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EditorBlog (1725)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ambank22BuzzFlash has posted many a commentary on ways to increase the solvency of Social Security without reducing often miserly monthly checks to the nation's elderly.  

Unfortunately, the White House is taking the lead on playing the scrooge of austerity imposed on those who can least afford it, while the president plays golf and dines with the barons of Wall Street who could ensure the long-term financial security of the nation's retirement income program for the working class.

Yesterday, in a commentary, "Elizabeth Warren Shocked by Obama CPI Proposal to Squeeze Blood Out of the Middle Class When the Wealthy Can Sustain Social Security," we once again noted an alternative Social Security financial solidification plan as detailed by Thomas Edsall of the New York Times:

Earned income in excess of $113,700 is entirely exempt from the 6.2 percent payroll tax that funds Social Security benefits (employers pay a matching 6.2 percent). 5.2 percent of working Americans make more than $113,700 a year. Simply by eliminating the payroll tax earnings cap — and thus ending this regressive exemption for the top 5.2 percent of earners — would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, solve the financial crisis facing the Social Security system…. [Bold and italics inserted by BuzzFlash.]

But because the Obama White House has adopted the austerity meme of the Republicans, the option to the cat food chained CPI doesn't get discussed much.  That is because Obama, as is often the case, is accepting the GOP and Wall Street "frame" of the deficit being reduced, in part, on the backs of the middle class and poor.  As we've noted recently; the president may even believe the false meme.

That is why it is not surprising that a site, Remapping Debate, called Democratic Senate offices and received very little in the way of recognition of or support for having those Americans who earn more than $113,700 pay into Social Security for their income above that level.  In an April 10 article, Remapping Debate disclosed:

(Photo: Rainforest Action Network)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ageoldElizabeth Warren is defying party allegiance -- and apparent Democratic leadership acquiescence (Pelosi and Reid) -- to oppose President Obama's chained CPI downward payment adjustment to Social Security recipients in his latest budget.

According to the Huffington Post she is, well frankly, astonished:

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made it clear Wednesday in an email to supporters that not only would she oppose President Barack Obama's plan to cut Social Security benefits through a cost-of-living adjustment known as chained CPI, but that she was "shocked to hear" it was included in the White House's budget proposal at all.

Warren said her brother David lives on the $13,200 per year he receives in Social Security benefits. "I can almost guarantee that you know someone -- a family member, friend, or neighbor -- who counts on Social Security checks to get by," she wrote.

An excerpt from her e-mail to her followers reads:

That's why I was shocked to hear that the President's newest budget proposal would cut $100 billion in Social Security benefits. Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch.

The President's policy proposal, known as "chained CPI," would re-calculate the cost of living for Social Security beneficiaries. That new number won't keep up with inflation on things like food and health care -- the basics that we need to live.

In short, "chained CPI" is just a fancy way to say "cut benefits for seniors, the permanently disabled, and orphans."

What is essential to understanding Social Security is that it is a regressive flat tax, like a retail tax.  It is the same rate for everyone regardless of income, and it is capped at $113,700.  This means that on income above that level, one doesn't have to pay Social Security tax.

(Photo: common license on flickr)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT


bernie32As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) charges in a news release issued from his Senate office:

The 10 largest banks in the United States are bigger now than before a taxpayer bailout following the 2008 financial crisis when the Federal Reserve propped up financial institutions with $16 trillion in near zero-interest loans and Congress approved a $700 billion rescue for banks that some considered “too big to fail.” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. now says the Justice Department may not pursue criminal cases against big banks because filing charges could “have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”

“We have a situation now where Wall Street banks are not only too big to fail, they are too big to jail,” Sanders said. “That is unacceptable and that has got to change because America is based on a system of law and justice.”

As BuzzFlash at Truthout has written in numerous commentaries, the Obama Administration has given Wall Street execs a get out of jail free card.  It's part of the revolving door of regulators and prosecutors who go from the private sector to the public sector back to the private sector at an enhanced salary, defending the "too big to fail banks" that they should have been prosecuting.

