Bits & Pieces – Columbus Day Open Thread

Gov. Jerry Brown of CA has signed California’s own version of the Dream Act. It’s odd to compare this with what they’re doing in Alabama. I saw a photo of a sign in front of a local water department in AL over the weekend that said you could no longer have an account with the city for water without a picture ID.

Declaring the need to expand educational opportunity, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Saturday that he has signed legislation making illegal immigrants eligible to receive state financial aid to attend California universities and community colleges.

Brown said he signed the California Dream Act because it makes sense to allow high-achieving students access to college financial aid.

“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,” Brown said in a statement. “The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.”

(lms)


I’ve been reading lots of negatives regarding the possibility of the Super Committee actually accomplishing much. Considering Obama’s Jobs Bill appears dead in the water and the Super Committee has pretty low expectations along with the debt ceiling battle, these guys are beginning to get a little worried.

This is from Gates, the other two are Bernanke and Geithner.

“I do believe that we are now in uncharted waters when it comes to the dysfunction in our political system–and it is no longer a joking matter,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told an audience two weeks ago at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, where he received the Liberty Medal for national service. “It appears that as a result of several long-building, polarizing trends in American politics and culture, we have lost the ability to execute even the basic functions of government much less solve the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country. Thus, I am more concerned than I have ever been about the state of American governance.”

(lms)


And I couldn’t resist another OWS link

As Gregory Djerejian writes, this was inevitable. A seemingly endless recession sparked by a financial meltdown was bound to create a backlash, one way or another. The President famously said in a meeting with 13 Bankers that he was the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks. He cannot hold them back any longer. Djerejian sums up the national mood:

“Speaking to several of these protesters today, I met MBA students who cannot find jobs (one even told me his GPA at business school, a respectable 3.2) and law students in a similar predicament. As money gets wasted in epic fashion overseas for desperately flawed ‘provincial reconstruction teams’ in Iraq and risible ‘Government-in-a-Box’ initiatives in Afghanistan, these kids are staring at mountains of debt and an equally daunting lack of viable employment prospects (the MBA student was underemployed working as a barista at Starbucks). So there are intelligent faces and voices in these crowds—not just aimless rabble-rousers out for a rise—and I can sense this movement becoming more contagious (for instance, I detected among several of the more junior police officers perhaps some degree of sympathy for the protesters). To some extent, after all, these are our young screaming out in need, meriting not kettling and reprimands, but job prospects and dignity […] They want accountability and dignity and prospects. Their leaders have failed them. So they have taken to the street to lead themselves.”

Former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter actually had some good thoughts as well. Whether the Democrats can get fuel from this movement or whether they become terrified of it, what is happening around the country is ultimately a statement of hope from a disaffected group of people who want to build something and will not let the constraints of politics or big money get in the way.

(lms)


69 Responses

  1. Feel free if anyone wants to add something to the above. That's all I've got for today.

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  2. From lms's linked TPM article:"The GOP's hyper-partisan turn after Barack Obama's victory in 2008 meant 112th Congress was destined to test the limits of dysfunctional governance. But it also happened to coincide with a moment in history when the country needed the government to do better than the bare minimum. Instead, it's done less. And that's shaken people who've spent their careers steering the ship of state."This paragraph makes me frustrated for several reasons. First, why would any rational person claim it's "hyper partisanship" when Republicans act like, er, Republicans? They're supposed to be for less government, less debt, less economic interference, and when the TeaBaggers hold them to account and make them acually vote in the harmony with their rhetoric, it's called hyperpartisanship. That seems completely out of phase to me.Second, I don't find it "dysfunctional" when it becomes more difficult, as in politically unpopular, to increase the size, scope and responsibility of the federal government. I call that carrying out their constitutionally mandated duties. Why is it that when one side or the other doesn't get their way, suddenly government no longer works? The system is designed to force three seperate but equal branches, elected by three different mechanisms(at least for the Executive and Congressional branches) and therefore beholden to different constituencies, or appointed and then confirmed by two co-equal branches of government, to all agree to the exact same wording of legislation and to determine then, if challenged, it's constitutionality. When this process goes smoothly, as it has done for decades, is when we should worry. The result of this smoothness, I would argue, has brought us to the brink of insolvency, if we are already not past it.Finally, is there any reason not to think that those that have "steered the ship of state" have been absolute disasters at it? I hope they're shaken. I hope they are either removed by the electorate or resign. I hope it happens frequently, from now on./rant off.

