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Bill Black: The Great Betrayal – and the Cynicism of Calling it a Grand Bargain

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By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City

Robert Kuttner has written much of the column I intended to write on this subject, so I will point you to his excellent column and add a few thoughts.

Kuttner wrote to warn that Obama intends to seek a “grand bargain” causing the U.S. to adopt the type of austerity program that threw the Eurozone back into a gratuitous recession.

Worse, Obama intends to begin to unravel the safety net (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) to convince the Republicans to enter into this Faustian bargain. Just as only a conservative Republican could visit “Red” China, only a Democrat can begin the destruction of the safety net. The difference, of course, is that normalizing relations with China was a good thing while unraveling the safety net is a terrible thing.

Wall Street’s greatest desire is privatizing Social Security. Wall Street stands to make scores of billions of dollars annually in additional fees should it ever buy enough politicians to privatize Social Security. The Republican Party’s greatest goal is unraveling the safety net. They always wish to attack the most successful and popular programs introduced by the Democratic Party. Their problem is that they know it is toxic for Republican candidates to try to destroy the safety net. Only Democrats, through a “Great Betrayal” can give Republicans the political cover they need to unravel the safety net.

The safety net is so popular with the American people because it consists of superb programs that constantly put the lie to Republican memes that the government is incapable of success. There is no need to allow Social Security to “go bankrupt.” The necessary expenditures can easily be made by the Treasury.

There is a need to contain the rise in medical costs, but we know how to do that without harming health outcomes. Most advanced nations attain the same health outcomes at half the expense (relative to GDP) of the U.S. Obama’s opposition to the “public mandate” was a grave mistake that needs to be reversed.

Because unraveling the safety net is unnecessary, harmful, and politically insane for a Democrat and politically suicidal for Republicans, the proponents of these terrible policies have long failed in their efforts. Republicans, however, have now found a fifth column within the Democratic Party who they hope will open the door to attacking the safety net. This would provide the political cover that Republicans could use to unravel fully the safety net.

The Republican Party’s approach to convincing Obama to commit the Great Betrayal cleverly exploits three human weaknesses. First, Obama wants to be considered a “centrist.” Second, Obama yearns to be considered “bipartisan.” These first two weaknesses are forms of vanity. The siren song is “do this and you will become known as the President who acted as a statesman to cut across Party and ideological divides and make the hard choices essential to allowing America to continue to be a great nation – while ‘saving’ the safety net.”

The third weakness that the Republicans seek to exploit is fear – and the death of alternatives. The mantra of European austerity proponents is “there is no alternative.” The only choice is between austerity and collapse, and that means there is no real choice. The Republican strategy is to create a series of “moral panics.” As the name implies, this involves the creation of a special form of panic falsely premised on immorality. (Think: “Reefer Madness” or Professor Hill causing River City, Iowans to believe that the arrival of pool hall demonstrated the imminent moral collapse of their children.) The Great Betrayal can only occur if Obama succumbs to mindless (and innumerate) panic.

The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party has to lead the effort to save America from the Great Betrayal. It is essential to focus on the self-destructive nature of austerity. The irony is that a proponent of austerity has just handed us a coup. Becky Quick, co-host of one of CNBC’s business entertainment program, recently wrote a column intended to discredit Paul Krugman. Quick solicited a written statement from former President Bill Clinton to use in her attack on Krugman (who had criticized Quick and her co-host’s stream of “zombie facts” when he appeared on their program). Quick reveled in her success in obtaining ammunition from Clinton to attack Krugman, asserting that it constituted a “damning retort to Krugman” and proved the need to adopt austerity. In fact, Clinton’s statement voiced his agreement with Krugman:

[I]t’s important not to impose austerity now before a growth trend is clearly established, because as the austerity policies in the eurozone and the U.S. show, that will slow the economy, cut jobs, and increase deficits….

Clinton is a leader within the Rubin-wing of the Democratic Party that has been seeking to create the moral panic, but even he admits that “austerity now” “will slow the economy, cut jobs, and increase deficits.” The Great Betrayal of the safety net will begin if Obama is able to deliver the “grand bargain” imposing austerity that would “slow the economy, cut jobs, and increase deficits” and unravel the safety nets – the four horsemen of the economic apocalypse.

Obama is telling the media that the Great Betrayal is his first, and overarching, priority should he be re-elected. We are forewarned and we must act now to make clear that we will block the Great Betrayal and crush at the polls any member of Congress who supports it.

Do not concede the phrase “grand bargain” to the proponents of the betrayal. We should heed Camus’ warning that it is essential to call a plague by its real name if one is to resist it – and it is essential to resist the pestilence. “[W]hen you see the suffering and pain that it brings, you have to be mad, blind or a coward to resign yourself to the plague.” We must refuse to resign ourselves to being betrayed by Democratic leaders. Our actions must make it clear that we are not mad, blind, or cowards. We refuse to fall for their faux moral panics. It is our leaders who are all too often mad, blind, and cowards.

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221 comments

  1. Pelham

    Our leaders are certainly cowards. I doubt they’re blind and mad. They know precisely what they want to do and are doing. And Democrats are the worst of the villains because they’re supposed to be working for us, not Wall Street as the Republicans quite openly confess.

    1. Just Got Fooled Again

      And “We the People” are the grand fools gallery that continues to support all of this lying and barely concealed deception, even as it comes directly at our expense. Looking more and more like a Mittney/Munster Coronation in January, or the Second Coming of the Great Equivocator, with young master Eddie put in charge of herding any unruly Dem house cats in the Senate. Is this the government we deserve? [Cue Sarah cameo.] You betcha! [Wink and a smile with accompanying harp chord in a major key.]

      The corporate hogs are getting unruly as we speak, lining up for the few remaining spots at the government feeding trough… And as Santa rides off into the winter solstice’s cold dark night, the refrain of the age follows in his wake, “Let there be bailouts for the few, and austerity for the many! For Santa’s gifts – like Baby Jesus’s – rain down from above, and who among you are worthy to question that ageless wisdom?”

      1. different clue

        Do you personally support it? If you do, then the blood is personally on your personal hands. If you oppose it, then there is no blood on your personal hands.

        How many people oppose it? They have no blood on their hands. Can they find eachother? Can they turn their opposition into effective prevention? Faux “worldy wise” cynicism and weary resignation won’t help them or us or anyone do it.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Your positivism is laudable until you try and shove it down other people’s throats. There is a great deal to be pessimistic about. All facts.

          1. different clue

            Your pessimism is equally laudable until you try and shove it down other peoples’ throats in turn. You might also stop lyingly imputing to me the belief that there are no facts suggesting pessimism when you have no evidence that I ever denied those facts. You might also further admit to dodging my point that any American who does NOT support the Grand Theft Rippoff does NOT have ANY blood on HIS/HER hands

            I would suggest further that expressions of world-weary cynicism and support of hopeless acceptance might well be planted by psy-war operatives to sow passivity and short-circuit any effort to “do something effective.” Yves and other troll-watchers might want to see if the numbers of comments advocating helpless passivity are increasing . . . and consider whether the new category of “passivity troll” might be designated to help analyse the effects and intentions of their presence on these threads.

            Finally, my name is at the top of my comments, just as anyone else’s name is at the top of anyone else’s comments.
            That means that you can avoid reading my comments altogether if you feel like I am “shoving my optimism down your throat”.

          2. Brooklin Bridge

            Wow! Defensive little soul… As to scroll bars, I’ll use them when I choose and I’ll criticize when I think it’s warranted, thank you very much.

        2. citalopram

          I personally don’t support any of this crap, but that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t responsible.

    2. Oliver L.

      The Democrats at least try to do some good things from time to time (e.g., Consumer Protection Bureau) when the Republicans don’t stop them, lauding the latter for their naked ruthlessness is like supporting a criminal over a quasi-corrupt quasi-incompetent D.A. because the criminal is at least fully “honest” about his intentions.

  2. ArkansasAngie

    What austerity are you talking about?

    Obama’s mistake (and Romney’s as well) is keeping the banksters free of moral hazard.

    Bailouts are not austerity … they are a transfer of wealth.

    Printing money is a means for the elite to repudiate their debt while keeping the rest of us enslaved.

      1. Veri

        Money is a tool of the plutocrats. It is discarded and replaced with a new currency when the old currency is no longer deemed to have value. At the same time as the old currency is becoming worthless, the public is being robbed.

        The rich remain rich and get richer. The poor become slaves.

    1. Veri

      Please. Mistake? It is by design that bankers are free from moral hazard. Most Plutocrat power is exercised through the banks. Banks make contributions to politicians. The politicians write the rules. It is this simple.

      People become confused because the project their morals upon other people, expecting those people to behave just like them. It is sheer delusion. That is the average persons weakness that is thoroughly exploited by those who wish them harm.

      There is a vision for the world. It is the .01% have everything. The rest have nothing and are nothing. The destruction and dismantlement of the social safety net, public health care, and like programs are necessary to achieve plutocratic control of wealth.

      The US will not be able to resolve its debt until the excess wealth in plutocratic coffers – hoarded and guarded – is freed back into the economy. Money sitting in a bank account does nothing. Money flowing through the economy promotes economic growth.

      Obama is a tool that seeks to begin the destruction of the safety net. In Europe, it is already being destroyed in the lesser partner nations.

      95,000 people control $10 trillion. Banks account for 40% of the US economy and control over 1/2 of all wealth in the US. How did it get this way?

  3. Renodino

    What is worse? Someone who promises terrible thing and then does terrible things or someone who promises wonderful things and then does terrible things? Please note the outcome is the same, only the sense of betrayal lingers in the case of the latter. Better yet, let’s quit pretending we have a choice. As it now in the case of rape, let’s just say it’s God’s Will and live happily ever after.

    1. different clue

      I have too much money and survival at stake to adopt your posture of passive helpless acceptance of the so-called inevitable. You “lie back and think of England” if you want to. I will decline your kind invitation to join you on the raping table.