Of the many columns on the injustice of letting Wall Street jailbirds off free, BuzzFlash posted: "Eric Holder Enables Dishonesty, Fraud and Likely Criminal Activity on Wall Street" ; and "Lanny Breuer Cashes in After Not Prosecuting Wall Street Execs, Will Receive Approximate Salary of 4 Million Dollars."

(Photo: 350vt)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
                                                                                                                                          
Logo of Skull and Bones

Bones logoA leading government official declares that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is made up exclusively of "principled people" and should therefore be trusted. Period. No need to inquire further.  

It sounds like President Obama and his staff justifying their use of drones in assassinations that also cause the "collateral damage" of civilians (although those "kill list" decisions come out of the White House not the CIA), doesn't it?

But the "principled people" statement was made by George Herbert Walker Bush to a group of fellow Kennebunk, Maine, area residents at the Sea Spray Inn on September 8 of 1976.  At that time, the senior Bush was serving a one-year stint as head of the CIA (although there are many reports that he had served the CIA in other capacities from time to time – and was later likely very deep into the Iran-Contra scandal).

I have a copy of the original article describing the Bush remarks from the York County Coast Star (providing news coverage to the area where the Bush family has its summer compound) in front of me.  A BuzzFlash reader sent it some time ago, and I just came across it in clearing out papers.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

frack324567When it comes to US energy policy, President Obama's actions toward changing our basic reliance on fossil fuels is so incremental, you can hardly notice it is moving forward.

Yes, one came blame the Republicans for continuing an earth-destroying dependency on fossil fuel, but you get the feeling Obama is not pushing much beyond lip service to create a systemic change in US energy policy.

That is why there is no reason to be surprised that President Obama is highly likely to approve the last segments of the Keystone XL Pipeline, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has predicted: "Obama Hints at Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline at SF Fundraiser, Blames Middle Class Priorities."

That is also why it should be no surprise that Ernest Moniz will likely be approved by a wide margin in the Senate, after expected committee approval on Tuesday to become secretary of the Department of Energy. Moniz's work at MIT is so lubed up with the oil and gas industry, you might find a fracking site in his lab. As the website dcbureau.org reported:

Professor [and] nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, is director of the MIT Energy Initiative, a research arm that has received more than $125 million in pledges from the oil and gas industry since 2006, according to the Public Accountability Initiative, a non-profit that blew the whistle on UBuffalo.

The four “founding members” of MITEI — BP, Shell, Italy’s ENI and Saudi Aramco — each agreed to pay $25 million over five years for the right to help manage research projects, maintain an office at MITEI headquarters and “place a researcher in a participating MIT faculty member’s lab,” according to the MITEI website. Ten “sustaining members” commit $5 million each for fewer rights, but still get seats on MITEI’s executive committee and governing board.

A host of others energy interests, including the Clean Skies Foundation, have participated as well, funding and shaping MIT research.

Clean Skies was founded and chaired by Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation’s No. 2 gas producer. At the time Clean Skies officials called on MIT with a research idea, Chesapeake had placed a large bet on high-volume hydraulic fracturing of shale formations, or fracking, by aggressively leasing land in shale regions.

It turns out that Moniz's MITEI leans a bit toward fracking, considering all the oil and gas money helping to run his program at MIT:

(Photo: Steve Harbula)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

asocialsecIt's back to the Simpson-Bowles cat food for the elderly and poor budget as far as the White House is concerned, according to The New York Times (NYT) on Friday:

President Obama next week will take the political risk of formally proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his annual budget in an effort to demonstrate his willingness to compromise with Republicans and revive prospects for a long-term deficit-reduction deal, administration officials say.

Once again, a Democratic president is conceding to the GOP "frame" of austerity being vital to the future of America, when it was the Republicans who ran up the deficit – after Clinton left Bush a balanced budget – with a profligate tax cut for the super rich, two wars, and things like a multi-billion gift to the pharmaceutical industry by prohibiting government negotiations on drug prices in Medicare Part D.  

