Friday, July 08, 2011

The War on Social Security and Medicare

Well, we hear now that Obama might "compromise" on these. Uhm... say wha? Is he wanting to be a one-term President? If so, a simpler way might be to do a LBJ and simply resign, yo! Because Social Security and Medicare are wildly popular for a simple reason -- *everybody* will eventually get old and receive them. And their problems are easily solved by simple mechanisms -- simply removing the income cap will keep Social Security solvent beyond the lifespan of every American living today, and Medicare can be kept solvent for at least the next 20 years via simply changing the drug program to have it administered via the same process that the VA's drug program is administered (i.e., competitive bidding), rather than the current "pay anything the drug companies demand" process. There's no need or reason to cut benefits on *either* of them.

I honestly don't "get" what the libertarian and GOP types and their sycophants are thinking when it comes to Social Security and Medicare. Everybody eventually becomes old and feeble and unable to work and has medical problems that exceed their income. Everybody. Old age and death are the fate of everybody living today. What that means is that every single one of these people trying to destroy Social Security and Medicare are trying to destroy something that they themselves will benefit from in the end. It's as if they're holding a loaded pistol to their own head and saying "Your money or your life"!

So... what's the deal here? Are libertarians convinced they will never get old and thus will never need Social Security and Medicare? Given the suicidal and defeatist nature of their philosophy I suppose that's possible -- they appear to be the sort of ideologues who would voluntarily do a Hunter S. Thompson and take a pistol through their head if they got to be too old and feeble to work anymore -- but for the rest of us, it looks like they're nuttier than a bag full of peanuts, yo.

-- Badtux the Baffled Penguin


  1. There's no possible weapon the Repubs can accidentally hand to the Dems that the Dems can't deliberately use on themselves.

    If every Repub politician is found in bed with a dead hooker tomorrow morning, we'll end up with all our Dems going to jail, instead.

    Even the Repubs are backing away from the Ryan plan, as the Dems are saying, "the polls are clear! Maybe we should embrace the Ryan plan!"

    As for our fellow schlubs voting for their own dissolution, yes, they don't believe they are getting old. Or that they won't be rich very soon. Or that the stock market is an awesome institution in which to trust your life.

  2. It might help your case if you managed not to utter nonsense such as "*everybody* will eventually get old". No they will not. Some will, some will not.

    Also, as a stickler for the facts, please define "old".

    David Duff

  3. Duffer, are you saying you will NOT eventually get old and infirm and unable to work? What, you found the fountain of youth somewhere there in that fantasy universe of unicorns and cotton candy trees that right-wingers live in?

    Sorry, dude. I was talking about THIS universe, not your fantasy universe. And in this universe, assuming you don't die in an auto accident or by shooting yourself in the head or otherwise in an unexpected way, you're eventually going to become infirm and unable to work, whether the cause is old age or incurable disease or whatever, it happens to everybody. The only thing certain about life is that, one day, you grow old and die. At least, in THIS universe. I don't know about the fantasy universe you appear to live in.

    - Badtux the Reality-based Penguin

  4. "assuming you don't die in an auto accident or by shooting yourself in the head or otherwise in an unexpected way"

    Well done, Snarky, I knew you'd get there in the end.

    Hence your statement "*everybody* will eventually get old" is, er, non-factual.

    Jest sayin'!

  5. Bad Tux censor the troll needs to appear! Duff is worse than mold in wall board. 'jest say'un' as it were.

  6. No no, MandT, this is entertaining, in a sort of deranged way. It appears that Mr. Duff is stating that those who oppose Social Security and Medicare are planning to commit suicide or die in traffic accidents or whatever, as vs. grow old and eventually infirm and unable to work, and thus won't need Social Security so that's why they oppose it.

    Funny, I had not previously ascertained that right wingers were all suicidal maniacs who drove like teenage boys, but I suppose it makes sense. So, Mr. Duff, when do you plan to kill yourself or run your car into a tree at 100mph? Or do you plan to become old and thus, eventually, infirm and unable to work? Curious penguins want to know!