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  3. Wrote a reply. Lost it. iPad has issues in this kind of forum.

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  4. I couldn't remember how to redo an undo, and there was no way for me to go search it out, without exiting, at the moment. Sufficed to say, hyper partisanship is in the eye of the beholder. If you like what they are doing, that's just backbone.

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  5. I think partisanship is in the eye of the beholder in that we all have different prescriptions in how to bring the economy back from the brink. I believe hyper-partisanship is generally tied to the fact that the minority, in the Senate at least, has taken the filibuster to new heights and is obstructing the work of the government. Historically when we have 9% employment the government is actively working to reverse that trend, if for no other reason than self-preservation through revenue.The Tea Party Reps are definitely committed to holding their line, for better or worse, but according to the polls their popularity is also waning. A little effort to compromise when we still have over 9% employment might be in order. It's funny because we have conservatives to thank for the increase in the size of government via Homeland Security and the increase in our deficit because of the wars and tax cuts yet now they're the ones who want to prove their small government credentials. It's a little late IMO.

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  6. "It's funny because we have conservatives to thank for the increase in the size of government via Homeland Security and the increase in our deficit because of the wars and tax cuts yet now they're the ones who want to prove their small government credentials. It's a little late IMO."I agree with the above sentences. The only reason they are even remotely trying to rein in spending is due to pressure from Teabaggers. They should never be trusted (again.) And those that were incumbents in 2010 should at least be primaried in the 2012 cycle so that their Republican spines are stiffened and/or replaced with someone with a stiffer spine.How about that, consensus! 😉

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  7. But McWing maybe right now is not the best time to be reining in spending. If we could get past this economic hurdle first and put people back to work, I think most people wouldn't mind cutting spending. Even Democrats agree with that. We can read a budget trajectory as well as the next guy. All this austerity crap isn't working out too well in the states or foreign countries who are extolling it's virtues. And the obsession with the Bush Tax Cuts and pledge just seems out of control to me. Most economists agree we need to cut spending, raise taxes or reform the tax code to generate a little more revenue, and tackle runaway health care spending. I don't see any of those issues as a big vs. small government issue. But they all seem like issues where we could find compromises, no?

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  8. McWing, that sounds like a great cause for Scott Brown to take up if you ask me. I'm too busy with the Feds taking down our medical MJ dispenseries, lol.

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  9. Lms, I'm not a Keynesian, so the concern over austerity is not particularly concerning to me, it's what I'm shooting for.BTW, I read an article that demonstrated fraud on the part of the Greek government when it was partitioning to join the EU. I'll find it for you.I'm fascinated by the Fed dope raids though, I wonder why the Administration let's it happen? I'm still curious though about why all the stock footage of dispensaries always feature young, healthy looking males. At least California no longer has to suffer the scourge of underage tanning.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. McWingI personally think the Fed is out of control since 9/11 in their abuse of civil liberties, both administrations. Not that MJ dispensaries are a civil rights issue of course. I was under the impression the Feds were responsible for the raids rather than "letting" them happen. I've thought for a long time that legalizing marijuana would be the best way to handle it, and I don't even partake. I don't think it will change anything in Mexico any longer though as the drug cartels are so powerful now they'll just switch to something else. I haven't noticed the young male thing in the news but I don't watch much news, although I do watch a little local. Unfortunately we disagree on the underage tanning bed issue. My sister-in-law was a child tanner, with fair skin, freckles and strawberry blonde hair, who died at 36 from melanoma. Some things really are too dangerous for children.And as long as we have the trade deficit we have no one is really a Keynesian or can claim or disclaim his theories. You don't believe the austerity measures the states have to take to balance their budgets are harming their recoveries?

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  12. I don't think that state imposed austerity really harms a recovery. If a state gets into such a financial situation that they have to cut back to balance the budget at some future date, it doesn't sound like such a particularly attractive candidate for any venture capital. If I was a business looking to expand it a state, I might not consider California simply because the tendency to increase taxes to satiate the populaces desire for more government is already established.

