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FTR #831 The Elderly “Wouldn’t Be Fucking Help­less if You Weren’t Send­ing them Fucking Checks to Sit on their Ass and Lay in Hos­pi­tals all Day”: The GOP’s Assault on Social Security

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here. The new drive is a 32-gigabyte drive that is current as of the programs and articles posted by 12/19/2014. The new drive (available for a tax-deductible contribution of $65.00 or more) contains FTR #827.  (The previous flash drive was current through the end of May of 2012 and contained FTR #748.)

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment

Introduction: In FTR #829, we noted that the GOP-dominated 114th Congress wasted no time in attacking Social Security, firing their opening salvo on its first day in office. In that same program, we opined that the Snowden “op” was a significant factor in alienating the young, idealistic voters who had propelled the Obama candidacy in 2008.

The Peach Fuzz Fascist himself (Snowden) marches to the same drummer as the GOP, the Koch brothers, Rand Paul et al. He went on the public record in 2009 against Social Security and for the restoration of the gold standard (this when that career spy was posted to Geneva, Switzerland as an officer of the CIA.)

The obscene quote in the title recaps Snowden’s thinking verbatim.

This program continues analysis of the assault by the GOP on the New Deal and Social Security, concluding with review of the 1934 coup attempt by powerful U.S. financial and industrial interests.

Like Snowden and the GOP-controlled 114th Congress, the 1934 plotters wanted to restore the gold standard and repudiate Roosevelt’s social agenda.

Rand Paul–part of “The Paulistinian Libertarian Organization” and an ardent defender of Snowden–is at the forefront of the attack on Social Security, characteristically manifesting blatant falsehoods and distortions to justify his position. (Rand Paul is being touted by Ralph Nader.)

A significant part of the program consists of an analytical timeline of the GOP’s attack on Social Security, dating back to the period of the 1934 coup plotters.

What we are seeing with the Snowden/GOP “get rid of Social Security/bring back the gold standard” political catechism is a manifestation of “Clausewitzian economics.

Edward Snowden, unplugged

Program Highlights Include: The GOP’s plans to “privatize” Social Security; an irresponsible “60-Minutes” piece featuring Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma)  spuriously attacking Social Security; review of Snowden’s advocacy of returning to the gold standard; a blueprint of the GOP’s game plan for attacking Social Security; review of eugenics philosophy and the need to eliminate “useless bread gobblers.”

1a. Excerpt­ing some of Snowden’s 2009 online musings–crafted dur­ing the same time period in which he decided to leak NSA documents–gives us insight into his true nature. We’ve men­tioned Snowden’s embrace of the gold stan­dard, belief that we should elim­i­nate Social Secu­rity and deep affin­ity for Ron Paul. Per­haps exam­in­ing his actual pro­nounce­ments will prove educational.

EXAMPLE:  . . . Snow­den wrote that the elderly ‘wouldn’t be fuck­ing help­less if you weren’t send­ing them fuck­ing checks to sit on their ass and lay in hos­pi­tals all day.’ Yeah, if ONLY those 75 and 80-year-olds lying in hos­pi­tal beds would get up and find jobs like every­body else, right Eddie? Snow­den is a nasty lit­tle fas­cist and peo­ple should care­fully con­sider the rest of his behav­ior in the con­text of his ide­o­log­i­cal pronouncements.

“Would You Feel Dif­fer­ently About Snow­den, Green­wald, and Assange If You Knew What They Really Thought?” by Sean Wilentz; The New Repub­lic; 1/19/2014.

[Snow­den is post­ing under the moniker “The True­HOOHA”] At the time the stim­u­lus bill was being debated, Snow­den also con­demned Obama’s eco­nomic poli­cies as part of a delib­er­ate scheme “to devalue the cur­rency absolutely as fast as the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble.” (He favored Ron Paul’s call for the United States to return to the gold stan­dard.) The social dis­lo­ca­tions of the finan­cial col­lapse both­ered him not at all. “Almost every­one was self-employed prior to 1900,” he asserted. “Why is 12% employ­ment [sic] so ter­ri­fy­ing?”In another chat-room exchange, Snow­den debated the mer­its of Social Security:

<TheTrue­HOOHA> save money? cut this social secu­rity bullshit

<User 11> hahahayes

<User 18> Yeah! Fuck old people!

<User 11> social secu­rity is bullshit

<User 11> let’s just toss old peo­ple out in the street

<User 18> Old peo­ple could move in with [User11].

<User 11> NOOO

<User 11> they smell funny

<TheTrue­HOOHA> Some­how, our soci­ety man­aged to make it hun­dreds of years with­out social secu­rity just fine . . . .

<TheTrue­HOOHA> Mag­i­cally the world changed after the New Deal, and old peo­ple became made of glass.

Later in the same ses­sion, Snow­den wrote that the elderly “wouldn’t be fuck­ing help­less if you weren’t send­ing them fuck­ing checks to sit on their ass and lay in hos­pi­tals all day.”

1b. More about Snowden’s ultra-right wing views, at one with those of the GOP-controlled 114th Congress, whose election appears to have been greatly aided by the Snowden/WikiLeaks “op.” (The 42% turnout was small, even by off-year election standards.)

“In 2009, Ed Snow­den Said Leak­ers “Should Be Shot.” Then He Became One” by Joe Mullin; Ars Technica; 6/26/2013.

. . . . Hired by the CIA and granted a diplo­matic cover, he was a reg­u­lar old IT guy whose life was ele­vated by a hint of inter­na­tional intrigue. . . .

. . . . But as his first spring dawned in Switzer­land, it must have felt cold, for­eign, and expen­sive. Two days after his arrival in Switzer­land, Snow­den logged onto #arsi­fi­cial, a chan­nel on Ars Technica’s pub­lic Inter­net Relay Chat (IRC) server. He’d been fre­quent­ing this space for a few months, chat­ting with whomever hap­pened to be hang­ing out. . . .

. . . . Snow­den logged on to the pub­lic IRC chat room with the same user­name he used across the Web: TheTrue­HOOHA. The chat room was a place he would return to on dozens of occa­sions over his years in Switzer­land, and his writ­ings fill in details about the man who may go down as the most famous leaker in US his­tory. Over the years that he hung out in #arsi­fi­cial, Snow­den went from being a fairly insu­lated Amer­i­can to being a man of the world. He would wax philo­soph­i­cal about money, pol­i­tics, and in one notable exchange, about his uncom­pro­mis­ing views about gov­ern­ment leakers.

Four years later, Snow­den took a job with a gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor for the spe­cific pur­pose of gath­er­ing secret infor­ma­tion on domes­tic spy­ing being done by the National Secu­rity Agency (NSA). In May, he hopped a plane to Hong Kong before the NSA knew where he was going. Once there, Snow­den began a process of leak­ing top-secret doc­u­ments to jour­nal­ists. Snowden’s first leak con­firmed what activists had sus­pected but couldn’t prove: there was a drag­net gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance pro­gram col­lect­ing infor­ma­tion on every American’s phone calls. . . .

. . . . And he could be abra­sive. Snow­den didn’t short stocks just to make money—he did it because it was the right thing to do. He saw him­self as a pal­adin of the mar­kets, bring­ing “liq­uid­ity” to all. As for those who didn’t agree with him about the right­ness of the gold stan­dard or the need to elim­i­nate Social Secu­rity, they weren’t just mistaken—they were “retards.” . . .

