mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“For The Moment, The Ghost Of FDR Must Be Smiling”: 2016 Is Turning Into A Historically Great Year For Social Security

Not that very long ago, Republicans were almost universally united in favor of a strategy of “entitlement reform” that included various benefit cuts — some overt, like changes in the formula for cost-of-living adjustments, and some indirect, like retirement-age increases — in Social Security. Most Republicans also favored, in principle at least, some sort of partial privatization scheme for the signature New Deal program. Meanwhile, Democrats were generally divided into a large camp trying to keep the program exactly as it was, and a smaller group — including, at least in theory, President Barack Obama — that was open to such “entitlement reforms” as part of some budgetary “grand bargain” with Republicans.

How things have changed in 2016.

The Republican presidential nomination has been won by a candidate who conspicuously refused to climb aboard the “entitlement reform” bandwagon. Since rank-and-file Republicans have never much bought into Social Security (or Medicare) cuts, it was not surprising this particular Trump heresy troubled party elites but no one else.

Meanwhile, both Bernie Sanders and (to a lesser extent) Hillary Clinton have both been talking about enhancing Social Security benefits, with their main argument being over the financing mechanism, with Clinton being reluctant to embrace a lift in the payroll tax cap that would hit upper-middle-class voters.

But now along comes another potential game-changer: President Obama.

Not only do we need to strengthen its long-term health, it’s time we finally made Social Security more generous and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned,” Obama said in an economic call to arms in Elkhart, Indiana. “We could start paying for it by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more.”

Now you can interpret Obama’s shift any way you want — as a response to leftward pressure from the primary contest, or as proof he was never serious about “entitlement reform” to begin with, or simply as a parting middle-finger-gesture to the GOP, whose leaders were probably less serious than Obama about reaching some “grand bargain” that included high-end tax increases. But the fact remains that the combination of forces in favor of Social Security benefit cuts — or even for simple maintenance of the status quo — has been reduced significantly.

You’d have to say 2016 is becoming the best year for Social Security since at least 2005, when George W. Bush devoted most of his post-reelection political capital to a partial privatization scheme and had his presidential ass handed to him as congressional Republicans headed for the hills while Democrats failed to rise to the “bipartisanship” bait. There will continue to be extensive and fractious arguments over how to improve Social Security benefits and how to keep the whole system solvent. Meanwhile, nobody should take Donald Trump’s assurances on the subject to the bank, any more than anything else the mogul says. And if he loses in November, conventional Republican economic policy, including “entitlement reform,” could make a comeback. But for the moment the ghost of FDR must be smiling.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 3, 2016

June 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, Social Security | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

“The Battle Of The Oil Barons”: Like Kids Playing With Gasoline In A Burning Schoolyard

It’s a very exciting time in the world of oil geopolitics, if you’re a fan of juvenile saber-rattling in the service of making billionaires even richer:

The fracking boom has driven US output to the highest in three decades, contributing to a global surplus that Venezuela has estimated at 2 million barrels a day. That’s equal to or more than the production of six OPEC members…

Conventional oil producers in OPEC can no longer dictate prices, United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said in an interview in Vienna this week. Newcomers to the market who have the highest costs and created the glut should be the ones to determine the price, he said.

“That is what OPEC is hoping for,” said Carsten Fritsch, a commodity analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. “It’s the question of who will blink first.”

OPEC will feel pressure too, with prices now below the level needed by nine member states to balance their budgets.

The United States has been making it a matter of public policy to poison its own groundwater and stress its fault lines by fracking, steaming and acidizing for oil. This is partly in order to enrich its own oil magnates, and partly to stick its thumb in the eye of Russia, Venezuela and OPEC. The Hillary Clinton-led state department has only been too happy to strongly encourage shale gas fracking in Europe in order to frustrate Russian ambitions as well.

So OPEC has been flooding the world with cheap oil partly out of revenge, partly in a regional power play against Iran and others, and partly to disincentivize Western fracking by making it economically unfeasible.

It’s all good fun, and I’m sure the players feel like they’re doing great work to advance the interests of their “good people” against all those other “bad people” in those nasty other countries.

Of course, what almost no one is paying attention to in the middle of all this is the impact on climate change and the planet. We now know beyond a doubt that if all of this new shale oil comes out of the ground and gets burned into the atmosphere as CO2, the world’s youngest inhabitants may not have many habitable places left to live by their retirement age.

But that’s not so important compared to frustrating the economic ambitions of that rival nation-state, right?

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, November 29, 2014

November 30, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment, Fracking | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: