The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Social Security Deform

Social Security Scam Watch

Adam Felber takes on the Social Security reform question:

2) The Plan

So what happens if we siphon off some of this energy (social security taxes), and allow people to put it into individual retirement accounts for themselves? Well, Gramps is screwed, obviously - he's relying on the work that's being done right now. How are we going to keep him comfortable, able to buy the soft food, the bizarre Christmas presents, and the Levitra that has become the bane of Grandma's existence? That's the $1 trillion to $2 trillion "transition cost." That's what's going to keep Gramps healthy, happy, and priapic.

So the plan, that we present-day workers put aside our own Social Security taxes into individual accounts, relies on two little details: 1) That we invest wisely and the market never, ever collapses, and 2) that somebody covers that $1 trillion to $2 trillion of lost benefits money over the next decade or so. Anyone have any ideas? Can anyone spot me the cash? Hello? Well, we'll just have to ask the President...

Read the whole thing, it is really quite good.

When asked what measures we could take to keep the solvency of Social Security, Bush began babbling in a foreign language. Here is a sample:

But the law will be written in the halls of Congress. And I will negotiate with them, with the members of Congress. And they will want me to start playing my hand. "Will you accept this? Will you not accept that? Why don't you do this hard thing? Why don't you do that?"
It goes on and on like that for several paragraphs. Bush won’t be tricked into actually laying out his plan for Social Security. Oh No! You aren’t going to catch him out with questions at a press conference. He is much to wiley for that.

Adam Felber, picking up on Bush's inner monolog, or trialog, catches a conversation between "Bush", "Dubya", and "the President", in which they try to hammer out the terms of an agreement on social security:

PRESIDENT: It won't work.
BUSH: Well, it's the only one I'll sign off on, hotshot.
PRESIDENT: The numbers don't add up. My opponent over there thinks it's okay to throw seniors to the dogs, but I believe in keeping promises.
BUSH: That's not fair! I believe in keeping promises and hope for America and stuff. You're not even saying anything specific about my plan!
PRESIDENT: See how it feels, jerk? Not so comfortable when my shoe's on your other foot, is it?
DUBYA: Now, come on. This isn't productive. Now, Mr. Bush, what's wrong with the President's proposal?
BUSH: The numbers don't add up. It's not hopeful enough.
PRESIDENT: Take it or leave it.
BUSH: I believe in the power of the American people, and the President seems to think that Americans aren't smart enough to solve their own problems.

Bush’s War Watch

Faces of the fallen shows photos of the deceased in Iraq, by date and branch of service.

Killing the American Superpower Watch

James Wolcott points out a book by Emmanuel Todd called After the Empire in which Todd points out that our little adventure in Iraq is going to weaken us to the point of irrelevance:
This is the argument made in Emmanuel Todd's After the Empire, one of the most important books of the last few years. Contrary to those Le Monde intellectuals who see the US as a super-superpower, a hyperpuissance, Todd, a French demographer and author of a book correctly foreseeing the fall of the Soviet Union, says the US has become a "big little bully" incapable of picking on anyone its own size. It makes a show of force attacking the weak--dirtpoor countries with no air defences, such as Iraq and Afghanistan--because a "show" is precisely what it is. "These conflicts that represent little or no military risk allow the United States to be 'present' throughout the world. The United States works to maintain the illusory fiction of the world as a dangerous place in need of America's protection."

Problem is, the fiction is only fooling Americans. The rest of the world has wised up. Todd points out that Germany, Russia, France, and even Turkey declined to join our great adventure in Iraq, and guess what?--nothing happened! Apart from sappy boycotts and juvenile gestures ("freedom fries"), they went unpunished. "True power is economic power, and that is what America lacks today." (Because of our indebtedness and deficits--we're a superpower depending on the kindness of creditors.) Moreover, the smaller countries that did lend minor support in Iraq have nearly all withdrawn from the fray, or about to do so, having unheeded the warning Todd lays down in his concluding chapter:

"We should not follow America's military leaders for whom the term 'theater of operations' has ceased being a metaphor. Fighting alongside the Americans in Iraq would only amount to playing a small role in a bloody vaudeville show."

Bush’s Mistakes Watch

In this powerful five minute Window’s Media presentation, "Mistaken", the lies and incompetence of the Bush and company are juxtaposed with the death, destruction, and humiliation they have brought to the world. One of the most effective messages I’ve seen in a long time. Warning, sound.

Life Watch

In this extremely important post, Digby lays out why being against the death penalty and for a woman’s right to choose are not contradictory. Both positions rely on the idea that politics and government agents are not the right tools for trying to create morality in a messy world. It is a powerful idea, and one we need to explore further.