      1. Lil'D

        OK, so, what do you propose?

        I feel powerless, like many here. I write to my congressman & senators and get nice form letters back.

        1. Aquifer

          Vote Green – in any case refuse to vote for the duopoly. That is what they fear most, getting tossed out, and i mean tossed out altogether as the duopoly, not just replacing Ds with Rs and vice-versa – they don’t really mind taking turns, as long as the corp system that sustains them both stays intact -

        2. Denise B

          After not doing so for a few years, I’m again wondering if there’s another country I could move to.

          1. Carla

            As Aquifer says, voting Green is the best response. Any of the countries that are better than this won’t have us, unless we’re enormously rich, which means, maybe they’re not so much better than this after all. Commit patriotism: vote Green.

        3. different clue

          Your question is very fair. For now, all I can propose is to vote either Third Party or Romney for President. Under a President Romney, there is a greater chance that the Democratic Senators will oppose the Grand Swindle because they don’t want a Republican President getting credit for it. They will want to reserve that credit for a Democratic President from their own party. So getting Romney elected may buy more time. For what? Well . . . for action plans from smarter people than me, perhaps.
          Also, I propose looking up the names of those 28 Senators who signed a letter refusing to consider involving Social Security in any budget deal. Any of those Senators running this time should be voted for, in case they mean what they signed. Stabenow signed it and I am voting for Stabenow, for instance. Individual Senators have a lot of negative obstructive power, and a determined band of 28 Senators all pooling their expert knowledge of parliamentary procedure can constipate the Legisfecal Excretion process to a dead stop if they want to. I support giving them the chance to show us if they really want to.

          Any so-called “Democratic” Senator who did NOT sign the letter should be worked against and removed in its next election . . . I am thinking of nastly little so-called “Democrats” like the Catfood Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois, for instance. He deserves to be “Nadered” in his next election, as a lesson to the others.

          Those are desperate stopgap ideas which might work well enough to buy some time for the invention and application of better longer-term ideas. The money I have PREpayed into FICA ever since 1983 and will keep on PREpaying till I stop working is too much money for me to walk away from without an effort to keep it mine for my future.

          Feelings of hopelessness are understandable. They are being deliberately fostered by the Class Enemy Occupation fedregime and its brainwar agents. I read the phrase “hopelessness/inevitability” as what the Communist Occupation Regimes worked to foster in the subject masses of Communist Occupied Russia, Communist Occupied Ukraine, Communist Occupied Poland, etc. I read that phrase in the book Brainwashing From Pavlov To Powers by Edward S. Hunter.
          It was about Communist brainwashing and mass people control in Communist Occupied Europe and Asia, but it is very germane to Privatist brainwashing and mass people control in Privatist Occupied America today. Here is a link to the book.
          http://www.amazon.com/Brainwashing-Pavlov-Powers-Edward-Hunter/dp/B000P6H4NA

    2. Veri

      Your reasoning is why OWS will never be a success, other than as “raising the consciousness”. Raise all you want. Things remain the same.

      You accept slavery and do not give your support to those who would help you free yourself. Passivity is what allows our current conditions to exist. People like you.

  4. casino implosion

    I’m fuzzy on the actual mechanics of this, but it seems that what Wall Street wants is probably not real privatization. They want to gamble with our pay-roll tax dollars with an implicit (or explicit) government backstop. I can’t imagine that the Federal government would really allow a “privatized” Social Security system to take the full hit of losses in a huge market crash. They’d find some way to bail it out and the Wall Streeters know that perfectly well.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      No, in the event of a financial catastrophe combined with a mandated private, for profit, social security and healh care insurance system, Washington would find a way to bail out the private enterprise and keep it swimming in money. The event, of course, would be used as an excuse to make a dramatic decrease in payouts and a dramatic increase in executive bonuses rather than the usual smaller decrease in value and increase in cost to the consumer each year.

    2. okie farmer

      Casino, there is more to this than Black goes into. When Margeret Thatcher and her Tories did a partial privatization of GB’s social security system over $8 billion was churned out of those privatized accounts by traders in the City in less than 2 weeks. When the Exchequer of the Exchange realized what was happening, he halted all the trades in those accounts. It took years to get the thing straightened out, and needless to say, the privatization was abandoned eventually, by fiat of the EofE. Yes, Wall Street has been coveting the money in the SS Trust for decades, and from what we have seen of Wall Street in the last decades, there is every reason to believe that Wall Street thinks that if they can get their hands on SS they can gamble with the money at even higher risks than they take now, knowing that US Govt will certainly bail out the privatized trust fund accounts even quicker than the govt gailed out the big banks.

      One other thng – while Treasury and the Fed have been enablers of saving Wall Street and the big banks, they would not be in a postion to stop the risk that dominates in today’s equities trading, particularly in derivatives. Once the SS money was churned and gambled away, the country would be bankrupt in the cause of short term gains for WS traders.

      1. Gerard Pierce

        Your argument ignores the fact that the funds in the social security trust fund have already been loaned to the general fund — AND SPENT.

        The notes in the trust fund are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, but there are no dollar bills in that fund – only special Treasury Bills that pay interest, and cannot be owned by anyone outside of the federal government.

        This is a problem for politicians, because every dollar used to write a social security check has to come from either taxes or the printing press. (That is every dollar beyond what is currently collected in FICA taxes>)

        This is a dollar that cannot be used to support the defense industry and corporate socialism, so it is critical to find some way to welsh on the deal and reduce the amount that has to be paid back to the trust fund to as small an amount as possible.

        1. Aquifer

          Pretty succinct summary – I’ll use it myself, if that’s OK. The one thing i think i would tweak is I might say not that these trust funds were “loaned” to the general fund but that they were “stolen”, i.e. embezzled, by it. A loan sounds a bit innocuous, as if they intend to repay – a theft must be accounted for as soon as it is discovered …

          Wonder if all those T-bills held by the Chinese, et.al, have been “loaned” to the general fund, too ….

          And then i would wonder how did all that money magically appear for the bailouts?

          1. Carla

            There is no actual money. It is created by a sovereign government at will. This is why we never run out when, for example, there’s a country to be invaded or an industry to be bailed out. But when the people’s needs are at stake — OOPS — THEN we’re out of money.

            Don’t play the game. Let your elected “representatives” know you’re onto ‘em.

          2. Aquifer

            carla – i used to “let them know” but I don’t bother anymore – they send these cute little letters telling me how they “appreciate” hearing from me and then proceed to reassure me that they are attending to this that and the other … And for this the trees get whacked and the postage paid on our dime …

            Naw, I’ve just decided that what we really need to do, as Stein would say, is “throw the bums out” ….

        2. LeonovaBalletRusse

          Mr. Pierce, explain why it was revealed a few months ago that MONEY from the Social Security Trust Fund was USED to buy “hollow point bullets” — said to be for “Homeland Security.”

          1. citizendave

            SS Admin buys special Treasury bonds. Treasury deposits those dollars in the General Fund. A dollar in the general fund cannot be correlated to its source, just as a drop of rain cannot be distinguished in the ocean.

            I like to say that Congress used the $2.6 Trillion from the SSTF to, among other things, pay for the Continuing Resolutions that funded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (nominally more than $1.2 Trillion, last I heard). But I know there can be no correlation between the source of money in the general fund and the way the general fund is spent.

            The important point is that Congress spent the money knowing that it must be repaid eventually. Issuing Treasury bonds was a smart way to prevent creative accounting trickery on the part of our upstanding Members of Congress. The US has always backed its bonds. Some people are trying to figure out how to let Congress off the hook to avoid repaying the borrowed money they spent.

            People say we need to borrow or print to repay T-bonds — sez who? Treasury bonds should have a high priority for repayment, prior to government contractors getting paid, for example. That was discussed during the debt ceiling “crisis” in 2011.

          2. Veri

            It wasn’t paid out of the SS trust fund. And those bullets add up to a large amount. However, when you break it down into training the number of armed agents they have – agents that investigate fraud and other sundry items – the amount of bullets per agent is actually very small.

            This is a Right Wing scare tactic. Scaring you with numbers, that when further examined, bear no relation to the Right Wing propaganda.

            For instance, Social Security employs security guards that must have routine fire arms training and qualification. That takes quite a few rounds. Then Social Security must provide a decent amount of ammunition for each security guard.

            Get off the propaganda.

          3. Aquifer

            Veri,

            SS has security guards? Well shucks we better send them to Capital Hill to arrest all those folks who threaten the security of SS ..

    1. different clue

      Well then, how about 22-Catch?

      “22-Catch means we can do anything they can’t stop us from doing.”
      Could such a thing be possible? Possible-in-mind is the first step towards possible-in-reality.

        1. different clue

          Thank you. Your version is poetic. Everyone here should feel free to post their very own version and expression of that concept if they wish to. The more memes launch, the greater chance that some of them will live and fly.

  5. Furzy Mouse

    I agree with most of what Bill says, except point #2 -” First, Obama wants to be considered a “centrist.” Second, Obama yearns to be considered “bipartisan.”…..this is too generous……….no, Obama wants to serve his corporate masters, who funded his election in ’08, but now, ironically, have gone Repug to lower their taxes even more…….

    1. Brindle

      I don’t think Obama sees Wall St CEO’s as his “corporate masters”, he sees them as his peers, his brothers or sisters as it were. They are his golfing buddies and his Martha’s Vineyard neighbors.

      Thanks Bill, for pointing out Obama’s vanity as one of his motivations.

      1. citalopram

        It is irrelevant how he sees them.

        The only thing that is relevant is what we’re going to do about it.

      2. dale pues

        Thanks from me too. Can peer pressure, where you create the pressure on yourself, be considered vanity?

    2. backwardsevolution

      Furzy Mouse – I agree with you. Obama is doing precisely what he is told to do. I like Bill Black, but he (and many others) is naive.

      1. different clue

        What if Obama was selected and advanced because they knew that he would do what they wanted without them even having to tell him?

  6. Brooklin Bridge

    we will block the Great Betrayal and crush at the polls any member of Congress who supports it.

