
quickhits:

Poll: Voters want to soak the rich to avoid fiscal cliff.

Politico:
An American appetite for tax hikes gives President Barack Obama leverage in fiscal cliff negotiations.
A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll finds that 60 percent of respondents support raising taxes on households that earn more than $250,000 a year and 64 percent want to raise taxes on large corporations.
Even 39 percent of Republicans support raising taxes on households making more than $250,000. Independents favor such a move by 21 percentage points, 59 to 38 percent.
Only 38 percent buy the GOP argument that raising taxes on households earning over $250,000 per year will have a negative impact on the economy. Fifty-eight percent do not.
“Democrats really have a winning issue here, and we should drive it hard,” said Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster who helped conduct the bipartisan poll. “We’re in an era now where there’s a lot of cynicism about trickle-down economics.”

So Republican ideas are unpopular — no surprise there. This is pretty much just a continuation of the trend in polling. Obama won reelection, so it’s no surprise most people back his ideas here. The alternate Republican ideas were also Mitt Romney’s ideas.
But that last question is so odd you wonder why they asked it. 75% support “cutting government spending across the board,” which is pretty much the same as going over the fiscal cliff. I suppose it’s so vague that it’s appealing; when you start to get into specifics, spending cuts get a lot more unpopular.

quickhits:

Poll: Voters want to soak the rich to avoid fiscal cliff.

Politico:

An American appetite for tax hikes gives President Barack Obama leverage in fiscal cliff negotiations.

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll finds that 60 percent of respondents support raising taxes on households that earn more than $250,000 a year and 64 percent want to raise taxes on large corporations.

Even 39 percent of Republicans support raising taxes on households making more than $250,000. Independents favor such a move by 21 percentage points, 59 to 38 percent.

Only 38 percent buy the GOP argument that raising taxes on households earning over $250,000 per year will have a negative impact on the economy. Fifty-eight percent do not.

“Democrats really have a winning issue here, and we should drive it hard,” said Celinda Lake, the Democratic pollster who helped conduct the bipartisan poll. “We’re in an era now where there’s a lot of cynicism about trickle-down economics.”

So Republican ideas are unpopular — no surprise there. This is pretty much just a continuation of the trend in polling. Obama won reelection, so it’s no surprise most people back his ideas here. The alternate Republican ideas were also Mitt Romney’s ideas.

But that last question is so odd you wonder why they asked it. 75% support “cutting government spending across the board,” which is pretty much the same as going over the fiscal cliff. I suppose it’s so vague that it’s appealing; when you start to get into specifics, spending cuts get a lot more unpopular.

Three-Card Budget Monte - Paul Krugman

barrywone-blog:

It goes without saying that the Republican “counteroffer” is basically fake. It calls for $800 billion in revenue from closing loopholes, but doesn’t specify a single loophole to be closed; it calls for huge spending cuts, but aside from raising the Medicare age and cutting the Social Security inflation adjustment — moves worth only around $300 billion — it doesn’t specify how these cuts are to be achieved. So it’s basically the Paul Ryan method: scribble down some numbers and pretend that you’re a budget wonk with a Serious plan.

What I haven’t seen pointed out here is the longer arc of GOP strategy. Does anyone recall how the Bush tax cuts were passed? The 2001 cut was passed based on the claim that the government was running an excessive surplus; the 2003 cut on the claim that it would provide an economic boost. Then the surplus went away, and the economy did not, to say the least, perform very well.

So now we face a substantial long-run deficit largely created by those tax cuts:

And the GOP says that because of that deficit we must raise the Medicare age and cut Social Security!

Oh, and for all the seniors or near-seniors who voted Republican because you thought they would protect Medicare from that bad guy Obama: you’ve been had.

In his letter he noted that Simpson is a former conservative Republican Senator who has said outrageous things about Social Security, including referring to it as “a milk cow with 310 million tits” and insisting that Social Security is not a retirement program.

Sanders was no less sparing of Erskine Bowles, noting that he was “a board member of Morgan Stanley since 2005 and made a fortune as a Wall Street investment banker.”

Bowles also, Sanders reminds us, referred to the Paul Ryan plan as “sensible, straightforward, honest, serious.”

Sanders said what he found even more distressing was the idea that Simpson-Bowles represented a “balanced approach.”

Sanders denounced their recommendations to cut Social Security benefits for current retirees and for middle class workers, to raise the retirement age to 69, to reduce taxes for the wealthy and corporations, to increase taxes on the lower class, and to increase premiums for people on Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

These proposals “will cause major economic pain to virtually every American,” he said, “while lowering taxes for millionaires, billionaires, and large corporations even more than President Bush.”

Economist James K. Galbraith of the University of Texas made the argument in early 2011 that if anything, we should be talking about lowering the retirement age.

