Tag Archive: Social Security

Is Chris Christie Pandering to the Moderates?

Every action that Chris Christie takes is filtered through the lens of his political ambition.  Whether it’s his stance on hot-button issues like gun safety and marriage equality, or his top-caliber cadre of social media propagandists, the governor has one goal in mind – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Some of his recent actions may indicate that he’s given up pandering to the extreme wing of his party and is hoping that the dying breed of moderate Republicans may come out victorious among the dozen or so contenders for the nomination.

A few days ago, Christie surprised us (and probably his dirty energy backers) by announcing that he thought global climate change might be man-made. And on Friday, his Department of Environmental Protection stepped in to a controversy about destroying hundreds of acres of forestland in the Six Flags Amusement Park to install solar panels. The DEP made an offer to purchase the land from Six Flags in order to save the trees.

Of course, these two actions in isolation don’t make Christie a moderate. He’s still in favor of draconian cuts in Social Security and has shown no empathy for state workers whose deferred compensation is being stolen to balance the budget.

Christie, trying to get attention, takes on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

In an effort to recapture the attention and enthusiasm of Republicans, Gov. Christie today in a speech in New Hampshire proposed substantial changes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. What he calls “entitlement reform” may appear as bold and appealing to conservative primary voters, but the plan is cynical, crafty, unnecessary and contrary to what is needed. It may stimulate discussion, it may backfire on him, or as a third-tier candidate it may not survive many news cycles, but it’s not a sensible plan.

Christie’s plan is cynical as it disregards the needs of less wealthy ageing Americans who would have to wait longer for Social Security and Medicare. Daniel Kurz, who has blogged on Blue Jersey, expresses his outrage on Facebook: “I guess people in their 60’s never get seriously ill in large numbers and can, for the most part, continue to sell their physical labor and compete with 26 year olds. The message from the NJ governor is clear: if you’re 67, and you’re chronically unemployed, and you have been paying into Social Security for four decades, then do us all a favor and drop dead.”

Christie’s plan is crafty because it has no immediate impact, delays the start date and is implemented gradually. Even Tea Party, Evangelical, and fiscally conservative Republicans are on these plans or hope to be. It starts raising the retirement age to 69 (from 67) in 2022 and then only by two months each year until it reaches 69 in 2044.  For Medicare it raises eligibility age at a pace of one month per year, so that by 2064 it would be 69. As Christie explains, “The changes I propose today would not affect seniors currently in these programs or seniors approaching retirement, so let me repeat that, before they start running these pushing granny in the wheel chair off the cliff ads.” He got a few laughs from this ugly remark, and maybe a few sighs of relief.

Aimee Belgard on Social Security and Medicare

One of the most important issues distinguishing Aimee Belgard and her opponent in the NJ-3 Congressional Race is that of the future of Social Security and Medicare.

Today in Willingboro, Phil Rotondi of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare announced his group’s endorsement of Aimee Belgard.

Belgard understands that earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare are part of a complex economic system that makes this country run. In her remarks, she points out how passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and paying a fair minimum wage would make earned benefit systems solvent for decades to come.

Fred Astaire Would be Jealous

promoted by Rosi

Tom MacArthur’s latest attack on Aimee Belgard is disingenuous at best, and certainly misleading.

Aimee Belgard has asked Tom MacArthur to join her in a pledge not to privatize Social Security. MacArthur frames this as an “attack” on him, yet he has not responded to Belgard’s challenge. On his web site, he says, “Tom believes Social Security is a promise that must be kept to our citizens.  Americans who pay into the system should receive the benefits they earn and those benefits should keep pace with inflation.” Yet, he never unequivocally states that he opposes privatization and he never states that he supports Social Security for new workers.

(On the same web page, the MacArthur campaign perpetuates their falsehood that Belgard refuses to debate. I know of at least one debate that’s scheduled by the League of Women Voters.)

Privatization of Social Security would hurt recipients while filling the coffers of for-profit insurance companies. It’s a slippery slope to the GOP’s ultimate dream of eliminating the only safety net for millions of seniors.

Tom MacArthur may say that he “supports” Social Security. But his masterful dancing around the privatization issue would make Fred Astaire jealous.

Disclosure: I receive Social Security after having paid into the system for 45 years. And I’m a proud volunteer on Belgard’s campaign.

Beyond Obamacare

Healthcare.gov will be fixed. People will sign up and reap the benefits of universal health coverage starting in January. So what’s next?

No doubt, the Republicans will continue their quest to reverse the limited progress made to date. They will try to deny coverage to many, eliminate the cap on “administrative” costs to insurance carriers, and cut preventative care, which saves lives and money.

Democrats are counting on the projected ubiquity and success of Obamacare after January to lock it in and to shut down the GOP’s incessant and futile efforts to repeal. They’re wrong. Just take a look at other successful programs like Food Stamps. The Republicans are not hesitant to take food from children and veterans in the name of fiscal responsibility. They’re not even hesitant to shut down the government in the name of fiscal responsibility either, knowing that their shutdown cost tens of billions of dollars. And some Democrats are complicit, confusing “blackmail” with “compromise.”

