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THE PAYROLL TAX CUT: Talk about a Ponzi Scheme!

By Gwendolyn Mink

Is President Obama trying to kill Social Security without explicitly saying so? He put Social Security “on the table” for consideration by his Deficit Commission — even though Social Security has not contributed to creating or sustaining the deficit/debt in the first place. He kept Social Security on the table when he made a deal to delegate deficit reduction authority over entitlements to an undemocratic Super Committee. Now, in a speech reportedly about jobs, he proposed to extend and increase the ill-considered FICA tax cut he embraced last December — a tax cut that directly undermines the financial integrity of Social Security.

According to the White House Fact Sheet on “The American Jobs Act” the FICA tax holiday for workers will be increased to a 50% reduction, lowering it to 3.1%. Under the 2010 tax deal, the payroll tax for workers was reduced from 6.2% to 4.2%. In addition to expanding the tax cut for workers, the President proposes to extend the FICA tax holiday to employers by cutting in half the employer’s share of the payroll tax through the first $5 million in payroll. [Read more…]

Stop the Cuts to the Social Safety Net!

Medicaid cuts will injure communities of color disproportionately. 11 percent of Asian Americans, 14 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, 27 percent of Latinos, and 27 percent of African Americans gain access to health care through Medicaid.

Medicaid cuts will injure women disproportionately. Women account for 70 percent of Medicaid participants.

Social Security is survival income for many older women, especially older single women. Fifty percent of women over age 65 rely on Social Security for 80 percent or more of their income. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research: Unmarried women living alone aged 65 and older are three times more likely to be living in poverty than married women aged 65 and older (16.6 percent compared with 4.8 percent). Without Social Security benefits, more than two-thirds of these unmarried women would live in poverty. [Read more…]

Fires Near Los Alamos Nuclear Facility

The forests surrounding Los Alamos National Laboratory have burned and are certain to burn again with some regularity, whether from lightning or human causes.  If too many trees are allowed to remain near laboratory facilities, those too will sooner or later burn, despite everyone’s best efforts.

We are not as yet very concerned about radioactive or toxic materials being caught up in the present fire because we do not see, at present, much possibility of uncontrollable fire reaching any of those hazards.  There are not many trees near some of the most conspicuous hazards, such as the main nuclear waste storage site, and these wastes are not highly combustible in their present form.  The same considerations apply to buildings that contain nuclear materials — they are not very combustible.  We assume a reasonable degree of competence on the part of highly-trained firefighters involved, and sufficiency of equipment.

The reappearance of very high winds could complicate matters, however, as could the potential presence of unadmitted hazards in unknown locations.  A few laboratory areas do contain volatile soil contamination.

Much about Los Alamos is a de facto secret even whether or not the subject is classified.  This information deficit — the trust deficit that goes with it — create problems for firefighters as well as for the rest of us. [Read more…]

Case Against Cutting Social Security

The case against cutting Social Security is strong.

· Social Security benefits are modest by any measure and are already being cut – by raising the age of eligibility for full benefits and by deducting ever-rising Medicare premiums from benefit checks.

· The cuts already in law add up to a19 percent reduction for people born in 1960 and later, see the National Academy of Social Insurance report, “Social Security Beneficiaries Face 19 Percent Cut; New Revenue Can Restore Balance.”

· Cutting benefits further could undermine much of what Social Security has achieved and expose millions of vulnerable people – elderly and disabled – to unnecessary hardship.

· Benefits are vital to nearly all recipients: about a third of elderly recipients reply on benefits for 90 percent  or more of their income; two-thirds count on it to supply at least half their income. The program lifts nearly 20 million Americans out of poverty, including 1 million children. [Read more…]

Samantha Power, Libya, and Selective Memory of Genocide

Edward HermanIt might seem a bit surprising to see Samantha Power on the National Security Council and working with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who Power famously called a “monster” during the 2008 presidential campaign. But this was a heat-of-battle bit of name-calling, not a designation based on any difference in outlook. Both women are hardliners, along with their colleague Susan Rice, and the three together have constituted a regrettable women’s caucus in favor of a military solution to the conflict in Libya.

