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Member since: 2001
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Tennessee Senators waltz all over earned benefit interests of its citizens

Tennessee has the 12th highest rate of poverty in the United States. In August 2012, its rate of unemployment as of July this year was reported at 8.4 percent . The overall percentage of the state's population over 65 is 13.4 percent. Links for these stats can be found at the end note.

This is a state known for its friendly people, beautiful landscapes and volunteerism.

Yesterday, December 29, its U.S. Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander offered a plan to cut Medicare:


With that confidence, Tennessee's senators turned to spending cuts and offered a proposal to exchange a $1 trillion reduction in entitlement spending — mostly from Medicare — for a $1 trillion rise in the federal debt ceiling.


The plan, which the senators have dubbed the "Dollar for Dollar Act," was introduced by Corker on Dec. 12. Its details include reforming Medicare to include competition from private health-care options, gradually raising the eligibility age to 67 by 2027, requiring high-income beneficiaries to pay higher premiums and giving flexibility to the states to manage the program.

Additionally, Corker and Alexander endorsed other changes to earned benefits:


It would gradually raise the Social Security retirement age and use the “chained CPI” formula to calculate cost-of-living adjustments, curbing the growing cost of benefits.

In exchange, it would direct the debt limit be increased by the same amount as the savings generated from entitlement reform.

"Unfortunately for America, the next line in the sand is going to be the debt ceiling,” said Corker, predicting it could be used as leverage in negotiations with Democrats.

Read that last quoted paragraph as Republicans are thinking "starve the beast."

The 16 Trillion Dollar Deficit Americans now face, along with the Great Recession, is greatly due as a result of the George W. Bush* legacy. He left the Oval Office with a 10.5 Trillion Dollar Deficit which he had kept off the General Ledger. Additionally, our annual budget was in deficit. Each annual accrual of our budget shortfall contains a substantial part of interest on that debt.

What Corker and Alexander (both Repubicans) failed to explain in offering their plan was why seniors should sacrifice Social Security and Medicare coverage to help offset a deficit incurred mostly during a Republican's eight years in the White House. They also failed to explain why corporations such as Halliburton and The Carlye Group, two of the largest profiteers from Bush's preemptive war, pay near zero income taxes -- yet Medicaid as well must be compromised.

Also unexplained, why they termed Social Security and Medicare the "biggest drivers of our debt" when the experts say it is the cost of two wars, the Bush* (unfunded) tax cuts, Medicare Part D (also referred to as Bush's gift to the pharmaceutical companies) and current economic conditions, such as high unemployment.

Alexander called on Obama to show more leadership on reforming entitlements or earned-benefits programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, which are the biggest drivers of federal debt. (also from The Hill link)

The State of Tennessee deserves much better representation than Corker and Alexander are rendering. Its people are hurting from unemployment, a high poverty rate and an aging population. It is not exactly to the Tennessee Waltz Corker and Alexander are dancing, and rather than "Dollar for Dollar", it looks like dollars for more doughnut holes.



Who or what exactly is the biggest holder of the U.S. Government Debt?

China? Japan? Take a look at the slideshow at this link. Please note the arrow slightly left to the title. As you click the arrow, it starts at #15 and proceeds down to #1. You might be surprised at #1.


Hopefully, you will not miss #9 (this will probably surprise you).

Just to titillate your curiosity, I am posting now #6:

"6. Pension Funds

U.S. debt holdings: $903.4 billion

Pension funds control large amounts of money, reserved for personal retirements, and thus are obligated to make investments that are considered to be safe. This group includes both private and local government pension funds, totaling $903.4 billion. The private pension fund category also includes US Treasury securities held by the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan "G Fund." (emphasis added)

It seems to me that if the Federal Employees Retirement System is the sixth largest holder of the public debt, slowing that growth down might be accomplished with restricting the COLA increases over a number of years, but that is just my narrow perspective.... Add that to the portion of the debt you see in #1, a pattern starts to emerge. Both of these holders, numbers 1 and 6, have been accessed by Uncle Sam to defray expenses such as in the case of #1, the Iraq war -- among other things, and #6, in the aftermath of 911. Problem: when the bill becomes due to be paid back, the U.S. economy is in recession and selling additional Treasury Notes to replace the portion redeemed is very difficult at this time.

Yes, that is a big problem but connecting the dots does give one clues as to why we hear the things we hear today.



Where on this chart are entitlements listed as contributing to the deficit?

