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Judge Rules Against Reform, Ignores Facts

Federal Judge Roger Vinson has ruled against the Affordable Care Act, striking down not just the individual mandate but the rest of the law, as well. Vinson had made his skepticism of the law very clear during oral argument, so the ruling isn’t surprising, although his decision to invalidate the entire statute goes farther than the decision by Judge Henry Hudson, the federal judge who invalidated the law last last year.

Vinson did not halt implementation of the law. (That would have been surprising.) And, to be clear, two other federal judges have ruled the law is constitutional while about a dozen more have dismissed lawsuits without even hearing. The final word, almost certainly, will come from the Supreme Court. And it could be two years before a case reaches that far.

I’ve only skimmed the decision very quickly. Once I’ve read it more carefully, I’ll (hopefully) have more intelligent things to say. But, at first glance, two things leap out at me.

Defenders of the Affordable Care Act (myself among them) argue that the power to impose the mandate lies in two parts of the Constitution: the power to levy taxes and the power to regulate interstate commerce. Vinson rejects the tax argument and, in explaining his rationale, suggests that even the two judges who upheld the mandate agreed with him on this. But this is incorrect. Judge George Steeh, the federal judge from Michigan, declared that the tax argument was “without merit.” 

The other striking thing about Vinson’s ruling is his reasoning on interstate commerce–and its apparent ignorance of policy reality. Vinson says the mandate is unconstitutional because, in effect, the link between insurance status and interstate commerce is too weak:

…the mere status of being without health insurance, in and of itself, has absolutely no impact whatsoever on interstate commerce (not “slight,” “trivial,” or “indirect,” but no impact whatsoever) — at least not any more so than the status of being without any particular good or service. [Emphasis in original]

Again, this is just wrong, as anybody who understands the health care market will tell you. From my January article on the case:

When doctors and hospitals give uncompensated care to people without insurance, these providers of care pass along higher prices to everybody else who pays, and those higher prices show up as either larger taxes, larger insurance premiums, or larger out-of-pocket expenses. In addition, if people know they can get insurance even if they have pre-existing conditions, some will wait until getting sick before buying insurance. That upsets the delicate actuarial balance of insurance plans, which depend on premiums from healthy people to offset the costs of the sick. Premiums end up rising even more.

Researchers at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, which has developed its own mathematical model of the health care market, have run simulations on how the Affordable Care Act would play out without the individual mandate. They found that an additional 18 million people would end up without insurance. Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist and respected authority in his own right, determined that without a mandate, premiums for people buying coverage on their own would be 27 percent higher. Gruber has advised health care reformers, including the architects of the Affordable Care Act. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office got similar results from its calculations. And while economic models can certainly be wrong, these results are consistent with real-world experience: In those states where laws already require insurers to sell to anybody but insurance enrollment is not compulsory, premiums have gone way up.

Again, I’ll have more to say soon. In the meantime, keep in mind that the plaintiffs got the results they wanted in part because they got the judge they wanted. Bill McCollum, Florida’s attorney general, and his allies didn’t file the case before the federal court in Tallahassee. They filed the case in nearby Pensacola. I assume (although I can’t be sure) that’s because it increased their chances of getting a conservative judge, like Vinson.

In any event, it’s just one decision among several. And it ultimately matters only insofar as the Supreme Court decides to embrace it.

By: Jonathan Cohn-The New Republic, January 31, 2011

January 31, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Security and The Deficit: Associated Press Passes Off Dishonest Editorial About Social Security Finances

The insidious ways that conservative narratives bleed into our mainstream economic discourse as objective truths is a dominant theme in my book, and this story by the Associated Press’s Stephen Ohlemacher — ostensibly a piece of reporting rather than opinion — is one of the most egregious examples I’ve encountered. Check out the lede:

“Sick and getting sicker, Social Security will run at a deficit this year and keep on running in the red until its trust funds are drained by about 2037, congressional budget experts said Wednesday in bleaker-than-previous estimates.”

Is it “sick”? Social Security has $2.5 trillion in T-Bills sitting in a trust fund, is financed through 2037 and if nothing were to change it would still be able to pay out higher benefits than it does today, indefinitely.