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  13. TMW, I have purposefully chosen this article because it states the "official" D position on a vote, rather than some pundit's.http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trying-to-restore-senate-comity/2011/10/10/gIQAjkb3aL_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinionsWas there, with regard to the China vote that gained cloture, a method to the R use of the amendment process, post-cloture?Obviously Reid did not think so. But is he correct, in this instance? What was the official R position?

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  14. Second Troll's comment at the top.The TPM statement seems like an routine partisan jab, but it also reflects a substantial rejection of our constitutional system of limited government and restraint of radical change.It's also a bit much to say that conservatives are (solely) to blame for deficits and expansion of government. I was as critical of the Bush GOP for it's faux conservatism in expanding government, but let's not pretend that the government is the size it is because of conservatives.

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  15. Troll and LMS — there's a link to Radley Balko's blog the Agitator over on the sites to visit feature. he covers the civil asset forfeiture issue extensively.

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  16. Here's the thing you guys, I don't blame only conservatives for the mess we're in and if you think back to statements I've made in the past you'll know that's true. But what has people mad, at least the ones I'm listening to, is that now that we've deepened the hole the middle class is in through wage depression, two wars, tax cuts, propping up the financial industry, foreclosures and equity loss, shrinking retirement funds, rising health care costs, higher education expenses etc. etc. now someone like Eric Cantor comes along and says "We can't afford to keep our promise to the American people."

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  17. lms,Cantor didn't say anything that hasn't been said by innumerable others for decades. The long-term unsustainability of the modern welfare state has been a standard critique since the modern welfare state came into existence. No one just came along and said it.But when you paraphrase it as "We can't afford to keep our promise to the American people," I think you obscure important specifics. Who is "we," and how could they make a "promise to the American people"? Backed up with what? To me, uses of language like this reflect a basic reversal of the principles of our constitutional system of self-government. The truth as I see it is that promises that would appeal to the masses were made by a few politicians. Prudent people always knew they could not be kept, because there is no free lunch. But it isn't popular to be one of the people who take responsibility for standing up and saying what has to be said — these were false promises based on false premises that could never be kept and that politicians had no real authority or right to make in the first place. The "American people" share the blame for buying into false promises of a sustainable redistributionist state. It does no good to be angry at the messenger. The message is the truth whether anyone accepts it or not.

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  18. I appreciate your frustration with Cantor's remarks, lms. Your comment kind of reminds me of this op-ed that was in the Post over the weekend. (full link below)She wrote: "Growing up, we were told: you are unique. You are special. You are brilliant. You must follow your dreams. Go to school, get a degree, pursue what you love." She goes on about how OWS is a response to having the rug pulled out, etc. I would respond: I don't know why anyone would ever believe that. I certainly did not. So when Cantor says we can't keep a promise, my reaction is that's okay, i never believed it in the first place. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/post/is-occupy-wall-street-a-first-world-problem/2011/10/07/gIQA5kc9SL_blog.html

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  19. qbI don't consider SS or Medicare benefits that Americans pay into every single paycheck a modern welfare state. And you're both very cynical to think that we can't afford it, conservatives have been saying that for years, and we always find a way to maintain the safety net. Right now people need it more than ever and we have to figure out a way to preserve both for future generations. And can either of you understand the frustration people feel when they do everything right and still fall behind through no fault of their own while the 1% watch the crowd from the balcony drinking champagne and then proudly advertise, "We are the 1%"? I'm fighting for you and your children as well you know. U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) on Wednesday suggested that Republicans will continue a push to overhaul programs such as Medicare, saying in an interview that “promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many” and that younger Americans will have to adjust. “What we have to be, I think, focused on is truth in budgeting here,” Cantor told The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal. He said “the better way” for Americans is to “get the fiscal house in order” and “come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many.”

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  20. lms:I don't consider SS or Medicare benefits that Americans pay into every single paycheck a modern welfare state. You are right…it's a Ponzi scheme!!!But seriously, if a system in which wealth is transferred from person A to person B via a tax is not a welfare system, what is?

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  21. I'm sorry lms — I can have a constructive and good dialogue w/ you on Medicare (and we have), but I have a blind spot re: social security and nothing I have to say on that would be productive or add to the conservation other than we need to decide whether or not the program is a "safety net" or not. because if everyone gets receives it, I can't consider that a safety net program.