    Right. Check out DKos, Hullabaloo, FDL, hell, even Jonathen Turley’s site. Obama could start cooking people in gas ovens (if he got bored with drones) and 75% of liberals would dutifully vote for him as “the lesser of two evils”. It’s absolutely amazing. So where are you going to find this resistance that will “crush at the polls” the preordained dissolution of the saftey net for a few token silver coins wrested with Broadway drama from the elite?

    It might be comforting to note that nature truly isn’t partial to one faction or the other; it will wash away the crooks and the lambs together in it’s sandy egalitarianism. But compassion for all humans whispers that such is a hell of a price to pay.

    1. 2laneIA

      There are still a lot of true believers on Daily Kos, although there are also many people who have been sounding the alarm on this very issue since 2010, including yours truly. On FDL and Hullabaloo it’s mostly all alarm. Digby and David Dayen have been all over it.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        You may be missing the point. Yes Digby has written many articles on the grand bargain but she is still utterly in the tank for Obama. The unwritten iron rule at Hullaballo is (or was): weakly criticize Obama if you must as long as your next sentence is a breathless; “but I’m going to vote for him cause Romney is soooooooooooooooooooo much worse.” Otherwise your comment will be ghosted with no explanation of why, or worse, a general purge will occur once the great authoritarian Democratic Atkins comes on board and finally, let’s get rid of comments altogether. And DKos is worse; any anti-Obama sentimate and you are summarily run out of town. FDL has gone Obot. It has DDay, yes, but it also has TBog. Most of it’s “front page” bloggers are now Obots. Even DDay would not hold Obama’s feet to the fire in anything but verbal criticism. Great message. Always effective to control a politician by saying, “I told you I don’t like murdering people with no judicial review, now I’ll just have to vote for you again! So take that!”

        Good luck with that. Anyway, telling a politican you don’t like him unraveling Social Security and then voting for him is not exactly what Bill Black is calling for above when he says, “crush any politicians at the polls”.

        1. Brindle

          Would have more respect for Katrina V.(The Nation), Digby, Ellsberg etc. if they would something like—”Barack Obama is not someone of particularly high moral character or honesty and I can visulaize him standing trial in The Hague for War Crimes, but he is better than the alternative.”—but that would be reveal the absurdity of this election, so…

          1. Myshkin

            I believe I have read something close to that sentiment (Obama is not someone of particularly high moral character or honesty)issuing from Heuvel and Ellesberg in the past. They shade their critique at election time because their calculation is in degrees of destructiveness.

            I’m not sure what Al Gore would have done as president in 2000 but there is reason to believe he would not have invaded Iraq and may have taken global warming more seriously than Shrub.

            I voted for Nader and am often blamed for electing Bush, an argument whose premise more or less concedes the exercise of democracy. I did however cast my vote for Nader knowing that as a resident of the District of Columbia it would go Democratic despite my Nader vote. These are the fuzzy calculations we make in what is our rather doubtful republic.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            The function of the Nation is to provide good solid leftie commentary three years out of four, and in the fourth, to use that same image and rhetoric in the service of the Democratic party.

          3. Aquifer

            They aren’t the only ones – i found The Progressive and even The Progressive Populist to be pretty much the same ….Though I haven’t read them for several years, so i don’t know if they have wizened up – doubt it …

        2. Aquifer

          ” ….we must act now to make clear that we will block the Great Betrayal and crush at the polls any member of Congress who supports it.”

          Exactly how does he propose to block it? In the face of general agreement that that is precisely where Obama intends to go, blocking it would necessitate a preemptive strike – and the only way to mount one of those is voting 3rd party in massive numbers this time, not next time, around. Yet he doesn’t speak of that – he appeals to the “Democratic wing” (as opposed, I assume, to the Rubin wing) of the Dem Party to accomplish this – but there hasn’t been one of those in a long time – it seems Bill is fantasizing here. When the “Rubin wing”, which is firmly in control and has been for some time, can get a guy like Kucinich to bail on Med for All and support the Absurd Care Act, where is this “Dem wing”?

          As for his referrence to “crushing at the polls” any who support it – no Dem will admit to that pre election, so we would have to wait ’til they do it to see who supported it, and then it’s too late …

          Bill still seems to think that all the Dems need is a stern talking to, and the “threat” to vote them out if they don’t toe the line – but lefties have been threatening that so long already without actually doing anything that the threat has become a joke (those “f***ing retards!”), the Dems justifiably proceed as if it is and go their merry way.

          More and more folks seem to be coming around to the idea advanced by some for some time that the time, way past time, to carry out that threat is now …

          Stoller seems to have come around – Black should too – there can be no new political gestation that comes to term until the umbilical cord with the still-born Dems has been cut – that cord is life sucking not life giving …

          1. LeonovaBalletRusse

            Aquifer: “blocking it would necessitate a preemptive strike – and the only way to mount one of those is voting 3rd party in massive numbers this time, not next time, around.”

            That’s it. The TIME is NOW. This opportunity will not come again to We the People. ELECT:

            DR. JILL STEIN PRESIDENT 2012: Because We the People WILL It.

        3. casino implosion

          Interesting. So Atkins is behind the removal of comments at digby??

          I cannot stand that guy, and I often used the comments there to chastize him.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            I am not at all sure Atkins is responsible for the removal of the comment section at Hullabaloo, but I am sure his arrival a little over a year ago coincided exactly with a giant purge of commenters who were fed up with Obama’s and Democrat’s betrayal of democratic principals and were vociferously arguing that voting for Obama or any of the sell-outs was counter productive.

            Prior to Atkin’s arrival, the disscussion in the comment’s section was vibrant to say the least. Afterward, the site became much like DKos, a choir of Obama-bots with a few remaining “tolerated” dissenters who rarely posed any threat. The recent disappearance of the comment section altogether, I think, is a result of the software company stopping support for that particular comments package. I suspect Digby and Atkins breathed a seigh of relief since it doesn’t look as if they are trying to find any new software package for comments, at least not before the election is done with.

          2. different clue

            Digby is behind the censorship and banning, and she is the one who lies-by-ommission about it. She is the one who brought David Atkins onto her blog to try confusing the issue and covering her own tracks. She lets Atkins be the visible face of “commenter management” and censorship/banning, and he is happy to be the visible face.
            He admitted as much in a thread either on hullabalo or someplace else where he denied any involvement in comment censorship and said such decisions are made “higher up the food chain”. Well . . . who is “higher up the Hullabaloo food chain”? Digby.

          3. JTFaraday

            “Digby is behind the censorship and banning, and she is the one who lies-by-ommission about it.”

            That sounds suicidal to me. Without the comments section and the chance to be part of a discussion community, preferably one that is not a wall to wall chorus of Yes-men, no one is going to read that thing.

        4. bstoll

          Despite his dismal record of failure, disappointing record of broken promises, and most recently, his tragic failure to affect the outcome at Benghazi, about half of the electorate seem ready to give him another whack at us.
          Who can offer a rational explanation?
          Who knows why horses & jackasses run back into a burning barn?

        5. Denise B

          Lifelong liberal Democrats in my family have bought into the necessity of cutting Social Security benefits and even raising the Medicare eligibility age. The lies have been successfully sold. Anyone with a functioning brain should be able to immediately see that reductions in child mortality since 1940 do not create any problem in Social Security, and yet I’m still hearing NPR, the NY Times and other mainstream news sources citing enormous increases in life expectancy as making later retirement age an absolute necessity.

          If I can’t begin to penetrate the wall of ignorance in my own intelligent and liberal family, then I don’t see any hope of stopping this.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            It is utterly depressing just how much influence the President, Congress and the MSM have on otherwise intelligent clear thinking people.

            Torture used to be an absolute “untouchable” only ten years ago. Now it’s considered ‘ho hum’ along with warrentless spying and judicial process free assassinations by whim of the President. How can merely shitting all over old folks and the pathetic payout they get from the so-called safety net compete with that?

      2. different clue

        Digby cynically portrays the Grand Bargain as inevitable in order to foster a spirit of weary cynicism and hopeless resignation among her readers. She does it deliberately and on purpose. Her mission is to keep them voting Obamacratic. When reader rebellion appeared to approach a level of unmanageability, she brought in David Atkins to wage marketing psy-ops campaigns against her readership along with a lied-about policy of unadmitted-to stealth erasure of comments and stealthy, secret, and lied-about banning of unruly commenters. Digby is a Catfood Democrat.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            Indeed, Jane used to be intellectually quite honest about Obama’s sellout.

            It’s very sad that FDL has gone Obamabot, and that they discourage commenters who point out the fallacy of the great lessor-of-evil slide to the bottom.

          2. different clue

            Thank you. I hereby copyleft the phrase Catfood Democrat, just as Jane Hamsher presumably copylefted the phrase Catfood Commission. If “Catfood Democrat” is worthy to enter the language, let it do so if people want it to do so.

          3. Brooklin Bridge

            Digby cynically portrays the Grand Bargain as inevitable in order to foster a spirit of weary cynicism and hopeless resignation among her readers. She does it deliberately and on purpose. Her mission is to keep them voting Obamacratic.

            I think this assessment of Digby is spot on. Unfortunately, independently of Digby, I also think there is a lot of truth to the inevitability of the Grand Bargain at least in the short run and that our current crop of politicians warrants a great deal of cynicism.

        1. casino implosion

          I think you’re on to something here, but I’m not sure that your conclusions add up.

          Digby definitely works the grand bargain meme for all it’s worth. She’s constantly harping on the impending Obama backstab. I’m a regular reader and her persistence on this issue has had quite an influence in my opinion of the Obama administration–but not the influence you say she’s going for.

          If she’s so pro-Obama, why does she relentlessly portray him in the worst possible light?

          Atkins is another story.