This amidst a historical moment when income redistribution and asset ownership disparities have reached record levels in the US. But Obama appears to have an aversion to discussing or rectifying a morally unacceptable imbalance in wealth in America.

In return, Obama will get some crumbs of revenue enhancement, but take at a look at some of his leaked proposed reductions:

Deficits would be reduced another $930 billion through 2023 as a result of spending cuts and other cost-saving changes to domestic programs, and $200 billion more due to reduced interest payments on the federal debt.

Mr. Obama’s proposed spending reductions include about $400 billion from health programs and $200 billion from other areas, including farm subsidies, federal employee retirement programs, the Postal Service and the unemployment compensation system.

Cutting domestic programs such as pensions and unemployment? 

(Photo: DonkeyHotey)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
 
keystone45While President Obama didn't address the Keystone XL Pipeline directly at a San Francisco fundraiser on Wednesday, he did give a hint that political reality – or his perception of it -- will compel him to approve the final portions of it. 
 
At the home of a pro-green, anti Keystone XL Pipeline billionaire, Obama set up an excuse for approval:
 
He said, "The politics of this are tough." 
 
“[T]he thing that I’m going to have to try to work to persuade the American people a little more convincingly on is this notion that there’s a contradiction between our economy and our environment is just a false choice,” Obama said at a San Francisco fundraiser.
 
“If we invest now, we will create jobs, we will create entire new industries; other countries will be looking to catch up, they will be looking to import what we do,” Obama said at one of two fundraisers supporting Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee efforts to retake the House next year.
 
Obama’s remarks came at the home of billionaire Tom Steyer, a major supporter of green energy and climate initiatives who is planning to play an active role in the 2014 elections.
 
Obama said earth’s temperature probably isn’t the “number one concern” for workers who haven’t seen a raise in a decade; have an underwater mortgage; are spending $40 to fill their gas tank, can’t afford a hybrid car, and face other challenges.
 
The remarks of the president didn't mention Keystone, but given the recent State Department Report -- written with input from pipeline consultants -- that gave the project a green light, Obama appears to be preparing even a billionaire opponent for the inevitable: approval of the last segments of the Keystone XL Pipeline because of "the politics."
 
In fact, a just released Pew Poll finds that nearly 2/3's of Americans support the construction of the pipeline. Only 23% oppose it, according to the poll. Even given inevitable flaws in polls, Obama has not shown the kind of courage to run against the political wind with those sort of lopsided margins.
 
(Photo: Wikipedia)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

cocainefinDaily, the politicians and think tanks promote improving our nation's large city public education by turning them over to profiteering operators of charter schools.  There's a lot of money to be paid in modern plantation educational contracts.

And that's what vast stretches of urban America have become: plantations for harvesting poor blacks and Latinos for educational corporations and for a vast prison-industrial complex whose tentacles reach out throughout the desolation of neighborhoods whose most common denominator is the lack of economic hope or opportunity.  The impoverishment has been that way for decades.

Well there is one source of private funds in these vast areas of destitution: the drug industry.  It is capitalism distilled to its essence, with the corner teenager who sells crack as a modern day Fuller Brush Man.  

Of course, no one is talking even remotely about providing jobs to these financially blighted areas.

But the status quo government/corporate alliance has figured out how to exploit the residents of these areas to make a profit by creating non-union schools that often perform below the comparable public school level in similar locations. 

(Photo: funkandjazz)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

                                                                                                                                     Gun Cult Leader Wayne LaPierre

cpac2If I had a bulletproof vest, I would have put it on this morning based on many of the 300 plus comments (thus far) in response to yesterday's BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary: "Many American White Men Worship Guns Because of Sexual Insecurity, Entitlement, and Profit."

But the intense, paranoid, threatened, gun worship comments only prove the commentary's point: guns are not merely an "inanimate object" -- as the NRA likes to claim – to rabid gun owners; they are a symbol that satisfies intense psychological needs for many white males.