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  22. Can I understand the frustration of people? Yes, of course. Is much of the generalized anger misguided and without a real point that relates to policy or "the rich"? Yes. You don't like attaching a term like "welfare state" to SS or Medicare. Okay, but it is what they are. You may not like the connotation that they involve wealth transfer or redistribution, or that they have to be subsidized, but in fact they do. If they didn't, then they would be self-sustaining, and people would get out what they pay in, if not individually then in the aggregate at least.When I refer to the modern welfare state, I don't just mean food stamps and the like. I mean the modern conception of a large, bureaucratic, regulatory state that purports to rule and "take care of" the people through all these types of programs. It means transferring much of our personal freedom over to the government in exchange for promises to take care of our needs on a collective basis. High taxes will be paid in order to fund benefits that are promised. This is all part of the welfare state.To me, these kinds of "promises" of being taken care of (usually with the implied or explicit subsidy of taxes on other people) are part of the problem or the root of the problem, not a solution to anything. This seems completely obvious to me even from reading the personal statements and manifestos of the occupiers. Many of them are just collections of unrelated and random personal adversity and disappointment (the same kinds that most of us have lived through without "occupying Wall Street"), but the major theme is that "we were promised," or "we were told," or "everyone said" — and now people find out that promises by politicians are pretty much worthless. One girl talks about how "we" were told we were brilliant and special and could be anything we want, and should buy as much education as possible. Well, I didn't tell her that. But there has for decades been a trend in society to tell young people this kind of nonsense — everyone is special and above average, and you are entitled to more. If you meet adversity, it is someone's fault for depriving you of your due. When I was young and unemployed and without a place to turn, I was worse off than many of these people, but I had not been indoctrinated to think I was entitled and special, or to blame "the rich" or broken promises of benefits or rewards from society at large or the government. That's where I think all this goes wrong.

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  23. I meant to say: I didn't tell her that, but now I'm sure I belong to the category she considers to owe her the things she wants, even though I'm in the 99% too.When I was her age (and older), I made a "hard" decision not to follow my real dream of grad school and went the mercenary route of law school instead, because I had to consider the long-term consequences for my family. As far as I can see, most of these young people, to the extent they are saying anything coherent, are saying that they made bad decisions based on someone's advice who wasn't me, but they want my taxes raised as well as their loans cancelled etc. (It took me 15 years to pay my loans off, and I still have a large mortgage, but now these kids want people like us to bear their student loans as well, and people who bought houses they couldn't afford want people like us to bear theirs as well. I guess I'm starting to vent now, so I will shut up.)

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  24. Oh man, I'm fighting an uphill battle all alone here. We all pay into these programs because none of us knows what the future holds or how much adversity we might face. When you're young it's easy to think or believe I'll always be able to take care of myself and my family, I don't need no stinkin' insurance against some outlying future event. Not true, my friends, as many people are discovering even as we speak.FB didn't plan on having two young and beautiful boys with autism, my daughter's friend with a PhD in Sociology didn't plan on being one in 532 applicants for a CSU teaching position, my oldest daughter didn't plan on growing up with asthma, firefighters in CA didn't know there future was so dicey when they bought homes, a friend our ours whose daughter works at the patent office and married her sweetheart two years ago, when he finally landed a job with the FBI, didn't realize the week before their first child was born that he was going to be diagnosed with MS. Even I didn't know that by giving up my career three times for the sake of raising our children, and my niece and nephew, it would impact our retirement as much as it did. Life happens and we can't possibly always prepare for it as it's a great mystery, being smart and successful today doesn't insure against life or death.And while some predicted the housing bubble and bust, no one listened, and now both the immediate and distant future of many Americans is in jeopardy. Now is not the time to take away the little bit of security that people have left. Instead of saying we can't afford this let's figure out a way to afford it. It shouldn't be an all or none proposition.

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  25. lms:We all pay into these programs because none of us knows what the future holds or how much adversity we might face.If by "these programs" you mean Social Security, I don't. I pay into them because I am forced to do so by law.

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  26. "Oh man, I'm fighting an uphill battle all alone here."Maybe I would be nice and switch sides temporarily to help you out, but I actually need to turn to work (make that, needed to some time ago).