          1. Hugh

            The real question you should be asking is why she has not broken with Obama and the Democrats. I look on such blogs as Trojan horses. They establish some cred among progressives by criticizing Obama or the Democrats now and then. But nothing ever comes of it. At the end of the day, it is vote for them anyway. In essence, they are simply vents for dissipating progressive discontent. In so doing, they help real progressive opposition to the Democrats from forming. Unless Digby has had a recent epiphany, she has played this role for the last 4 years.

          2. Aquifer

            Hugh – yup, when no alternative is presented, the “conclusion”, spoken or not, must be – TINA

          3. Brooklin Bridge

            Unless Digby has had a recent epiphany, she has played this role for the last 4 years.

            When Digby brought Atkins on board she made abundantly clear exactly what sort of “epiphany” she had had.

          4. David

            I know of one blogger that when I asked privately why he was not that critical of Obama said that if he was more critical, then he did not think he would be listened to in the weekly telephone conference calls. Apparently, someone in the Obama administration has or at least had weekly conference calls with some bloggers and this blogger thought he had some influence.

          5. Brooklin Bridge

            Apparently, someone in the Obama administration has or at least had weekly conference calls with some bloggers and this blogger thought he had some influence. -David

            I often wondered about that. Of course, it’s obvious with Atkins who not only runs a marketing company, but who is also a fairly highly placed member of the DNC, that his sole mission at Hullabaloo (with Digby’s blessing), was to eliminate all serious criticism of Obama or the DNC’s choice not to present any alternatives for nomination, as the election process got rolling in ernest.

            It is Digby’s signature to sound critical of Obama and less frequently even of Democrats, but any serious reading of her blog quickly reveals her deep commitment to the party and the process of “change from within” even if it takes generations -we simply don’t have- to accomplish. Whether she takes that position out of sincere belief or from more cynical motives or from a combination is difficult to say. It is fact however, that she has had few scruples in turning the “democracy” of her site upside down with no warning or explanation when it comes to the comment section.

          6. different clue

            I think she is “stringing people along” by “letting off steam on their behalf” in hopes that they will feel validated and supported and cared about and then vote Obamacratic when all is said and done, because the Romneypublicans are “so much worse”.

            Well, they are worse, but its too late to care about that now. The Obamacrats are bad enough, too bad to vote for, actually.

          7. different clue

            Grand Theft Catfood may be inevitable, but given the money involved at stake, it is worth fighting about as if otherwise.

            And if the fight is bitter enough, it may launch a longer hate-based movement which can get the Catfood Plan reversed and get revenge on the Catfood Democrats. Revenge which reaches out and touches them in their bussiness and social lives even after they leave office.

          8. Brooklin Bridge

            Again you are absolutely correct, the social safety net is indeed worth fighting for.

            However, sooner or later it’s likely going to be stolen in one form or another because a lot of very powerful people have spent a very long time focused on making that happen. And because of Obama’s unique position and unique success as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, that is probably going to be sooner. Of course it won’t be the end of the story and that is where I think the fight, if only to preserve the value of fairness and decency as something to be cherished, is really critical.

            But if the theft can be thwarted yet again, so much the better and my own energy is spent with that purpose in mind.

  7. Enrico Malatesta

    Obama has made his own “Grand Bargain” misnomer to get re-elected in as damaged a condition as possible. The “Great Demise” of Social Security is a foregone conclusion.

  8. The Dork of Cork.

    Listen – we live in a very sick pro metaphysical ,anti real capital / labour world.

    Nothing should surprise anyone.

    Both the city of London and New York are centres of a very old “free trade” Venetian world model of wage arbitrage.
    A net increase in our collective capital & knowledge base does not interest them as they can’t extract a pound of flesh using those methods alone.

    I was looking at where Ford UKs transit van company is going to reduce Labour costs – see Turkey

    Has anyone heard of the “Chicken tax” ?
    This is a funnt but true story – look it up.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Transit_Connect

    To circumvent the 25% tariff on imported light trucks, Ford imports all Transit Connects as passenger vehicles with rear windows, rear seats and rear seatbelts.[9] The vehicles are exported from Turkey on cargo ships owned by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, arrive in Baltimore, and are converted into commercial vehicles at WWL Vehicle Services Americas Inc. facility: rear windows are replaced with metal panels and rear seats removed (except on wagons).[9] The removed parts are then recycled.[9] The process exploits a loophole in the customs definition of a commercial vehicle. As cargo does not need seats with seat belts or rear windows, presence of those items exempts the vehicle from commercial vehicle status. The conversion process costs Ford hundreds of dollars per van, but saves thousands over having to pay the tax.[9] Partly because of this, only the long-wheelbase, high roof configuration is exported to North America. In most places, the high-roof Transit Connect, like most Ford Econoline vans, is unable to access multi-story parking because of its height (6′ 6″).”

    Wall street & London expect to make more then a few Bucks on the credit they need to supply customers of these Grot products as they will have little or no wages.
    This slave arbitrage is almost as old as the hills , the get slaves to pick sugar trade and redirect & concentrate these resourses into the financial capitals….etc etc.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Thanks, Dork. There’s NOTHING they won’t do for a “yen, a buck or a pound” (MC singing “Money” from film “Cabaret”).

      “They don’t care about us, so why should we care about them?” (Neurosage).

      The French National Razor needs to complete the job this time.

  9. Barnaby33

    The great betrayal is that professor Black and others can calmly write about the social safety net, making blanket assertions about how it can be saved, without any real analysis of the fact that it is and always was a Ponzi scheme.

    Social Security in isolation could be saved, but I’m pretty sure that’s not really what his contention is. Rather than talk in vague terms I’d like to see him at least admit that these systems cannot be saved in their current forms and most importantly why they cannot. If he believes they can be saved, then that too is an interesting discussion.

    This grand bargain or great betrayal is really just putting lipstick on the pig of lowering standards of living in America and Europe. I see this as inevitable, unless someone comes up with a new energy/debt paradigm to replace the current one. Ultimately you can’t spend what you don’t have! All of these high level discussions of entitlements which ignore how they are funded are shallow and in some sense evil.

      1. Ray Duray

        Hi Lambert,

        I’m a bit baffled by your statement here:

        LS: “2. Taxes don’t fund government spending.”

        By this do you mean that Social Security and Medicare are Trust Funds deriving separate revenues that are not taxes? Or some variant thereon?

        When I paid tens of thousands of dollars in FICA taxes I certainly didn’t attempt to redefine these taxes as social safety net insurance premiums or annuity premiums. Is this what you are implying here? If so, I ain’t buying it.

        Taxes do fund government spending. It’s as obvious as the nose on my face.

          1. different clue

            I suspect MMTism is just one more effort to foster confusion between “money” and “wealth”. All the money in the world at this very instant is only worth all the everything-for-sale in the world at this very instant. If we emit twice as many money-units into the world an instant from now while keeping all the everything-for-sale in the world at the exact same amount as now, each of the twice-as-many money units will be worth half-as-much apiece as each of the half-as-many money units in existence right now are worth right now.
            Frederick Soddy wrote a book about that called: Wealth, Virtual Wealth, and Debt: the Solution of the Economic Paradox. Frederick Soddy was a nobel prize winning Physicist and Chemist, so he knew something about reality as against knowing something about “economics”. He wondered whether it was possible to create a “reality-based” theory of economics. That book was the result of his best effort in that direction.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth,_Virtual_Wealth_and_Debt

            I agree that my FICA taxes are/were indeed taxes and they were paid and collected on the promise of being stored separate and apart from the general budget. That is what the premise of the so-called “Trust Fund” building ever since 1983 is/was all about. The Social Security Administration is separate from the General Budget Government. The SSA had/has every intention of paying back out the money collected. The General Budget Government has no intention of permitting the SSA to do that, and the GenBud Government never ever did have any intention of permitting the SSA to do that. It was all a straight-up two-step con right from the start, in the deathless words of Joshua Micah Marshall . . . back when he pretended to support Social Security.

            But just because that was the real secret intention of the GenBud GoverBezzlers right from the start, doesn’t mean I have to agree to letting them get away with it. Forcing them to pay back out everything they have been taking in is a worthy goal. That means restoring tax rates and definitions back to what they were in the Eisenhower Administration, and raising taxes further if necessary against the Bush’s Base upper class in order to force them to disgorge the entirety of their ill gotten “tax cuts” because those “tax cuts” are really out mislabled and stolen
            pre-payed Social Security trust fund money.

          2. Aquifer

            Yo, dc, you are on a roll today …

            Don’t really understand all the implications of the MMT thing to be able to critique it well, but the rest of your post on SS is spot on …

          3. Bert_S

            It is an MMT thang, and the last thing we need is MMTers trying to explain why there is nothing wrong with SS.

            They will try to convince everyone that you CAN have a “Ponzi Scheme” if you have a Sovereign Printing Press, provided you run the printing press BEFORE you have a “Ponzi Scheme”, and then throw two pinches of salt over your left shoulder if and only when inflation starts to rise.

            Then the general public will conclude that they didn’t know that SS was in such bad shape, and concede to save the grand kids by forgiving repayment of the trust fund, and this new cash flow will enable ” The Never Ending Middle East War” and the “Never Ending Bush Tax Cuts”.

          4. Aquifer

            Bert – i must confess that that is a potential outcome that has occurred to me as well – a weakness, ISTM, in the MMT scenario …

            Maybe someone from that school could explain how that would/could not happen ….

          5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It would help for clarification to have one thread for each MMT assertion.

            For example, one thread for ‘Taxes do not fund government spending’ and people can ask and answer questions about that.

          6. Ethax

            Bert_S:

            “Ponzi” has no application to our system (ponzi involves borrowing some other entity’s currency), nor does the concept of “printing” being distinct from spending.

            Also worth noting: we already don’t have a “trust fund” for military spending, so the myths don’t seem to be working so well to constrain that – probably better to address unemployment and think about war in terms of real resources.

        1. Ethax

          “By this do you mean that Social Security and Medicare are Trust Funds deriving separate revenues that are not taxes? Or some variant thereon?”