Tax Watch

Here is an interesting new book, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else by David Cay Johnston. Mr. Johnston finds that the middle class is effectively subsidizing the very wealthy, as he describes in this Booknotes interview:
Most people believe that the higher your income, the greater the share of your income you pay in taxes, and that those who are the most successful provide benefits for those who don`t do as well. And what I show in the book is something it was astonishing to me to learn. In fact, I hired a graduate student in economics to doublecheck all of the findings. And that is that the middle class and the upper middle class, people making $50,000 to $500,000 a year, actually subsidize the richest people in America now. This was not historically true, but they do now.

Bob Somerby quotes and comments on Johnston, illustrating this situation by using one of the Right’s newest bogeywomen, Teresa Heinz Kerry:

Teresa Heinz Kerry reported income of just over $5 million last year, slightly more than half of it from investments in tax-exempt municipal and state bonds, her 2003 income tax return shows, confirming her status as the wealthiest spouse of any major party nominee in United States history...

The two-page document...showed total income of $5,073,554 last year. Her primary source of income was the tax-exempt bonds, investments that generally produce a lower interest rate, but those in the highest tax brackets can often pocket more cash if they choose municipals.

Ms. Heinz Kerry paid a federal tax of $628,401, which is 12.3 percent of her total income and 27.4 percent of her adjusted gross income.

She was a big beneficiary of the reductions in tax rates on dividends and capital gains that have been enacted under President Bush. She collected more than $2.2 million in dividends, all of which qualified for the new 15 percent tax rate, saving her $440,000, compared with the 35 percent rate that previously applied to dividends for those with million dollar-plus incomes.

You can see that people who argue that they very rich pay as little as, or even less than, the very poor in taxes, as a percentage of their income, may indeed be correct.

Hate Watch

In this post, Digby and David Neiwert try to point out how we can get people to vote in their own best interests again. One of the issues is that scapegoating of others, even people who have the best interests of everyone at heart, is creating division within our country, fomented by hate radio. Digby notes:
People are hurting and they are told relentlessly day in and day out that liberals from big cities are the ones inflicting the pain. This would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

Election Watch

The official results from November 2nd differed from the exit polling in very suspicious ways (errors always skewed towards Bush, errors were largest in battleground states), but the GOP has a solution to that problem. They are calling for an end to exit polling (again). They tried to do away with it in the aftermath of 2000, but failed. Maybe this time they will succeed and there won’t be any suspicious patterns in 2008. Problem solved!

In this post, Digby highlights an article by Jonathan Rausch that reframes the election results:

A) The election was a stunning triumph for the president, the Republicans, and (especially) social conservatives. Because the country turned to the right, President Bush received a mandate, the Republicans consolidated their dominance, and the Democrats lost touch with the country.

B) Bush and the Republicans are on thin ice. Bush barely eked out a majority, the country is still divided 50-50, and the electoral landscape has hardly changed, except in one respect: The Republican Party has shifted precariously to the right of the country, and the world, that it leads.

Usual answer: A. Correct answer: B.

Blog Watch

Here is an interesting site that examines the morals of those who would hold their morality against us. It is entitled "RedMorals", and although it perpetuates the ultimately harmful Red vs. Blue false dichotomy, it does emphasize the absurd hypocrisy of the situation. This for example is about Bob Barr, who was one of the most vicious Clinton impeachment managers, and the author of the "defense of marriage act":

Bob Barr, Georgia Republican congressman from 1995 to 2003, and currently conservative Republican activist, began dating his second wife, Gail Barr, while still married to his first wife, according to an affidavit signed by Ms. Barr. When Gail Barr became pregnant for a third time in 1983, Bob Barr expressed no opinion whether she should maintaing the pregnancy or abort. When she made the decision to abort, Bob Barr drove her to the clinic, and paid for the abortion. Mr. Barr admitted under oath that he did not object to the abortion. According to Gail Barr's affidavit, Bob announced to Gail that he no longer loved her in 1985, and moved out of the house.

We are told the media are scandal-driven, and not driven by party politics . . . but did YOU know this about Bob Barr, moralizer extraordinaire? And why not?

Ivory Tower Watch

Conservatives are always crying about how liberal academia in this country is. This article is an interesting explanation of that phenomenon.

Humor Watch

Finally, here is a good chuckle about a Fox news personality, Chris Wallace. He seems to have written a book about profiles in American courage, and highlights an anecdote from the Grover Cleveland era as the height of American political courage. Read the rest of the inane prattle by Wallace, and Somerby’s hilarious commentary on it .

Also, Adam Felber wraps up the Peterson case, and it’s implications for abortion.

That’s it for a while. Have a wonderful holiday!


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