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Ear to the Ground

Obama Ponders the Third Rail

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Posted on Jan 7, 2009
Obama Security

The doughnut, signifying an “O” for Obama, and a Social Security card. You’ll be hearing more about both.

With news of a $1.2 trillion federal budget deficit and continually rising unemployment numbers, President-elect Barack Obama is facing an economy that has the constitution of a sickly cat. A remedy for what ails it may be coming in a restructuring of Medicare and Social Security, which Obama said will be central to efforts in how he will curb spending.

The New York Times:

Changes in Social Security and Medicare will be central to efforts to bring federal spending in line, President-elect Barack Obama said Wednesday, as the Congressional Budget Office projected a $1.2 trillion budget deficit for the fiscal year.

“We expect that discussion around entitlements will be a part, a central part” of efforts to curb federal spending, Mr. Obama said at a news conference. By February, he said, “we will have more to say about how we’re going to approach entitlement spending.”

Alluding to the projected deficit, which was accompanied by grim unemployment predictions, Mr. Obama said: “And we know that our recovery and reinvestment plan will necessarily add more. My own economic and budget team projects that, unless we take decisive action, even after our economy pulls out of its slide, trillion-dollar deficits will be a reality for years to come.”

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By KDelphi, January 8, 2009 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment

loveinatub—You could not be more wrong. I watched the hearing—he NEVER says that they will provide universal care. If they wanted to, they would just support Conyers, Kucinich, et al, HR 676—Univeral Medicare for all. Obama has never said he wanted universal,and, if you read Daschle’s books, you will realize that he doesnt support it either. There is a reaond—insurance and hospital lobbyists money.

He says “pools” for the “uninsured”—we have that now. It is called crapy Medicaid

He says “goals”—there is no date when any of ths will happen!

We cannot possbily afford to provide universal coverage if we try to do it WITH the “insurance insudstry”. Most universl groups agree on it—in fact I dont know of one that doesnt.(Physicians for Natl Health Plan, PDA,,many others)

You need to listen more closely to what politicans say! You know “get us out of Iraq”, “health insurance for all, like the kind Congress gets”, “reverse the Bush tax cuts”—you get the idea…

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By loveinatub, January 8, 2009 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

For all of you Obama naysayers out there, read this:

Mr. Daschle, the point man for Mr. Obama’s campaign to revamp the health care system, supports the concept of “a government-run insurance program modeled after Medicare.” It would, he says, give consumers, especially the uninsured, an alternative to commercial insurance offered by companies like Aetna, Humana and WellPoint.

That doesn’t sound like conservative, republican talk to me!

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By Bilejones, January 8, 2009 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s what you’ll have left in your pocket.

This guy seems to have Obama pegged

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By Levon, January 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

what clinton did to welfare, obama will do to ss.
that’s change we can believe in!
sounds like obama is really a republican. if i had wanted republican policies i would have voted for one.
fool me once…

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By KDelphi, January 8, 2009 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

We need to EXPAND ss and medicare—not CUT them!

If they want to reform them and cut waste—start with Medicare Part D! The neo-con beloved plan that wont let a govt agency get discounts for bulk or generic drugs! It is just a gift to big insurance intrests! Get rid of Medicare Advantage—there should NOT be “competition” in taxpayer funded programs, unless you want to be a “chump”, as Rep Cumnmings said…he said that he had only voted for the bailout, because Sen Obama had told him that he would “fix it” when he got in office—when they had the hearing with Bush/Wall St appointees who are now administering the “plan”— he felt like a chump!

Hullk2008—Good points!

dihey—good idea, and, similar to ones put forward by Sen. Sanders and Rep Kucinich—but the Dems wouldnt allow a vote on it during the Big Bailout!

Ralph Nader advocated something like it at the time, too. Have you sent it to anyone?

Here is a link to an “alternative” plan to the bailout, which was called the Reid/Byrd Economic Recovery Act. It is from the Ideas Insti for Peace, Justice & Environment and It is signed onto by Harry Belafonte, Barbara Ehrenreich, K vanden Heuvel and many others.

I guess it is a “done deal”, but, rather than crapping on the poor and middle class again, shouldnt we try to recover some of the damn money?? At the VERY LEAST!! reverse the Bush tax cuts! Even Speaker Pelosi supports that!

WHY do they think that more CUTS will help?? They NEVER DO!!!