          What that statement means is that a dollar is a (non-convertible) federal government liability; you can’t have cash unless the govt. ran a deficit of the same amount.

          A social security trust fund necessarily represents the government promising itself it’s own debt; it has no function other than fooling the public.

          The real function of paying FICA taxes: you get less of the real goods currently being produced.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            There are many ways to make sure you get less of the real goods currently being produced.

            They can say they are taxing you to protect the environment, for example, if the purpose is just to soak up money supply.

            I look at it from the other side. The real function of the promise of Social Security, that promise, is to be able to give a good sounding purpose to the tax. Why? Because people don’t want to be taxed. We fought a war so we could have some say in taxation. So, of course, the government is always working on making taxes sound more appealing.

            Here, here is one tax for your retirement (but we will use it to fund the new world order).

            So, for me, taxation is not a money-supply issue. It’s a sovereignty issue.

          2. Aquifer

            MLTPB – here’s the thing – whether they were winking or crossing their fingers behind their backs when they set it up doesn’t really matter – they set it up in a way that we are “entitled” to call in the chips. If we just say – “Rats, fooled us again, oh well, chalk another one up” and let them get away with it – we are prime time idiots. It is a social contract and must be honored just as any other – If we back down we will not only be shooting ourselves in the foot (both feet and an arm ..) but dishonoring the previous generation that set this up, and betraying out progeny as well …

        2. Calgacus

          Sigh. For the umpteenth time. Social Security taxes have nothing to do with payments. Taxes don’t fund government spending. The idea is insane. Governments spend by printing money, coining money, cutting government checks, crediting accounts. They do a lot of insane, inane BS to hide this, but it means nothing in the end. People get their money from governments, and they use it to pay taxes with; the government has no further use for their money. It’s really, really simple. That’s the way it has worked since ancient Egypt & Sumeria.

          Like any tax, the purpose of the SS taxes is to disinflate, to give value to the government’s money, which they have an infinite supply of.

          Everybody used to know this. MMT is just the New Economics of the 1930s & 1940s, and wasn’t new then.

          FDR knew this. FDR knew SS taxes were not a matter of economics.

          “In the course of this discussion I raised the question of the ultimate abandonment the pay roll taxes in connection with old age security and unemployment relief in the event of another period of depression. I suggested that it had been a mistake to levy these taxes in the 1930’s when the social security program was originally adopted. FDR said, “I guess you’re right on the economics. They are politics all the way through. We put those pay roll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program. Those taxes aren’t a matter of economics, they’re straight politics.””

          Luther Gulick Memorandum re: Famous FDR Quote

          Gulick & FDR considered abandoning the taxes because they had nothing to do with paying SS, and could do economic damage at times, as they had when instituted, exacerbating the 1937-38 Roosevelt Recession. And that is what the gross SS overtaxation has been doing since 1983, building up the Trust Fund Scam. The gross overtaxation would have wrecked the economy if the money hadn’t been immediately “borrowed” by the General Fund & spent, mainly on welfare for the rich.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Taxes is to disflate.

            The CPI is like some mysterious pronouncement from the priestesses of the Temple dedicated to the god of economic numbers.

          2. ZygmuntFraud

            There are trustees of the Trust Funds.
            One of them is the Managing Trustee of the
            Trust Funds. The Secretary of the Treasury
            is the Managing Trustee.

            http://www.ssa.gov/oact/tr/trustees.html

            The Social Security Act etc. is
            Title 42 Chapter 7 United States Code .
            There are several Subchapters, so that’s enough
            web scanning from me for now …

          3. Aquifer

            “We put those pay roll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program. Those taxes aren’t a matter of economics, they’re straight politics.””

            Bingo! FDR was a shrewd fellow – why do you suppose SS has lasted as long as it has – it would have been whacked some time ago if it were just bestowed out of “general funds”. That “legal, moral and political right” that was created by that payroll tax maneuver is what keeps it alive, is why even those Tea Party types yell “keep the Gov’t's hands off my Medicare/SS!”. A wide swath of people have a vested interest in this program – it is theirs, that’s why it has been, heretofore anyway, considered a “3rd rail”

            I realize this is an “economics” blog, but methinks this issue of SS and how it is “funded” illustrates perhaps better than any other example the intertwining of economics and politics. One could argue with a certain credibility, methinks, that if SS weren’t “funded” the way it is, it might well not be “funded” at all ….

          4. LeonovaBalletRusse

            “different clue” upthread comment bears repeating at this point:

            “That means restoring tax rates and definitions back to what they were in the Eisenhower Administration, and raising taxes further if necessary against the Bush’s Base upper class in order to force them to disgorge the entirety of their ill gotten “tax cuts” because those “tax cuts” are really out mislabled and stolen
            pre-payed Social Security trust fund money.”

            Again: “Disgorgement”

          5. Calgacus

            Aquifer:Bingo! FDR was a shrewd fellow – why do you suppose SS has lasted as long as it has – it would have been whacked some time ago if it were just bestowed out of “general funds”. That “legal, moral and political right” that was created by that payroll tax maneuver is what keeps it alive, is why even those Tea Party types yell “keep the Gov’t’s hands off my Medicare/SS!”. A wide swath of people have a vested interest in this program – it is theirs, that’s why it has been, heretofore anyway, considered a “3rd rail”

            One could argue with a certain credibility, methinks, that if SS weren’t “funded” the way it is, it might well not be “funded” at all ….

            There is an argument there if you are talking about FDR’s payroll tax maneuver, yes. But NOT the1983 Greenspan Big Lie that created the giant Trust Fund. For 50 years there was no way to consider SS being stolen – as soon as the money “came in” , it “went out”. Then the bad guys realized how to use the recently revivified zombie of innumerate quackonomics plus FDR’s political defense as a political tool to destroy Social Security. Social Security was utterly a third rail before the 1983 scam to destroy it by “saving it” – with a massive propaganda campaign that it needed saving, something nobody had heard of before. The gross overtaxation made SS a lot less popular over the years, convinced young people it wouldn’t/couldn’t be there for them and seriously damaged the US economy and made it more unequal.

            Think carefully about that FDR quote – FDR’s pay-as-you-go is the HIGHEST sane, sustainable, conceivably non-destructive rate of SS taxation, not the lowest. FDR’s decision was “no tax” vs. “pay-as-you-go”. Not “pay-as-you-go” vs. “pay-MORE-than-you-go NOW & there’ll be pie in the sky by & by if the Greenscammers don’t cut your SS to make their other corrupt gains more valuable.” People back then, FDR, in 10 seconds, would have seen through the 1983 Greenspan scam of having Uncle Sam pretend to save up the money he can and does print at will – as just taking from the poor to give to the rich. That’s what the bad guys did – change the “funding” in 1983 – to start a 30 years political war to make it not be funded at all, to destroy it.

            After 1983, with SS running a surplus, there HAD to be deficits in other areas, which went to welfare-for-the-rich, top rate tax cuts & corrupt, criminal military spending. Government surpluses are unsustainable. Government deficits are normal and infinitely sustainable. The SS overtaxation was at exactly the wrong time. When a baby boom matures, the problem is that they may save too much, as those are the prime working years. The danger to the financial parasites was that the retirement dissaving of the baby boomers could have naturally replicated the conditions in the 50s & 60s when they were kids. The General Fund deficits weren’t funded by Social Security; the Social Security overtaxation was made possible & the bonds “put in the Trust Fund” were overpaid for by workers who had jobs only because of the General Fund spending and deficits.

          6. JTFaraday

            “FDR said, “I guess you’re right on the economics. They are politics all the way through. We put those pay roll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program. Those taxes aren’t a matter of economics, they’re straight politics.””

            Oh boy, that is so much baloney right there. A “right” is something you just have or you don’t. What this really says about “rights” in America is that we don’t have any. Rather,
            everything has to be purchased. Here, quite literally.

            So, if people like that grand bargain, I imagine they’re welcome to it, but I wouldn’t call it “a right.”

            And did we not established that paying a debt back is largely a business decision, and that entities that don’t feel the moral suasion that is relentlessly pressed down on the peons default on their debts all the time?

    1. Larry Barber

      Then how is it that every other industrial country can do it? Is the US that incompetent? Or are priorities screwed up?

      1. citalopram

        They’re willingly incomptent. They don’t it to succeed, so they make excuses, lie and put roadblocks up in order to sabotage it.

    2. citizendave

      The challenge should not be to Bill Black to “…admit that these systems cannot be saved in their current forms…” The challenge should be to anyone who claims that Social Security and Medicare have a problem. Left alone, full SS benefits will be paid for the next quarter century. Medicare suffers from rising health care (insurance) costs.

      The Trust Funds consist of Treasury instruments. Congress used that borrowed money — partly, no doubt in my mind, to pay for the extra-budgetary Continuing Resolutions that funded two wars. Those bonds must be repaid to the Social Security Administration, or the “full faith and credit of the United States” will suffer.

      The only problem the Social Security program has is from the Petersen Foundation and their ilk, and anyone who uncritically buys into their campaign of lies.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Social Security amount raised, with no Medicare and no payment for Medicare of any kind, with contract to die when too sick to live, sounds like a good deal to me. When do we get to make this choice?

        1. citizendave

          After seven months I will be 65, eligible to enroll in Medicare. I’ll probably do it, even though I’m on my wife’s health insurance at work. But I haven’t thought through that yet.

          It seems to me that in a Medicare For All scenario, we could calculate the amount we’re now paying for health insurance, add the amount the employer is paying, reduce the total by 30% (the usual figure offered as overhead and profit extracted by the insurance companies), and we’d get better outcomes for less money. And the “risk pool” would be much larger relative to all the individual health insurance pools, right? That would be advantageous for us little people, ISTM.

          From what I’ve heard, everybody who is in Medicare loves it. What’s not to like?

          And I am in favor of increasing the Social Security benefit for all recipients. The average is about $1200 per month. I get less than that. I’m doing ok because of my circumstances, but that’s not much to live on. My mom, who is 90 and a WWII Navy veteran, gets about $600 per month. That’s not much to live on. And a Grand Bargain would reduce or eviscerate what little there is? Quoting Dylan, “When you got nothin’, you got nothing to lose.”

