As if there wasn’t enough panic coming from the Republicans in D.C. (along with some Democrats like Harry Reid) about detainees from Gitmo being re-located to American suburbia, now comes the obligatory ‘Social Security is going broke’ myth from one of the usual suspects on the right, Robert Samuelson, columnist for the Washington Post.
”The recession had made everything worse…trust funds run dry; promised benefits exceed dedicated payroll taxes…retirees would scream. Hospitals might shut.” Chicken Little Samuelson cries.
Mr. Samuelson’s solution?
“It’s increasingly obvious that Congress and the president (regardless of the party in power) will deal with the political stink bomb of an aging society only if forced. And the most plausible means of compulsion would be for Social Security and Medicare to go bankrupt.”
Good idea, let them both go away, paving the way for another all-time greatest hit from Samuelson and his fellow travelers, privatization. (Note: the preceding contains sarcasm).
Just a couple of problems with the panic scenario. One, Social Security isn’t going broke. Two, the fiscal outlook for Social Security and Medicare are completely different. Of course the privatizers know this, they just like to lump them together to make the numbers bigger and scarier.
“About a decade ago, conservative and libertarian economists who oppose Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements came up with a clever rhetorical strategy. They would calculate the gap between the payroll taxes that pay for these programs and estimated costs over time. But there was one problem: The gap isn’t all that scary, at least in the near future.
So in order to frighten the American people and their elected leaders, deficit hawks cite the sum total of Social Security’s “unfunded liabilities” over 75 years. But even this — a paltry $4.3 trillion over three-quarters of a century, according to the 2008 report — isn’t sufficiently terrifying. [So they combine Medicare and SS]
[This] produces a suitably spooky 75-year shortfall of $42.9 trillion. And if this is not alarming enough, deficit hawks can cite the truly apocalyptic figure of $101.7 trillion in combined “entitlement” spending over an infinite time horizon.
The anti-Social Security lobby always presents the “unfunded liabilities” of “entitlements” in scary dollar terms, rather than as percentage points of GDP. Here’s why: Over the next 75 years, the Social Security shortfall at most hovers around 1 percent of total U.S. GDP over that same period.”
Samuelson claims that Social Security will run out of money by 2037. Never mind the fact that this projection is based on an annual economic growth rate of 2.6% and the average annual growth rate since the Civil War is nearly 3 percent.
At a rate of 3%, Social Security is solvent for 75 years, not 28.
Even using the conservative estimates, an increase in the payroll tax from 12.4% to 14.4% would completely eliminate the shortfall.
Medicare is a problem right now. But President Obama’s proposed health care reform would go a long way towards solving it.
“Medicare is entirely different. It’s a monster. But fixing it has everything to do with slowing the rate of growth of medical costs — including, let’s not forget, having a public option when it comes to choosing insurance plans under the emerging universal health insurance bill. With a public option, the government can use its bargaining power with drug companies and suppliers of medical services to reduce prices.”
So you see, no need to panic, Republicans. Resume focusing on KSM being your next door neighbor.
There is an often-repeated phrase that I’ve been hearing lately in the debate over the actions of the Bush administration, and in relation to the closing of Guantanamo and what to do with the people being held there. President Obama repeated it in his speech on national security Thursday.
Former Vice-President Cheney has used it several times as his justification for the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.” It was the priority of the administration and the aim of it’s policies after 9/11, according to Mr. Cheney.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs included it in his press briefing on Wednesday, citing it as “the most important job” of President Obama. The president himself said in his speech it is his “single most important responsibility.”
That phrase is “keeping Americans safe.”
I would argue that Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Cheney, and President Obama are mistaken. In my opinion, the most important job of the President of the United States, and what should guide every president and their administration, is to fulfill to the presidential oath of office, which is:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Nothing there about keeping the people safe.
In his inaugural address, President Obama spoke of not sacrificing our principles for safety:
“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.
Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”
Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution that includes the protection from unreasonable search and seizure, and the rights of due process, trial by jury, and of the accused to be “informed of the nature and cause of the accusation.”
But in his otherwise excellent speech on Thursday, President Obama included something that was unsettling to me and should be to anyone who holds these protections dear. That is the notion of “preventive detention”–indefinite imprisonment of those whose crimes can’t be proven in a court of law but who are deemed “dangerous” because of what they might do if released.
In Glen Greenwald’s piece for Salon, he explained it this way:
“It’s important to be clear about what “preventive detention” authorizes. It does not merely allow the U.S. Government to imprison people alleged to have committed Terrorist acts yet who are unable to be convicted in a civilian court proceeding. That class is merely a subset, perhaps a small subset, of who the Government can detain. Far more significant, “preventive detention” allows indefinite imprisonment not based on proven crimes or past violations of law, but of those deemed generally “dangerous” by the Government for various reasons.
…After all, once you accept the rationale on which this proposal is based — namely, that the U.S. Government must, in order to keep us safe, preventively detain “dangerous” people even when they can’t prove they violated any laws — there’s no coherent reason whatsoever to limit that power to people already at Guantanamo, as opposed to indefinitely imprisoning with no trials all allegedly “dangerous” combatants, whether located in Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Western countries and even the U.S.”
Not a road I think we want to start down in the name of “keeping us safe.”
To be clear, this isn’t about my not trusting President Obama to do what he thinks is best for our country, which I do. But that trust is not absolute and without limits. It is about trusting government, no matter who the president happens to be, with this kind of power.
The government may keep us safe from the terrorists, our Constitutional protections are there to keep us safe from the government. To me, the second protection is more important than the first.
