Compromising with hostage takers

Barbary Pirates by any guise essentially want ransoms paid and the latest note on the chopping block is to chip away at Social Security and Medicare benefits. Are the retirees in North Carolina, Florida and Texas going to settle for “compromise” to keep the current band of Barbary Pirates at bay? What are they willing to give to the Tea Party Pirates to keep government open and functioning? Are they willing to lose Social Security or Medicare benefits?

Social Security, which by the way, is not an entitlement even though Teapublican politicians like to label it as such. It is the third leg of most retirement plans and boosts both local and national economies.

Note that Teapublicans never refer to fighter jets as “entitlements” to the war industry. For a brief moment let’s compare costs:

The Pentagon has projected it will spend $392 billion to buy a total of 2,443 stealth F-35 fighter jets over the next few decades to replace F-16, F-15, F/A-18 and other warplanes used by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The program is years behind schedule and nearly 70 percent over original cost estimates.

According to the Pentagon, they are “working together with the Joint Program Office, our entire industrial team is focused on delivering the F-35′s 5th-generation capabilities to our armed forces and partner nations at a 4th-generation price point.” [1]

Hmmm! We might ask what other nations are getting their hands on the new f-35 jet planes paid for by American taxpayers. Is this their entitlement program?

The Department of Defense’s budget in 2011 was $680 billion, so that allocation must be factored into reports and assessment of the “high cost of Social Security and Medicare.”

Social Security is the single largest federal program, with outlays of $768 billion in fiscal year 2012. The program has two parts. The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance program pays benefits to retired workers and to their dependents and survivors, and the Disability Insurance program that pays benefits to disabled workers and to their spouses and survivors. Social Security benefits are financed by a payroll tax on current workers, half paid by the worker and half paid by the employer. The self-employed pay it all—currently 15.3 percent: 12.4 percent for Social Security and 2.9 percent for Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office regularly examines various possible changes to Social Security outlays or receipts. [2]

Various schemes are proposed to make Social Security actuarially sound

  1. Raise retirement age
  2. Raise or eliminate the cap on payroll taxes
  3. Cut benefits
  4. Collect Social Security on personal income
  5. Implement a Tiered Cap structure
  6. Means Testing

Democrats oppose 1 and 3. Republicans oppose all but 3.

Business point of view

Is it possible to decrease the burden on businesses while not hurting those making less than $ 113,700 a year—the current income ceiling?

Would a tiered cap structure solve current problems with Social Security funding?

  • Leave the existing tax cap as it is, but after a gap (at say $250,000 or $500,000) start collecting taxes again.
  • No business contribution on amounts collected on the highest tier.

This would get revenue Democrats propose, while also reduce the burden on businesses that Republicans desperately need to keep their business contributors satisfied. Businesses would benefit, and the only cost would be to those making above the gap. [3]

But let us look at Social Security and Medicare through a different perspective or lens.

The money paid in monthly benefits to most American retirees goes back to the general economy on a monthly basis. Few, if any retirees or recipients of survivors insurance lock that money down in savings accounts or long-term investment accounts. There are always the rare cases, such as Paul Ryan who received survivor’s insurance from Social Security upon the death of his father and socked the money into a savings account to pay for his college education, but for most it is survival money. It pays the rent, utility and grocery bills. In short, it strengthens our national economy and local business.

There is too high a cost to the American economy to renege on the Social Security contract made to workers by FDR in 1937. To workers: “you pay into the system and it will be there for you when you retire; to business: You pay into the system and help keep the American economy afloat during these depression years while helping it prosper during good economic times.” The system has worked very well until the Koch Brothers-Tea Party Republicans tried to take this nation and the economy down the rabbit hole of austerity.

Beware of Teapublican politicians who use Barbary Pirate hostage demands. If they succeed this nation may indeed suffer more than just an economic collapse. We could well return to that era at the turn of the 20th Century when the Robber Barons controlled our lives and livelihood. This was an era of great wealth for the 1% and bread lines for most; it was a time of “booms and busts.” It was a time of great economic insecurity; it was a time of bank failures and people’s savings wiped out overnight.

We do not want to return to that era.

Remember that Barbary Pirates do not want compromise. They want retribution. Make no mistake about their goals.

And North Carolina, think carefully about returning Mark Meadows to Congress in 2014. Congressman Meadows and his band of Barbary Pirates forced the government shutdown and it came at a terrible time for many small businesses in Meadows’s largely rural district that is heavily dependent on tourism. It cost Mark Meadows district about a $1-million-a-day. [4] The costs are even high higher in other states such as Virginia that is heavily dependent on its residents who work for the government in DC.

When North Carolina Republican, Mark Meadows and 79 Tea Party colleagues sent the letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA.) urging them to defund Obamacare as part of a government funding bill, their stated goal was just a starting point. Rep. Mark Meadows, who spearheaded the effort, said in the letter that he and his colleagues “urge” the House GOP leadership to “affirmatively de-fund the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill.” [5]

Can North Carolina or any state afford another government shutdown? Another ransom note is now on the table with new demands to be met to keep our government open and functioning. Make no mistake about the goals of the current band of Barbary Pirates; destroy the American economy and our retirees along with it. They didn’t get to gut the Affordable Care Act in October, but just wait until January/February 2014 when they try again and this time they will demand more. They will demand part or all of the “third leg” of most retirement plans that 99% of Americans count on during their retirement years.

It is the way of hostage takers. Their demands are unceasing and progressive.

References

[1] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/27/us-lockheed-fighter-idUSBRE98Q18720130927

[2] http://www.cbo.gov/topics/retirement/social-security

[3] http://unionwatch.org/a-business-friendly-way-to-make-social-security-actuarialy-sound/

[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/rep-mark-meadows-pushed-for-a-shutdown-what-did-it-bring-his-nc-district-frustration/2013/10/19/d8a1dcf2–380c-11e3–8a0e-4e2cf80831fc_story.html

[5] http://www.politico.com/story/2013/08/80-house-gopers-urge-boehner-to-defund-obamacare-95806.html#ixzz2ixASGHpo

Sara D. DeHart, MSN, PhD is a health and political writer living in the Northwest.

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One Response to Compromising with hostage takers

  1. The day is rapidly approaching when this nation decides whether to allow itself to be dropped into the austerity sink hole of the Great Depression or to move upward. On the Republican (Paul Ryan side) are the Austerity “believers” that are pushing to cut Social Security benefits. Paul Ryan calls himself a “numbers guy” and perhaps he needs to recalculate his assessment in terms of both history and current trends.

    With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, history could well be on its way to repeating itself. But we have a choice: We can watch as another generation of Americans descends into poverty and desperation, or we can do something to prevent it. The call to expand Social Security is already popular; it’s only starting to get serious.