Is it getting sicker? Well, the 2000 Social Security Trustees’s report (PDF) projected that the trust fund would run out in … 2037. But the 1997 report (PDF) expected the trust fund to be depleted by 2029 — 8 years earlier than currently projected. So in that sense, it’s “healthier” today than it was 13 years ago. More from the AP’s thinly veiled editorial:

“The massive retirement program has been suffering from the effects of the struggling economy for several years. It first went into deficit last year but had been projected to post surpluses for a few more years before permanently slipping into the red in 2016.”

“This year alone, Social Security will pay out $45 billion more in retirement, disability and survivors’ benefits than it collects in payroll taxes, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said.”

OK, this is just incredibly dishonest. Let me explain why:

When he says the program is “in the red” what he’s talking about is that current tax revenues being paid into the system have fallen below current benefit payments. Which should be unsurprising with wages stagnating and an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent.

But what’s unsaid is that the Social Security’s revenues aren’t limited to current tax receipts, thanks to the interest earned on those T-Bills in the trust fund. They earned 5.1 percent in 2008, and 4.8 percent in 2009. When you include that earned interest, as any honest reporter must do, the program has not “gone into the red,” and — if we define “going into the red” as total annual outlays exceeding total income, including interest income — it won’t until at least 2018, according to the Trustees’ latest report (PDF).

Yes, the Trust Fund grew last year, is growing this year, and will continue to grow for several more years, until it reaches a projected $4.2 trillion dollars. Back to the AP misinforming the public:

“That figure nearly triples – to $130 billion – when the new one-year cut in payroll taxes is included.”

“Congress has promised to replenish any lost revenue from the tax cut, but that’s hardly good news, either, adding to the federal budget deficit. In another sobering estimate, the congressional office said government red ink this year will increase to $1.5 trillion, the most in U.S. history.”

Could any ordinary citizen reading that possibly know that, by law, Social Security’s financing is separate from the rest of the federal budget, and that the program has not added a single penny to the deficit?

These are two wholly separate issues — there’s Social Security’s financing, which has been in surplus since 1983, and then there’s the federal budget, which is in deficit because of the downturn, tax breaks showered on the wealthy and trillions in war spending. (Note: unlike the Social Security program, we don’t have a War Trust Fund with its own dedicated revenue stream.)

The AP then turns the program’s greatest strength into a weakness. Behold the sleight-of-hand:

“Social Security has built up a $2.5 trillion surplus since the retirement program was last overhauled in the 1980s. Benefits will be safe until that money runs out. That is projected to happen in 2037 – unless Congress acts in the meantime.”

No, Congress could raise taxes to cover the shortfall anytime — nothing need be done in “the meantime.”

But more to the point, this narrative ignores the fact that the Trust Fund had a specific purpose: to ease the glut of baby-boomers entering the system. As I wrote in September, it “was a far-sighted act of governance.”

At the time, the oldest boomers were 37 years old, and the youngest were just 19. In 2037, when the fund is projected to be tapped out, the oldest baby boomers still kicking will be 91 and the youngest will be 73 years old. Not to be morbid, but given that the life expectancy of Americans is 78.1 years today, that means that the “glut” of baby-boomers receiving benefits will be receding in the nation’s rearview mirror. In other words, the trust fund will have done exactly what it was intended to do.

This point never seems to wind up in the conversation.

But it gets even worse, as Ohlemacher advances perhaps the most dishonest spin in the entire debate — that the trust fund is not a huge pile of T-Bills, but just “IOUs” — that the funds have been “borrowed” by the government.

“The $2.5 trillion surplus, however, has been borrowed over the years by the federal government and spent on other programs. In return, the Treasury Department has issued bonds to Social Security, guaranteeing repayment, with interest.”

Again, this conflates two wholly separate issues. Let’s run it down:
 
The national debt is (approximately) $14 trillion. None of that debt is a result of Social Security, which is fully funded and has run surpluses for years.
The federal government issued $14 trillion in T-bills to cover its budget shortfalls — that’s the national debt. It exchanged those $14 trillion in T-bills for cash (which it spent on programs other than Social Security). It must pay back that cash, with interest, as those T-bills are redeemed.

