Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Use Live Ammo"

This is a chilling story. From Mother Jones:

On Saturday night, when Mother Jones staffers tweeted a report that riot police might soon sweep demonstrators out of the Wisconsin capitol building—something that didn't end up happening—one Twitter user sent out a chilling public response: "Use live ammunition."

From my own Twitter account, I confronted the user, JCCentCom. He tweeted back that the demonstrators were "political enemies" and "thugs" who were "physically threatening legally elected officials." In response to such behavior, he said, "You're damned right I advocate deadly force." He later called me a "typical leftist," adding, "liberals hate police."

Only later did we realize that JCCentCom was a deputy attorney general for the state of Indiana.

A deputy AG for the state of Indiana suggesting that riot police use live ammo on Wisconsin protestors.

Copies of Jeffrey Cox's tweets and blog posts are available at the link. They are disturbing, especially coming from a guy who is a public official.

Update: The Indiana attorney general's office has confirmed to Mother Jones that Jeff Cox was terminated Wednesday.

Protestors in the US haven't been fired on since May 4, 1970. It's chilling to think that we could be headed into that sort of action again.

This man wanted to kill people who believe in organized labor. I'm speechless.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

US Infrastructure at a Crossroads

This is what happens when playing politics is more important than dealing with the very real problems we face:

From the NY Times:

Of the nation’s 85,000 dams, more than 4,400 are considered susceptible to failure, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials. But repairing all those dams would cost billions of dollars, and it is far from clear who would provide all the money in a recessionary era.


Nationwide, the potential repair costs are staggering. A 2009 report by the state dam safety officials’ group put the cost of fixing the most critical dams — where failure could cause loss of life — at $16 billion over 12 years, with the total cost of rehabilitating all dams at $51 billion. But those figures do not include Lake Isabella and other dams among the approximately 3,000 that are owned by the federal government. The corps, for example, says that more than 300 of the roughly 700 dams it is responsible for need safety-related repairs, and estimates the total fix-up bill at about $20 billion.

Check out the Report Card on America's Infrastructure:

2009 Grades:
Aviation D
Bridges C
Dams D
Drinking Water D-
Energy D+
Hazardous Waste D
Inland Waterways D-
Levees D-
Public Parks and Recreation C-
Rail C-
Roads D-
Schools D
Solid Waste C+
Transit D
Wastewater D-

America's Infrastructure GPA: D

Estimated 5 Year Investment Need: $2.2 Trillion

The US invests 2.4% of our GDP in our infrastructure. Not only is more investment crucial to our future - it would also create jobs. This is the direction we should be moving in to fix our economy. These are solid investment, unlike the kind favored by Wall St tricksters over the past decade. This should be our national priority.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Income Growth - Income Disparity

An interactive chart from The Economic Policy Institute.

(You have to click on the link to get the chart.)

Start at the year you were born and see how things have changed - it's a real eye opener.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Monday, February 21, 2011

urine your own

Even Jack Kimball is outraged that I would criticize his boys for attempting to turn poverty into a crime - and costing taxpayers millions to do so:

“To post an outrageous tirade filled with personal attacks and name calling to criticize legislation that most people in the state of New Hampshire view positively, is utterly ridiculous,” said Kimball. “Susan Bruce owes an apology to the taxpayers of New Hampshire and the legislators who were maligned for simply attempting to put an end to one aspect of welfare fraud which directly affects and the taxpayers of this state.”

The bill will save NH no money. It will cost upwards of $7 million dollars - and I'M the one who should apologize to taxpayers?

The bill would take food away from kids and families.
It saves NH taxpayers nothing.
It costs NH taxpayers at least $7 million.

I do not believe that most people in the state of NH view this positively. It's the GOP nanny state, marching in with their brown shirts and jackboots, once again.

Urine Trickling Down

Kevin Smith Gets Mad at Me:

The Blue Hampshire posting singled out Reps. Summers, Silva, and Reed as fathers and coaches, particularly criticizing them for the provision in the bill that would include minor children in the mandatory drug testing. They are joined by fellow Hillsborough House District 26 Reps. LeBrun, Ohm, and Whitehead in sponsoring the legislation. The post goes on to state that the testing will cost the state money without any savings, as food stamps are a federal program, and accuses the co-sponsors of being elitists who are discriminating against low-income citizens

Ironic, isn't it? Kevin Smith, pro-life conservative, who touts his concern for children and families with every breath - isn't upset with legislators who want to take food away from kids - or force minors to undergo drug testing. He's mad at me for bringing it up, and calling them arrogant pissants.