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By dihey, January 8, 2009 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

Hulk 2008: Your suggestion hits the nail on its head!

For many years I have advocated a “Patriot Tax” with the following basic ingredients.
1. The PT is not part of any existing tax base.
2. The PT tax is levied on the basis of property.
3. There are no exemptions except possibly for a minimum value of property whose owners do not have to pay anything.
4. Property owned outside the USA is taxed at double rate to encourage investing in our country.

If you are against this tax you are obviously unpatriotic!

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By dihey, January 8, 2009 at 11:00 am Link to this comment

Folks, this will be our Thermopylae! We the Athenian citizens of the USA must stop this Persian King to “reorganize”, read “destroy” Social Security and Medicare.

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By Hulk2008, January 8, 2009 at 10:37 am Link to this comment

The “logic” applied to setting the FICA deduction limit has always been obtuse - like most taxation approaches.  Supposedly it makes no sense for the very wealthy to pay into a program that they don’t need and from which they cannot recoup their “investments”.  By contrast, in reality, the more wealth and possesions one acquires, the more protection/bennies one needs and gets from the Fed overall. e.g. Who needs the armed forces and police more?  - A single parent living in a tiny rental with some meager clothes and appliances?  Or an aristocrat with multiple homes, vehicles, aircraft, yachts, and vacation resorts?  If it’s fair to pay based on need and actual use (ala sales tax), then there should be no upper limit on taxation or any kind.  Our society has, for generations, pampered the wealthy on the trickle-down premise - tax abatements for corporations so they will provide jobs, special earmarks in favorable legislation, special waivers and variances in regulations.  Stats show that actual donations to charity decrease as a percentage of the donor’s income.  When will the privileged wake up and be willing to pay their fair share of the burden?  I wish I WERE wealthy enough to max out FICA.

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By P. T., January 8, 2009 at 10:00 am Link to this comment

The Social Security Trust Fund holds U.S. government bonds.  Many rich people and foreign governments also hold U.S. government bonds.  Is the U.S. government going to default?

The U.S. government has always spent the money it raises from issuing bonds.  Why else would it issue them?  The U.S. government has never defaulted on a single bond.

Social Security made need minor adjustments sometime in the future, but no bigger than ones that have been made in the past.  The Social Security “crisis” is phony—just an attempt to have workers, not capital, bear the cost of deficits!

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Eric L. Prentis's avatar

By Eric L. Prentis, January 8, 2009 at 9:18 am Link to this comment

President-elect Obama’s 2009 Federal Budget deficit estimated at minus -$1.6 trillion dollars, from bailing out the crooks on War Street, keeping the Bush tax cuts for the rich, continuing the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan and now going after Social Security/Medicare. Obama’s administration is shaping up to be Republican.

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By jackpine savage, January 8, 2009 at 6:12 am Link to this comment

There is a structural problem with the entitlement programs, but only because the government that now frets about “reforming” the system couldn’t keep its own goddamn hands out of the cookie jar.

If they had actually put away all the money that we’ve contributed things would probably be ok, but they didn’t…and that’s why the CBO puts the real deficit at $53T.  They already spent your retirement money (both parties).

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By GW=MCHammered, January 8, 2009 at 5:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Recession decreases demand for labor and to reduce costs, businesses hire the Medicare-covered generation. This leads to more young men and women staying at home producing the Next Boomers much like the one following WWII. As the current Medicare-generation and half the original boomers exit the workplace and pass on over the next couple decades, labor demand increases. The Next Boomers currently being born generate growing economic demand advancing business. Increased government revenues fulfill remaining baby boomer entitlement needs and thus the economic/population model cycle continues.

The Baby Boom and World War II: A Macroeconomic Analysis

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By yankee, January 8, 2009 at 4:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Everyone likes to make comparisons to the Great Depression with this crisis.  What’s missing is that FDR hiked taxes on the rich upwards of 90%.  This incoming administration declared NOT to even reverse the Bush Tax cuts, and who is getting bailed out?

These people want their cake and eat it too.  Social Security is the only money left in the country, of course they’d go after it before touching their own money.

It would be a tragedy if a so called Dem destroyed the best program we’ve ever had in this country.

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By KDelphi, January 8, 2009 at 2:22 am Link to this comment

“..because there is less revenue”?? Youve got to be kidding me! And, why, besides unemployment, would that be? Could it be all he damn tax cuts?!