. . . . A Ron Paul man and a short-seller

If Snow­den was get­ting com­fort­able in Geneva, he was fully at home in #arsi­fi­cial. In a depar­ture from his nearly 800 posts in other Ars forums, here he spoke bluntly on mat­ters of state. In the months fol­low­ing the 2008 elec­tion, he dis­cussed his embrace of a return to the gold stan­dard and his admi­ra­tion of its highest-profile champion.

In his more hyper­bolic moments, Snow­den spoke about the fall of the dol­lar in near-apocalyptic terms. “It seems like the USD and GBP are both likely to go the way of the zim­babwe dol­lar,” he sug­gested in March 2009. “Espe­cially with that cock­bag bernanke decid­ing to mag­i­cally print 1.2T more dollars.” . . .

. . . . The high unem­ploy­ment rate that was on the way for the US didn’t phase Snow­den; those wring­ing their hands and seek­ing con­ven­tional Key­ne­sian solu­tions seemed soft­headed to him. Obama was “plan­ning to devalue the cur­rency absolutely as fast as the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble,” he wrote. Ris­ing unem­ploy­ment was a mere “cor­rec­tion,” a “nec­es­sary part of capitalism.” . . .

1c. Edward Snowden is a spy. Those who have been taken in by his superficial persona are victims of a relatively obvious intelligence “op.”

” Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden” by Tracy Connor [Interview with Brian Williams];  NBC News; 5/28/2014.

. . . .“I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover overseas — pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine,” Snowden said. . . .

1d. Rand Paul, who introduced Bruce Fein to the Snowden family, has joined the attack on Social Security. He is marching to the same drummer as the Peach Fuzz Fascist (Snowden).

“Rand Paul Steps Up the GOP Attack on Social Security” by Michael Hiltzik [The Economy Hub]; The Los Angeles Times; 1/19/2015.

Travel obligations kept me from addressing until now the attack on Social Security disability recipients made last week by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), but it was too outstandingly ignorant and cynical to go unanswered.

Long story short: If Paul’s words truly represent the Republican Party’s approach to Social Security, then not just the disabled but everyone else with an interest in the program — taxpayers, retirees and their survivors and dependents — should start panicking now. We reported on the first shot fired at Social Security by the new GOP Congress here. Paul has now raised the stakes.

Here are his words, delivered to an appreciative audience on Wednesday in the key presidential primary state of New Hampshire:

“The thing is that all of these programs, there’s always somebody who’s deserving, everybody in this room knows somebody who’s gaming the system. I tell people that if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check. Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everyone over 40 has a back pain.”

Paul thus associates himself with a slander of disability recipients favored by Republican conservatives abetted by ill-informed journalists, who include the staffs of NPR and “60 Minutes.” (We reported earlier on the latter’s abandonment of journalistic standards in its disability coverage.

Leaving aside Paul’s contempt for people suffering from these conditions (“Join the club”), his numbers are flagrantly wrong. The actual figures can be found in this table from the Social Security Administration. Start with “anxiety”: The Social Security Administration classifies anxiety as a subset of mental disorders and places it in the catch-all category of “other,” which constitute a total of 3.9% of all disability claims — and that’s all otherwise unclassified mental disorders, not just anxiety.

Where Rand Paul goes wrong: Back pain and anxiety account for nowhere near half of all disability claims…

Social Security doesn’t regard anxiety as lightly as Paul. According to its definitions, which can be found here, the category includes post-traumatic stress syndrome and phobias or compulsions that result in “marked difficulties” with working or living in society, or “complete inability to function independently outside the area of one’s home.” Paul wants his audience to think of “anxiety” as the mild sense of dread you might experience when contemplating a bad day at work, or perhaps an unpleasant visit with your family. He’s lying about it.

As for back pain, no one gets disability for the kind of mild stiffness that Bayer aspirin claims to relieve in its TV ads. That’s the condition Paul tries to evoke by saying “everyone over 40 has a back pain.” But he shows no empathy whatsoever for the real sufferers of this condition — those who get it not from laboring in a physician’s office or in Congress, as Paul has, but from years of hard physical toil or workplace injury.

Social Security classifies back pain as a “disease of the musculoskeletal system.” Some 30.5% of disabled workers fell into this category in 2013, according to the latest available figures. But that category covers a lot more than “back pain.” It also comprises amputations, joint failures, leg and arm fractures, spine disorders and burns.

These are the official figures; no one has documented any others. Paul didn’t cite a single source for his assertion that “over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,” so it’s reasonable to conclude that he has no sources. But that’s all right, because his goal isn’t to offer a considered analysis of the pressures facing Social Security in general or its disability component in particular, but to rationalize an attack on the whole program by ridiculing disability recipients as a step toward legislating their benefits out of the system. Fabricated statistics are more than useful for that purpose.

…but his home state of Kentucky has one of the highest disability rates in the country, for different reasons. (Social Security Administration)
The disability program is facing a fiscal crisis that could force a cutback in disability payments of about 20% starting next year; Paul and other Republicans have signaled that they won’t accept the customary remedy for similar situations, which involves reallocating some payroll tax revenue from the old-age fund to cover disability’s near-term shortfall. Instead, they’re demanding a full-scale fiscal rebalancing of Social Security, which in practice means benefit cuts for everyone — disabled, retirees and their families.

A large proportion of Paul’s own constituents would be harmed by his approach. In 2013, his home state of Kentucky had the fourth-highest disability rate in the country — more than 225,000 residents, or 8.2% of the population — fostered in part by low educational attainment and lack of gainful employment opportunities. (What has Paul done to alleviate those conditions?)

The most cynical aspect of this attack is that it comes from some lawmakers who were helped by Social Security in their own lives. The roster includes Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who received Social Security benefits during his college years, after his father’s untimely death, and now thinks that the nation can’t afford to keep paying them as currently scheduled.

Another is Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), the sponsor of the House rules change, whose father died when he was 2 and then was raised by a single mother on Social Security and veterans benefits. Now he talks about Social Security going “bankrupt,” which is flatly incorrect, and promotes a measure aimed at cutting benefits for all. This is known as climbing the ladder and pulling it up behind you. If Reed, Ryan and Paul get their way, the only option left to the rest of us will be to hold tight.

1e. It appears to be far more than just the GOP that is attacking Social Security. “60 Minutes” played a willing sounding board to wealthy GOP Senator from Oklahoma Tom Coburn:

” ’60 Minutes’ ‘ Shameful Attack on the Disabled” by Michael Hiltzik; The Los Angeles Times; 10/07/2013.

Is it possible for a major news organization to produce a story about the Social Security disability program without interviewing a single disabled person or disability advocate?

That’s the experiment “60 Minutes” conducted Sunday. The result was predictably ghastly.

The news program’s theme was that disability recipients are ripping off the taxpayer. Anchor Steve Kroft called the program “a secret welfare system… ravaged by waste and fraud.” His chief source was Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican with a documented hostility to Social Security. Coburn has a report on the disability program’s purported flaws due out Monday. Good of “60 Minutes” to give him some free publicity.