If Kevin Smith was anything that he says he is, he'd be as outraged as I am by this bill. He's not. He's defending the creeps who wrote the bill. If you ever had any doubt that Cornerstone is just a GOP mouthpieece - you need doubt no more.

Urine Need of New Representation, Nashua

There must be something in the water in Hillsborough House District 26. District 26 has 10 representatives to the NH House. Sixty percent of those reps are sponsoring HB 484, which would require random drug testing of food stamp program recipients. Mean spirited, nasty, smug, and inhuman? You betcha.

A few of these men (yes, they are all men) have a little biographical info on the state website. James Summers has 3 kids. He's an Eagle Scout. Peter Silva has 4 kids, and is a lacrosse coach. Michael Reed has 3 kids, and is a baseball and football coach. Three fathers. Two fathers that coach youth sports. Three fathers who are mean spirited enough to propose and support a bill that would potentially cut off food stamps to kids on teams that they coach.

According to the Children's Defense Fund:
10.8% of NH children live in poverty.
4.5 of them in extreme poverty.
25, 913 NH children receive food stamps.

Six out of 10 representatives from district 26 in Hillsborough would like to ensure that some of those 25, 913 kids go hungry.

Approximately 10% of the current caseload would be tested monthly. Here's a fun fact:

The result would be between 5,343 (caseheads only) and 11,229 (including minor children) tests administered.

Seriously??? They're going to test kids? Minor children? Maybe they can bust up an infant crack ring.

The cost would be between $293,865 and $617,595 per month or between $3,526,380 and $7,411,140 annually.


There may be an increase in local expenditures as individuals no longer receiving food stamps may rely on local assistance.

But - here's the real kicker:

There would be no savings to the state for individuals determined ineligible as food stamps are a federal benefit administered by the state.

This won't save the state a dime. In fact, it will cost the state millions. This is just a bunch of affluent, arrogant, pissants who want to make the lives of low income folks even more miserable than they already are. These men are so evil that they'd use taxpayer dollars just to toy with poor people.

At least half of the sponsors of this bill are fathers. 100% of them are rotten bastards. See also: Sociopaths.

There will be a hearing on this bill on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 10 am, in room 205 at the LOB. It's being heard by the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee, chaired by John "Bedbug" Reagan.

cross-posted at Blue Hampshire

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Laser Beams Create a Job

The new legislators of the NH House have been busy. You remember that they campaigned on outrage about the state budget, and promised a laser-like focus to “cut taxes, cut spending, and create jobs, jobs, jobs”. Are they honoring those promises? How many jobs have the Laser Beams created?

There have been bills filed to repeal some taxes, a bill to repeal all taxes passed during the last legislative session, and Speaker O’Brien has been candid that he actually wants to eliminate revenue streams. He testified in support of a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would prohibit an income tax, saying, “I want to make sure that we do not have available to us a new and large revenue source.” The Speaker and his cohorts were going to try to balance the budget by cutting spending and cutting revenue. Yes, when we sit around our kitchen tables, cutting out cable, cutting out health insurance, new clothes, and we’re thinking about cutting out feeding the kids – the conclusion we automatically come to is that we must eliminate our second or third job. Sigh.

They’re serious about cutting taxes, though. So serious that on Wednesday they voted for two fake tax cuts, and promptly tabled them. There isn’t enough money to pay for the cuts – but that didn’t deter the Laser Beams. Republican Tony Soltani was gaveled out of order for objecting to this symbolic fakery. Based on prior experience, when Tony Soltani is coming across as the voice of reason, things are very, very wrong in Concord.

Rep. Al Baldasaro is pushing an amendment to the NH constitution that would change the oath of office for NH elected officials to swear “true allegiance,” to NH and “support” the US Constitution. No word on how many jobs this creates.

There are 3 bills aimed at telling us who can get married. Despite polls showing that the majority of NH voters don’t support repealing our marriage equality law, Laser Beam Bates of Windham is intent on legislating his evangelism. He’s sponsored 2 bills that repeal marriage equality. The third bill would dissolve all NH marriages and turn them into “domestic unions.” It’s an attempt by a Baptist Minister and a Freebagger to “take the government out of marriage” which is code for “the gummint has to kill your marriage in order to stop interfering with it.” It’s a useless bill that purports to fix something – something that isn’t broken. We have civil marriage. We have religious marriage. No need for more tinkering. It seems unlikely that this bill will be popular with anyone’s grandparents. Yet another bill would prevent couples with children under the age of 18 from divorcing. This transcends nanny statism, and prances into the land of fascism. If the “Live Free or Die” state takes rights away from a minority group, after having conferred them, we have crossed a line, and we’ll never recover from it. NH will be the object of scorn and derision, and we will deserve it, for letting a bunch of bigoted, narrow minded individuals mix religion and legislation.