WHERE did the huge “deficit” come from?? Could it be the Dems (and GOP) Wall St Bailout? Unnecessary Med icare part D, SCHIP and other things that could all be covered under HR 676 (Medicare for all) But that pales incomparison to our huge military largesse!! Gawd!!

Medicare is much more cost effective than private “health” insurance! The HR 676 Bill—Medicare for all—would save the country billions in health care, and, would eliminate the need for programs like SCHIP. Medicaid, VA Care ( some of it anyway) and, even Medicare as a plan for older people only.

This is patently ridciulous.

Cut defense spending by half, reverse the Bush tax cuts, dont enact anymore tax cuts of your own, get us the hell our of iraq (and Afghanistan , for me, anyway—but that wont happen), stop the war on drugs, the war on terror and the war on the poor!

When Reagan or Bush talked about “restructuring” Social Security, neoliberals raised hell—where is the outrage now??

Think that $1000 he wants to give you will pay for your Medicare or health care and make up for you social securtity, people over 65? Not a chance! He is catering to the rich—he didnt do it to get elected, as some say—he got elected TO cater to the rich…like eveyrone else.

I am tired of people saying that “someone else is behind” this or that—no one can make Obama do anything he doesnt want to do and you know it. He is now elected. So far, the “change” we see is more of the same, or worse. The Dems will soon have all three—senate, house, executive—and all we hear about is more war (or no comment), more tax cuts, more cuts, more of the same. Someone had better tell him to consider, soon, how he will get re-elected!

I heard talk that he had considered ridding himself of Summers, yet had decided to take on Dennis Ross, Richard Haas, and Richard Holbrooke as chief emissaries—anyone know?

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By John Kim, January 7, 2009 at 11:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Americans will finally know what it’s like to be a third world country. It’s bitter sweet

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By kovie, January 7, 2009 at 10:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m confused. Social Security is solvent. Between the trust fund and future receipts there’s enough money to pay for 100% of projected benefits for at least another 35 years, and probably much longer, without any adjustment necessary. Even Repub Doug Holtz-Eakin has said so. The whole thing about it going bankrupt is a lie. Not an exaggeration, but a LIE. Do some research and see for yourselves. It can only go bankrupt if the US government itself goes bankrupt, in which case this would be the least of our problems.

Sure, the Social Security trust fund is basically a huge loan to the federal government, which as we all know is in massive debt. But this loan is in the form of T-Bills, which the federal government is required by law (not to mention sound fiscal practice) to pay back at full face value, plus interest. So basically, when anyone says that Social Security is bankrupt and needs to be reformed, what they really mean is that the federal government is in serious financial trouble and doesn’t want to pay back its debts. “Reforming” Social Security = the federal government reneging on its financial and moral obligations. Period. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.

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By elizabethe, January 7, 2009 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment

Obama did not win a democratic election.  He was and is an incumbent I did not want to see in office at all, not as a senator, and certainly not as a President.  The media stuffed Obama in the public’s face with the lie that he was their only choice and only hope to oust Bush whose TERM IS EXPIRED HANDILY by the progress of time, alone.

How much do I hate Obama, I cannot begin to count the ways.

How much do I love Nader, at least a million agree that he should be able to win if the majority had the proper competitive view and the agendas and track records were compared.

Nader could easily win against Obama the incompetent hypocrit and war monger intending to offer a new version of the Oath of Office—Obama does NOT intend to uphold the U.S. Constitution.  He intends war as if it is PROFIT for HIS GREEDY POWER AGAINST THE LAW and the media loves him.

Balanced budget hard for him?
No, the ease in which he tenders red ink and blood and weapons with the media promotion makes an unbalanced Bush budget extended into the future UNCHECKED by the duty of the media as WATCHDOG is equal to OBAMA’s intended offense against the proper view of democracy defined in the U.S. Constitution.

Congress has the legally required constitutional duty to declare war and to balance the budget and to refuse the deficit spending that Obama has already said he wants to increase, not stop.

He is heinous.  New Oath, the HYPOCRIT OATH of OFFICE to usurp not uphold the U.S. constitution.

Congress NOT the President has the duty to declare war.  The voters had the duty to define the agenda for change and a budget on track.  They failed because the media failed.

Nader was supposed to get the proper opportunity to be able to contest the incumbents war and bad track and to offer the remedial track that would restore the proper freedoms and safety that upholding the U.S. Constitution provides.