    - Badtux the Amused Penguin

  7. LOL....Bad Tux the truly comic Penguin!

  8. Oh, and I also forgot to remind you that a fairly large number of people live healthy active lives into what might be called 'old age' and then die suddenly of natural causes, usually heart attacks, thus missing all the angst you write about so movingly - and so innacurately.

    'There are more things in heaven and earth, Snarky,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy
    ', or, if you prefer, 'Life sure is complicated ain't it'? (Er, how's my accent? Coming on, is it?)

  9. I don't understand how liberals can possibly like Social Security or defend its principles. It's a regressive tax. Children from poor families tend to start work earlier and therefore start paying the tax earlier. Those children tend to have shorter life expectancies and so take a fewer number of payments from the system. The program is essentially a transfer of wealth from the poor to the middle class. Yet here's a program conceived in the name of helping the poor, or as you say, everyone! You would never defend such a tax, nor such a benefit system. Medicare is not much better either.

  10. Tux, I was going to write a long comment about the delusional nature of the reich wing, likening it to the delusional thinking I see in patients in the psych ward. But there's a quote I lifted from Driftglass that sums it up succinctly:

    "Right now the Right is a suicide cult who have thrown in their lot with monsters and burned every bridge back the the Real World. And behind many of them are literally centuries of dug-in, ignorant bigoted rage that has been handed down -- generation to generation -- like family heirlooms."

    Now, getting to you, msgnet, who is apparently another Friedman-sucking Glibertarian with no idea how the real world works, juding from your blog. Here's an answer to why Medicare and Social Security are valuable: BECAUSE THEY FUCKING WELL KEEP PEOPLE ALIVE!

    What planet do you live on, eh? When people get old, they get sick. But they want to stay alive. That means they need to get medical care. Shit like hip replacements when they fall down and break their femurs because they have osteoporosis. Most people don't have gobs of money in their bank accounts to pay for that. Blood-sucking medical leeches -- I mean "health insurance companies" -- don't want to issue policies to old people. So either they get Medicare, or they die.

    It's the same thing with Social Security. When people get old, especially poor ones who have never had high-paying jobs, they usually haven't saved up much money. But they don't want to die of starvation. That's why Social Security exists -- so people will have at least a pittance, because that's all Social Security is, to prevent them from starving to death.

    All this bullshit about "wealth transfer from the poor to the middle class" is, well, bullshit. Social Security is there to prevent poor old people from starving to death. You might think otherwise because you're a.) young; b.) rich (which I doubt) or c.) disconnected from reality because all you know is what you read in libertarian fantasy novels like Ayn Rand. Please join the real world soon.

    Tux, why is it your blog attracts gibbering Glibertarians? Are you on some kinda list for them? Because you aren't one. What is it about your blog that attracts delusional thinkers?

    We're coming to a day when the social safety net is going to be pulled away so far that poor people will not be able to keep living. And there will be a lot more poor people by then. A lot of them will meekly die in the bushes. The majority has always been passive. But there will be plenty who, when they have nothing left to lose, they'll "lose it" and start burning shit down.

    That's why "Social Security" was called that, msgnet. Because the security of a society is in danger if angry mobs of poor people decide they might as well rampage, because there's no hope. But congratulations -- your ideology is winning the day, because it's what the feudal overlords of society want stupid schmoes to think. The overlords will be relatively safe in gated communities protected by hired guns when the burning and killing starts. It will be YOUR neighbourhood that's in flames, msgnet. I hope you fucking well enjoy when you get the dream world that you've been lusting after. You are an Eloi. I will be with the Morlocks.

  11. Well done, 'msgnet', but of course all socialist welfare schemes end up benefitting the middle-classes because they're better educated and quickly learn how to work the system, except the unemployment schemes where sharp cunning rather than book-learning is required and is in plentiful supply amongst the lower classes. Needless to say, the public 'servants' (do stop sniggering, you know what I mean!) who actually operate these systems know just enough to want to keep the scams going because it keeps them in jobs.

