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Member since: Fri Nov 6, 2015, 07:20 AM
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WaPo Does Another OMG! Editorial on Social Security and Medicare


Yes, it's a beautiful Sunday morning in our nation's capital (not quite) and the Washington Post is again urging cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The headline tells it all, "A nation that is getting older -- fast."

The editorial lays out the case:

"The implication of an aging population is clear: A larger, older cohort will depend on a smaller, working-age cohort. Payroll taxes fund Social Security and Medicare; yet the Congressional Budget Office forecast last year that the ratio of workers to retirees will decline from 3-to- 1 to 2-to- 1 between now and 2040.

"Thanks in part to immigration, the U.S. population is still growing, so the country is in better shape than other rapidly aging advanced industrial countries, such as Japan, where the population is shrinking. Relatively modest reforms to entitlement programs for retirees could put them on a sound financial footing, with money left over to fund education, health care and other needs of young people. During the Obama years, however, the president episodically tackled entitlement reform only to see compromise fail over tax increases, which he favored and Republicans opposed. In the end, some tweaks — a fix to Medicare’s annual spending growth formula and new rules for Social Security disability insurance — have been enacted. But we are left with a problem that, while still manageable, becomes less so with each passing year."

There's much room for fun here. First, let's get the numbers right. According to the Social Security Trustees Report, the current ratio of workers to retirees is 2.8 to 1. That is projected to decline to 2.1 to by 2040 (actually it hits this ratio in 2035). That isn't hugely different from the Post's numbers, but the difference matters because it is important to realize that a declining ratio of workers to retirees is not new. If we go back to 1960 it was 5 to 1. Yet we have much higher standards of living today than we did in 1960, even though we have just 2.8 workers to support each Social Security beneficiary.

In fact, as recently as 2002 the ratio was 3.4 to 1. This means that in the last 14 years we saw the ratio fall by 0.6 workers to retiree, while in the next twenty years we will see a drop in the ratio of 0.7 workers to retiree, and the Post wants us to panic. The reality of this story ifs very simple. If we have a strong economy, where workers are allowed to share in the gains of productivity with higher wages, the costs of supporting a large group of retirees are no big deal. Of course if wages continue to stagnate than any imposition on workers will be a burden.

The Post consistently pushes policies that lead to stagnating wages. For example, it has supported Fed rate hikes that slow the economy and kill jobs. It has supported trade deals designed to put downward pressure on the wages of ordinary workers while protecting highly paid doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. It has supported stronger and longer patent and copyright protection that make workers pay more for everything from drugs and MRIs to recorded music and movies. And, it has supported the bailouts of Wall Street, keeping in place a financial structure that drains hundreds of billions of years from the productive economy.

The Post wants workers to endlessly fear the possibility that we may raise the Social Security tax, like we did in the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s, and to ignore all the policies that are redistributing a much larger chunk of money from their paychecks to the rich. Look for many more Post edits on Social Security and the demographic crisis.

She's not even elected, and I can't stand that voice

Actually, now that I think of it, I couldn't stand it even before.

I'm very sensitive to intonation. It's a curse, sometimes.

The Devil Made me do it!

Bill Maher Explains How Trump Is Making It Easier for a Bernie Sanders Win


"The Republicans created this monster in the party and now it’s taking over."

For Ambitious House Democrats There's Nowhere to Go But Out


Until this week, Representative Steve Israel of New York was often named as one of the rising stars in the U.S. House Democratic leadership. His decision to not seek re-election and to leave Congress at the end of the year is the latest reminder of how thin those ranks are getting. For the younger, more ambitious Democrats in the House, the obstacles are significant. The Democrats most mentioned by colleagues are Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California, a Hispanic lawmaker with strong policy credentials; Caucus Vice Chairman Joe Crowley of New York, a top fundraiser; and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, one of the most media-savvy House Democrats.

They’ve been waiting for years in the wings, a handful of understudies to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But she is signaling no readiness to move on and give up the leadership stage. Even worse, Democrats find themselves languishing as the smallest House minority for their party since the late 1940s, with little realistic chance of retaking the chamber in the next few years.