Nader is ABLE and his track shows the public interest at a legendary track.

Entering politics however is no one man’s show.

It is supposed to be majority rule.

The media owes the INFORMED public the RIGHT TO BE INFORMED that there WAS CHOICE and a serious challenge for easy restoration with good policy with a candidate who has earned the respect due, yet the media has the gall to refuse?

Try again?

I say do that, please, and do not allow the Obama HYPOCRIT OATH any value, except announced lack of QUALIFICATIONS to take office.

Nader is qualified.

so could Barr be, likely. 

I am for Nader.

Whoever takes office should have informed majority backing at an integrity level of informed decisionmakeing, as is provided in the constitution where the ability to vote for REAL CHANGE is DUE and REQUIRED by the U.S. Constitution.

Obama’s “election” was a media election, not the Constitutional ballot box power of democracy by the people.  No change except O bama is not upholding the government and certainly is not a budget on track. No peace in view by Obama.  No, no Obama.  No.  Incumbents were and are due OUSTING by a DEMOCRACY who SAYS SO!

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By Xntrk, January 7, 2009 at 5:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Obama could restructure the budget and get the deficit under control by cutting the Defense Budget, that is larger than all the other countries spend - TOTAL. I still don’t know who is such a threat? The Cubans? They would send doctors and solve our Medicare Crisis…

This jerk is in the process of setting race relations and Progressive Policies back 100 years! Retired people have seen their pitiful retirement ‘investments’ evaporate like snow on a summer day. Now this from the SOCIALIST President who conned a lot of people into thinking he was at least rational.

As for the politics of Race, Blacks voted 95% for Obama. Probably 95% of the Black Retirees are even more dependent on Social Security than the rest of us - and they get less to start with because their lifetime earnings are lower.

Boy, talk about a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!

Cut Defense. Fire the mercenaries.  Close the trillion dollar monstrosity we just opened for the Ambassador in Baghdad. Cancel the Star Wars Program that doesn’t really work anyway. Tell the Russians we’ve decided not to station all those missiles on their borders. That is just for starters. There is so much waste in the Military Budget, we could fund the clean-up of the Coal Ash Disaster at the TVA, and still balance the budget faster then we ever will by hitting the middle-class again and ignoring the rich assholes walking around DC and NYC with bulging wallets!

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By P. T., January 7, 2009 at 5:39 pm Link to this comment

Perhaps Obama is throwing a curveball.  He may want to cut entitlements down the road to pay for the debt he is going to run up right now.  That might help get Republicans, who dislike entitlements, on board.  Larry Summers is likely behind this idea—he is after entitlements.

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By P. T., January 7, 2009 at 4:58 pm Link to this comment

This is shear lunacy.  Why would Obama depress demand by cutting entitlements at the same time he is trying to increase demand with a stimulus package?  Did he take a single macroeconomics course in college?

There is no entitlements crisis.  Social Security can pay full benefits for the foreseeable future—several decades at the least.  Social Security is a total red herring.  There is a Medicare and Medicaid problem, but that is because of the waste in the healthcare system as a whole—we have a failing system that costs twice as much per capita as other developed countries and have shorter livespans.

This is madness!

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By truedigger3, January 7, 2009 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment

Obama is not for “Change we believe in” but he is
for business as usual.
Now they are talking of fixing the economic mess on the back of the middle class and the poor by by “restructuring” which means reducing benefits.
Instead of repealling the obscene tax cuts of Bush
that benefited mostly the super-rich, they will
continue dismanteling any benefits and safety nets for the average Joe/Jane and giving more money to
the super-rich.

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, January 7, 2009 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

Saving SS entitlements is so easy——all you have to do is raise the maximum salary level for FICA to $250,000 and there would more money for a lot of things.

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By Leisure Suit Larry, January 7, 2009 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So where is all the liberal clamoring which accompanies Republican calls for a “resturcturing” of Social Security?

resturcturing means cutting somewhere. If he says “no one who has an income of over $250,000 collects social security, he makes is a “poor person’s program’ which is subject to even more cutting.

If he says “10% cuts across the board, He leaves consummers with fewer dollars to spend, and then the economy stays stalled longer.

More than likely he’ll avoid the “60’s generation” and cut wherever on people not yet born, thereby handing them an even grimmer future that did GWB.

This guy and his flunky administration is headed for the wall at 120MPH… I hope they televise the crash… It’ll be awsome!

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