So, yes, it borrowed money — it borrows money by issuing Treasury Bills, which are held by individuals, institutions and governments. One of those institutions happens to be the Social Security Administration — $2.5 trillion of those T-Bills were exchanged for cash paid into Social Security by workers (and the interest is earned). Which is good, as it’s a safe investment for the surpluses that have been generated. They couldn’t just stick those trillions under a mattress.

But those T-Bills could just as easily have been exchanged for cash from China, or from private pension funds — there would be no difference at all. That would have happened if there had never been a Social Security program in the United States. The $14 trillion in debt would be exactly the same — it doesn’t matter who holds the T-Bills.

All of the above is why the deficit has nothing to do with SS — they are two completely separate issues being conflated by the “entitlement crisis” crowd. And no “neutral” reporter should ever write a story that simply carries their water for them.

By: Joshua Holland | Sourced from AlterNet, January 27, 2011

January 30, 2011 Posted by | Deficits, Social Security | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Republicans Say Everything the Dems Pass Is Unconstitutional — Even Policies They’ve Championed for Decades

The individual mandate was long championed by the GOP, but since it was passed by a Democratic Congress they’ve decided it violates the Constitution.

That Republicans are relentlessly attacking the constitutionality of what had long been one of their signature ideas for reforming the health-care system — the individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance or pay a penalty – is a testament to just how far down the rabbit-hole our discourse has gone.

Late last year, when a federal judge ruled against the mandate (two other courts disagreed, and the Supreme Court will end up deciding the question), Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, rejoiced. “Today is a great day for liberty,” he said. “Congress must obey the Constitution rather than make it up as we go along.” It was an odd testament to freedom, given that Hatch himself co-sponsored a health-care reform bill built around an individual mandate in the late 1990s.

Journalist Steve Benen noted that while “the record here may be inconvenient for the right … it’s also unambiguous: the mandate Republicans currently hate was their idea.”

It was championed by the Heritage Foundation… Nixon embraced it in the 1970s, and George H.W. Bush kept it going in the 1980s. For years, it was touted by the likes of John McCain, Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, Chuck Grassley, Bob Bennett, Tommy Thompson, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Judd Gregg, and many other … notable GOP officials.

According to NPR, the mandate was the Right’s response to progressive proposals to establish a single-payer system. Mark Pauly, the conservative economist widely credited with the idea, explained that “a group of economists and health policy people, market-oriented, sat down and said, ‘Let’s see if we can come up with a health reform proposal that would preserve a role for markets but would also achieve universal coverage.'”

That was then, this is now. Since it was a Democratic Congress that enacted the mandate, this conservative idea for creating a business-friendly model of universal health care has become something profoundly un-American, according to many of those very same Republicans who championed it. (Asked about the GOP’s retreat from the individual mandate it had long promoted, Pauly said, “That’s not something that makes me particularly happy.”)

And as is generally the case in these heady days of Tea Party conservatism, it’s not just that the individual mandate is bad – it’s also “un-Constitutional” (just like child labor laws, federal disaster assistance, food safety standards, etc.). As Gary Epps, a legal scholar at the University of Baltimore, put it, “Conservative lawmakers increasingly claim that the ‘original intent’ of the Constitution’s framers and the views of the right wing of the Republican Party are one and the same.”

A brief filed in support of Virginia’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act by the Landmark Legal Foundation – headed by noted wing-nut radio host Mark Levin, who believes that the Tea Partiers have been “tormented and abused far more than the colonists were by the King of England” – laid out the argument, calling the erstwhile Republican approach to universal health care “evidence of congressional power run amok.”

Congress can tax interstate commerce, it can regulate interstate commerce, it can even prohibit certain types of interstate commerce, but it cannot compel an individual to enter into a legally binding private contract against the individual’s will and interests. There is nothing in the history of this nation, let alone the history of the Constitution … that endorses such a radical departure from precedent, law, and logic.

Like most of the Right’s views of the Constitution – and the Founders’ intent – this is entirely wrong; it’s historical revisionism driven by ideology.

In 1792, none other than George Washington signed the Uniform Militia Act, a law requiring every white male citizen to purchase a whole basket of items – “a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein” – from private companies. Bradley Latino at Seton Hall law school’s Health Reform Watch added that “this was no small thing.”