In other Laser Beam news, Rep. Brandon Guida wants $7 million tax dollars to divert the Suncook River. The river flooded and changed course a couple of years back. The state DES advises against diverting. Rep. Guida knows better. An outside firm reached the same conclusion as DES. Rep. Guida still knows better. Must be that GOP science affinity. Another of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Dan McGuire used to have riverfront property. He doesn’t any more. ‘Nuff said.

Representative Jeanine Notter of Merrimack, recently opined during a committee hearing that health care reform is not needed, because communities will rally around cancer patients, and help them cover their costs by having bake sales, and such. That’s a lot of brownies – but Rep. Notter assures us that this is the American Way. Notter was also overheard during a hearing on the possible legislative oversight of nuclear power plants asking a person giving testimony if NH has a nuclear power plant.

The House also voted to defund NH Public Television. Our own Rep. Karen Umberger was quoted as saying “this is not the proper way to spend taxpayer dollars.” Some legislators went as far as saying it wasn’t good programming, that it was redundant. These are people who have never watched Windows to the Wild, or Granite State Challenge. These are the same people who want to spend approx. $5 million to administer urine tests to food stamp recipients, divert rivers in their own back yards on the public teat, and broaden the death penalty, which will cost at least an additional $5 million a year. Elmo=bad. Drug tests for poor people=good.

There’s also a bill to prevent college kids from being able to vote. For years the NH GOP has tried desperately to invent voter fraud, despite all reports to the contrary from the Secretary of State. It’s simple, really. When Republicans win it’s because they have a mandate. When Democrats win, it’s because of voter fraud. Just ask a Republican. Speaker O’Brien was pretty clear in the Union Leader on why college kids should be prevented from voting: “He said students in college towns register to vote on Election Day "and are basically doing what I did when I was a kid and foolish, voting as a liberal.” It would all be so much easier if we only allowed Republicans to vote.

There is good news, though, from Concord. Speaker O’Brien, after numerous clownish debacles in the early weeks of the legislature, has hired a fellow named Greg Moore to be the “House Policy Director.” Moore was formerly the policy and communications director for John Stephen. Apparently the new Policy Czar will prevent the Speaker from trying to improperly toss Democratic legislators out of office. Perhaps he will ensure that no more embarrassing bills will go public, like the one Rep. Lars Christiansen filed to get rid of the judge who convicted a child rapist Christiansen seems to have taken under his wing. We taxpayers are paying the Speaker’s babysitter $75,000 a year.

NH Republicans: hold your heads up high! You may have voted to kill Elmo, but you’ve created a single job!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

So Be It

As I wrote earlier, Speaker of the House, John Boehner made a rather callous statement on the possibility of federal budget cuts leading to job losses:

“And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it.

A reporter at that press conference asked Boehner if he had an estimate of how many jobs could be lost. Boehner did not. In today's Washington Post, Dana Milbank has this to say:

Well, Mr. Speaker, I do. I checked with budget expert Scott Lilly of the Center for American Progress, and, using the usual multipliers, he calculated that the cuts - a net of $59 billion in the last half of fiscal 2011 - would lead to the loss of 650,000 government jobs, and the indirect loss of 325,000 more jobs as fewer government workers travel and buy things. That's nearly 1 million jobs - possibly enough to tip the economy back into recession.

In other words, Boehner is willing to sacrifice a million jobs to play politics:

But in the short run, the cuts Boehner and his caucus propose would cause a shock to the economy that would slow, if not reverse, the recovery. And however pure Boehner's motives may be, the dirty truth is that a stall in the recovery would bring political benefits to the Republicans in the 2012 elections. It is in their political interests for unemployment to remain higher for the next two years. "So be it" is callous but rational.

Rational? I prefer to call it "insane." These are people's lives we're talking about. There aren't enough jobs for the millions already unemployed.

Then there's this:

Among the savings proposed by the Obama administration (and before that, the Bush administration) is to end the wasteful effort to develop a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Pentagon is satisfied with the engine it has, made by Pratt & Whitney, and it doesn't want the second engine, made by General Electric and others. Eliminating the second engine would save $450 million this year and some $3 billion over 10 years.