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  27. scottI'm sorry I just can't feel that sorry for you. You're fortunate you don't or won't need SS, but not everyone, even those who have worked diligently and hard their entire lives, falls into the same category. We live in a civil society with responsibilities that sometimes we don't individually benefit from, to me it's the price we pay for living here.Now I'm back to work myself.

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  28. lms:I haven't asked you or anyone else to feel sorry for me.

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  29. I know, it just sounds so "woe is me-ish" although I don't believe you mean it that way. I don't understand the sentiment in the least of being "forced" to pay a tax that even you, or someone you love, may eventually benefit from.

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  30. Scott,I feel sorry for you. Lmsinca's wrath = bad karma. Expect to step on a rake and get conked on the noggin shortly. Bad karma!I understand that principle of paying into it (of course, I fully intend to collect whatever I can out of it) as part of a broader social contract that has all of us supporting things we don't like for "the greater good". Indeed, I think both are good programs that should be noodled with around the edges (Medicare, especially, needs to be re-branded as a basic universal healthcare for which supplemental private insurance will be necessary if you want more than solid basic care and treatments with solid success rates).I think it's a net positive for everybody that we have something like SS (although it'd be even better with the Bush reform). But then, the net effect of Teapers, libertarians, and conscientious Social Security objectors like Scott is to help reign in current expansion and keep things at a manageable level so that future austerity doesn't turn America in a libertarian utopia, with no entitlement programs whatsoever). But I've already done a big post on that, so I'll stop banging that drum. For now . . . : )

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  31. Kevin: understand that principle of paying into it (of course, I fully intend to collect whatever I can out of it) as part of a broader social contract that has all of us supporting things we don't like for "the greater good". Is that what you think the guiding principle of our government is or ought to be…enacting polices in an attempt to achieve "the greater good"?

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  32. "I don't understand the sentiment in the least of being "forced" to pay a tax that even you, or someone you love, may eventually benefit from."I'm surprised at this. In fact, I can't understand how it is possible not to understand this. (Now someone can saw, "I don't understand how you can not understand not understanding.")Because someone close or even I might receive a benefit in no way necessitates agreement with the program or the tax. If that were so, it wouldn't have to be a tax. But it is. I happen to think I and my family could do a better job or stewarding our money and taking care of our own than Uncle Sam.

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  33. Haaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaa Kevin, scott and I go way back in this debate and I doubt his karma is any worse than mine. I'm going to watch out for rakes when I go water my garden though in case you're wrong. I completely agree that Medicare needs an inordinate amount of work as well as our entire health care delivery system. I sort of like NoVA's suggestion of just blowing the whole thing up and starting over. Obviously, as long as costs continue to rise there will need to be more cost sharing, but the problem arises when people who are already either sick or retired see their costs continually rising with no way to earn the extra money to pay for care or insurance.SS and SDI both need to be preserved and I don't believe the solution is out of reach. They are beloved programs to the middle class for a reason.

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  34. Scott's future: Rakes

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  35. qb, that's because you have the resources to accomplish that goal. Not everyone is in that position and so while my husband and I have done quite a bit to save for our own retirement, so as not to be a burden on our family or the state, I also recognize the need to pool a general fund of money for others. It's not an extravagant living by any means but only affords the essentials by a hair. That's the sentiment I don't understand you guys not understanding. It doesn't mean I think you're cruel and heartless (ala plumline), it means it seems like a rather small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.

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  36. NoVA, that definitely looks like scott more than me, lol.

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  37. lms:They are beloved programs to the middle class for a reason. Yeah…and it is not because they get out of it what they put into it.

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  38. NoVA:Scott's future: RakesThis is why I get someone else to take care of my lawn.

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  39. My biggest problem with Social Security (retirement side and plead ignorance on disability) is that's its a bad deal all around, particularly if you are poor and worse if you're African American. I want a program that helps people be secure in retirement, not dependent on the next generation of voters. something that helps people of moderate means have what the well-to-do have: assets and inheritable wealth. put it this way. I recall a brief exchange with a cashier at starbucks about OWS across the street. so here we have a single mom probably making a little over minimum wage. she's paying a huge chunk of her paycheck into a program that in turn cuts a check to my grandfather, who has essentially zero expenses. so he keeps the 33-year-old Washington lobbyist stocked with $200 hockey sticks. that's not only messed up, it's wrong.