Although anywhere from 40 to 79% of American households owned a firearm of some kind, the Militia Act specifically required a military-grade musket.  That particular kind of gun was useful for traditional, line-up-and-shoot 18th-century warfare, but clumsy and inaccurate compared to the single-barrel shotguns and rifles Americans were using to hunt game. A new musket, alone, could cost anywhere from $250 to $500 in today’s money.  Some congressmen estimated it would cost £20 to completely outfit a man for militia service — about $2,000 today.

Some on the Right have argued that this history is irrelevant as the law was passed under the auspices of the Constitution’s militia clauses, not the Commerce Clause. That’s true, but doesn’t change the fact that it disproves the claim that Congress has never compelled citizens to purchase goods or services from private firms – that’s patently false, regardless of how the measures differed in their details.

And despite the fact that there were a number of legislators serving in that Congress who had signed the Constitution five years earlier, “not one of militia reform’s many opponents thought to argue the mandate was a government taking of property for public use. Nor did anyone argue it to be contrary to States’ rights under the Tenth Amendment.” Those who opposed the bill simply argued that it would put too great a burden on the poor.

Of course, mandating that citizens buy a gun is different than requiring them to purchase health insurance. But as Rick Ungar, an attorney and writer, pointed out, Congress did in fact pass a mandate requiring health insurance…back in 1798.

The Act for Sick and Disabled Seamen created a government-operated hospital system – socialized medicine! – and mandated that all privately employed sailors purchase health insurance in order to sail.

It’s not an exact parallel. Nobody was forced to become a merchant seaman. But as Ungar noted, “this is no different than what we are looking at today. Each of us has the option to turn down employment that would require us to purchase private health insurance under the health care reform law.”

The Act also required sea captains to withhold 1 percent of sailors’ earnings to finance the program rather then mandate that they purchase a policy themselves – it was the first payroll tax. But as Ezra Klein noted in the Washington Post, “if conservatives really do prefer a system of payroll taxes that purchase you public insurance to the private system envisioned in the Affordable Care Act, I’m sure there are a lot of liberals who would vote for a bill that repealed the Affordable Care Act and replaced it with Medicare-for-all.”

It’s an important point – the liberal approach to universal health care is not only simpler and far more cost-effective, but unlike the Right’s individual mandate, it also falls unambiguously within the federal government’s enumerated powers.

Health care is also, in the words of the Congressional Research Service, “a unique market” in that one cannot opt out of it even if one wishes to do so. That’s because, by law, we don’t allow people to simply die in the streets, untreated. The uninsured without the means to pay nonetheless get (very costly) care in emergency rooms, and the rest of us pick up the tab.

And here, again, it’s worth noting that “the 5th Congress did not really need to struggle over the intentions of the drafters of the Constitutions in creating this Act as many of its members were the drafters of the Constitution.” The bill was signed into law by none other than John Adams, considered to be among the most influential of the “Founding Fathers.” Thomas Jefferson was the president of the Senate at the time, and Jonathan Dayton, the youngest man to sign the Constitution, served as Speaker of the House.

As the current legislation stands, even the American Enterprise Institute concedes that “the majority of constitutional experts are betting that the courts will uphold the mandate” – although they’re not happy about it. And that’s because the other Constitutional arguments against the reforms are just as dubious. Conservatives have come to use the Constitution as a crutch, avoiding debates on the merits of various proposals by asserting, with a broad wave of the hand, that whatever the policy in question may be, it’s all illegitimate.

The constitutionality of the health-care mandate will ultimately be decided by an activist majority on the Supreme Court. Nobody can predict how it will rule, but the Constitution gives the Congress power to “to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises … and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States,” a power the Congressional Research Service characterizes as ”one of the broadest powers in the Constitution,” and one that forms “the basis of government health programs in the Social Security Act, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

The Supreme Court has interpreted the Commerce Clause as giving the government the authority to regulate not only interstate commercial transactions in a limited sense, but also “those activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce.” (Our health-care system is the costliest in the world, and eats up about 18 percent of our economic output, so it’s hard to see how one can argue that it doesn’t have a “substantial relation” to our national economy.)