We talked to Galbraith on the phone today to discuss this idea, as well as his assessment of the Fiscal Cliff talks and entitlement (a word he hates) situation in general.

He still likes this idea. With unemployment near 8%, he still thinks that it makes sense, at least temporarily, to reduce the retirement age, to let people get benefits earlier, and to clear up the job market.

He explains:

My argument is that you have a phenomenon which is very well known called the Baby Boom which is out there and the Baby Boom is a portion of older workers who are approaching, but in many cases are not at, the retirement age. They are, particularly those who have been working in real jobs, I’m not talking about professors or journalists, but people who actually - you know, move boxes, inventory, or stand at checkout counters for a living. When unemployed, they have a very difficult time getting a new job and early retirement is intrinsically attractive.

Why aren’t they taking it? Possibly because it’s not attractive enough, possibly because they’re a little too young. So the solution is to make the early retirement available for a limited period, let’s say three years…and let the people who take it at 62 get a better deal than they get now so that a higher fraction of the working population will take it at 62.

But what about the general entitlement problem, and all the debt we’re drowning in?

Galbraith calls this “propaganda” that’s been pushed for decades by the same people, who have made predictions that have never come true. He specifically called out old writings (from the ’80s and ’90s) of anti-debt activist Pete Peterson.

The whole notion that there’s this great deficit crisis which can only be dealt with by cutting SS, Medicare, and Medicaid, that’s just - it’s a relative recent front in a very old propaganda war. People who have been, for decades, blathering on about the disaster in SS, Medicare, and Medicaid. I highly recommend the back issues of the New York Review Of Books, which lists Peter G. Peterson, who prowled on about this.

If there is a problem, he says, it’s not the government’s expenses per se, but that costs for covering the elderly’s healthcare are expensive regardless of who’s paying for them:

If you’re asking whether there are problems with Medicare and Medicaid, the standard answer on that is health care costs are the problem, and that is not dependent upon whether or not you are on a private or public insurance scheme. In fact, Medicare pays less to providers than private insurance does. The reason doctors accept Medicare patients is that unlike private insurers, Medicare actually writes the checks and pays people, which doctors like. I suppose you’ve encountered doctors who have had problems getting cash out of insurance companies, if you haven’t, I’ll say you haven’t encountered a doctor.

The key point which he emphasized over and over again is that changing who pays for people doesn’t change the burden. And if anything, if you’re worried about generational dependency, you should be in favor of the current structure of Social Security, which makes workers set aside money for their retirement, so that they’re not dependent on their children.

Galbraith also has a great rebuttal to those scary CBO charts showing entitlement costs surging, and swamping GDP, putting the US on a Greece-like debt-to-GDP ratio. Bunk says Galbraith. Those aren’t macroeconomic forecasts, but just “CBO baselines” that are used for scoring laws. The reality, he says, is that there’s no way for healthcare costs to surge and get so big while not also boosting nominal GDP significantly, meaning that the ratios can’t actually get that bad.

Read the full interview. 

jron replied to your link: CEOs Looking To ‘Fix The Debt’ By Cutting Social Security Sit On Huge Retirement Accounts ; Since 1985, 84,000 pension plans have been eliminated. And now these CEOs are coming after the government programs upon which the elderly, and many others, depend. | ThinkProgress

Desperate people can be cheap workers

As an older worker, it is hard enough to stay employed now.  A cheap worker whose enthusiasm and health is diminishing can be more expensive in the long term.

Do these CEOs really believe that

A) there would be jobs out there for the aging population?

B) that everyone could continue to perform optimally as the small aches and pains of aging accumulate, (or that every job can be done by an older person?)?

C) that the economy will benefit by not allowing younger workers who wish to work and start families to move into positions held by those who want to retire to do other things - like volunteer at the library or hospital - or spend more time in the garden.

It is a foolish proposition offered by greedy and mean men.

The most popular red herring Social Security hustlers have unleashed into the waters of public discourse has grown into such a massive whale of a lie that liberals frequently subscribe to it. The idea goes like this: We need to somehow “fix” Social Security because people are living longer – “fix” in this context being code for “cut…”

Here are five clear reasons why the life expectancy argument is nonsensical, counterproductive and based on a pack of lies.

1. Social Security’s original designers considered rising life expectancy…

2. Life expectancy gains since 1935 have been modest…

3. The Greenspan Commission already raised the retirement age two years…

4. Longevity gains have gone mostly to high earners…

5. Life expectancy rises are likely to slow in the future.

A group of high-profile corporate CEOs are lobbying Capitol Hill this week toput Social Security and Medicare cuts at the forefront of deficit reduction negotiations. Their own retirement funds, however, are secure: The coalition includes 54 CEOs who have amassed combined pension assets of more than $649 million from their companies’ executive retirement plans, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, titled “A Pension Deficit Disorder: The Massive CEO Retirement Funds and Underfunded Worker Pensions at Firms Pushing Social Security Cuts.”