    One only has to read the excitable Bucko to gain an insight into what passes for thinking. He says, "Here's an answer to why Medicare and Social Security are valuable: BECAUSE THEY FUCKING WELL KEEP PEOPLE ALIVE!" But of course, they don't. As our confused host pointed out with blinding obviousness, first you live, then you die.

    By the way, I've heard 'Bollocks', lots of it here actually, but what are 'Morlocks' when he, she and/or it are at home?

    Jest askin - ag'in!

  12. Shorter Duffer: Old people who have no family should just die, already. Same with the unfortunates who become disabled. They're gonna die someday, why not now? And some folks wonder why we think right wingers are heartless AND brainless.

    Msgnet, you appear to have missed my proposal to remove the income cap on SS contributions. As for the rest of your message, see Bukko.

    Finally, I'm out of town and typing this on an iPad. Behave yourselves.

  13. OK, boys and girls, 'Snarky's out of town - lets rip!

  14. I think you've managed to blow away all three ground rules Bukko - well done.

    Badtux, you're right, I did miss that proposal. That makes the tax side of the equation look better, but don't you think the middle class derives more benefit from Social Security than the poor?

  15. msgnet -

    You ignorant buffoon, the middle class gets more SS because they pay in more. It's a percentage of earnings, up to a ceiling. A percentage of a higher number is -- hold on to your hat -- a higher number.

    This has been a public service announcement.

    Wow - WASFF.

  16. Jazzbumpa! - thanks for the explanation. Sorry for not having been more clear. I meant "more" in a general sense, not simply more dollars. It's a subtle point that's probably difficult for you to grasp, apologies. But unless I'm mistaken, the less well off generally start paying into the system (excuse me, what system, they just pay taxes) sooner, and take receive fewer payments because of the whole life expectancy thing.

    My point is that if you are a liberal, and want some progressive tax system in order to redistribute some wealth to the less well off, those who really need it....well, Social Security seems to do quite a shitty job of that.

  17. Hey Jazz -- what's with "WASFF" with the double F's? Is that a typo, or does it stand for "We Are So Fucking Fucked"?

    I ask you this question because there are no easy answers, it being your personal acronym and all. For all else, there is Teh Great and Powerful Wizard of Oogle.

    I would never want to show that I am not only ignorant about the meaning of a word, (which is excusable because a person cannot know absolutely EVERYTHING,) but I am so ignorant that I cannot conceive of using Google to find out simple things like "What are Morlocks?

    Although "Morlock" is hardly obscure, since H.G. Wells was a famous author from Eng-fucking-land and "The Time Machine" was one of his most renowned books, perhaps the first dystopian novel ever written. It was also set in Brit-fucking-ain. Any English-eloi who's ignorant of something FROM his country, which is ABOUT his country, deserves to have his head split open and his brain devoured by a Morlock. Although that brain is probably so puny it would hardly make a snack for a working-class cannibal.

  18. MSG, it appears that your argument is one for reform of SS to allow poor people to take early retirement at age 62 without penalty (whereas right now if they take retirement before age 67, there is a penalty). Is that *really* the argument you wanted to make? Just askin ;).

    - Badtux the Back-in-town Penguin

  19. No, that's far too incremental a change for me. I'd much prefer cash payments to subsidize those with low incomes, regardless of age.

    I'm just trying to see if anyone is willing to admit that Social Security, vigorously defended lynchpin of progressivism, is a shitty ass program that doesn't really do what it's supposed to do. So far I haven't heard an intelligent rebuttal, though I'm not surprised with the likes of Jazzbumpa and Bukko in the room. I would find any of you more credible if the reply were something like, yeah, SS is not perfect, it doesn't help the poor as much as people think it does, it really should be replaced by a true redistributive program from rich to poor...Also waiting for the obligatory democracy is not perfect as opposed to your glibertarian unicorn utopia or whatever. Anyway, it's pretty much hopeless to even discuss. The only solution is to lower the cost for people to freely choose their own government. Maybe Seasteading (go ahead, laugh it up) will catch some momentum, or some other thing.

