Thursday, November 11, 2010

Alan Simpson, the Republicans and the Catfood Commission - a theft in process

The deficit commission has looked at the anticipated revenues and expenditures of the federal government and what they see is far from good. In fact Alan Simpson and Chester Bowles are convinced that America as facing total disaster unless we make hard decisions now to prevent it from happening. America is just going to have to get serious and cut Social Security benefits and lower the taxes on the wealthy if it is going to survive.

Yep. That's what the very serious people Alan Simpson and Chester Bowles are saying. And no, it doesn't make sense. What they really mean is that they want to rob the middle class and hand the loot to America's wealthiest families and corporations.

First consider the so-called problem that the wealthy commission members see threatening America. The high taxes on the wealthy and the runaway deficit caused by payment of social security benefits is going to bankrupt America and choke off economic growth.

Only, Paul Krugman points out that America does not have high taxes on the wealthy There is no indication that the current tax level, or even a higher one, has any negative effect on the growth of the economy. The problem with the economy is a lack of American consumer demand, not a shortage of wealth for the wealthy to invest overseas. Let's not forget that Bill Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy in the early 90's which led to a decade of booming economy. Meanwhile, Bush's misbegotten tax cuts for the super wealthy led to seven years of stagnant economy followed by a collapse that rivals the Great Depression.

But that ignores the fact that the problem with the deficit is NOT Social Security Benefits. Take a look that the chart Kevin Drum provided. The runaway federal expenses all involve health care! Which is why the Obama administration set reforming health care that as its first priority after stabilizing the crashing economy. THE PROBLEM IS HEALTH CARE EXPENSES, NOT SOCIAL SECURITY!!

And how is the government going to deal with the health care expense problem? By cutting Social Security benefits for working people (even though they are over funded well into the future), by lowering taxes on the wealthy and by (ask the Republicans about this) repealing something they call "Obamacare!"

Somehow there is this fiction that the proposal Simpson/Bowles released in the dark of night while the President was out of the country is a serious solution to a massive problem. This is not a serious proposal.

Americans have seen this same movie from these conservatives before. It starts out with "Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!!" Remember Bush selling the Iraq War disaster by saying "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Then he started a disastrous war based on that lie.

This is another right-wing lie designed to get everyone stampeded towards the door where they are going to pick all our pockets and give the valuables to the wealthy like the Koch brothers.

Mike Lux offers this list of the catfood commission recommendations.

  1. Raises the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare to 69.

  2. Cuts Social Security benefits.

  3. Ends the mortgage tax deduction.

  4. Ends the tax deduction for workers' health benefits.

  5. Freezes salaries for federal workers for 3 years.

  6. Establishes co-pays for veterans at VA health services.

  7. Raises fees to visit the national parks and the Smithsonian.

  8. Merges the Small Business Administration into an agency (Commerce) that has always prioritized helping bigger businesses, and cuts their budget.

  9. Eliminates the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.
Notice that this is entirely a list of ways to soak the middle class and make their lives more difficult. Notice also that it conspicuously avoids dealing with the real problem the federal government faces fiscally, that is, how to deal with runaway health care costs.

Addendum II
Surprise, surprise. The fix was in at the Catfood Commission even before it first met. According to The Washington Post many top staffers of the commission were paid by outside sources known to be working for the destruction of Social Security.
about one in four commission staffers is paid by outside entities, many of which have strong ideological points of view about how to tackle the deficit.

For example, the salaries of two senior staffers, Marc Goldwein and Ed Lorenzen, are paid by private groups that have previously advocated cuts to entitlement programs. Lorenzen is paid by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, while Goldwein is paid by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which is also partly funded by the Peterson group.


Kennelly and other liberal-leaning critics say they are particularly troubled by the influence of Peterson, a billionaire and former investment banker who began a $6 million campaign this week urging lawmakers to cut the deficit. Peterson, co-founder of the Blackstone Group investment fund, paid for a series of town hall meetings this year that included participation by deficit commission members. He also funds the Fiscal Times, a digital news organization that focuses on federal debt issues.
The Peterson Group has had a long term mission directed at eliminating the Social Security System.

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