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  40. lms:I also recognize the need to pool a general fund of money for others.What are we talking about? I thought we were talking about SS, which is not a general fund for a few particularly unfortunate people. It is a near universal entitlement that promises everyone far more than they ever put into it, to be taken from the pockets of future generations. Which is precisely why it is a demographic timebomb….as all Ponzi-like schemes must ultimately be. 😉

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  41. But it is a pool of money with a defined purpose and thank God for that. Even though it's been stocked with Treasuries, it's still unable to be used for other purposes.I understand your arguments, both of you, but I think I just happen to understand human nature better (because I'm so much older, lol) and believe me, most people are incapable of saving for their own retirements, especially if they have children, until they actually near retirement especially on the lower end of the payscale. There is always something else that needs attention first, and with a limited income, I've always believed that SS fulfills it's promise of a measure of security in old age. In an ideal world we wouldn't need it, but we don't live in that world. And I don't see 7.65% between SS and Medicare a huge amount of any paycheck especially considering the people at the lower end of the income ladder don't pay much in other Federal taxes (remember?).

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  42. lms:I understand your arguments, both of you, but I think I just happen to understand human nature better…I'm not sure you do understand, because my arguments have nothing to do with human nature.

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  43. Scott, you have stated that SS"…promises everyone far more than they ever put into it,…". I THINK you are correct, but I do not know you to be correct.Assume an "average" earner makes $50K/yr, and payroll taxes for OAB are 12.4%, or $6200. Assume she works 45 years, from 22 to 67. At Treasury rates, her $136K has doubled to $272K over 45 years [assuming an average growth on all her contribs at 1.7%]. She stops working. She has self funded about 15 years of OAB.She might live longer. She might not make it to 82. She might be married and never see one penny of her own contribution!She might continue to work and pay in.It is not a bleak actuarial picture.

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  44. Everyone who pays in but does not make it to 66+ loses, btw. All the undocs lose.I suspect gay marriage will save a bunch of SS payout, too, once it is legal.

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  45. "Is that what you think the guiding principle of our government is or ought to be…enacting polices in an attempt to achieve "the greater good"?"To me, the rational desire is always for the best possible outcome. "The greater good" might be cliched, but, in general, better is going to be preferable to worse in almost any situation. As I mentioned in my longer morning post, rather than focus on process, I think the focus should be on outcome. And the most desirable outcome is, of course, preferable. Ideally to the largest numbers of people. Otherwise, the role of government is to mediate between my most desirable outcome and your most desirable outcome (this is very simplistically put).

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  46. "All the undocs lose."So far. Didn't Bush's immigration reform proposals include, at one point, paying Social Security benefits to illegals? Now, that's some compassionate conservatism.

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  47. " It is a near universal entitlement that promises everyone far more than they ever put into it, to be taken from the pockets of future generations."I'm not sure this is true. If Obama's trend of suspending annual COLAs maintains, it really shouldn't be true. SS as a defined benefit program is perhaps not ideally funded, but it is the epitome of rational planning and fiduciary responsibility compared to some state pension plans. Although, again, I supported Bush's broad outline of SS reform, and still would.

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  48. "Everyone who pays in but does not make it to 66+ loses, btw. All the undocs lose."My mother-in-law. Died at 56. sold all her stuff and house to do public health work on the Navajo reservation. came back home when my wife got pregnant and took a job doing pediatric home hospice (ugh), but she died 2 months before my son was born (swine flu, i'm almost positive in hindsight). She was divorced, so SS to her 2 daughters = 0401k and life insurance = down payment for NoVA's house and graduate school for NoVa's sister-in-law. and a little nest egg for both. she was not a rich person, but she was able to pass something on. So when my boy ask who is in the pictures, i can say, "that's your grandmother. she bought us this house."