It’s beginning to look more and more like there was an even swap in the United States Senate, the Democrats got Arlen Specter and the Republicans got Harry Reid. No check that, after seeing Jim Webb on This Week this past Sunday saying there’s no need for a Truth Commission or an investigation into the activities of the Bush administration because “it’s not that big a deal” maybe the trade was 2 for 1.
In a press conference following the vote in the Senate not to fund the closing of Guantanamo, Harry Reid sounded more like an Abbot and Costello routine than a United States Senator.
REID: I’m saying that the United States Senate, Democrats and Republicans, do not want terrorists to be released in the United States. That’s very clear.
QUESTION: No one’s talking about releasing them. We’re talking about putting them in prison somewhere in the United States.
REID: Can’t put them in prison unless you release them.
QUESTION: Sir, are you going to clarify that a little bit? …
REID: I can’t make it any more clear than the statement I have given to you. We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States.
QUESTION: But Senator, Senator, it’s not that you’re not being clear when you say you don’t want them released. But could you say — would you be all right with them being transferred to an American prison?
REID: Not in the United States.
Senator Reid’s words were a reiteration of what his fellow Republican, James Inhofe, said earlier this month:
“There are 245 hard-core terrorists that would be turned loose in the United States…You turn these people loose and they become magnets for terrorism all over the country.”
Senator Reid drew praise from Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for his efforts, which should tell Reid something.
“McConnell said Americans “ought to be pleased that our friends on the other side of the aisle are showing some flexibility on this issue and heading in our direction.”
Same old, same old from our politicians. Talk a good game about what a national disgrace Guantanamo is and then do nothing when it comes time to take action on closing it. The search is on for Senator Reid’s spine.
Then there was Senator Webb, who along with his asinine “no big deal” remark, glossed over torture by calling it “inappropriate behavior.” No Senator, the word is illegal.
Senator Webb also agreed with Newt Gingrich on the subject of the Chinese Uighurs, Gingrich saying they’re “not our problem” and Webb saying he doesn’t want them in Virginia. I guess we could always send them back to China where they would be subjected to torture, excuse me “inappropriate behavior” since that’s not a “big deal” any more.
Webb then complete his backflip on closing Gitmo, reversing an earlier statement he made by saying it should be done “at the right time.” I suppose the right time would be when those mean, old Republicans won’t say nasty things about you. Do you know when that will be, Senator? NEVER.
Former Vice-President Cheney’s recent appearances attempting to defend and justify the Bush administration’s use of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” has seemed a bit puzzling to me. What is he trying to do?
He has admitted that techniques for which others have been prosecuted as war criminals were used, said that the president authorized them, and that he has “no regrets” because “it was absolutely the right thing to do. I am convinced, absolutely convinced, that we saved thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives.”
Cheney said there are memos which prove that the EIT’s were effective in obtaining information from suspected terrorists. Then yesterday came the news of a soon-to-be declassified memo which will provide conclusive evidence refuting Cheney’s claim that torture worked.
“Government officials familiar with the CIA’s early interrogations say the most powerful evidence of apparent excesses is contained in the “top secret” May 7, 2004, inspector general report, based on more than 100 interviews, a review of the videotapes and 38,000 pages of documents. The full report remains closely held, although White House officials have told political allies that they intend to declassify it for public release when the debate quiets over last month’s release of the Justice Department’s interrogation memos…
Although some useful information was produced, the report concluded that “it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks,” according to the Justice Department’s declassified summary of it.”
I’m not saying this memo shouldn’t be released, but what it does, and what the former VP is trying to do, is change the focus of the debate. Whether or not torture works is irrelevant, it’s illegal, and that’s all that matters.
If torture led to actionable information is it now somehow acceptable? Do the ends now justify the means in a post 9/11 America? If Bernie Madoff took his ill-gotten gain and used it for noble purposes, would it make his actions any less of a crime?
My answer to all 3 questions is not no, but hell no.
Newt Gingrich was in fine form on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace yesterday. He took a page from the Sarah Palin playbook, accusing the Obama administration of “pallin’ around with terrorists,” and actually had the audacity to point the finger at someone else for a “bitter partisan attack.”
About the attorneys who are defending alleged terrorists, Newt. I believe the key word here is “alleged.” I know you and former VP Cheney don’t agree with it, but some of us still have this outdated notion that in the United States people are innocent until proven guilty, and that the accused is entitled to legal counsel.
On the claim that the Democratic Congress hasn’t passed a law making waterboardimg illegal, that would be what we call redundant, Newtie. We have already prosecuted people who waterboarded as war criminals, another legal term known as “precedent” with which the former Speaker is apparently unfamiliar.
And on the “bitter partisan attack,” I guess Mr. Gingrich forgot about that whole impeachment thing back in 1998. Just slipped his mind, I’m sure.
But Newt wasn’t finished yet. Knowing that “welfare” is a familiar buzzword to his Republican base, Gingrich managed to slip that in, too.
One more thing, on the subject of the Chinese Uighurs. Why is that our problem? Probably because Bush and Cheney made it our problem by holding them in Gitmo without charges for 7 years, even after a judge ruled that the Bush administration had no legal right to do so.
It’s called actions have consequences, Mr. Gingrich.
It appears that Colin Powell has committed the unpardonable sin in the Republican Party, he dared to speak critically of Rush the Great. Thirty-five years of military service, National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Secretary of State—nah, no room for that guy under the ever-shrinking tent.
No less an authority than Dick Cheney said so:
So all you former Republicans who voted for President Obama take notice, you have shown where your “loyalty” lies, and you are no longer welcome in the Party of Limbaugh and Cheney.