But it just so happens that a GE plant that develops the second engine employs 7,000 people in Evendale, Ohio, near Boehner's district. Rather than take a so-be-it attitude toward jobs his constituents may hold, he's backing an earmark-like provision in the spending legislation to keep funding the unneeded GE engine.

The military doesn't want the engine. Eliminating it would save billions. "So be it" is good medicine for the rest of the country, just not Speaker Boehner's district.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Before and After

John Boehner (before he became Speaker) on the day after the Nov. 2 elections:

As you heard me say last night, we are humbled by the trust that the American people have placed in us and we recognize this is a time for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work on the people's priorities: creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming the way Congress does its business.

Speaker of the US House, John Boehner this week, from

"Over the last two years since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs," Boehner said. "And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it. We're broke. It's time for us to get serious about how we're spending the nation's money."

One of these things is not like the other. What happened to "the people's priorities?"

cross-posted at MainSt/

Housing Collapse Likely to Worsen

From Michael Snyder via alternet:

We are officially in the middle of the worst housing collapse in U.S. history - and unfortunately it is going to get even worse. Already, U.S. housing prices have fallen further during this economic downturn (26 percent), then they did during the Great Depression (25.9 percent). Approximately 11 percent of all homes in the United States are currently standing empty. In fact, there are many new housing developments across the U.S. that resemble little more than ghost towns because foreclosures have wiped them out. Mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures reached new highs in 2010, and it is being projected that banks and financial institutions will repossess at least a million more U.S. homes during 2011. Meanwhile, unemployment is absolutely rampant and wage levels are going down at a time when mortgage lending standards have been significantly tightened. That means that there are very few qualified buyers running around out there and that is going to continue to be the case for quite some time to come. When you add all of those factors up, it leads to one inescapable conclusion. The "housing Armageddon" that we have been experiencing since 2007 is going to get even worse in 2011.

There are a lot of grim facts in this article, but this is one of the grimmest:

The housing market is not like other financial markets. It is difficult to artificially pump it up with funny money. If the U.S. housing market is going to rebound, it is going to take lots of average American families getting qualified for loans and going out and buying houses. But they can't do this if they do not have good jobs. Today, only 47 percent of working-age Americans have a full-time job at this point. Without a jobs recovery there never will be a housing recovery.

Without a jobs recovery, there will never be any kind of a recovery, including the deficit reduction that is all we hear about from D.C. these days. There is no acknowledgement of how serious the unemployment situation really is.

This is not good news for the homeowners who are locked into mortgages that are now higher than their homes are worth. It's not good news for communities full of empty houses. Every other house on my street is for sale; there are no jobs here. Those houses will stay on the market for years and years.

Meanwhile, as the number of empty houses increases, the number of apartments decreases. From the Houston Real Estate Observer:

The nation is heading for a shortage of apartments, the result of several years of weak multi-family construction, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

“We are going to have a supply/demand imbalance and we will have rental increases,” said Sharon Dworkin Bell, senior vice president of the multifamily division of the NAHB.

Rental increases will likely translate into more homelessness amongst the working poor.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Health Care Debate: NH vs. VT

From Blue Hampshire:

During yesterday's hearing on HB 440 - which seeks to remove New Hampshire from the new health law and bar the NH Insurance Department from enforcing consumer protections - Representative Jeanine Notter of Merrimack told a member of the public that health reform is not needed because she is sure, just sure, that communities will rally around cancer patients and help them cover their costs.

This was my response, from the comment section:

I'm guessing that the last 3 years of my husband's life, as he went through treatment for multiple myeloma cost over a million dollars. He had 2 surgeries - a hip replacement and neurosurgery to implant a titanium infrastructure in his neck to hold up his head, because his cervical spine had been eaten by cancer. There were numerous bouts of radiation, numerous hospitalizations, at least one life flight, constant visits to doctors, and then there were all the drugs. Hugely expensive drugs.

As beloved as David was in our community, a million dollar bake sale might have been a stretch. Fortunately, he raised chickens.

This new legislature (in both Concord and DC) appear to be densely populated with a group of people who have the collective intelligence of a sack of doorknobs. These people are the REAL death panels.

In our community, the wage scale has been the same for 25 years. The average local worker is making about $10 an hour. It's unlikely that our community could support even one cancer patient - and there are many.

Rep. Notter appears to have created her own reality, one that bears no resemblance to the one the rest of NH residents are experiencing. My husband was beloved by all - but would the community rally around a curmudgeon? Probably not. Does someone deserve to die because they are so unpopular that no one wants to bake or buy brownies for their treatment? Isn't THAT a death panel?