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  49. Scott, the general impression I have of your, NoVA's and qb's argument is that you are being forced to pay into a system that you believe you would be better off self-funding yourself. My point re human nature is that sure, wouldn't that be nice, but in the real world most people are not entirely able to do that. We depleted our retirement fund twice and paid the penalties and taxes because we had no other option when an emergency arose. It wasn't until 2000 that we were able to begin saving again for our retirement. Now the same thing is happening to thousands of families across the country. Some of them are paying their mortgages, bills, college tuitions or whatever they need to with their retirement funds. That's why SS is considered a safety net. If you have money in an individual retirement account it takes enormous will power to leave it alone when, for instance, one of your kids is in desperate need of a life saving surgery, or a spouse loses a job or becomes ill. That's what I meant regarding human nature. Social Security was born out of the Depression when people literally lost everything, now, when so many are again losing everything is not the time to try to eliminate it. We can modify it, or compromise somehow to save it, but we need to make sure future generations have the same comfort in knowing that no matter what happens, they will still be able to survive.

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  50. NoVA, I sympathize with your mother-in-laws situation regarding SS and her untimely death. But there is also the reverse of that kind of story. My brother-in-law was killed and my sister disabled in a terrible car accident 22 years ago. That's how we ended up raising my niece and nephew. She has lived on Disability since, which is a very meager existence, and the survivor benefits my niece and nephew received we were able to save for them and use it as a college fund while we paid their day to day expenses as if they were our own kids.You and your wife are lucky she had another retirement account and life insurance, we've done the same thing, but it shouldn't necessarily preclude putting a small portion of a paycheck into SS, IMO. It has helped immeasurable numbers of people stay off the streets over the last 75 years and have at least a measure of dignity in that they believe they earned it by paying into it during their working years.

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  51. SS is a mandatory insurance program, one that I think serves a pretty positive purpose, on the whole. I'm open to reform but I would be opposed to elimination. I like the idea that we're a nation that collectively has respect for, and takes care of, our elders. It's a system that seems to do that without being oppressively punitive in regards to what it takes from our paychecks. But I understand why some people would like to have all that money to be investing for themselves, so they can pass it on to their heirs–but then, I'd like to have all my tax money to have invested in the stock market so I could have lost it all that way, instead of having the government burn it by investing it into Solyndra for me. But then, I think it's a net positive for us all that we have interstates, a standing military, a library of congress, a space program, and social security and medicare. So, I demand to know why I can't have my cake and it eat, too!

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  52. "She was divorced, so SS to her 2 daughters = 0"SS is in essence a form of insurance. By definition, not everybody gets to collect the maximum (and sometimes nothing) on the insurance. Some people pay their house insurance for forty years, and never collect on it. It's the nature of the arrangement. My state pension is similar, if I ever end up collecting on it, though I can access the cash should I find myself not employed by the state before retirement age. But the pay off is for my wife and I–if we perished in a plane crash before retirement age, that money would go to fund other pension obligations of the same system. This doesn't seem unreasonable to me. I don't particularly object to an opt out for medicare and SS, even though that diminishes the risk pool, but what do we do when folks who haven't been paying into medicare or SS are destitute and dying and there's a TV special on them? The government ends up covering them to some level, anyway, even though they didn't pay into the system. Which is the downside to the opt out.

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  53. Mark:First, a couple of accounting points. If I assume a constant income of $50k and a constant payroll tax rate for 45 years, I roughly agree with your starting point of $136k (actually I get $139.5 k). However, if we then assume a growth rate of 1.7%, compounded annually, we only get to $207K after 45 years. I think the mistake you are making is that you are calcing 1.7% on the whole amount annually, but of course the $139k does not exist immediately. It only grows to that point by year 45, so you can't calc 45 years worth of interest on the whole amount. Also, assuming a constant income of $50k is unrealistic, since most people's earnings grow over time. So the contributions with the longest time value will actually be the smallest, and the biggest contributions will have less time value, coming later in life. So even my $207k is an exaggeration. It would be something less than that. That being said, we don't know how many years this will cover since we don't know what the monthly payout will be after retirement, I suppose we could know it, but I looked briefly at the method of calculation and it seemed stupidly complex, so I gave up trying to calc it. But I will say this…from a strictly practical point of view, if SS on a net basis was not an actuarial loser, the SS fund should increase every year even while controlling for population growth. I'm pretty sure that isn't happening, and that the only factor that accounts for any past growth in the fund is population growth.

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  54. "My brother-in-law was killed and my sister disabled in a terrible car accident 22 years ago."That's were more of the $$ should be going. not to every retiree regardless of need.