Israel’s announcement followed the decision by Budget Committee top Democrat Chris Van Hollen last year to seek a U.S. Senate seat in 2016. Like Israel, Marylander Van Hollen is a lawmaker who had been mentored by Pelosi and was long seen as a top aspirant to succeed her. And still another veteran, Elijah Cummings, also of Maryland, says he hasn’t decided whether he might jump into that same Senate race. Israel said his decision to leave Congress doesn’t stem, even partly, from a frustration with having to bide his time too long in lesser leadership positions. He insists he wants to pursue writing...

For now, House Democrats insist there are no rumblings or threats of anyone ready to challenge or take on Pelosi, 75 -- the only woman to ever be speaker -- even if she doesn’t win back the majority next year. Pelosi of California strongly signaled in an interview Wednesday that she intends on running again to be her party’s top leader in the House next year."I like it here," she said.

Hillary Clinton

Pelosi has been emphasizing her expectation that Democrats’ chances of picking up House seats will be greatly boosted with Hillary Clinton likely topping the party’s ticket in November.

If Hillary fails, will Nancy get the hell out of Dodge? I would hate for her to be Speaker while President Sanders attempts to reform the government....or maybe, a spinal implant will bring the coat-tail Democrats to push her out!

Dreams of a winter's evening...

WEEkend Continues: MLK Day January 18, 2016

I have just been informed that the markets are closed Monday in honor of Martin Luther King.

Since the Original Weekend Thread is too long to continue, we'll use this one from this point forward. (and I thought I was getting a day off!)

Purely by chance, my turn at borrowing the library's copy of the DVD "Selma" came up for the weekend. As I wasn't around the first time, it was enlightening.

Mom doesn't talk much about the 60's; she was only a child, herself, living in Detroit at the time...watching the city revolt in 1967, leaving it in 1969 for New England...I can see why she doesn't have much to say.

I'd like to think it's a different country now, a country that has grown in wisdom, courage and human goodness. I guess this coming election will be a test of that assumption.

Like many Americans young and old, I have a dream...

"I Have a Dream" is a public speech delivered by American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963, in which he calls for an end to racism in the United States. Delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, the speech was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Beginning with a reference to the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed millions of slaves in 1863, King observes that: "one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free".

Toward the end of the speech, King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme "I have a dream", prompted by Mahalia Jackson's cry: "Tell them about the dream, Martin!"

In this part of the speech, which most excited the listeners and has now become its most famous, King described his dreams of freedom and equality arising from a land of slavery and hatred. Jon Meacham writes that, "With a single phrase, Martin Luther King Jr. joined Jefferson and Lincoln in the ranks of men who've shaped modern America". The speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century in a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.


The David Bowie Memorial Thread is Now Complete


In the Weekend Economists January 16-18, 2016 compilation.


Bernie Sanders is winning with the one group his rivals can't sway: voters Trevor Timm


Perhaps more important than Sanders’s gain in the polls is how it happened: by patiently hammering on his message, regardless of what other candidates said...As Trump continues to dominate both parties for media attention, and Hillary Clinton remains a favorite to win with Wall Street, Bernie Sanders is suddenly surging again among those who actually matter: voters. But more important than his rise in the polls is how he’s doing it.

A string of polls over the past two weeks show that the once-independent Vermont senator is tied or in the lead in the two early primary states, Iowa and New Hampshire, and all of a sudden, in striking distance of Hillary Clinton nationally. With very little fanfare, he has been leading in New Hampshire for months, with some recent ones putting his lead in the double digits.

But Iowa seemed distinctly in Clinton’s corner for the last quarter of 2015 until this week, just a month away from the primary. A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday night showed Sanders vaulted into the lead, with a slew of others show him pulling in close to a tie.

Digging deeper into the numbers shows even more good news for Sanders: nationally, he is beating Clinton by 2-1 with voters younger than 45, and by 20 points with female voters younger than 35. In New Hampshire there is not one demographic group in which Clinton is beating Sanders. He’s also made recent gains among African Americans and Hispanics – both demographics long considered Clinton strongholds...

more good news at link

This is how toxic Flint’s water really is


The city of Flint, Mich., is in the midst of a water crisis several years in the making. The city opted out of Detroit's water supply and began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, part of a cost-saving move. Eighteen months later, in the fall of 2015, researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled.