Together Kroft and Coburn displayed a rank ignorance about the disability program: how it works, who the beneficiaries are, why it has grown. This is especially shocking because after a similarly overwrought and inaccurate “investigation” of disability aired on National Public Radio in March, numerous experts came forth to set the record straight. They included eight former Social Security commissioners, experienced analysts of the program, even the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary, Steve Goss.

“60 Minutes” apparently talked to none of them.

At the top of the segment, Kroft observed that disability now serves “nearly 12 million Americans,” up by about 20% in the last six years. Coburn asked, “Where’d all those disabled people come from?”

To begin with, 12 million people aren’t collecting disability payments. The number as of the end of 2012 was 10.9 million, comprising 8.8 million disabled workers and about 2 million of their family members, mostly children.

The rolls have grown consistently since 1980, but even though Coburn professes to be dumbfounded why, there’s no mystery. As Goss laid out the factors, they include a 41% increase in the total population aged 20-64. Then there’s the demographic aging of America, which has increased the prevalence of disability by 38%. (In case Coburn, a physician, hasn’t noticed, the older you get, the more vulnerable you are to injury and illness.) Then there’s the entry of women into the workforce in large numbers, which has brought many of them under Social Security coverage for the first time.

Finally, there’s the economy. When jobs are scarce, more people land on the disability rolls, but that’s not about people treating it as an alternative welfare or unemployment program, as “60 Minutes” would have it.

The relationship between disability and unemployment is much more nuanced. As we explained in April, disabled people always have more difficulty finding jobs than others; when desk jobs disappear and all that’s left are laborers’ positions, the opportunities for the physically and mentally challenged shrink. A good economy allows more disabled persons to find gainful employment and stay off the rolls; in a bad economy that path isn’t open.

The most pernicious lie told about the disability program is that it’s easy to obtain benefits. “60 Minutes” repeated that lie. The truth is that disability standards are stringent, and they’re applied stringently. Two-thirds of all applicants are initially denied, though 10% or so of all applicants win benefits on appeal. All in all, 41% of all applicants end up with checks. Sound easy to you?

“60 Minutes” interviewed two Social Security disability judges, Marilyn Zahm and Randall Frye, who seemed to say that standards are so loose almost anyone can score. That’s curious. When they were interviewed in 2009 by Zahm’s hometown newspaper, The Buffalo News, they said that standards were too tight — “Every month, most judges see a case that should have been paid at the first level,” Frye said then. (It would be interesting to see the “60 Minutes” outtakes.)

Much of the “60 Minutes” piece was devoted to exposing garden variety scams supposedly perpetrated by shyster disability lawyers, which apparently is Coburn’s hobbyhorse. But that’s not the true story of Social Security disability. This is a program that serves needy, aging and injured members of the workforce, paying a princely average of $1,130 a month.

The tragedy is that the disability program is underfunded, facing the exhaustion of its resources as soon as 2016. In the past, Congress has routinely remedied this funding crisis by transferring funds from Social Security’s old-age program. But it has never acted to properly support the disability fund.

 

2a. In keeping with the views of Eddie the Friendly Spook Snowden, the GOP began attacking Social Security and its disability program.

“New GOP Con­gress Fires Shot At Social Secu­rity On Day One” by Dylan Scott; Talking Points Memo DC; 1/6/2015.

With a little-noticed pro­posal, Repub­li­cans took aim at Social Secu­rity on the very first day of the 114th Congress.

The incom­ing GOP major­ity approved late Tues­day a new rule that experts say could pro­voke an unprece­dented cri­sis that con­ser­v­a­tives could use as lever­age in upcom­ing debates over enti­tle­ment reform.

The largely over­looked change puts a new restric­tion on the rou­tine trans­fer of tax rev­enues between the tra­di­tional Social Secu­rity retire­ment trust fund and the Social Secu­rity dis­abil­ity pro­gram. The trans­fers, known as real­lo­ca­tion, had his­tor­i­cally been rou­tine; the lib­eral Cen­ter for Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties saidTues­day that they had been made 11 times. The CBPP added that the dis­abil­ity insur­ance pro­gram “isn’t bro­ken,” but the pro­gram has been strained by demo­graphic trends that the real­lo­ca­tions are intended to address.

The House GOP’s rule change would still allow for a real­lo­ca­tion from the retire­ment fund to shore up the dis­abil­ity fund — but only if an accom­pa­ny­ing pro­posal “improves the over­all finan­cial health of the com­bined Social Secu­rity Trust Funds,” per the rule, expected to be passed on Tues­day. While that lan­guage is vague, experts say it would likely mean any real­lo­ca­tion would have to be bal­anced by new rev­enues or ben­e­fit cuts.

House Democ­rats are sound­ing the alarm. In a memo cir­cu­lated to their allies Tues­day, Demo­c­ra­tic staffers said that that would mean “either new rev­enues or ben­e­fit cuts for cur­rent or future ben­e­fi­cia­ries.” New rev­enues are highly unlikely to be approved by the deeply tax-averse Republican-led Con­gress, leav­ing ben­e­fit cuts as the obvi­ous alternative.

The Social Secu­rity and Medicare Boards of Trustees esti­mated last year that the dis­abil­ity insur­ance pro­gram would run short of money to pay all ben­e­fits some time in late 2016. With­out a new real­lo­ca­tion, dis­abil­ity insur­ance ben­e­fi­cia­ries could face up to 20 per­cent cuts in their Social Secu­rity pay­ments in late 2016 — a chit that would be of use to Repub­li­cans push­ing for con­ser­v­a­tive enti­tle­ment reforms.

“The rule change would pro­hibit a sim­ple real­lo­ca­tion! It will require more sig­nif­i­cant and com­plex changes to Social Secu­rity,” Social Secu­rity Works, an advo­cacy group, said in a state­ment Tues­day. “In other words, the Repub­li­can rule will allow Social Secu­rity to be held hostage.”

Pol­icy wonks who fol­low Social Secu­rity saw the GOP rule change as a play for leverage.

“Everybody’s been talk­ing about enti­tle­ment reform. Mr. Boehner and Pres­i­dent Obama were pretty close to com­ing up with some kind of grand bar­gain, which ulti­mately fell apart,” Tom Hunger­ford, senior econ­o­mist at the lib­eral Eco­nomic Pol­icy Insti­tute, told TPM. “Maybe this could be used as a hostage to try to get back to some­thing like that.”

For their part, con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans were fairly trans­par­ent about their think­ing. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), who has been out­spo­ken on the dis­abil­ity pro­gram, co-sponsored the rule amend­ment. The dis­abil­ity pro­gram has been a favored tar­get for the GOP; mem­bers were warn­ing last month that the pro­gram could be vul­ner­a­ble to fraud.

“My inten­tion by doing this is to force us to look for a long term solu­tion for SSDI rather than raid­ing Social Secu­rity to bail out a fail­ing fed­eral pro­gram,” Reed said in a state­ment. “Retired tax­pay­ers who have paid into the sys­tem for years deserve no less.”

Lib­eral ana­lysts counter, how­ever, that the retire­ment fund, which pays out $672.1 bil­lion in ben­e­fits per year ver­sus $140.1 bil­lion for the dis­abil­ity fund, is more than healthy enough to allow for a real­lo­ca­tion, as has his­tor­i­cally been done. CBPP’s Kathy Ruff­ing wrote that, if a trans­fer was made before the 2016 dead­line, both funds would be sol­vent until 2033.