Compare and contrast that to VT, where the Governor is developing a single-payer system for the state. From the Burlington Free Press:

The Shumlin administration proposes the state take two steps effective July 1: Create a health benefit exchange or marketplace called for under the federal health care law and set up a Vemront Health Reform Board to “develop payment reform and cost containment methodologies that will result in sustainable rates of growth in health care spending,” Wallack.

The next phase would begin in 2014 when the health benefit exchange begins operating. “We propose that we include in the exchange, at that time, employer groups with fewer than 100 employees,” Wallack said. “We also propose that state and municipal employees become part of the exchange, and that we integrate Medicaid, Medicare and workers’ compensation with exchange policy.”

The state would move to the final stage if and when the federal government granted Vermont waivers to establish a single, publicly financed exchange.

This is still in the planning stages, so it will be interesting to see how it works out. I'd suggest avoiding the comment section, since the bulk of them seem to have been written by Jeanine Notter supporters.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Budget Cuts and School Lunches

Yesterday Kim wrote about the kinds of cuts being made to education funding in our communities and states. At the
same time that school budgets are being slashed, a number of families are in dire financial straits. One program that is really feeling the pinch of family finances is school lunches. From the NY Times:

The school district in Albuquerque was among several last year to start serving cold sandwiches and milk, instead of full hot meals, to students whose parents had not paid what they owed. In Wake County, N.C., those students may eat as many fruits and vegetables as they want, but not the rest of the lunch offerings.

In Louisiana, some districts did not feed the children whose parents were in arrears at all, until, in November, the State Legislature passed a law ordering that they be given at least a snack, while directing districts to notify child welfare authorities if a student got just a snack on more than three consecutive days. Framingham, Mass., hired a constable to hand-deliver notices to parents whose bills were still unpaid after the schools had sent them several letters alerting them to their debt.

At least in Albuquerque and Wake County the schools were feeding the kids. Withholding food from children is something I cannot begin to understand.

In NY City:

Since 2004, the city has absorbed at least $42 million in unpaid lunch fees.

But that is a luxury it can no longer afford, according to the Education Department, which has weathered several rounds of budget cuts, with more to come. The department has been telling principals to collect overdue lunch money or risk having it docked from their school budgets.

Of the city’s 1,600 schools, 1,043 owe a collective $2.5 million to the department for meals served in the first three months of this school year. That puts them on track to be $8 million behind by the end of the school year.

Penalizing children for the desperate financial straits their parents are in, combined with cuts to education is a sad, sad commentary on our national priorities.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Regulating Women

In Washington and in Concord, the new GOP Houses have been sworn in and gotten to work. In both Concord and DC, the moderate, sane members of the Republican party have largely been replaced by far right fringe teahaddis. After campaigns promising a laser focus on economic issues and job creation, their true agenda is coming into focus. All those campaign promises they made were false. What the Teabaglicans are really interested in is a total repeal of the 20th Century, along with much of the 19th.

First and foremost, they want to repeal the health insurance reform bill. The teafringe is outraged by the very thought that everyone should have access to some sort of affordable health care. Never mind that the bill was written by Republicans and insurance companies – it’s bad, it’s evil, it’s gawdless socialism to stop Big Insurance from being able to deny coverage to folks with pre-existing conditions. Most of the new Teabaglicans accepted gummint health care for themselves – but they don’t want YOU to have coverage. You are supposed to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and not get sick. The repeal of the insurance reform bill will add $230 billion to the deficit over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. On the one hand, we have Teabaglicans wailing their concern for the deficit. On the other – they insisted on extending the Bush tax cuts and want to repeal the health insurance bill – and both measures added billions to the deficit they claim to be so concerned about. If buyer’s remorse isn’t setting in, then Foxda (the propaganda arm of the GOP) has been even more successful at dumbing down the populace than I’ve been giving them credit for.

The recent focus on jobs and the economy in Washington manifested itself into a bill that was attempting to redefine rape, in an effort to play to the nastiest far right scum constituencies, while ensuring that tax dollars could not possibly be used to pay for abortions. The bill would deny any help to women who were not “forcibly” raped. Yes, the Teabaglicans want to move us boldly back in time, when women couldn’t actually be raped, because they were asking for it, just by being women. Or being dressed slutty. Or not fighting back hard enough. If they lived through a rape, they weren’t fighting hard enough. Being drugged? Well, those tramps shouldn’t’ have been out drinking, now, should they? The bill would have set justice back a good 50 years, while enabling rapists, and ensuring fewer reported rapes. After a lot of public outrage, and after being pilloried on the Daily Show, the teahaddis decided to remove the redefining rape language from their bill. Apparently even the fringiest of the fringe aren’t currently willing to deal with the PR problem they were creating by questioning “forcible” rape. That pesky 19th Amendment really gums things up.