          I don’t know what I’ll do if we get a Grand Bargain. I get angry when I think about it.

          1. ZygmuntFraud

            I’m with you on Medicare for all, being from
            Canada. I like our universal health care
            coverage, and most Canadians I know wouldn’t
            think of going back.

            With respect to public pensions, I believe
            the discussions on funding for the Baby Boomer
            retirees wave have been on actuaries minds
            for a long time. The actuaries as math
            professionals of pension plan math, can’t
            “install” a modern monetary theory system.
            The good side is they are neither economists
            nor politicians, and rarely heard of in
            public. One number that’s tracked in annual
            reports is OSA-DI is the Number of OASDI Beneficiaries Per 100 Covered Workers: Old Age Security + Disability Employment per (100 contributing employees , say in 2012).

            This ratio was about 30 per 100 Covered Workers
            1980-2005. For 2020, a medium estimate is
            40 Bebeficiaries per 100 Covered Workers,
            reflecting the changing demographic make-up.

            Actuaries at SSA think about this, e.g.
            Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary at the Social Security Administration:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDzvA5ltyBE

          2. LeonovaBalletRusse

            cd, a huge problem with the Medicare is the funding of “Medicare Plus” and such within the same system. This is an abuse of Medicare by the 1% and whoever else is taking advantage of “public money.” This is like the Swells Scam of hiding the “inheritance” in a Trust Fund to make one’s parent/s look like paupers, so as to qualify for Medicaid in the nursing home.

        2. Aquifer

          Hmmm – the problem is there are a whole lot of health issues that may not make you too sick to die, but sick or incapacitated or in pain enough to be really miserable. Unless you think we should offer everyone who falls down and breaks a limb a terminal shot of morphine – you might think it worthwhile to get your hip fixed ….

    3. Min

      Barnaby33: “Social Security in isolation could be saved, but I’m pretty sure that’s not really what his contention is.”

      Social Security does not need saving. Indeed, there is no evidence that it needs tinkering with. The projected problem is so small that you cannot even see it on the graphs. It is well within error.

      Barnaby33: “Rather than talk in vague terms I’d like to see him at least admit that these systems cannot be saved in their current forms and most importantly why they cannot.”

      Black freely admits that there is a problem with increasing medical costs, but correctly points out that that is a problem for the society as a whole, not a problem with Medicare or Medicaid per se.

      Speaking for myself, I think that inequality is the greater problem. Had the median income kept up with GDP, we would not even be talking about any Grand Bargain. We would be a much more prosperous society.

  10. Eureka Springs

    Well, one place “we” can and should start is to quit utilizing tiny favorable quotes from Grand forked-tongue neoliberal sellouts like Clinton.

    Because the next thing out of his mouth is very likely going to bite the intent of posts like these in the derrière.

    Movement, momentum building against he not so grand catfood bargain cannot be built successfully upon reliance on those who most assuredly will shoot you in the back or face.

    More learned helplessness.

    1. Brindle

      Bill Clinton and Obama are ultimate Dem carnival barkers and hucksters of our time. They see their jobs as to set-up the rubes, otherwise known as the great mass of Americans.

      Clinton and Obama’s view is that the soul and heartbeat of America is that of the corporate elites—the rest of us are just props to facilitate the fascism.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        They are both suck-ups and servants to the “Anglo-American Establishment” of Carroll Quigley’s description. This is the “Grand Bargain” made to “Po’ Boys” who have no prayer of clawing their way to the .99% without cutting this deal with the .01%.

  11. Anon

    It looks like the financial crisis game plan. Hold the election, Obama wins, make the grand bargain on Social Security. Widespread outrage and protest. By the time the next election comes around it will be old history (or so the ptb would want you to think) only now it’s part of the new normal. Like wiretapping, torture, and our two tiered justice system.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Yes, and now you know why Obama’s the choice of the 1%. Romney wouldn’t be able to deliver the GB. Obama — with career “progressives,” the “creative class,” not to mention his fans all running interference for him — will be.

      FWIW, I think the “exchange” model pioneered by ObamaCare is going to end up being the model for everything: Medicare, Social Security too. It’s a market state solution that guarantees the rentiers a cut, so what’s not to like? (The yammering about vouchers is an implementation detail.)

      1. Eureka Springs

        Schools too… all options are for profit… not your profit.

        You will love this. Look at this D party platform on education. They are calling privitization a “public option”.
        http://www.issues2000.org/celeb/Democratic_Party_Education.htm

        ***Turn around struggling public schools; expand public options

        The Democratic Party understands the importance of turning around struggling public schools. We will continue to strengthen all our schools and work to expand public school options for low-income youth, including magnet schools, charter schools, teacher-led schools, and career academies.***

        1. Brindle

          The further we get into this century it is more and more apparent that George Orwell was one of the top three or four minds/persons of the last century:

          “….and work to expand public school options for low-income youth, including magnet schools, charter schools, teacher-led schools, and career academies.”

          1. LeonovaBalletRusse

            Brindle, Orwell’s Brian Blair & Bernays Neat, no chaser.

            The surname “Blair” gets around.

            //Yale, in collaboration with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, launched the Faith and Globalization Initiative in the Fall of 2008 as a three-year effort to conduct dialogue as a way of considering these essential issues. The website will explore a variety of topics and issues -in the classroom, in formal lectures and informal conversation, and through research, speeches, conferences, and the Internet.//
            MORE at:
            http://faithandglobalization.yale.edu/
            ————————

            Orwell, like another insider, Aldous Huxley, was not “predicting” our future, but telling us our future, planned decades out.

  12. Lambert Strether

    Ya know, the talking point is “evenly divided electorate.”

    So one would think that even a very small number of people could exercise a great deal of leverage at a tipping point…

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      And one would be correct as long as the direction of that leverage was assumed to be in favor of the elite. Lambs don’t get to write that kind of software.

      1. Aquifer

        Oh, I don’t know – those little wooly guys can fool ya …, especially when they wear their sheepish expressions. Never underestimate the power of a chop ….

  13. Susan the other

    If Third Party candidates would each take up a single platform it would help. Jill Stein could be the Single Payer candidate; Rocky Anderson could be Jobs Guarantee; Johnson could be Legalize Drugs; and Goode could flap around like a rabid bat picking off tea party votes. Each one of them could gain a focused constituency and become maybe 4 times the threat to the majors.

    1. Aquifer

      Frankly i think that is a recipe for further irrelevance – the left has spent too much time already dividing itself up into “single issues” – we need a “big picture” party that ALL these interests can coalesce around – it is because i think the Greens come closest that i am supporting them at this point …

      1. Susan the other

        The Greens are my favorite as well. But that’s why I think small parties should focus on informative campaigns – because if any of the Third Party candidates wins it will be the Greens, one day. And I’d like to see a multi party system in this country that can form coalitions and bring the changes we need by engaging voters. Maybe it won’t work for a decade. The two parties we have now are a juggernaut and just about as focused on their own goals as a machine can be. The Greens are probably not going to dethrone them any time soon.

        1. different clue

          Every third party wannabe should fight against all the others to the death. The one which ends up killing and eating all the others is the one that will prove its worthiness to survive. That one will then be the vehicle for head shots and napalm strikes and etc. against the major parties.

          1. different clue

            It will take far longer than that. Eventually one or a few of the third party wannabes will attract more supporter members and elect more officeholders (perhaps starting at local and microlocal levels) than the others. The others will then begin shedding members into the few more successful ones and the same process will eventually yield just one. Hopefully that one will stay forced to mean something after reaching that point.

  14. Don Levit

    The article states “There is no need to allow Socoal Security to go bankrupt. The necessary expenditures can easily be made by the Treasury.”
    Are these payments easily made, primarily because of Lambert’s assertion: “Taxes don’t fumd government spending.”
    Don Levit

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      The “TINA Party” talks “all bullshit all the time.”

      Dr. Jill Stein says it’s time for “NO bullshit.”

      DR. JILL STEIN PRESIDENT 2012: No More Bullshit.

  15. docg

    I’m disheartened by the monumental naïveté I see expressed here, and so often generally on this blog, when it comes to Obama and his policies. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great resource, I come here regularly, and I almost always agree with Yves. But not on this issue, no.

    What too many liberals and “progressives” tend to forget is that the USA is presently a deeply divided country, with dangerous elements that could tip us all too easily into outright fascism. And these elements are supported by wealth so vast that it’s hardly conceivable. And such wealth in the wrong hands is very very dangerous.

    What is needed now in the White House is NOT someone willing to “stand up to” such power, backed by such a large proportion of our populace, but someone able to maintain some sort of balance and keep things from spilling over into unimaginably dangerous waters. What’s naive about those accusing Obama of a “great betrayal” is their failure to realize the extent of the power already wielded by the plutogarchs, a power potentially greater by far than that of any president in history. You don’t “stand up” to that sort of power. You hold it at bay until you can find some way to undermine it.

    Historically, the “masses” of people have understood very well that their own interests were opposed to the interests of great wealth, but in the USA that is no longer the case and so we cannot rely simply on “the democratic process” to get us out of this mess. The plutogarchs (aka banksters, or whatever you want to call them) not only have gobs of cash, they also have the backing of very close to 50% of US citizens. If that spills over into 51% and Romney/Ryan win the presidency, then the plutogarchs will no longer have anything to stop them and we will soon be living in a very different world, I can assure you.

    So think twice before you use words like “Obamney” and argue that there’s no longer any difference between Democrats and Republicans. There’s a huge difference. And it matters more now than ever before.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      How Christian of you, particularly considering it is likely others than you who will suffer. The more we are sold out, the more ardently we must support those that destroy the last remnants of the new deal, slowly, in order to save it – ahhhhh-men.

      You solution is to crush Vichy-Dems with encouragement and support. Either than, or you need a wholesale supply of adult huggies.