2b. More about the GOP’s assault on Social Security, a policy wholeheartedly endorsed by Snowden:

“Inside The GOP’s Long Game To Ignite A New Bat­tle Over Social Security” by Dylan Scott; TPM DC1/9/2015. 

Repub­li­cans are seiz­ing a once-every-20-years oppor­tu­nity to force a cri­sis in the Social Secu­rity dis­abil­ity pro­gram and use it as lever­age to push through reforms, a long game that they have been qui­etly lay­ing ground­work for since tak­ing con­trol of the House in 2010.

In less than two years, the Social Social dis­abil­ity insur­ance pro­gram will start being unable to pay its full ben­e­fits and House Repub­li­cans saidthis week that they aren’t going to sim­ply give it more rev­enue from the retire­ment side, as has been done his­tor­i­cally. It’s the lat­est episode in a pro­tracted cam­paign over the dis­abil­ity pro­gram — and it raises the ques­tion of what exactly Repub­li­cans plan to do now.

The last time this hap­pened was 1994, and lib­eral ana­lysts say that another sim­ple real­lo­ca­tion between the dis­abil­ity and retire­ment funds, as has been done 11 times in the past, would keep both funds sol­vent until 2033. That meant that con­ser­v­a­tives had to act now if they wanted to squeeze the cri­sis for all it’s worth. For the last few years, they’ve been high­light­ing instances of fraud and other prob­lems with the pro­gram, set­ting the stage for the big move this week.

Democ­rats are sound­ing the alarm, warn­ing that Repub­li­cans have taken a “hostage” and will lever­age it to pur­sue broad changes to Social Secu­rity as a whole. With mem­o­ries still fresh of their failed effort to pri­va­tize Social Secu­rity in 2005, con­ser­v­a­tives wonks are less sure that the new GOP Con­gress would have the polit­i­cal will to do that, though they wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily mind if it did.

“I wasn’t sure that they were going to be will­ing to take it up. I’m heart­ened that the rule was put in place. It forces us to start hav­ing a debate on this issue today,” said Jason Ficht­ner, senior research fel­low at George Mason University’s Mer­ca­tus Cen­ter who has been called by House Repub­li­cans to tes­tify on Social Secu­rity. “What I sus­pect is this allows for a con­ver­sa­tion not just on (dis­abil­ity), but the whole sys­tem com­bined. But the hur­dle of dis­abil­ity insur­ance is high enough. You start adding in try­ing to retire­ment reform at the same time, that just makes it a higher hur­dle. I’m not sure there’s the polit­i­cal will or the pub­lic will to tackle both sys­tems at the same time right now.”

The hostage in this metaphor is the dis­abil­ity insur­ance pro­gram and a late 2016 dead­line, at which point it won’t be able to pay its full ben­e­fits to its 11 mil­lion ben­e­fi­cia­ries. The new Repub­li­can House has approved a rule that says Con­gress can’t just trans­fer tax rev­enue from the Social Secu­rity retire­ment fund, as it has been done rou­tinely in the past, to cover the loom­ing short­fall. If noth­ing is done, ben­e­fi­cia­ries would face an esti­mated 20 per­cent cut.

Most mem­bers on both sides pre­sum­ably wouldn’t want to see that hap­pen, espe­cially dur­ing a crit­i­cal elec­tion cycle, giv­ing Repub­li­cans pow­er­ful lever­age to bring Democ­rats to the nego­ti­at­ing table. One of the co-sponsors of the rule change, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), saidthat his inten­tion was to “force us to look for a long-term solu­tion” to the dis­abil­ity program.

But the rule itself says it will allow a rev­enue trans­fer if the “over­all health” of Social Secu­rity, encom­pass­ing both the retire­ment and dis­abil­ity pro­grams, is improved. That’s what Democ­rats are warn­ing about, but some con­ser­v­a­tive ana­lysts who have con­sulted with House staffers are also hop­ing that the GOP uses the threat of ben­e­fits cuts to go big.

“It’s encour­ag­ing that the rule actu­ally says we could do real­lo­ca­tion if it’s accom­pa­nied by improve­ments in over­all Social Secu­rity sol­vency. Our pref­er­ence has always been that the deple­tion of the DI trust fund become the impe­tus for com­pre­hen­sive Social Secu­rity reform,” Ed Loren­zen, senior advi­sor to the Com­mit­tee for a Respon­si­ble Fed­eral Bud­get, told TPM. “For the most part, the prob­lems fac­ing DI are really just a symp­tom of the larger prob­lems for Social Secu­rity as a whole.”

Staff for the House’s big play­ers on Social Secu­rity — Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Social Secu­rity Sub­com­mit­tee Chair Sam John­son (R-TX), who co-sponsored the new rule with Reed — weren’t ready to reveal their plans for what comes next. But asked if their pro­pos­als would address just the dis­abil­ity insur­ance fund or Social Secu­rity in its entirety, an aide to Reed told TPM: “Just DI for the moment.”

Those on the right weren’t sur­prised that the new GOP Con­gress took an aggres­sive stance on Social Security’s dis­abil­ity pro­gram on its very first day. “Over the last year, it started becom­ing clear that there’d be a lot of resis­tance to (a clean real­lo­ca­tion) and a desire to have real­lo­ca­tion tied to some reforms,” Loren­zen said. “We were sort of antic­i­pat­ing that this would happen.”

The hostage in this metaphor is the dis­abil­ity insur­ance pro­gram and a late 2016 dead­line, at which point it won’t be able to pay its full ben­e­fits to its 11 mil­lion ben­e­fi­cia­ries. The new Repub­li­can House has approved a rule that says Con­gress can’t just trans­fer tax rev­enue from the Social Secu­rity retire­ment fund, as it has been done rou­tinely in the past, to cover the loom­ing short­fall. If noth­ing is done, ben­e­fi­cia­ries would face an esti­mated 20 per­cent cut.

Most mem­bers on both sides pre­sum­ably wouldn’t want to see that hap­pen, espe­cially dur­ing a crit­i­cal elec­tion cycle, giv­ing Repub­li­cans pow­er­ful lever­age to bring Democ­rats to the nego­ti­at­ing table. One of the co-sponsors of the rule change, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), said that his inten­tion was to “force us to look for a long-term solu­tion” to the dis­abil­ity pro­gram.

3.  The chairman of the House Budget Committee also hinted at pri­va­tiz­ing Social Secu­rity:

“House Bud­get Chair Sig­nals Big Social Secu­rity Reforms A-Coming” by Dylan ScottTPM Livewire; 1/12/2015.

The new House Bud­get Com­mit­tee chair­man hinted Mon­day that he had big plans for Social Secu­rity reform in the next two years, accord­ing to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A week after the House voted on a rule that crit­ics say could force a man­u­fac­tured cri­sis in the dis­abil­ity pro­gram in late 2016, a poten­tial lever­age point for Repub­li­cans aim­ing for changes, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) told a con­ser­v­a­tive audi­ence that he wanted his com­mit­tee to tackle Social Security.