Otherwise, why did these same emotionally over-the-top gun owners -- and again there is a faction of firearms users who are not into needing the gun as a security blanket for their manhood and reassurance of white male power in a changing world -- buy out gun store and gun show inventories of assault weapons after Obama was first elected and after the Sandy Hook massacre?  Is there anything but a lizard brain knee-jerk emotional sucking sound of loss of manhood here, or maybe that a black literally now in the "White House" will emasculate the white guys.

That is a long-term racial fear of a great many southern and rural white guys after all.  There's no contesting that.

Moreover, to those febrile gun guys who took the time to attack the BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary we ask this: Why do you support gun lobby positions that are so bizarrely dangerous and pro-criminal that they appear to come out of a Monty Python skit.  Instead of laughs though, they pose real dangers to individuals and the nation?

The examples of such harmful laws from the insane clown gun posse are legion, but here are just three:

 

1) The Right to Carry a Concealed Handgun Even if Blind

 Take the first paragraph of a 2012 article from the Lawrence Journal-World of Kansas:

 A little-known provision in Kansas law that allows the blind and other people with serious physical infirmities to carry concealed weapons in public places likely will not get reviewed by state lawmakers this session.

 Kansas legislators are expected to debate a proposal that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns onto college campuses and into many public buildings.

 But the chief proponent of that bill said Wednesday he has no plans to introduce legislation that would clarify a 2010 law change that removed the ability of the Kansas Attorney General to deny a concealed carry license based on a person “suffering a physical infirmity which prevents the safe handling of a weapon.”

This support for blind persons carrying concealed weapons in public places is widespread among many of the more rabid gun owners as discussion boards prove.

 Even Glenn Beck got in the action on this one as he oddly pondered should Stevie Wonder be able to pack heat? As Beck argued:

 “Inalienable rights” mean that they’re rights that come from God and cannot be taken from you. The right to bear arms is about protecting yourself and self‑defense as long as you are a law‑abiding citizen. It’s not about shooting sports but self‑defense. Is there any reason to believe that Stevie Wonder is not a law‑abiding citizen or insane? Who are you to take the right that was given by God away from somebody who is law‑abiding and a responsible citizen?

Here's the crux of the problem.  A blind person pulling out a handgun to ward off a perceived threat in a crowded subway station and shooting away is going to likely injure and kill a lot of people.  Beck's argument – an echo of the thumbs up on gun fanatic discussion pages -- is based on religious faith in the divine power of the gun to point and kill the "bad guy" with special gun eyes.  

 

(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Handgun collection2You won't find anyone willing to dare say it much in the media, but a good percentage of the white men who oppose gun control of any sort – and who back measures that would even allow alleged terrorists and straw purchases for drug dealers to buy guns – are just afraid that without their guns, their phallic power will be reduced to size.   

You can feel at least temporarily reassured when a long-barreled assault weapon compensates for just another average manhood; it's an irresistable testosterone high to the beleaguered white male.

Call this Freudian psychobabble analysis, but when you add it into the mix of just angry white males who want their guns to show that they are still top dog on the political, social and marital hierarchy, you got a good percentage of the psychologically need gun owners.  A gun, particularly assault weapons and lethal militarized handguns, are at least two things: a prosthetic dick and a sign that even unemployed white guys still rule the Western World and sit at the head of the kitchen table.

We're talking about a dying patriarchy making a last stand with the ownership and brandishing of weapons that provide the semblance of ultimate power over life and death.

Sure, there is the rapidly decreasing tradition and understandable ritual of hunting in rural areas, particularly for those who actually need the meat because of near poverty.  And there are handgun target shooters who truly regard handguns as a sport -- which they are in some cases.  But these white men are a minority in a culture war that causes even elected Democrats to tremble in fear at voting on a gun control measure, even a law that might aid law enforcement in apprehending criminals, but the gun lobby opposes it for some obscure reason to rally their supporters around.

(Photo: Wikiepedia)

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