  20. Sorry, Prof. Bucko, but apart from the fact that I never read science fiction or fantasy stories, Wells was another visionary socialist so that was another reason never to read him.

    Anyway, 'Big Daddy's back so we'd better behave - or else!

  21. msgnet -

    Well, you ignored that one of us (I'm not going to reread the whole string to see who) agreed that SS ought to be more progressiv-ey by eliminating the ceiling, as was done with the medicare portion of FICA several years back. Of course, I concur.

    You criticize SS for not being progressive enough, and therefore imperfect. Well, it is a damn sight better than ANYTHING that would come out of any brand of conservatism these days, including that practiced by B. Hoover Obama - who is on the verge of capitulating to the Rethugs who want to destroy it.

    You are making a more fundamental error though. You are thinking of SS as welfare, which it was never intended to be. It is an insurance program - essentially, an annuity purchased on the installment plan, throughout your working life. That's why payout is determined by pay-in.

    Your point about life expectancy is valid - but it can be overstated. There is certainly a difference in expectancy between the highest and lowest social classes. If there is a big difference between low and middle class, you'll have to show me the data. About paying in sooner - I suppose - since the lower strata don't get to go to college. But remember, what you get per month is based on what you pay in. And besides, there are other solutions to the college situation that have nothing to do with SS.

    Bottom line - you're claim that the poor subsidize the middle class is pretty much bull shit.

    Bukko -

    That was no typo. You sussed it.

    I just learned that the Amtrak train from Detroit to Chicago now routinely runs late, because it has to use track owned by a private company, and they won't allow Amtrak train to go over 40 mph.

    There's the power of free market capitalism for you!


  22. Weak, Bukko. It's a crappy program and you know it. So you raise the cap to infinity. Nice job, you're a liberal supporting a flat tax!! But I'm glad you can take some solace in the idea that it's better than anything the conservatives could come up with.

    Hope your seastead manages to stay aloat-


  23. Social Security is a pension fund, folks. It's a pension fund that can't be stolen by big business in order to give their CEO's multi-million-dollar salaries the way our "real" pension funds were stolen, and it's a pension fund that can't be stolen by the thieves on Wall Street the way our 401(k)'s were stolen. Whining that it doesn't do things that it wasn't designed to do is just that -- whining by people who are not being honest.

    Monosodium Glutamate, you appear to be under the delusion that Social Security is welfare for old people. It is not. We have a different program -- SSI, Supplemental Security Income -- that is welfare for old people, given to those who do not qualify for sufficient Social Security benefits to survive otherwise. You also appear to be a fan of Richard Nixon's "guaranteed minimum income" plan. But Nixon never was really serious about implementing that, and neither are you when we get down to where the rubber hits the road.

    Finally, regarding regressiveness or progressiveness of the Social Security tax -- the political realities are such that it's not feasible to make it a progressive tax. I live in this universe, not in some universe of pink unicorns and cotton candy trees. I do believe that the current fictional "crisis" in Social Security is a fine opportunity to make it at least not a *regressive* tax, the way it currently is. Others, however, seem to believe it's an excuse to take away benefits already promised. My opinion of people who would do such a thing is somewhere around there with my opinion of liars and thieves... I empty my cloaca in your direction, sirs. 'Nuff said of that.

    - Badtux the Realist Penguin

  24. It certainly sounds like you're talking out of your cloaca.

    I knew that living in this universe, or unicorns would come up sooner or later. Pink cotton candy trees - now that's a surprise! These are all nice crutches when you have nothing intelligent to say about the principles and need to take up some space.

    I am a big fan of the guaranteed minimum income idea, though not Nixon's incarnation, which was junk. But I see you have nothing other to say about such an idea, other than a bunch of people are liars, Richard Nixon wasn't serious (I concede), and I'm not serious. That must make you - a Serious penguin.