But for now, let’s assume Obamacare survives the wounds being inflicted by the mean-spirited GOP. Like Medicare and Social Security, the Affordable Care Act will be meshed within the fabric of society while still being constantly attacked. So what’s next?

Winners and Losers in Today’s Minimum Wage Vote

Today, the New Jersey Senate passed a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour and would include a cost of living adjustment. The bill, which has already passed in the General Assembly, goes back to the Assembly on Monday to match the language of the Senate bill. It will then go to Governor Christie’s desk for signature.

I have no doubt that the Governor will veto the bill – not necessarily because he doesn’t think New Jerseyans deserve a decent wage, but because he is loath to alienate his big business corporate contributors to his presidential campaign.

While there was two hours of repetitive debate on the bill, a companion resolution, to amend the state Constitution, was passed without debate. With an anticipated veto by the governor of the original bill, the amendment will require passage in two consecutive years, and would then be put on the ballot in the November 2013 election. So relief to people earning poverty-level wages would not come until early 2014.

During the debate on the original bill, the Democrats argued that given New Jersey’s high cost of living, keeping the minimum wage at its current level only sustains poverty. Without an automatic cost of living adjustment the extreme difficulty, a large number of our fellow citizens will continue to struggle. The incremental dollars that go to minimum wage workers would be spent in New Jersey on essentials, and would stimulate small business.

The Republicans disingenuously harped on the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Rebuilding will require huge sums of money, and now is not the time to raise the minimum wage, they contend. Yet, Senator Paul Sarlo and others pointed out that the GOP would vote against a Cost of Living adjustment even if there had been no storm.

So who were the winners and losers in today’s debate?

Christie, Walker, and the GOP: Turning Americans against Each Other

   Once you get past the screaming coming from the GOP as they blame the economic woes of our country on the little guy instead of the corporate fat cats, the truth is the Republicans have no policy agenda or constructive ideas about the future of America. All they have is a divide and conquer strategy intended to pit Americans against each other.

  Complicit in this divide and conquer strategy is the likes of Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Fox News as they demonize public workers, especially teachers and cops. Attacking the little guy has become the favorite pastime of the corporate right as they pit the “small people” against one another while the rich get richer at the expense of our middle class.  The Republicans can only survive by inciting a sense of grievance about what someone has taken away from me. We saw this strategy play out at the notorious town hall meetings touting the idea that by attempting to bring health care insurance to 30 or 40 million  Americans our Socialist, Kenyan-born, President was somehow taking ‘something” away from them; but what exactly was that?

  In all probability the biggest Republican lie intended to drive a wedge between young and old is that Social Security is “going broke”. Social Security can’t go broke, it’s not a pension fund that you put money in and then draw it out when you are old. Social Security is an immediate transfer from workers today to retirees today. It has always been that way and it will continue to work unless we make the colossal mistake of privatizing the system.  The only thing the Republicans are trying to do is pit young workers against the older retirees.  Pitting Americans against each other has become the primary GOP survival tool.

  For more than 30 years the financial investment firms have peddled this same lie. The truth is that the Bernie Madoff-like investment firms want to get their greedy hands on that money flowing into the Social Security System by privatizing the system. Do you really think your money is safer with people like Bernie Madoff?

 Social Security could face a short-fall in about 25 years but the fix is simple. Under the current system any wages over the first $106,800 are exempt from Social Security withholding; if we close this loophole the shortfall would be avoided. By removing this exemption for the 6% of Americans in this income category we ensure that the other 94% will have retirement security for decades to come. Although, Republicans would rather force Americans to work until they die by dismantling Social Security.

  Pitting public workers against private workers, young against old, the middle class against the poor, it’s all part of the GOP divide and conquer strategy and everyone should know that. Not once do we hear the GOP mention that while the little guy struggles to pay his taxes and send his children to college the big corporations are paying little or no income tax and sheltering their profits in overseas tax havens like the Cayman Islands.

  Republicans love to use the socialist bogeyman cry of “redistribution of wealth” in order to graciously ignore the fact that middle class families, despite having two working, are finding it impossible to put their children through college and at the same time save for retirement. Instead of attacking “ordinary” Americans like teachers, cops, and firemen, the GOP should be concerned with the fact that over the past 30 years the only redistribution of wealth that has taken place in our country is that wealth has been redistributed upward on a scale never seen before.

 The Republican strategy of turning Americans against each other is intended to distract us from the true core issue, the real problem. Over the last 30 years the American economy has doubled, so where did the money go? According to Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, the bottom 90% of Americans has only seen a 1% gain in income over the same period. On the other hand, the share of our national wealth going to the top 1% has tripled. The richest 150,000 households in America, 1/10th of 1%, earn as much as the bottom 120 million put together.

  All over the country Republicans are attacking Social Security, Medicare, state and federal grants for college, vital public services, public schools, teachers, and cops. In state after state more sacrifices are forced on the middle class but the GOP refuses to talk about the real solution and that is to restructure our tax codes to eliminate the loopholes, not for those that make $250,000 a year, but a new tax bracket for the real fat cats, the big money.