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  55. Scott, I was assuming 3.4% growth, which I managed in my head as an average of 1.7% on the total.

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  56. Kevin:And the most desirable outcome is, of course, preferable. Ideally to the largest numbers of people.So if more "good" would come from, say, confiscating Warren Buffet's entire fortune, liquidating it, and distributing it evenly amongst the poorest 51% of the population than from letting him decide what to do with it, you would advocate for that? Otherwise, the role of government is to mediate between my most desirable outcome and your most desirable outcomeOr, perhaps, the government could get out of the "outcome" business as much as possible, and simply enforce rules objectively, applying them equally to all people.

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  57. "but what do we do when folks who haven't been paying into medicare or SS are destitute and dying and there's a TV special on them?" change the channel? more seriously, as much as I would like to opt out, I'm arguing here* for a gradual change in structure than an actual cancellation of benefits — although i think we'd be within our rights to do so. I agree that we can have some program to protect against unforeseen disability and/or poverty. I wouldn't structure it as it currently is or fund it through payroll taxes. The goal of the program should be that one day nobody would need it (for retirement protection anyway) *or I meant to be, but i guess i didn't actually do that.

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  58. "*or I meant to be, but i guess i didn't actually do that."I do that all the time, what's in my head never ends up on the screen in all it's glory.And "some program to protect against unforeseen disability and/or poverty" is welfare. Once we turn SS into a welfare program, if we do, then it will be subject to all sorts of welfare reforms much like Medicaid is now. We're trying to prevent it from becoming a welfare program. Anyway, nice discussion everyone. Thank God Kevin and Mark came to my rescue, sort of.

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  59. Don't have time to read all the discussion right now, but K-dub ; ) said: "SS is a mandatory insurance program…."Only the disability part is, right? The retirement part has been called "forced savings," among other things, but is really more like a defined benefit program.The "forced savings" notion is always addressed to lmsinca's human nature argument. But among other things it presents a monumental case of moral hazard.Btw, one place where I depart slightly from Scott (what would some people say!) is that my arguments do have something (although not everything) to do with human nature. The concern of people for people starving in ________ tends to be more abstract than their concern fortheir family and friends. This is part of human nature. People's behavior is affected by incentives and disincentives; this, too, is human nature.

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  60. "So if more "good" would come from, say, confiscating Warren Buffet's entire fortune, liquidating it, and distributing it evenly amongst the poorest 51% of the population than from letting him decide what to do with it, you would advocate for that?"I'm not sure that would be an ideal outcome in regards to precedent regarding things such as personal property, protection from undue search and seizure, etc. Confiscation of a single person's great wealth wouldn't happen in a vacuum. And, certainly, we have to regard the possibility, even likelihood, of the creative philanthropy of someone like Buffet. There's a good chance that, upon his death, he's going to have allocated his own wealth to positive activities. ; )"Or, perhaps, the government could get out of the "outcome" business as much as possible, and simply enforce rules objectively, applying them equally to all people."Indeed, that might be most desirable and beneficial outcome. ; )And the rules should be as rational and judicious as possible, and not capricious and impulsive.

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  61. I think you could argue that SS is insurance against outliving your ability to produce meaningful income. As are, arguably, all defined benefit pensions.

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  62. too be continued … i'm off.

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  63. Mark:I was assuming 3.4% growth, which I managed in my head as an average of 1.7% on the total. Go it.One thing that seems wrong to me about this analysis is to assume 45 years worth of contributions on an average salary of %50k. 45 years ago the average salary was much lower, and therefore contributions would have been much lower.I will endeavor tonight to do a real analysis using 45 years worth of historical annual salary and historical contribution rates to calc actual contributions and then an actual monthly benefit. From this we can compare to see how likely it is that one will receive more than one's own actual contributions. Might take me some time, though, so be patient.

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  64. Scott: Thanks! I'm fully planning on receiving more than my actual contributions. Of course, that involves beating the actuarial tables.

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  65. Kevin:Of course, that involves beating the actuarial tables.That's the thing. I don't think it does involve that with regard to SS. But we'll see what my analysis shows.

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  66. im pissed off that I missed this discussion, in case you're interested.

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  67. If it's any comfort, I was thinking of you McWing.

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