The CEOs’ employees are much less secure in their retirement than the CEOs. According to the report, less than 60 percent of the 71 public companies offer pension plans for their employees. Of the 41 companies that do, 39 of them haven’t contributed enough to their workers’ pension funds to enable the plans to pay out their anticipated obligations. Among the companies with employee pension funds in the red, these deficits exceed $100 billion.

[…]

As the debate heats up over whether to cut Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid in order to maintain federal spending and corporate tax breaks, companies with well-compensated CEOs who preside over underfunded employee pension funds invite a new round of questions about the motives, and methods, of the CEOs pressuring Congress and the White House to cut programs for the middle class.

I sincerely hope that everyone reading this has been in touch with their Congressional Rep and Senators to tell them in no uncertain terms that we will not accept any cuts to safety net funding.  They will cave to these CEOs if the majority of us do not let them know we have not disengaged and are paying attention.

Trying to convince the public to cut America’s best-loved and most successful program requires a lot of creativity and persistence. Social Security is fiscally fit, prudently managed and does not add to the deficit because by law it must be completely detached from the federal operating budget. Obviously, it is needed more than ever in a time of increasing job insecurity and disappearing pensions. It helps our economy thrive and boosts the productivity of working Americans. And yet the sharks are in a frenzy to shred it in the upcoming “fiscal cliff” discussions.

The most popular red herring Social Security hustlers have unleashed into the waters of public discourse has grown into such a massive whale of a lie that liberals frequently subscribe to it. The idea goes like this: We need to somehow “fix” Social Security because people are living longer – “fix” in this context being code for “cut.” Two groups stand to benefit in the short-term from such a scheme: the greedy rich, who do not want to pay their share in taxes, and financiers, who want to move towards privatizing retirement accounts so they can collect fees. As for the masses of hard-working people who have rightfully earned their retirement, the only “fix” is the fix they will be in if already modest benefits are further reduced.

Here are five clear reasons why the life expectancy argument is nonsensical, counterproductive and based on a pack of lies. [must read]

One running theme of deficit reduction negotiations is that both parties support domestic spending cuts in their opening bids — Republicans demand them, and Democrats champion them alongside tax increases for high income earners.

Now a coalition of three labor unions — AFSCME, SEIU and National Education Association — are launching a six-figure ad buy pressuring swing-state Senate Democrats and targeted House Republicans to oppose spending cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and education — three items that neither side has taken off the table in talks about defusing a looming austerity bomb.

The ad campaign reflects an effort to upend a Washington status quo where Democrats are pushing for spending cuts to lure Republicans into supporting tax increases. The groups are nervous that President Obama and Democrats may go along with a deal that cuts the safety net.

“We haven’t heard any assurances [from the White House or Democratic leadership] on anything at this point,” Mary Kusler, director of government relations for NEA, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “That’s why we’re continuing to remind everybody that we need to craft a deal that puts middle class families first.”

On the call, the three groups unveiled a new survey they commissioned, conducted by the Mellman Group, which said voters would oppose a “grand bargain” that goes after programs like Social Security, Medicare, education and funding for local police and firefighters.

Tell Congress: No Benefit Cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (by AFLCIONow)

Wisconsin Workers Call on Congress to Preserve Medicare, Social Security and End Tax Cuts for top 2%
The courage it takes to call for a higher retirement age is the courage to say that other people who don’t have it as good as you do should be the ones to pay to shore up Social Security. It’s the same kind of courage as a poor person calling for higher taxes on the rich, or a sitting congressman calling for a war he’ll never have to fight in.

There’s nothing ‘courageous’ about raising the Social Security retirement age (via azspot)

I shared this article before, but worth reblogging in case someone missed it. 

Obama Ad: “The President Is Protecting Medicare” (by adalrich00)

Add your name right now.

While most Americans have been watching the elections, dozens of wealthy CEOs have put together a $30 million lobbying effort to cut Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid before this Congress goes home for the holidays. They’re already visiting offices on Capitol Hill and plan a huge television ad blitz right after the election.

Why?  Because they’d rather cut services for the elderly, sick and poor Americans than make the top 2% pay one cent more in taxes.

We have champions in Congress fighting hard to keep this from happening. They will hold the line on Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, but they can’t do it alone.

They’re being relentlessly attacked by unaccountable front groups spreading lies and misinformation about the programs that provide healthcare and economic security for seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and children whose parents can’t afford insurance.

We can stop them. We’ve stopped them before.  We can beat back greedy CEO’s and shady corporate front groups, if we work together with progressives in Congress.

Stand up to oppose cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security by adding your name right now.