The city reconnected to Detroit's water system in October, but the damage was done. Water from the Flint River was found to be highly corrosive to the lead pipes still used in some parts of the city. Even though Flint River water no longer flows through the city's pipes, it's unclear how long those pipes will continue to leach unsafe levels of lead into the tap water supply. Experts currently say the water is safe for bathing, but not drinking.

A group of Virginia Tech researchers who sampled the water in 271 Flint homes last summer found some contained lead levels high enough to meet the EPA's definition of "toxic waste." The researchers posted their test results online, which I represent graphically below with other visuals to help understand just how high above normal Flint's lead levels really were...Lead in water is measured in terms of parts per billion (ppb). If a test comes back with lead levels higher than 15 ppb, the EPA recommends that homeowners and municipalities take steps to reduce that level, like updating pipes and putting anti-corrosive elements in the water when appropriate.

But 15 ppb is a regulatory measure, not a public health one. Researchers stress that there is no 100 percent "safe" level of lead in drinking water, only acceptable levels. Even levels as low as 5 ppb can be a cause for concern, according to the group studying Flint's water...at 27 parts per billion, it's five times as high as the level of concern, and nearly twice as high as the EPA's already-generous guidelines. According to the researchers who ran these tests, the health effects of lead levels this high "can include high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems, kidney damage and memory and neurological problems."

Recall, though, that 10 percent of the homes in the sample had lead levels even higher than this...

Stock market plunge dents Democratic narrative

Obama's upbeat economic assessment is followed by a dramatic sell-off, with Clinton's fate in the balance.


Wall Street collapsed again on Friday, extending a brutal market rout that threatens to dent Democrats’ chances in 2016 and give a boost to Republicans who say the world is an increasingly dangerous mess. The Dow dropped 390 points on Friday amid falling oil prices, weak U.S. economic data and more fear of a major slowdown in China. The blue chip index is off over 8 percent so far in 2016, fueling arguments from Republicans that despite consistent job growth, the U.S. economy is in deep trouble.

The stock market is not a direct reflection of the underlying economy, but volatility and major declines tend to add to economic anxiety and make it harder for the incumbent party to hold onto the White House. Americans’ views about the direction of the nation are already dismal, and a collapsing stock market is not likely to help, analysts say.

This certainly weakens the upbeat narrative that President Obama offered earlier this week in the State of the Union that things have turned around. That’s a much tougher case to make now,” said Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments. “It’s already tough for one party to retain the White House for three terms. And if Hillary Clinton is hoping to run on the fact that things are clearly getting better, that is also now a tougher case to make for her. Average Americans see regular declines of this magnitude and that’s deeply unnerving to them.”

The hope among Democrats is that the current stock market chaos will prove short-lived and fundamentals of the underlying U.S. economy — including strong job growth, low gas prices and a resurgent auto industry — will assert themselves as the year unfolds to ease voter anxiety. But market experts say the terrible start on Wall Street — which is now the worst opening to a year on record — could persist for months and strongly benefit Republican candidates like Donald Trump who paint a very grim picture of the nation’s direction.

“The eighth years of an incumbent’s term in the White House have all been pretty horrible for markets with the exception of 1988 when Ronald Reagan was leaving office,” said Jeff Hirsch, editor of the “Stock Trader's Almanac” and an expert in market history. “And the first five months of an election year are generally very telling. If you’ve got a down year, that’s usually indicative of the incumbent White House party being ousted. That clearly puts a damper on Clinton’s prospects. The stock market is a voting mechanism.”

The dark mood on Wall Street plays directly into the hands of Republicans who used Thursday night’s GOP debate to mock Obama’s upbeat State of the Union address in which the president said anyone who is saying the U.S. economy is in decline is “peddling fiction.”

“The president tried to paint a rosy picture of jobs. And you know, he's right. If you're a Washington lobbyist, if you make your money in and around Washington, things are doing great,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. “The millionaires and billionaires are doing great under Obama. But we have the lowest percentage of Americans working today of any year since 1977. Median wages have stagnated. And the Obama-Clinton economy has left behind the working men and women of this country.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/01/stock-market-dow-drop-democrats-217855#ixzz3xSAo64ze

And notice, again, no mention of Bernie...except that the GOP is repeating his talking points.
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