    It's been fun.

  25. I just learned that the Amtrak train from Detroit to Chicago now routinely runs late, because it has to use track owned by a private company, and they won't allow Amtrak train to go over 40 mph.

    Wasn't that part of the plot conflict in one of Aynus Rand's dreadful "selfishness is good" screedovels? That the solitary man of geeeeeeeeenius had a fantastically fast railroad that he was going to single-handedly build with no help from the dirty stinking gubbermint, but the collectivists stopped his noble free-enterprise self? And here we have the opposite happening -- greedy private enterprise restricting a government effort to help people travel. (Which might compete with cars and airplanes -- can't have that filthy competition, can we?)

    Tux, I don't know what's being put out re: Social Security by the education system, or media, or parents, or whoever tells kids about retirement. I was taught that when you get to be old enough to retire, your survival depended on a three-legged stool. One leg was Social Security, one leg was your pension provided by the company you worked for and the last leg was what you had managed to save over the course of your lifetime. Social Security was never designed to be enough to live on. Are people under the impression that it is? Where do they get that idea, except for being lazy and too stupid to think about the future? I guess there's a lot of that about.

    Too bad the pensions from where people work have been stolen by greedy corporate criminals or eliminated by greedy companies, because that only leaves two legs on the stool. With people drowning in debt and savings accounts paying 0.1% interest, there's no incentive to save. So old folks are supposed to get by with 1/3 of the stool?

    Glibertarians are so intellectually dishonest that they cannot admit -- even inside their own minds -- that their solution is for people to die when they stop working. Just like Stalinists could not admit that their proletarian paradise was an impossible dream, and religious fundies can't admit they believe in superstitious fairy tales about a Sky Spook.

  26. Don't forget that people's 401(k)'s have been largely stolen by the banksters. I don't bother contributing to the pitiful selection of 401(k) funds provided by employer, because it was too depressing to watch the balances go down. One year a $25,000 401k fund turned into a $15,000 401k fund. Yeah, Wall Street stole $10,000 from me that year. Go figure.

    Social Security is "it" for the majority of people. Not for the top 1%'ers, who don't understand why the rest of us are so attached to Social Security, but for the rest of us, if Social Security goes, it's a death sentence.

    - Badtux the Reality-based Penguin

  27. Badtux, you really deserve better trolls, although the preposterous pedantry of the duffer is sorta entertaining. (In addition to what you've provided here, the data from CBPP and Strengthen Social Security is quite good.)

  28. A late comment; just arrived here from a Brilliant at Breakfast blog post.

    Agree with everything BadTux wrote in his post. Additionally, Social Security is an insurance program; its official title is "Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance". I wouldn't be against it if it was welfare either. Although I can't even handle my own family's finances, I had to handle my grandmother's finances when she went into a nursing home and was no longer capable herself. She died right when her money ran out and she was about to go on Medicaid. Screw those who have no compassion for the elderly and infirm.

    As for some elderly people living healthy active lives, Dr. Sherwin Nuland, in his depressing book HOW WE DIE, noted that autopsies of elderly people showed the same amount of decay in their internal organs regardless of their lifestyle. So, if we're lucky to live long enough, we're all just a chance away from drawn-out illnesses and/or dying.

    As for the Republicans thinking they won't need S/S or Medicare, I've known of people who don't have health insurance and are proud of it, mostly libertarians I guess. Then they reach their 50's and start having medical problems ...


Ground rules: Comments that consist solely of insults, fact-free talking points, are off-topic, or simply spam the same argument over and over will be deleted. The penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here. All viewpoints, however, are welcomed, even if I disagree vehemently with you.

WARNING: You are entitled to create your own arguments, but you are NOT entitled to create your own facts. If you spew scientific denialism, or insist that the sky is purple, or otherwise insist that your made-up universe of pink unicorns and cotton candy trees is "real", well -- expect the banhammer.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.