“What I’m hope­ful is what the Bud­get Com­mit­tee will be able do is to is begin to nor­mal­ize the dis­cus­sion and debate about Social Secu­rity. This is a pro­gram that right now on its cur­rent course will not be able to pro­vide 75 or 80 per­cent of the ben­e­fits that indi­vid­u­als have paid into in a rel­a­tively short period of time,” he said at a Her­itage Action for Amer­ica event in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., accord­ing to AJC. “That’s not a respon­si­ble posi­tion to say, ‘You don’t need to do any­thing to do it.’”

Price, whose pre­de­ces­sor Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) never put for­ward major reform pro­pos­als in his oth­er­wise ambi­tious bud­gets, offered means-testing and increas­ing the eli­gi­bil­ity age as pos­si­bil­i­ties. He also hinted at pri­va­tiz­ing Social Secu­rity.

“All those things ought to be on the table and dis­cussed,” he said.

4. The GOP spent the last 80 years try­ing to throw granny off a cliff? When today’s 80 year olds were born, the GOP was already plan­ning for their elderly poverty. Well, that’s our GOP (and Eddie the Friendly Spook): try­ing to smother the joy out of life, from cra­dle to grave:

“The 80-Year Con­ser­v­a­tive War On Social Secu­rity Is Back For More” by Dylan Scott; TPM DC; 1/14/2014.

A new bat­tle is brew­ing over Social Secu­rity in 114th Con­gress. The House passeda rule last week that crit­ics say could has­ten a cri­sis on the dis­abil­ity side of the pro­gram in late 2016, allow­ing Repub­li­cans to use the loom­ing threat of ben­e­fit cuts as lever­age in nego­ti­a­tions. New Sen­ate Major­ity Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has hinted at his hopes for a grand bar­gain on enti­tle­ments, and House Bud­get Chair Tom Price (R-GA) sig­naled Mon­day that he too had big ambi­tions for Social Secu­rity reform.

Social Secu­rity, in more ways than one the mother of all U.S. enti­tle­ment pro­grams, has been the dragon that con­ser­v­a­tives have suc­ceeded in slash­ing, but never slay­ing, over its 80-year his­tory. Their oppo­si­tion has mor­phed from out­right ide­o­log­i­cal grounds as the pro­gram was being debated dur­ing the New Deal era to a cam­paign masked in care­ful rhetoric once Social Secu­rity became vir­tu­ally untouch­able as a polit­i­cal animal.

Repub­li­cans know they have a new oppor­tu­nity with the dis­abil­ity trust fund and a lever­age point that comes along once every 20 years, and they’re seiz­ing it. Price floated some favorite pro­pos­als like means-testing, increas­ing the eli­gi­bil­ity age, and indi­vid­ual accounts (oth­er­wise known as pri­va­ti­za­tion). He described it as the GOP’s effort to “nor­mal­ize the dis­cus­sion and debate about Social Security.”

INITIAL GOP OPPOSITION (1933–35)

FDR began advo­cat­ing for an old-age insur­ance pro­gram shortly after tak­ing office in 1933. While the debate among Democ­rats largely cen­tered on what form the pro­gram should take, whom it should cover and how it should be paid for, Repub­li­cans warned that the pro­gram would “impose a crush­ing bur­den on indus­try and labor” and “estab­lish a bureau­cracy in the field of insur­ance in com­pe­ti­tion with pri­vate business.”

Repub­li­cans peti­tioned for the old-age insur­ance pro­gram — what became Social Secu­rity — to be struck from the House’s bill entirely, leav­ing a much smaller ver­sion of wel­fare for the elderly. “Never in the his­tory of the world has any mea­sure been brought here so insid­i­ously designed as to pre­vent busi­ness recov­ery, to enslave work­ers and to pre­vent any pos­si­bil­ity of the employ­ers pro­vid­ing work for the peo­ple,” Rep. John Taber (R-NY) said, argu­ing against the program.

In the Sen­ate, Sen. Daniel Hast­ings (R-DE) also moved to strike the pro­gram from the leg­is­la­tion, warn­ing that it would “end the progress of a great coun­try and bring its peo­ple to the level of the aver­age European.”

TRYING TO STOP ITS GROWTH (1935–1955)

Despite the pas­sage of Social Secu­rity, con­ser­v­a­tives still believed that they could undo the new pro­gram. In the 1936 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Repub­li­can can­di­date Alf Lan­don, gov­er­nor of Kansas, described Social Secu­rity as “a fraud on the work­ing­man” and “a cruel hoax.”

“The Repub­li­can party will have noth­ing to do with any plan that involves pry­ing into the per­sonal records of 26 mil­lion peo­ple,” Lan­don said in one address. The Repub­li­can National Com­mit­tee sent out mail­ers cam­paign­ing against it.

But FDR trounced Lan­don, and the Roo­sevelt admin­is­tra­tion, his suc­ces­sor Tru­man, and Democ­rats in Con­gress started work­ing on ways to expand the pro­gram toward its goal of uni­ver­sal cov­er­age. When the dis­abil­ity pro­gram was up for debate in 1949, Repub­li­cans crit­i­cized it. They also peti­tioned against an increase in ben­e­fits, argu­ing that Social Secu­rity was intended to pro­vide only a income floor for older Americans.

Some still pushed for the pro­gram to be repealed entirely. “The old-age and sur­vivors insur­ance pro­gram is a grossly unsound and inef­fec­tive tool for the social-security pur­poses it attempts to accom­plish,” Rep. Carl Cur­tis (R-NE) said when the 1949 amend­ments were being debated. He lob­bied to replace it with a pro­gram with much smaller benefits.

But by 1955, with the notable assis­tance of Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Dwight Eisen­hower, who called those who wanted to abol­ish Social Secu­rity “stu­pid,” the pro­gram as it exists today — with near-universal cov­er­age, bet­ter ben­e­fits and a dis­abil­ity com­po­nent — was effec­tively in place.

THE REAGAN REFORMS (1980s)

As Social Secu­rity cemented itself as a fix­ture of the Amer­i­can safety net, Repub­li­cans faced some­thing of a cri­sis about how to dis­cuss the pro­gram. As late as 1962, con­ser­v­a­tives like Ronald Rea­gan were say­ing that the pro­gram had put the United States “down the road in the image of the labor Social­ist Party of England.”

The debate largely sub­sided with the pro­gram sol­vent and other issues dom­i­nat­ing the polit­i­cal dis­course for the next two decades. But, coin­ci­den­tally, as Rea­gan took the White House, demo­graphic trends were putting a squeeze on the pro­gram. Rea­gan appointed Rep. David Stock­man (R-MI), who had once called Social Secu­rity “closet social­ism,” to over­see his bud­get office.

Pub­licly, Rea­gan warned that the pro­gram was “tee­ter­ing on the edge of bank­ruptcy,” but Stockman’s pri­vate remarks sug­gest that the admin­is­tra­tion saw the cri­sis as an oppor­tu­nity for cuts. The White House pushed through an elim­i­na­tion of a “frozen” min­i­mum ben­e­fit and stu­dent ben­e­fits with­out much Demo­c­ra­tic sup­port in 1981.

The cri­sis “will per­mit the politi­cians to make it look like they’re doing some­thing for the ben­e­fi­ciary pop­u­la­tion,” Stock­man said, “when they are doing some­thing to it which they nor­mally wouldn’t have the courage to undertake.”