Specifically, please look at the chart on the top right-hand side and view the contributing factors in order. It seems to me that if cutting the deficit is the number one priority, the best approach would be to tackle those items listed in this chart.

Looks to me as if going over the fiscal cliff would take a large bite out of the problem, but, hey, that is just me.




Obama Counter-Offers on Fiscal Cliff (updated with stats on a chained COLA)


This appears to be the story Ed Schultz just reported.

Here are a couple of paragraphs:

"WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has proposed a deficit-reduction package to House Speaker John Boehner that would increase the top tax rates on taxpayers earning more than $400,000, cut more spending from health care programs and add $200 billion more in spending cuts over 10 years to his earlier offer.


"People familiar with the plan said Obama is proposing lower cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security. He also abandoned his request to extend a payroll tax cut — a move that would result in a tax increase for many Americans."

I hope to expand this thread shortly regarding the chained COLA.


Update: See this link: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=439x1436970

Granted it was written in July 2011, however, it will give you an idea how much financial damage can be done to participants of Social Security. When the Bowles-Simpson Plan recommended the chained COLA, I did some research on the issue and posted this thread. I then contacted Bernie Sanders' office and asked that the data be reviewed, and if they agreed this would do substantial harm to Social Security participants to advocate against the implementation. To his credit, Bernie Sanders has not let up on the issue. He gathered the support of many of other Democrats. Here is a small portion of that thread:

"Switching to the chained CPI would reduce Social Security COLAs by about 0.3 of a percentage point each year, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, saving the federal government more than $200 billion over the next 10 years. Most of the savings would come from lower Social Security benefits and lower retirement benefits for federal employees, whose increases also are tied to the CPI.

The Senior Citizens League calculates that such a change would reduce Social Security benefits by an estimated 7 percent over a 25-year retirement. For a senior who retires in 2011 and receives the average Social Security benefit -- about $1,100 per month -- this would reduce benefits over 25 years by $18,634. The cuts would be very small in the beginning but escalate as recipients age." (emphasis added)(see http://www.tscl.org/action/emergencycola.asp .)

Additionally, the Senior Citizens League issued a emergency petition, the first three bullet points of which are:

"• The Social Security COLA should not be calculated from the consumer price index (CPI), since the CPI is based on the purchases of young urban workers and does not reflect the actual expenses of senior citizens.

• Even when CPI-based inflation is very low, the expenses that form the backbone of senior citizens’ budgets – medical insurance, prescription drugs, fuel – continue to rise alarmingly.

• The federal government itself recognizes the inequity of a CPI-based COLA by calculating a senior-specific CPI formula, which it never uses, that shows our cost of living rises faster than that of most young people."


I hope the Democrats do not agree to this but I have a sinking feeling I am going to be disappointed....

Candidly, I do not see the necessity at this time for "Shared Sacrifice"

It has been reported frequently that 93 percent of the proceeds in this recovery from this near-depression has been reaped by the wealthy. During the recession's continuation, the middle class and the impoverished have continued to suffer. Many have lost their jobs, lost their health care and their homes. Poverty has increased.

The middle class and the indigent have already taken their turn at sacrificing. Now it is time for the wealthy to step up to the plate and take their turn. This also includes corporations that pay no taxes, as well as corporations that pay no taxes and additionally receive subsidies from the U.S. Government.

To date since the inception of this Bush-caused recession there has been no shared sacrifice. So why it so important to start that now? Let those who have already sacrificed be protected from further financial harm and demand that those who have benefited step up to the plate and take their rightful turn.


The Bush Tax Cuts in 2001 and the renewal in 2003 were passed through reconciliation

Both times only 51 votes were required. 51 votes. The original Bush Tax Cuts were passed with a vote of 58 to 33. The second time in 2003 was much more controversial because of the ongoing wars but it passed by a vote of 51 to 50. How is that possible, you ask. Cheney cast the deciding vote to break the tie.

Passing a controversial piece of legislation by 51 votes is smart politics when Republicans do it. But when Democrats do it, Republicans react in anger with threats of retaliation and bringing the government to a halt.

Okay for Republicans but not okay for Democrats. See the difference?


Every state in the United States must adhere to its state constitution with regard to selecting

it's slate of electors. Each state constitution requires that the outcome of the popular vote determines the slate of electors (the one exception, I believe, is Maine). If a state does not abide by its state constitution, its slate can simply be discounted by the Electoral College, which is presided over by the Vice President of the United States....