    2. wbgonne

      “So think twice before you use words like “Obamney” and argue that there’s no longer any difference between Democrats and Republicans. There’s a huge difference. And it matters more now than ever before.”

      If there is a case to be made for that position, you haven’t made it.

    3. Watt4Bob


      The plutogarchs (aka banksters, or whatever you want to call them) not only have gobs of cash, they also have the backing of very close to 50% of US citizens.”

      I get your point, and I agree that we’re in very great danger, but in light of the fact that we’re in basically uncharted waters here, how can you be so sure that our chances of success in the future will be greater than they are now?

      I’m as afraid of the results of appeasement as I am of having the fight right now.

      1. docg

        To clarify, I happen to be a socialist. My politics are very close, I think, to those of Orwell, which means they’re pretty radical. Realistically, however, now is not the time to fight for socialism, not in the USA anyhow, though it could be the time to begin organizing.

        As I’ve argued on my blog, in order to restore equality and justice in this country, and in this world generally, our best bet is to encourage the self-destructive instincts of the plutogarchs and do everything we can to help them destroy their phoney “free market” economy. Once and for all. No US president could possibly take such a position, so no I don’t expect all that much from Obama, aside from struggling to achieve some sort of balance until the “economy” tanks into the toilet.

        What I do expect much from is the bankers themselves, they are the ones on “our side,” because they are the only ones in a position to destroy their own wealth and power. Let them.

    4. Carla

      @docg: perhaps you missed the comment in response to a different post yesterday. A reader who is voting Green and is prepared to be told that he/she will have helped put Romney in the White House should he go there, declared:

      “I’d rather be shot in the face by Romney and the GOP than stabbed in the back by the Democrats.”

      I don’t doubt that there is a huge difference between the Republican and Democratic parties FOR YOU, docg. But the difference for the rest of us is eloquently summed up above.

    5. Aquifer

      I find you suggestion that Dems are useful for holding any of this BS “at bay” rather amusing, to say the least. They are the ones making the slide possible, providing the lubricant, or the sugar, depending on which orifice is being invaded.

      As far as undermining the system – I have seen that argument before – keep giving them enough rope until they hang themselves, but the problem is they will have hung a whole lot of other things I give a damn about before then. ISTM that it’s time, past time, for us to give a good hard tug on the knot …

      You are gambling that they will bring themselves down before they screw the rest of us and the planet – sorry, doc, that’s like assuming the cancer will out grow its blood supply before it kills the host, and that, to me, sounds like really bad medicine …

      1. docg

        I’m not gambling anything. I’m just sayin’ :-)

        Actually by voting for some obscure third party “renegade,” and thus facilitating a Romney/Ryan victory, we might well be hurrying financial Armageddon along, so maybe that wouldn’t be so bad after all. Problem is, Romney/Ryan won’t have a clue as to what to do next, which Obama/Biden might. The next bank that fails should be nationalized. Romney/Ryan would never do that. Obama/Biden might. Maybe it’s that simple.

        I too hoped Obama would be another Roosevelt, but Roosevelt had considerable grass roots support, which Obama lacks. He could be a lot tougher, sure, but given a Republican House with no interest in bi-partisan politics, he doesn’t really have too many options.

        1. docg

          P.S. For my take on Obama, everyone in the whole world should read my blog post entitled “The Gate.” If you know of anyone who hasn’t read it, tell them to go here: http://amoleintheground.blogspot.com/2009/02/gate.html

          The followup post should also be read by all: http://amoleintheground.blogspot.com/2009/02/aporia.html

          Here’s a sample:

          Or, to put it in simpler terms: the economic system cannot be allowed to collapse because that would be a catastrophe; on the other hand, there is no way to prevent the economic system from collapsing without producing a catastrophe. So what are you going to do, Mr. Obama?

          1. different clue

            The answer is simple. Pursue justice and vengeance. If the economy will collapse either way, pursue the way which promises to focus the worst of the collapse against the perpetrator banks themselves. Exterminate them and all the money they and their social class comrades hold. Hope that
            regional, local, and microlocal subsistence and survival economies and communities survive.

            People like Catherine Austin Fitts, Woody Tasch, John Robb,Dmitri Orlov,and hundreds of others are working on ways whereby regionalocal and microlocal communities can resilientize and bunkerize themselves to the point where they have nothing to fear from a policy of “social and economic tapeworm extermination”.

        2. different clue

          Nationalize the next bank to fail? If Obama/Biden woulda nationalized the last banks that were failing, they coulda.
          The fact that they didn’t . . . shows that they won’t.

          So . . . no hope there.

        3. Aquifer

          You, “too”, hoped Obama would be another Roosevelt? Too who? I never had any such illusion – this guy smelled like a sellout for some time before the election …

          A vote for anyone is a vote FOR that anyone – that is the problem with American politics – we too often use the vote as an instrument to demonstrate party loyalty, to beat the other guy over the head with, to protest, to make a point – any one of a number of things other than the one thing it should be used for – to get what we want and need as a polity for the members of that polity. And once we start using it for that, and only for that, we can make some real progress ..

          1. citalopram

            Voting for a national candidate means fuck all now. Especially true with Citizens United, but it was even true anymore.

            For all you GP zealots, Jill Stein will not be elected president. You might as well sit home and raise a glass of Chianti.

          2. different clue

            Well . . . I voted for Kucinich in the Michigan primary but a while into the General election, I felt the lifting hope. I was a naive mark that way and shame on me for that.

            I don’t regret my 2008 vote for Obama because I was primarily voting to keep McCain out of office and Palin out of office after that. But Romney is no McCain and Ryan is no Palin, so I don’t have the same fear of them that I rightly had of McCain/Palin.

            McCain in particular wanted to start a war with Iran. I believe his motivation was this: he believes America was winning the Vietnam War and would have WON it if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids. So he wanted to show how a war could be WON, and how those meddling kids could be HANDled. Two, three, many Kent States. (And Jackson States too, let’s don’t forget). So that’s what I was voting against and I don’t regret that vote in that context.

        4. Strangely Enough

          “Problem is, Romney/Ryan won’t have a clue as to what to do next, which Obama/Biden might.”

          Given the results of the past four years, “might” is probably too strong a word…

    6. different clue

      Well . . . that’s a theory . . . and those who believe it should certainly act on it.

      Those who believe other theories should act on those other theories. People do their best work on behalf of those things they believe in the most. Certainly people from one theory group can try recruiting people from other theory groups into their their group. But in the meantime, they should also spend time and effort doing things based on their own theory of political economic existence.

      The theory groups which achieve the best results, or even any good results at all, will end up gaining recruits from people who want an effective theory to follow and apply. So people might as well offer and describe every theory they believe in so that readers have the most possible choice to think about and consider for turning into directed action.

  16. vtek

    bill makes some good points but he repeats the trope that the republicans are the ones who want to eviscerate ss and medicare and the democrats are just acquiescing.

    the fact of the matter is that they’re playing good-cop-bad-cop with us and the democrats are just the good cops. it would be foolish to believe that they’re not striving for the same goal.

    many moons ago i worked on the canadian equivalent of social security for the financial regulator. over the 75-year projection period (a ridiculous idea in its own right), the programme was healthy, but it was based on some unrealistic investment return and employment assumptions.

    it would be interesting to hear from an actuary working on social security to learn more about the solvency of the programme and what steps can be taken to improve it if it is in doubt.

    1. sierra7

      Would not the simple solution to funding of SS be “solved” by just forcing all income earners to pay their share in taxes to the system?
      Does that need further explanation??????
      If you make “X” amount of dollars in income to be taxed (for contributions to)at the lower end……close the insane loophole that says those who make over “XX” dollars do not have to contribute.
      Simple, but not politically palatable quite simply because our gov is now bought and paid for by the highest bidders.

      OK, let them “restructure” SS.
      Then what?
      I’m 82 and remember vividly the life my parents and family had to suffer during the Great Depression.
      Back then there were few and very small safety nets.

      Historical amnesia will bring this country to its knees eventually if not real quick.

      Solutions are simple, they’re just not palatable to the ruling elits.

  17. wbgonne

    Bill Black, of course, is exactly right. There is just one thing I’ll add and it is something that should be repeated over and over: the assault on the American social safety net will occur despite the fact that it is overwhelmingly opposed by the American People. On issue after issue, neither the Democrats not the Republicans hold the position held by the American People. We have a political duopoly that acts counter to the interests and wishes of the American People. IOW: the American People have now been excluded from the American political system. We are merely the chumps who dutifully choose one of two plutocrat approved and selected candidates, even though neither candidate cares a whit what the American People think or want.

      1. wbgonne

        “So, let us stop being chumps and choose better folks …”

        I assume you mean voting Third Party which, of course, I am. Jill Stein. But I am not naive enough to think that that will “fix” the problem. At best, it will illuminate the problem. And that’s only if enough people vote Third Party to register an impact. And even if THAT happens, all we can hope for is instability that either 1) reforms the Democratic Party or 2) destroys the Democratic Party, That is the optimistic scenario. How long will that take? Too long. But we do what we can.

        1. different clue

          We aren’t limited to doing only one thing at once. We can do two things at the same time. So even as we are pursuing electoral/voting tactics of Dem burndown/ Third Party buildup, we can also build all kinds of personal and community and regionalocal economic survivalism and resistance and rebellion.

          A man’s home is his castle.
          A man’s home is his Cave of Yennan.

          Two, three, many Caves of Yennan.

        2. Aquifer

          It will take as long as we let it – it could be “overnight” as far as changing officeholders is concerned and they can clean house pretty quick –

          And if you want to argue that it will take awhile – all the more reason to get on the stick, time’s a wastin’ ,,, We have wasted too many chances already …

  18. John Lenihan

    One hundred and fifty years ago, the seventy year old Whig politicaL party completely disappeared, and the Republicans were born. Whigs could not make up their minds and make the logical and intelligent conclusions about the politics of slavery even though they mostly resisted and opposed that evil.