PREPPING FOR NEXT BATTLE (1980s-2000)

Behind the scenes, though, con­ser­v­a­tive thinkers were dis­mayed that the Rea­gan White House had come nowhere close to dis­man­tling the pro­gram as had once been hoped. Wonks at the con­ser­v­a­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion warned that they must work to “pre­pare the polit­i­cal ground so that the fiasco of the last 18 months is not repeated” and they could achieve the “rad­i­cal reform of Social Security.”

Pri­va­ti­za­tion — called “indi­vid­ual accounts,” which had peo­ple invest­ing their money, elim­i­nat­ing the base ben­e­fit that Social Secu­rity had been con­ceived as — was the goal. They con­sid­ered young peo­ple “the most obvi­ous con­stituency for the pri­vate alter­na­tive” and pon­dered ways “to detach, or at least neu­tral­ize” the older Amer­i­cans who were or would soon be ben­e­fit­ting from the pro­gram in its cur­rent form.

Again, how­ever, Repub­li­cans seemed to rec­og­nize the polit­i­cal real­i­ties that the last few decades had solid­i­fied and what that required of their pub­lic rhetoric.

BUSH’S FAILED PRIVATIZATION PLAN (2000–2005)

Con­ser­v­a­tives finally made their play for pri­va­tiz­ing Social Secu­rity dur­ing the sec­ond Bush administration.

George W. Bush told con­ser­v­a­tives in the midst of the 2000 cam­paign that Repub­li­cans “have to find a way to allow peo­ple to invest a per­cent­age of their pay­roll tax in the cap­i­tal mar­kets” — a new incar­na­tion of the indi­vid­ual accounts or pri­va­ti­za­tion concept.

But the GOP was get­ting sharper with its rhetoric. The lib­er­tar­ian Cato Insti­tute renamed its exist­ing Project on Social Secu­rity Pri­va­ti­za­tion to the Project on Social Secu­rity Choice in 2002. The over­all effect of the Bush-era pro­pos­als was the same, turn­ing a guar­an­teed ben­e­fit into some­thing else entirely, but they had fig­ured out what they thought were bet­ter ways to talk about it.

“BANISH PRIVATIZATION FROM YOUR LEXICON,” read a memo that Repub­li­can poll­ster Frank Luntz gave Bush dur­ing the 2004 cam­paign. But while Bush made Social Secu­rity a top pri­or­ity at the onset of his sec­ond term and under­took a national tour to dis­cuss the issue, those who sup­port the tra­di­tional pro­gram ral­lied against it.

The effort — which TPM cov­ered exten­sively; long-time read­ers might recall the Faint­hearted Fac­tion — proved to be a deba­cle for Bush. For­mal leg­is­la­tion never even got a full vote in Con­gress, and in 2006, Democ­rats took con­trol of both cham­bers. Repub­li­cans appeared to be so scarred by the episode that the notion of major changes to Social Secu­rity was rarely broached in the fol­low­ing years.

But now, nearly a decade later, con­ser­v­a­tives think they have another shot.

5. The program concludes with review of the 1934 coup attempt by powerful U.S. financial and industrial interests.

Like Snowden and the GOP-controlled 114th Congress, the 1934 plotters wanted to restore the gold standard and repudiate Roosevelt’s social agenda, especially Social Security.

“Mag­i­cally the world changed after the New Deal, and old peo­ple became made of glass.”–Edward Snowden (“the peach fuzz fascist”) in 2009.

Discussion

4 comments for “FTR #831 The Elderly “Wouldn’t Be Fucking Help­less if You Weren’t Send­ing them Fucking Checks to Sit on their Ass and Lay in Hos­pi­tals all Day”: The GOP’s Assault on Social Security”

  1. WOW! Everyone needs to send ten emails of the above to ten people and each one of these ten people should send ten emails to another ten people, and so on and so on; and each person needs to write letters to publications and public office holders as well as call talk show hosts with the truth about Mr Ed, the talking bull shit artist.

    Posted by David | January 24, 2015, 8:13 pm
  2. Behold the GOP’s latest trolling targets: The concepts of civil and human rights:

    The Huffington Post
    Senate Republicans Remove ‘Civil Rights And Human Rights’ From Subcommittee Name
    Posted: 01/23/2015 4:58 pm EST Updated: 01/23/2015 5:59 pm EST

    Dana Liebelson
    Ryan J. Reilly

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans revealed this week that they have eliminated the phrase “civil rights and human rights” from the title of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee charged with overseeing those issues.

    Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee this month and announced the members of the six subcommittees this week. With Grassley’s announcement, the subcommittee formerly known as the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights suddenly became the Subcommittee on the Constitution.

    The new chairman of the newly named subcommittee is Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). His office confirmed that it made the switch.

    “We changed the name because the Constitution covers our most basic rights, including civil and human rights,” said Cornyn spokeswoman Megan Mitchell. “We will focus on these rights, along with other issues that fall under the broader umbrella of the Constitution.”

    In his press release, Cornyn never used the phrase “civil rights” or “human rights.” Instead, the release said he would be a “watchdog against unconstitutional overreach and will hold the Obama Administration accountable for its actions.” Cornyn is an opponent of legislation that would restore federal oversight over some local and state election changes that were eliminated when the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

    While the subcommittee made no formal announcement of the title change, civil rights organizations noticed. Nancy Zirkin, who serves as executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called the decision “discouraging.”

    “Names matter. This, after all, is a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the implementation and enforcement of many of our most important civil rights laws,” she said in a statement on Friday. “Changing the name of this subcommittee is a poor start, but the proof of the panel’s seriousness about addressing these issues will become apparent in its actual work. We only hope that this troubling name change doesn’t foretell a heedless retreat on civil and human rights.”

    Ben Marter, a spokesman for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — who formerly served as chairman of the committee and now serves as its ranking member — said that the name of a subcommittee “speaks to its priorities.”

    “Senator Durbin will be fighting to ensure that civil rights and human rights aren’t deleted from Congress’s agenda under Republican control,” Marter said.

    Behold the GOP’s latest trolling targets: The concepts of civil and human rights:

    The Huffington Post
    Senate Republicans Remove ‘Civil Rights And Human Rights’ From Subcommittee Name
    Posted: 01/23/2015 4:58 pm EST Updated: 01/23/2015 5:59 pm EST

    Dana Liebelson
    Ryan J. Reilly

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans revealed this week that they have eliminated the phrase “civil rights and human rights” from the title of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee charged with overseeing those issues.

    Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee this month and announced the members of the six subcommittees this week. With Grassley’s announcement, the subcommittee formerly known as the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights suddenly became the Subcommittee on the Constitution.

    The new chairman of the newly named subcommittee is Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). His office confirmed that it made the switch.

    “We changed the name because the Constitution covers our most basic rights, including civil and human rights,” said Cornyn spokeswoman Megan Mitchell. “We will focus on these rights, along with other issues that fall under the broader umbrella of the Constitution.”

    In his press release, Cornyn never used the phrase “civil rights” or “human rights.” Instead, the release said he would be a “watchdog against unconstitutional overreach and will hold the Obama Administration accountable for its actions.” Cornyn is an opponent of legislation that would restore federal oversight over some local and state election changes that were eliminated when the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

    While the subcommittee made no formal announcement of the title change, civil rights organizations noticed. Nancy Zirkin, who serves as executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called the decision “discouraging.”