From Article II, Section 1, paragraph 3, of the Constitution:

"...and they [meaning the electors, the party of which has previously been decided as a result of the outcome of the popular vote (except Maine)] shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and the Number of Votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify; and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate (Joe Biden). The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and the House of Representatives, open all of the Certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be President, if such Number shall be a majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed, and if there be more than one that have such majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot; one of them for President." (emphasis added)

I am going to stop quoting here to make a point. I believe any state that refuses to participate as mentioned in the thread above, is disqualified from having a slate of electors counted in the official count over which the Vice President presides.

Those states deliberately not participating are in violation of the terms of the U.S. Constitution, which violation does not give the legislatures of those state the right to rewrite the rules enumerated in our Constitution in order to effectuate the selection of a candidate not property elected by the laws in place.

What should happen then is those slates would be discarded and the number of votes required to be President would be a majority of those officially counted. When the language in the U.S. Constitution says the person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such a number be the majority of the whole number of electors appointed, that only includes the slates in the official count, not the other electors votes who were not forwarded to the President of the Senate as required by the highest law of the land. Whoever devised this scheme is counting those electors in the whole number, but it seems to me their participation is thrown out because the rules of the Constitution were deliberately violated.

How does one plan to violate the Constitution and win by rewriting the rules? If Romney's slates of the electors are not forwarded to be included in the official count, the only ones the Vice-President presiding over the Senate receives would be those for President Obama (plus the slate forwarded by Maine, assuming that state is participating).

Can you say "Safe Harbor?"

Furthermore, there is zero wiggle room to change a state constitution after an election but before the Electoral College vote. Just thought I would mention that before I see someone suggest it. Any changes to a state constitution from hereon out would become applicable to the next election, not this one.


Rove is talking about Hamilton County in that meltdown video

The minute he said Hamilton, that rang a bell. I did not finish the video but stopped to see what county Romney's son is invested in voting machines. Here is a link:


"Hart InterCivic is an Austin-based voting machine company that serves local governments nationwide. Its clients include Hamilton County, Ohio, which administers elections in Cincinnati. Hart InterCivic also has in its DNA just enough traces of Bain & Co. and Mitt Romney campaign donors to trigger serious angst in the liberal blogosphere about the fate of Ohio’s must-have 18 electoral votes."

I cannot say I have thoroughly researched this, but it is difficult to believe this is a coincidence. If you are one of the DU'ers that has thoroughly researched this, perhaps you can post some thoughts on this thread.


Something unexpected happened to me as I voted this morning

In College Park, Maryland, the polls opened this morning at 7:00 a.m. I left my home and arrived at 6:50 a.m. prepared for a long wait. To my joy, the doors were opened and the line was inside along with the warmth of the building. People were polite. The man in front of me opened the door for me and allowed me to get in front of him in line. I eyed the numbers in the hallway and the snake around the corner, but I could not tell how many were in the voting room itself.

Soon the line started to move, and it kept moving. Ten minutes later, I was at the table where they checked my registration. They only asked my name and address and then found my listing in the database. At that point, I was only asked my date of birth. They printed a receipt and asked me to sign it, and at that point I was handed my access card for the machine. I was never asked to provide identification.

That line moved quickly as well. Finally, I stood in front of the machine and accessed my ballot. I had studied the sample ballot so I could move through the process quickly. When I finished, I reviewed all of my choices.

At that point, I focused only on the names of Barack Obama and Joe Biden for President and Vice President. And that is when something unexpected happened.

It must have been the emotion of the moment, all the pent-up turmoil over the worrying about the outcome of this election, the sleepless nights, the late-nite postings here, all of this welled up inside and I cried.

I cried with pride for the privilege of casting my vote for a great President, Barack Obama. I knew when I saw his name this would be the last time I would have that privilege. So it was with both joy and sorrow I cast my ballot and walked away.

Time elapsed from when I entered the door until I left: 40 minutes. Every state should have this type of process available for its citizens to exercise their right to vote. That is one of the reasons I am proud to live in the blue state of Maryland.

I found my car and sat there for a moment to reflect. Well, I have done my part, President Barack Obama, but I know it was just a small measure compared to what you have done for this Country. Thank you for everything you have given this Nation.


Ashley Judd to run against Mitch McConnell in 2016?

Just presented by Fineman on Chris Matthews' show is the rumor that the monied people in Kentucky want Judd to defeat McConnell in 2016. He said she is from Kentucky and the movement is on to get her to run.

That would be a political dream come true.

What great news!

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