In her 2002 book A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, Power called for greater U.S. intervention to prevent major human rights violations and genocide. She never suggests that this might require LESS intervention (e.g., Vietnam; the “sanctions of mass destruction” in Iraq) or reduced support for killers (e.g., Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Israel). She also finds that we inappropriately “just stood by” and failed to intervene in cases where we actually gave positive support to the mass murderers (e.g., Indonesia in East Timor; Kagame and Musaveni in Rwanda and the Congo)

But while ignoring U.S. and client state bloodbaths Power did focus with great passion on genocides or alleged genocides carried out by U.S. targets. This huge bias carried her to the Carr Center for Human Rights and a professorship at Harvard, a Pulitzer Prize, generous media access, and now to a high level position in the administration of the Nobel Peace Prize president. It all fits!

For more information see the following piece, an excerpt of an article which originally appeared  ZNET [Read more…]

Low-Income Women Pushed to the Sidelines

Low-income women have been invisible in budget deliberations thus far – yet they will be injured disproportionately by cuts to income programs like Social Security and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF], as well by cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Food Stamps.

Despite the prolonged recession, income assistance to low-income families has shriveled over the past decade, providing help to less than 40 percent of families who meet TANF criteria and to an even smaller fraction (27 percent) of all families in actual need. For those who do receive benefits, the cash value has eroded so badly that TANF cash assistance does not bring a family up to the poverty line in any state. [Read more…]

Trumka Questioned on Wisconsin, Two-Party System, Journalism and Obama

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, stopped by the National Press Club this afternoon. Trumka underlined the need for economic equality in a 30 minute address before fielding questions submitted by the audience and selected by NPC President Mark Hamrick.

Hamrick asked variations of three questions submitted by IPA. Here’s a transcript of those exchanges:

Building on Wisconsin:
Hamrick: So back to your speech, someone asked, “What is your game plan to spread the spirit of the Wisconsin protest to other parts of the country?’”
Trumka: We’re out there every day, educating and mobilizing. And it’s not just in Wisconsin. We have cross-pollinated Wisconsin people with Ohio people, with Missouri, with Tennessee, with Indiana. We’ve gone all over the country. And people are mobilized. And it’s not just union people, it’s working people in general. Small business people are out there supporting us. Non-union workers are out there supporting us because they think these people have gone too far in trying to pay back their rich donors by destroying the rights of workers out there. So we’re taking that message everywhere. We’re seeing it take effect. And apparently, we’re doing something right, because guys like Scott Walker, his ratings in his own state have fallen like a big rock in a small pond. They think he’s going too far. [Read more…]

Herman: U.S., NATO Hypocrisy on Libya Precludes Their Action

Edward HermanI’m surprised that Phyllis Bennis doesn’t recognize the problems of what we may call “clean hands” — and hypocrisy — in her call for Security Council action on Libya. Do the United States, UK, France and Germany have clean hands that would justify antiwar, anti-imperialist and humanitarians calling upon them to act against Libya? They are daily attacking Afghanistan and Pakistan and have given unstinting support to Israeli ethnic cleansing and international law violations. Doesn’t this discredit the Security Council as an instrument of international justice? [Read more…]

Uprisings: Online Resouces

With protests continuing, here is a partial list of online resources:

For Libya: #Feb17; CNN’s Ben Wedeman; @EnoughGaddafi; For Bahrain: #Feb14, @OnlineBahrain; For Yemen: #Feb3; @JNovak_Yemen; Palestinian: #Mar15

Gulf: @dr_davidson, @tobycraigjones

For Saudi Arabia: on Twitter: #Mar11; Webpages and blogs: rasid.com, ysoof.com/blog/?p=242, saudiwoman.wordpress.com, alasmari.wordpress.com, saudijeans.org

To translate: translate.google.com

Based in the U.S., but with extensive contacts in the Mideast: angryarab.blogspot.com; the new journal jadaliyya.commerip.org; juancole.com

For Tunisia and generally: #Sidibouzid (refers to the town of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who on December 17 was the first of several in the region to immolate himself in protest.)

Egypt: #Jan25 (all dates referring to date protests began in each country); [Read more…]

“A New Bipartisan Consensus Against Low Income People”

The president’s budget is a prosaic austerity plan that inflicts disproportionate pain on low income Americans. Fundamental questions about the costs of war and the fairness of tax cuts for the rich have been avoided by the decision to narrowly target non-security “discretionary” spending to bear the weight of deficit reduction. It used to be Republicans alone who sought to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. But Obama’s 2012 budget takes us to the brink of a new bipartisan consensus against low income people. Will progressives go along?

Mink is co-editor of the two-volume Poverty in the United States: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics and Policy and author of Welfare’s End. Her blog is feministsocialjustice.blogspot.com.