    “Names matter. This, after all, is a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the implementation and enforcement of many of our most important civil rights laws,” she said in a statement on Friday. “Changing the name of this subcommittee is a poor start, but the proof of the panel’s seriousness about addressing these issues will become apparent in its actual work. We only hope that this troubling name change doesn’t foretell a heedless retreat on civil and human rights.”

    Ben Marter, a spokesman for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — who formerly served as chairman of the committee and now serves as its ranking member — said that the name of a subcommittee “speaks to its priorities.”

    “Senator Durbin will be fighting to ensure that civil rights and human rights aren’t deleted from Congress’s agenda under Republican control,” Marter said.

    Trolling civil and human rights. It’s an oldie but a goodie! Apparently.

    Next up: endless trolling of the concepts of pain and suffering. Endless:

    TPM DC
    Could The GOP Turn Social Security Into A Perennial ‘Crisis’ Like The Debt Limit?

    By Dylan Scott
    Published January 23, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

    With a fight over Social Security brewing in the new Republican Congress, advocates are worried that a possible GOP angle is to turn Social Security into a perennial crisis in much the same way raising the debt limit has become. By setting up a series of forcing events, the argument goes, Republicans would be able to create an ongoing crisis atmosphere around Social Security that would create a pretext for dramatic changes to the 80-year-old program.

    As TPM has documented, the House passed a rule on the first day of the new Congress that prohibited the routine transfer of tax revenue between Social Security’s retirement and disability funds, the latter of which will stop being able to make full benefit payments starting in late 2016. The transfer, known as reallocation, has been done under Democratic and Republican administrations multiple times in the past, most recently in 1994, but the new House rule forbids it unless it is accompanied by measures that improve the overall solvency of Social Security.

    House Republicans have been transparent about their intentions of using the new rule to force a debate on changes to the program, while advocates and Democrats warned that the rule could lead to benefit cuts. But there is another possibility: Republicans could pass a short-term reallocation that would set up another shortfall a few years down the road — and one that could arrive under a new Republican president.

    It would in theory turn Social Security reallocation into something akin to the debt ceiling of the last few years: A formerly routine accounting move that the GOP is now trying to use as a leverage point to advance conservative proposals. Advocates told TPM that it was a scenario they were taking seriously.

    “Just as with the debt limit, Congress could require regular short-term action, keeping a climate of crisis and requiring new legislation frequently,” Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works, told TPM. Advocates are pushing for a clean reallocation, which is projected to keep both funds solvent until 2033.

    It isn’t just advocates dreaming up this scenario, though — conservative wonks and the lead Social Security actuary have floated the possibility of a short-term fix. It could take a number of forms: The retirement fund could loan money to the disability program, which then must be paid back by a certain time and with interest, which would be intended to force Congress to look at changes to the program so that the loan could be paid off. Or, alternatively, the debt would be waived if cost-saving changes to the program were made. It might not be their first choice, but it’s an option.

    “That presumably would keep pressure on Congress then to do some sort of reform sooner, rather than 20 years down the road,” Jason Fichtner, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, who has written on the inter-fund borrowing proposal and was a top official at the Social Security Administration under President George W. Bush, told TPM.

    Another possibility, outlined to Politico by Steven Goss, Social Security’s lead actuary, is a very small ‘clean’ reallocation that skirts the fine print of the House rule, but would only cover a year or so. That would lead to a similar scenario to the one Republicans are seizing now in the very near future.

    These are options being watched closely by Social Security advocates, who say they’ve heard that House leadership might be interested in taking that course.

    “That’s a very real concern. Whether it plays out that way, it remains to be seen,” Webster Phillips, senior policy analyst for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told TPM. “Even if in the end there is some kind of a reasonable outcome, that will be just a great deal of anxiety that’s created in the minds of the 11 million people who are receiving disability benefits.”

    “Even if in the end there is some kind of a reasonable outcome, that will be just a great deal of anxiety that’s created in the minds of the 11 million people who are receiving disability benefits.” And that anxiety makes it all worth it, to the troll.

    People get old, but jokes don’t. At least some jokes. Like threatening to throw the elderly under a bus. And then doing it. Never gets old.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 25, 2015, 6:33 pm
  3. Dylan Scott has another piece about how it’s looking more and more like the GOP has made a major strategic choice about it’s going to gut social security: Make the case that society needs a new social contract. A social contract based on a series of choices. Sophie’s Choices. One after another. It’s an appealing strategy because a Sophie’s Choice society is both an ends and a means:

    TPM DC
    GOP’s New Social Security Playbook: Pit The Disabled Against Retirees

    By Dylan Scott
    Published January 26, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

    Conservatives have long searched for an effective message against Social Security. Now, they seem to have found a new one to try as they set up a fight over the 80-year-old program in the coming Congress: The disabled are robbing the retired.

    Social Security advocates describe it almost invariably as the “divide-and-conquer” strategy: Pit the program’s two funds — the retirement and disability programs — against each other. The disability fund won’t be able to pay its full benefits starting in late 2016, and House Republicans passed a rule earlier this month stating that they won’t allow a transfer of tax revenue from the retirement fund to cover the shortfall, as has been done multiple times on a bipartisan basis, most recently in 1994, unless Social Security’s overall solvency is improved.

    Republicans have been clear that they intend to use the need for reallocation as leverage to force a debate about the disability program — and perhaps, some conservatives hope and Democrats warn, Social Security as a whole.

    It’s widely acknowledged among Social Security experts and advocates that the disability program is easier to target politically because it needs the revenue infusion and it doesn’t have the built-in political support that the retirement program does. It’s simple math: 48 million people receive retirement benefits versus 11 million receiving disability. People are less likely to balk if the disability fund is the hostage being taken.

    The new politics became clear in the way that Republicans talked about the disability program when they explained why they didn’t intend to allow a clean revenue transfer, known as reallocation.

    “Social Security retirement funds have been raided far too many times for far too many years,” Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), who co-sponsored the House rule, said in a statement. “My intention by doing this is to force us to look for a long term solution for SSDI rather than raiding Social Security to bail out a failing federal program. Retired taxpayers who have paid into the system for years deserve no less.”

    His co-sponsor, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), chairman on the House Ways and Means subcommittee that covers Social Security, echoed that sentiment — and particularly the point about the retirement fund being “raided” to pay for disability insurance. With his position, Johnson has held more than a dozen hearings over the last four years, highlighting and documenting cases of disability fraud, which the program’s supporters contend are overblown.

    That established storyline helped legitimize the action that the House took on the first day of the new Congress, as Johnson referred to the disability program as “fraud-plagued.”

    The program’s supporters said that it’s not difficult to read between the lines.

    “It’s a divide-and-conquer strategy. … It’s easy to demonize the DI program,” Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works, told TPM recently. She referenced the conservative attempts in the ’80s and ’90s to push for changes to Social Security by playing the young and still working against the old and retired. But Republicans at the time quickly learned that the elderly are difficult to attack. “Now they’re good ones who are being stolen from by the people who are disabled.”

    What Republicans hope to get out of this whole episode remains to be seen. They could set up a situation where the disability program faces a crisis on a regular basis. If that’s the course they take, to keep up the pressure for action on Social Security, having a well-established villain would a political asset. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) implying that half of those on disability “are either anxious or their back hurts” typifies the talking point that’s taking hold.

