Category Archives: entitlements

Culling the Herd – Limited Government

 
 
So now we have seen it – we have seen some of the flaws in our Constitution and they are not ideological, they are structural. Our forefathers had a healthy dose of paranoia, but their paranoia was used to build protections into the Constitution to prevent a President from declaring himself King or herself Queen (an eventually they never imagined, of course). They did give a lot of thought to balance amongst the branches of our government, the executive, the legislative and the judicial by creating that system of checks and balances we all know so well. I don’t think they really imagined that some Americans would want to wrest control from within one branch of government, because they felt they had built in sufficient protections. They did not foresee 2013.

Apparently there are flaws in our system – flaws that nullify the checks and the balances. We’ve seen obstruction before, but not to this degree. We’ve seen incivility before, but again it is a matter of degree. There is apparently no part of the Constitution that protects the American people from losing control of our government to a small band of radicals, in this case radical but duly elected reactionaries. It is astonishing to me that these people have been pursuing strategies that seemed relatively harmless because they affected such small areas of the country and that they have been patching together a system that allows these very radicals to be elected over and over again without challenge. We have no safeguards against these tactics. They are subverting the election process. Once they are in Congress they do not need to do anything at all to keep their seats. If they don’t face the possibility of losing their seat based on how they vote in Congress they have found a way to bypass the Constitution and we, America, are in trouble.

I have always been proud that our forefathers thought through and wrote down a way to govern that was basically fair, (even more astonishing as they were elitist slave owners),  that was based on ideals that seemed enlightened and laudable, and that was structured to last and to still be usable hundreds of years later. What these radical Republicans are doing is threatening to end the usefulness of this document we have made the center of our governance. They are pointing out the flaws in our beloved Constitution. We have no way to rid ourselves of these people who are ruining our government in the name of Federalism. They have been very consistent in their beliefs. They want small government. They want deregulation. They want America to become the loose federation of states that they feel it was intended to be. They want all of the social safety net gone. They do not feel that the federal government should be in the business of lifting up the least fortunate Americans, even though all modern societies do this and even though it keeps misery at bay, both for a society and its people. They do not like any rules or regulations on energy use and against pulling fossil fuels out of the earth so they want the EPA gone. They want the Department of Commerce gone and they think the federal government should close the Department of Education. They see this as their moment in time to achieve their objectives to limit the size and scope of government. They hate the Affordable Care Act because it goes in the opposite direction from limited government. It makes government even bigger.

Most of us accept what Republicans are saying about the need to make government somewhat smaller, but I don’t think most of us want a federal government as small as these radical tea partiers do, or as small as the libertarians do. We will not be living up in the rarified air at the top of the affluence pyramid. We will be living down here with the sewage running in the streets and the begging children and the rampant disease. We will be drinking the polluted water. There are 7 billion people on this little planet. If you are trying to kill off a big percentage of the current population, hoping to do what nature does when an animal population gets too big, then you are pursuing the perfect strategy for it. Because to argue for smaller government when population numbers are ballooning will turn our cities into even bigger killing fields than they already are and, of course, you will not be affected up there at the top of the triangle.

If we make it through this assault on the government of our nation, the assault that is coming from within that very government, then we need to pass some laws which will allow us an escape route if some minority group decides to stage a coup again. I don’t think the issues here are as small as the media paints them. I think the issues are huge. I think these folks, mostly from the southern hinterlands of America are deadly serious. They own guns. They are hunters. I’m not saying that they are planning to turn their guns on us, although if it comes down to it they might some day in the future. I am saying that they think like hunters and they are planning to cull the herd, to get rid of those Americans who can’t or won’t provide for themselves. Every society has poor people. Every society has disabled people. Every society, in 2013, does not want to force unfortunate souls into pits to fight for their lives. We definitely need a way to ditch elected officials if they try to stop government. If the majority can prevail over this small, but determined, minority, we will need to amend our Constitution. Which America will we be when this is all over?

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com
 

Pretzel Economics

I must admit that I don’t really understand what is going on with Social Security. I understand that today’s workers are paying for today’s retirees. I understand that, because of the baby boom and the recession, there are not enough people paying into Social Security to support those who are retiring. I get that. However, the first thing I don’t understand is why we didn’t plan for something which we knew was coming. Since the government has borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund when it needed money why can’t the government carry Social Security for a while until the Baby Boomers work their way through the system. Apparently the government cannot help Social Security out of this one because of our country’s debt and giant deficit. That leads to the second thing that I don’t understand. Our government owes the Social Security Trust Fund something like 4.5 billion dollars for which, as I understand it, the Social Security Trust Fund was given US Bonds.  Now the government wants to lower Social Security payments by adopting a chained Consumer Price Index which will lower COLA adjustments.

We have the government borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund and we have the Trust Fund having to resort to using government funds that were not dedicated to the Trust Fund – this is where I get lost because it sounds like that old adage “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. Is the government lowering payments to recipients to save Social Security or to lower its debt? My mind gets wrapped up in this stuff like it’s an intricate pretzel. I hope someone will eventually explain the numbers in terms I can understand. In the meantime I will have to rely on more subjective statements.

An article in on Syracuse.com recently made the following statements:

The data show that the growth of the debt in the last three decades certainly has been a bipartisan enterprise, with only Clinton reducing the debt as a percentage of the U. S. economy.
Moreover, an increasingly large portion of the debt is money that the government owes to itself because of borrowing from large entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. That’s because the money spent on discretionary programs has generally declined, as a share of economy, while spending on mandatory programs has soared – and will only consume a larger share of the economy as the Baby Boom generation heads into retirement.
In fact, the debt owed to entitlement programs is now almost as large a share of the economy as all U. S. debt before Ronald Reagan became president.
By the numbers, some restraint on growth of entitlement will be needed in order to control the growth of the national debt.

This I understand. This does not “pretzel” my brain. So why do I still feel like the American people have been “shafted”.

Fear-mongering

Every time the President asks Congress to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, John Boehner says no, offers up some of the deductions that currently lower taxes for wealthier Americans, and then drops the “entitlements” bomb. Not only will he not give the President what he wants but he demands that the President sweeten the non-deal with cuts to “entitlements”. Is John Boehner high? Has he been to that other Washington, the state, recently? Americans understand that we do not need to cut “entitlements” before December 31st. Cuts to “entitlements” do not have to be a part of fiscal cliff negotiations. The Republicans are just addicted to fear-mongering. They want the American people to blink first. Even if entitlements must be reformed, which a healthy economy might render unnecessary, we can wait until next year to do it.

Congress must stop believing that raising the age when “entitlements” become available is the answer to reform. This is just a quick and dirty approach which pays no attention to the realities of when people are actually “forced” to stop working. Unless employers find that they can keep older adults in the work force until they are 67, raising the age of eligibility for retirement benefits will create a coverage gap that will swallow up many hard-working people. The approaches that look at cutting costs and broadening the base of contributors along with means testing look much more promising.

Decide what to do about the Bush era tax cuts and raise the debt ceiling before the end of December. Finish the rest of this in the new year.