Then there’s the common conservative argument that the Commerce Clause only covers economic activity, but not inactivity – a claim that is also factually incorrect, but was nonetheless accepted by Henry Hudson, the federal judge who ruled against the government in the Virginia suit. But even if it were true, it’s hard to see the relevance of the argument given the Constitution’s Necessary and Proper clause, which authorizes the government to “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers.”

So, to recap: Congress is expressly authorized to raise taxes and spend public funds to further the “general welfare” of the nation; it can regulate any area that has a “substantial relation” to interstate commerce, and it can pass any law that is “necessary and proper” to further those enumerated powers.

On its face, there’s nothing in the Constitution constraining the government from enacting its health-care scheme. But the heart of conservative rhetoric these days is that any legislation passed by Democrats is illegitimate and defies the will of the Founders, as channeled by the mystics who lead the Tea Party movement.

That’s apparently the case even when those policies are among those they’ve championed for years based on their own ideological preferences.

By: Joshua Holland, Editor and Senior Writer,  AlterNet-January 28, 2011

January 28, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Constitution, Individual Mandate | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remember The Uninsured?

In February 2007, Deamonte Driver died of an infected tooth. But he didn’t really die of an infected tooth. He died because he didn’t have consistent insurance. If he’d had an Aetna card, a dentist would’ve removed the tooth earlier, and the bacteria that filled the abscess would never have spread to his brain.

Deamonte Driver was 12. His insurance status wasn’t his fault.

If all you knew about the Affordable Care Act was what you gleaned from watching the Republicans make their case against it, you probably would not know that the legislation means health-care coverage for more than 30 million Americans. Or, if you did know that, you’d be forgiven for not realizing it’s relevant: It almost never gets mentioned (see this congressman’s rundown of the bill’s contents, for instance), and the repeal legislation the Republicans are pushing does nothing to replace the coverage the Affordable Care Act would give to those people.

The lack of concern for how more than 30 million Americans will get their health-care coverage makes for an ugly contrast with the intense concern that Rep. Andy Harris — a proponent of repeal — found when he heard that his congressional health-care coverage wouldn’t begin until a month after he took the oath of office. “He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,” recalled one of the session’s attendees. He knows his taxpayer-subsidized insurance is important. But what about Driver’s?

We have a tendency to let the conversation over health-care reform become a bloodless, abstract discussion over cost curves and CBO models. We do that for two reasons: First, cost is important. Second, it’s important to the people who have political power, which is, by and large, not the same group who doesn’t have health-care insurance. Someone involved in the 2008 campaign once told me he’d seen numbers showing that 95 percent of Obama’s voters were insured. The numbers for McCain were, presumably, similarly high, or even higher. These are the people the political system is responsive too.

But that doesn’t make the plight of the uninsured any less wrenching. The Urban Institute estimated that 22,000 people died in 2006 because they didn’t have health-care insurance. John Ayanian, a professor of medicine and health-care policy at Harvard Medical School, testified before Congress on this issue. “Uninsured adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely than insured adults overall,” he said, “and with serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, their risk of premature death can be 40 to 50 percent higher.” And none of that takes into account the unnecessary suffering and physical damage that flourishes in the absence of effective medical care. Nor does it speak to the economic devastation that illness unleashes on uninsured families.

These numbers shouldn’t surprise us: We pay a lot of money for health-care insurance. We’ve directed the government to spend even more money subsidizing that insurance for the elderly, the disabled, some of the poor and everyone who gets health-care coverage through their employer. We value this product so highly for a reason: Most of us would agree that being able to afford to see a doctor isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. Rep. Harris certainly feels that way.

The same goes for the uninsured. In fact, it’s often more true for them, as many haven’t received reliable care for some time and have multiple health problems that haven’t been effectively treated. That’s why, when a temporary free clinic set up shop in Los Angeles, 3,000 people lined up for treatment. It’s why the famed RAND health insurance experiment found the people who benefited from insurance most clearly were the poor, as they were often plagued by easy-to-treat conditions like hypertension.