    “Conservatives have shown that they really see 2016 as an opportunity to pit people with disabilities against seniors,” Rebecca Vallas, policy director at the liberal Center for American Progress, told TPM. “The language in the rule is so transparent in what they’re trying to communicate, about how reallocation would be raiding Social Security and hurting seniors.”

    Keep in mind that it’s really only a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ when you’re forced to choose between two options you find personally horrible. So the GOP isn’t really envisioning a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ society for everyone.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 26, 2015, 10:07 am
  4. As assisted suicide laws spread, cancer survivors, disabled object

    Despite a terminal diagnosis, Chasity Phillips perseveres

    Physician-assisted suicide supporters reject ‘slippery slope’ argument

    Advocates for people with disabilities fear mistakes, coercion

    Imani Sippio, and her mother Chasity Phillips in Abita Springs, La., on June 17th, 2015.

    In 2002, Phillips was diagnosed with incurable bone cancer in her chest; despite being terminally ill, she has managed to live a rich, full life with pain management.

    “There was nothing I wasn’t willing to do to have one more day with my child,” said Phillips of her diagnosis.

    Imani Sippio, and her mother Chasity Phillips in Abita Springs, La., on June 17th, 2015.

    In 2002, Phillips was diagnosed with incurable bone cancer in her chest; despite being terminally ill, she has managed to live a rich, full life with pain management.

    “There was nothing I wasn’t willing to do to have one more day with my child,” said Phillips of her diagnosis. |

    Bryan Tarnowski McClatchy
    BY DANIELLE OHL
    McClatchy Washington Bureau

    Doctors told Chasity Phillips in 2002 that she had a 50 percent chance of surviving surgery.

    She suffers from chondrosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer. It had begun to affect her heart, ribs and spinal cord. Her choices were certain death, her doctors said, or surgery to remove part of the tumor.

    She chose the surgery. Still, the return of her cancer was likely. Doctors told her she would have six months to a year before it grew back, requiring more risky followups.

    But 13 years later, Phillips is 38 years old and thriving, despite two very severe medical conditions. She also suffers from lupus. The state of her health has made her somewhat philosophical about her own mortality.

    “There’s a certain freedom that comes with dying,” said Phillips, who lives near New Orleans. “You really don’t have to deal with your annoying cousin. You really don’t have to go on that family trip. You can eat ice cream for breakfast.”

    Her prognosis was not unlike Brittany Maynard’s. But Maynard chose physician-assisted suicide after doctors diagnosed her with terminal brain cancer on Jan. 1, 2014. Before she died less than a year later – on Nov. 1, 2014 – at age 29, Maynard had become a prominent advocate for the “death with dignity” movement, which has triggered legislation in 25 states.

    She was one of 1,327 people who took advantage of Oregon’s 1997 Death with Dignity Act, the oldest and foremost such law in the country, by obtaining the life-ending medicine. Maynard was one of the 859 people who actually chose to use it.

    THERE’S A CERTAIN FREEDOM THAT COMES WITH DYING…YOU CAN EAT ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST.
    Chasity Phillips, terminally diagnosed with cancer

    But as citizens from California to Kentucky push for dying rights, advocacy groups for people with disabilities question whether physician-assisted suicide should be legal.

    “The risk of mistake and coercion and abuse are really too great,” said Diane Coleman, founder and CEO of Not Dead Yet, an advocacy group that informs and lobbies on behalf of the disabled.

    Besides Oregon, whose death with dignity law is a model for similar efforts elsewhere, four other states allow physician-assisted suicide: Washington and Vermont have legislation in place, while Montana and New Mexico established legality through the courts.

    Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia are considering or have considered legislation this year, and Kansas and Missouri are among the 12 states weighing death with dignity legislation for the first time.

    Earlier this year, Colorado lawmakers rejected a death with dignity bill. In California, meanwhile, the state medical association recently dropped its longstanding opposition to physician-assisted suicide in the case of terminally ill patients. The state Senate last month approved the End of Life Option Act, but it has run into religious opposition in the state Assembly.

    “This legislation has evoked strong feelings from both those who support and oppose it,” said California state Sen. Anthony Cannella.

    Phillips said the laws discourage people from finding comfort in their condition. Though studies of some patients show that physicians generally offer more optimistic predictions about how long a terminal patient will live, she’s still alive long past expectations.

    “I’m able to surround myself with people like me,” said Phillips, who worries that many terminal patients do not know about support groups and advanced palliative care. “These aren’t things that people are told exist. Doctors often don’t know. They value my life as it is.”

    Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center, said that those in favor of death with dignity laws support the merits of palliative care.

    The center has not found evidence of a “slippery slope” argument, which claims that legalizing physician- assisted suicide would lead to more extreme types of end-of-life care, including euthanasia.

    “We want people to be getting good quality end-of-life care at all times,” Sandeen said.

    She said that the slippery slope “hasn’t happened. There have not been any reports of coercion, of vulnerable people being pressed into using the laws.”

    Coleman established Not Dead Yet in 1996 to counter the efforts of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, dubbed “Dr. Death” for his active support of a terminally ill patient’s right to die.

    Not Dead Yet partners with groups like the Disability Rights, Education and Defense Fund and the Massachusetts activist group Second Thoughts to create a nationwide network that opposes the death with dignity movement and the laws it champions as discriminatory and dangerous.

    The laws generally stipulate that only a capable adult with a terminal illness, meaning one that will lead to death within six months of diagnosis, may receive a life-ending prescription. The patient must make both a written and oral request in the presence of two witnesses. Another oral request must follow at least 15 days later.

    But where the safeguards stop, the danger begins, according to the disability groups. None of the laws or rulings include provisions about when, where or how patients should ingest the life-ending medicine once prescribed.

    THERE HAVE NOT BEEN ANY REPORTS OF COERCION, OF VULNERABLE PEOPLE BEING PRESSED INTO USING THE (PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE) LAWS.
    Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center

    While the Oregon Public Health Division’s 2014 review of the the state law showed 89.5 percent of patients took the medicine at home, only 19 percent of patients took it under a physician’s supervision.

    According to Oregon’s review of the law, the foremost reasons for physician-assisted suicide are loss of autonomy, decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable, and loss of dignity. Most advocacy groups cite unendurable pain as the main motivation for pursuing legislation.

    To Not Dead Yet and the Disability Rights, Education and Defense Fund, this amounts to fear of disability rather than fear of painful death or lessened quality of life.

    The laws have a provision that bars physicians from prescribing a life-ending prescription to a person with disabilities simply because they are disabled. But opponents stipulate that the danger does not come from those with disabilities who might feel pressure to end their lives, but those without disabilities who fear becoming disabled or having a poorer quality of life.

    Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst at the Disability Rights, Education and Defense Fund, who uses a wheelchair as a result of injury, spoke from personal experience about the doubts about her quality of life that she initially encountered.

    “At the beginning, I felt that the injury was unbearable,” she said. “A year later, it hit me: There was no change in my quality of life.”

    EMMA BACCELLIERI OF THE WASHINGTON BUREAU CONTRIBUTED.

    Email: dohl@mcclatchydc.com

    Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article26972707.html#storylink=cpy

    Posted by participo | July 13, 2015, 10:21 pm

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