The simple truth is that thanks to the Hyde Act, taxpayer dollars don’t pay for elective abortions. This is never mentioned by the far right. Tax dollars can be used to pay for abortions in the case of rape or incest. Only the fringiest of the fringe would force a woman to serve as an incubator in such cases. There are fewer than 200 of these cases a year, which amount to a miniscule amount of tax money. On the other hand, over half the federal discretionary budget goes to offense. Right now the US is bombing 5 countries. The US military kills civilians every single day in other countries, including pregnant women, babies, and children. That near hysterical veneration for life doesn’t manifest itself beyond US borders. It doesn’t actually exist within US borders, either. It’s all a sham – a pageant enacted to appeal to the fringe fundies and their anti-choice terrorist organizations that help fund GOP campaigns.

The Teabaglicans also want to ensure that private insurance companies don’t offer any abortion coverage in plans being sold to women. These are the same folks who decry regulation, who oppose anyone telling business what they can do – until it comes to women. The far right believes strongly in regulating women. Women have no right to buy the kind of insurance they want, not if it includes covering a perfectly legal medical procedure. We can’t have the silly girlies making their own decisions, now, can we?

Men enjoy a lack of regulation, and a right to medical privacy. Their scrotums are not government property – although, our tax dollars are willingly spent on penis products. Health insurance policies cover Viagra, penis implants, and penis pumps. So does Medicare! Our tax dollars are helping those who suffer from erectile dysfunction. If those taxpayer funded erections are used for rapes, or creating unwanted pregnancies, well, that’s just collateral damage. The penis writes the laws, after all.

Perhaps this is part of a new GOP job creation plan. If women are forced to serve as incubators, they’ll be kept out of the job market, which means that men could have those jobs, jobs that were rightfully theirs in the first place. The incubators will produce children, who will grow up to take part in the other GOP job creation plan: the military, and our endless wars.

Cynical? You betcha.

"Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it." Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale)

© sbruce 2011
this was published as an op-ed in the February 4, 2011 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.

Seniors Living on Less in 2011

Many seniors are living on less in 2011. From PRNewswire:

Forty-four percent of seniors are receiving lower Social Security checks this year compared to 2010, while even more are dealing with significantly higher expenses. The findings come from an annual survey of elderly Americans, released earlier today by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation's largest nonpartisan senior citizens advocacy groups.


Social Security checks are lower because many seniors have their Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage premiums automatically deducted, and these premiums have increased in many cases. An annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) typically offsets such premium increases, but seniors are not receiving a COLA for the second year in a row.

Combine the increase in Part D premiums with falling into the donut hole, when a senior has to pay full price for prescription drugs, and you have people that are barely making ends meet, or doing without needed medications because they can't afford them.

The fact that expenses are increasing, while Social Security checks are decreasing isn't being reported on. Social Security is still being dishonestly presented as a reason for the expanding federal deficit. Thankfully, Social Security has a strong, persistent ally in Senator Bernie Sanders:

Even with no change, the fact is that Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus that is projected to grow to more than $4 trillion in 2023. Is this surplus, as some have suggested, just worthless IOUs? Absolutely not! Social Security invests, as it should, the surplus money it accumulates into U.S Treasury bonds, the safest interest-bearing securities in the world. These are the same bonds that wealthy investors, China, and other foreign countries have purchased. The bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government which, in our long history, has never once defaulted on its debt obligations. In other words, Social Security bonds are as safe as any other U.S. debt obligation.

Further, despite the manufactured hysteria about a “Social Security crisis,” Social Security has not contributed one penny to the very serious deficit situation we face. Social Security is fully funded by the payroll tax that workers and their employers contribute into the system, not the U.S. Treasury. Our deficit has, in recent years, been largely caused by the cost of two wars, tax breaks for the rich, a Medicare prescription drug program written by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and the Wall Street bailout — all unpaid for. Social Security has played no role in our deficits.

This is a great (short!) op-ed piece by Senator Sanders. Pass it on to the doubters and naysayers you come in contact with. Social Security must be protected, and strengthened, for our current seniors and the generations to come.

cross posted at MainSt/