The Affordable Care Act covers the vast majority of the uninsured. It covers everyone who makes less than the poverty line, and almost everyone who makes less than 300 percent of the poverty line. It does all this while spending about 4 percent of what our health-care system currently spends in a year, and it offsets that spending — and more — to make sure the deficit doesn’t bear the burden of society’s compassion. Perhaps there’s a better way to achieve those goals that can pass Congress. If so, I’m open to hearing about it. But to repeal the bill without another solution for the Deamonte Drivers of the world? And to do it while barely mentioning them? We’re a better country than that. Or so I like to think.

By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, January 19, 2011

January 27, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Uninsured | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Security-Raising False Alarms

If there’s a better government program than Social Security, I’d like to know what it is. It has gone a long way toward eliminating poverty among the elderly. Great numbers of them used to live and die in ghastly, Dickensian conditions of extreme want. Without Social Security today, nearly half of all Americans aged 65 or older would be poor. With it, fewer than 10 percent live in poverty.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells us that close to 90 percent of people 65 and older get at least some of their family income from Social Security. For more than half of the elderly, it provides the majority of their income. For many, it is the only income they have.

When you see surveillance videos of some creep mugging an elderly person in an elevator or apartment lobby, the universal reaction is outrage. But when the fat cats and the ideologues want to hack away at the lifeline of Social Security, they are treated somehow as respectable, even enlightened members of the society.

We need a reality check. Attacking Social Security is both cruel and unnecessary. It needs to stop.

The demagogues would have the public believe that Social Security is unsustainable, that it is some kind of giant contributor to the federal budget deficits. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the Economic Policy Institute has explained, Social Security “is emphatically not the cause of the federal government’s long-term deficits, since it is prohibited from borrowing and must pay all benefits out of dedicated tax revenues and savings in its trust funds.”

Franklin Roosevelt couldn’t have been clearer about the crucial role of the payroll taxes used to finance Social Security. They gave the beneficiaries a “legal, moral and political right” to collect their benefits, he said. “With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my Social Security program.”

There has always been feverish opposition on the right to Social Security. What is happening now, in a period of deficit hysteria, is that this crucial retirement program is being dishonestly lumped together with Medicare as an entitlement program that is driving federal deficits. Medicare costs are a serious problem, but that’s because of the nightmarish expansion of health care costs in general.

Beyond Medicare, the major drivers of the deficits are not talked about so much by the fat cats and demagogues because they were either responsible for them, or are reaping gargantuan benefits from them, or both. The country is drowning in a sea of debt because of the obscene Bush tax cuts for the rich, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have never been paid for and the Great Recession.

Mugging the nation’s grandparents by depriving them of some of their modest, hard-earned Social Security retirement benefits is hardly an answer to the nation’s ills. And, believe me, those benefits are modest. The average benefit is just $14,000 a year, which is less than the minimum wage would pay. With employer-provided pensions going the way of the typewriter and pay telephones, the income from Social Security is becoming more precious by the day.

“If we didn’t have Social Security, we’d have to invent it right now,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. “It’s perfectly suited to the terrible times we’re going through. Hardly anyone has pensions anymore. People’s private savings have taken a huge hit, and home prices have been hit hard. So the private savings that so many seniors and soon-to-be seniors have counted on have just been wiped out.

“Social Security is still there, and it’s still paying out retirement benefits indexed to wages. It’s the one part of the retirement stool that is working.”

The deficit hawks and the right-wingers can scream all they want, but there is no Social Security crisis. There is a foreseeable problem with the program’s long-term financing, but it can be fixed with changes that do no harm to its elderly beneficiaries. One obvious step would be to raise the cap on payroll taxes so that wealthy earners shoulder a fairer share of the burden.

The alarmist rhetoric should cease. Americans have enough economic problems to worry about without being petrified that their Social Security benefits will be curtailed. A Gallup poll taken recently found that 90 percent of Americans ages 44 to 75 believed that the country was facing a retirement crisis. Nearly two-thirds were more fearful of depleting their assets than they were of dying. The fears about retirement are well placed — most Americans do not have enough to retire on. But there should be no reason to believe that Social Security is in jeopardy.

The folks who want to raise the retirement age and hack away at benefits for ordinary working Americans are inevitably those who have not the least worry about their own retirement. The haves so often get a perverse kick out of bullying the have-nots.

By:  Bob Herbert, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 24, 2011

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Social Security | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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