    Now, Democrats look very much like latter-day Whigs, impotent to resist what they know is a foolish, sterile and money-driven politics leading directly to their rapid extinction as their popular appeal fades. The replacement may be called Green, Populist, Occupy or something now unknown, but it is sure to happen eventually, and probably quickly. No rational person would consider their sudden disappearance either unjustified or surprising.

    The lunacy of Republicans will allow them to exist on the margins of politics like the KKK, or various crypto-Nazi groups, but always as a tiny minority after their plutocrat funding eventually drys up. Born in anti-slavery glory, they will die in dementia.

    As the ancient Chinese curse predicts, we are about to start living in “interesting times”.

    1. wbgonne

      I agree that our political system is in unsustainable disequilibrium. The American People are no longer represented by either party. The buffer maintaining the system’s legitimacy is Obama, specifically — I’d argue — Obama as the first black president is what has has greased the skids for the Democratic Party’s descent into irrelevance and redundancy. Once the election is over, things may begin to change rapidly. I go back and forth but, at this point, I believe it would be significantly better for the country if Obama lost. Either way, however, the changes are coming because Obama will be the lamest of ducks even if he wins again.

      1. different clue

        I personally find myself torn between voting Third Party and hoping that Obama ends up losing . . . or voting Romney to do my best to make sure Obama loses. Certain things about Romney, including his Vice President and his NeoConservative advisers . . . make him an awfully distasteful choice to actually vote FOR . . .

        1. Aquifer

          dc – i really do think we have to get in the habit of voting for what we want instead of against what we don’t, if for no other reason than voting against what we don’t is still a vote FOR something. And if one doesn’t like what one is voting FOR, then voting is a perversion indeed.

          KISS, much easier, clearer and, in the end, ISTM, much more likely to get us where we need to go … And it preserves the vote as beneficial tool instead of a vindictive brickbat …

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            dc – i really do think we have to get in the habit of voting for what we want instead of against what we don’t

            Obscene as voting for Romney may appear, there is a good defensible argument that it is the most effective choice available to those who don’t want to see the social safety net destroyed (or more accurately, the beginnings of such destruction). Senate Democrats live for appearances and appearances would not be good if a bunch of Dems voted FOR a catfood diet proposed by a Republican. In that and other important legislation, Romney would be hamstrung; Obama, on the other hand, would have no problem at all with the same bunch of scum.

      2. different clue

        Aquifer and brooklin bridge, you both make equally good and opposite points. I am torn torn torn. I will probably end up voting third party because CarnieMitt and CarniePaul are so detestable. But I will feel burdened by guilt if Obama wins Michigan by one vote.

        1. Aquifer

          dc – if 3rd party is what you want, then go for it – if that 3rd party IS a lefty party, you can comfort yourself in 2 ways, no matter how it turns out – you will have kicked the the Rahm Dems in their nether parts by demonstrating that those”f***ing retards” he disparages have in fact figured out that they DO have “somewhere else to go” and are going there with resolve and purpose and you will have helped build that “somewhere” into Something that can take us where we need to go …

          1. different clue

            Well, I will probably vote Anderson then. Because I am still too bitter over Nader v. Gore and esPECially McGaw v. Wellstone to vote Green for now.

  19. Pepe

    The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party

    I’m tired of this phrase. The Rubn-wing is in firm control of the Dems, and has been since at least Clinton. The so-called Dem wing of the Dems really needs to stop being saps and get out. Send the Dems the way of the Whigs and Federalists.

  20. backwardsevolution

    The elite got rid of Glass-Steagall so that there was no separation between commercial and investment banking, which mixed your money with their money.

    Pension funds are co-mingled with Wall Street money.

    In order to assure a future bailout of their yet-to-be misdeeds, they now want to mix Social Security with their money.

    DO NOT LET THEM GET HOLD OF YOUR RETIREMENT FUNDS – NEVER!

    1. citalopram

      Yes, try and stop them. At this point they almost have free reign.

      I say cut it. Cut SS, privatize medicare, roll back worker protections and rights and decimate the Constitution.

      1. Aquifer

        That’s easy for you to say – S&M at it’s finest …

        Tell you what – if you ever go to the ER with a blocked artery in your leg, tell ‘em to just cut off your leg instead of trying to save it – get it over with, hey, you’ve got another leg …. or maybe not …

  21. Games theory people play

    I just watched Part 1 of the brilliant Adam Curtis’s BBC film, “The Trap.”

    It includes a terrifying analysis of mathematician John Nash’s contribution to the Cold War.

    Nash, perhaps induced by his paranoid schizophrenia, studied equilibrium states between enemies who know nothing about one another except that each would destroy the other absolutely given the chance.

    The takeaway: Nash shows — by mathematical terms — that the equilibrium state (stability) requires each unit to act solely in his/her self interest, i.e., taking every opportunity to limit or undermine the enemy. Cooperation of any kind leads to disequilibrium.

    This theory fully explains our current economic predicament, and the economics profession has gleefully demonstrated its application time and time again.

    But our current political predicament is also explained by this strategy. Tories the world over (Bush, PM Harper) govern this way. You can’t get rid of them. Once they have their paws on the levers of power, these grim characters merely use cold war strategies to maintain equilibrium and their own positions in power. Like the American slaveowners of the past, their “self interest” is staying in power. The American duopoly is merely a spectacle, a choiceless choice, an historical accident that in no way affects the thesis.

    For the 99% of us, disquilibrium is what we need and want. And, like the Rubik’s cube, there are doubtlessly a tremendous number of solutions.

    But this is a wake up call for those of us who believe that “this, too, shall pass.” My guess is that unless we all understand that the current state is a stable one, gradually transforming more and more of us into cold war “units,” we won’t be able to effectively organize against it.

    Is there a games theory theorem for an equilibrium state that promotes cooperation?

    1. Mark P.

      Oh, for pete’s sake.

      For the simplest example, iterated prisoner’s dilemma vs. one-time prisoner’s dilemma trends towards cooperation –

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner_dilemma#The_iterated_prisoners.27_dilemma

      See also –
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_war_game

      ‘The iterated prisoners’ dilemma is fundamental to certain theories of human cooperation and trust …cooperative behaviour in populations may be modeled by a multi-player, iterated, version of the game. It has, consequently, fascinated many scholars over the years. In 1975, Grofman and Pool estimated the count of scholarly articles devoted to it at over 2,000.’

      Adam Curtis has virtues. But his explanation and understanding of game theory is shamefully wrong and stupid.

      1. Games theory people play

        Unfortunately, I cannot agree with you. Your citations suggest that the only way to disturb a Nash equilibrium is to run out of the resources necessary to be at war at all times. Rich countries (with their own currencies) do not have this problem.

        1. different clue

          Money is not wealth and currencies are not resources. When the oil is gone, its gone. And when its gone, no sovereign government can will new oil into existence just by
          issuing a googolplex to the googloplexth power number of dollars.

          But lets see some government try it. Lets see if the US government can bring the passenger pigeon back from extinction by minting enough money.

  22. Brooklin Bridge

    Anyone who thinks Obama won’t get away with his Grand Bargain for the Rich should read the comments on HuffPo where Black’s article has also been posted. The Obama-bots are accusing Black of being the devil himself to suggest that Obimini would hurt SS. One of the more charming – but still depressing – comments was from someone who should call herself Head in the Sands, she wrote, “Wow, the headline is so depressing, I won’t read the rest! This guy trying to keep people from voting?”

    Try crush[ing] at the polls any member of Congress who supports it [the Grand Betrayal] with 75% of the voters taking that attitude or worse.

    1. citalopram

      That must have been a painful read. I can’t read Huffpo without drinking, and I quit drinking years ago.

  23. The Dork of Cork.

    May I suggest a useful experiment …..

    Shut down Wall street for 2 years rather then 2 days and see what happens.

    Maybe it does not supply critical life support after all – shock horror.

    Maybe if America shits out this parasite for two years it will be better off….maybe.
    Although I don’t think the UK would be better off somehow given its small island nature but the US ?

  24. Hugh

    Bill Black pulls the fire alarm on the attacks on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but then tells us the arsonist was tricked into setting the fire. Obama is not weak. He isn’t being exploited by the Republicans, and he doesn’t need convincing.

    Obama truly believes that too much money is spent on the 99% and that this takes away money that could be better used by the rich and the elites for their projects. You see Obama and the Democrats have become the ultimate believers in trickledown. In their eyes, the 99% are not the producers of the country’s wealth. Rather it is the rich and elites who are carrying them, but the burden of the 99% has gotten too heavy. So they want, wisely of course, to lighten the load by taking an axe to the safety net.

    Mitigating Obama and the Democrats’ clearheaded choice to loot us on this epic scale simply makes their looting that much easier.

    1. wbgonne

      I hear what you — and others — are saying: the Democratic Party is hopeless. I tend to agree (though one never knows what the future holds). But I don’t Bill Black’s appeal to traditional Democrats should be dismissed outright. There are a lot of very good people in the Democratic Party. I believe that many of those folks can be persuaded to abandon the Democratic Party. But they won;t do it a week before a presidential election where the first African-American president is running for reelection. I wish it were otherwise but it isn’t. So we must plan for the post-election, which will be here in a week. Sounding clarion calls for the FDR Democrats is wise, IMO. Those folks will start looking around seriously once the partisan mania subsides after the election. I suspect many will be appalled at what has happened to their party. These FDR Dems are persuadable and we will need them.

      1. different clue

        Those FDR Democrats won’t defect to some other party until/unless there arises an FDR Democrat party for those people to defect to. Who or what will become that party?

        Then too, perhaps it is necessary to exterminate the Democratic Party first, and burn it all the way down to the ground, so that the FDR Democrats will really realize that they really are homeless. Then, maybe , the will start looking for a home or trying to build themselves a home.

        1. Aquifer

          Yhis is one “FDR Dem” who defected having given them the benefit of the doubt for some time – the Green New Deal should be an obvious appeal to them …

          1. LeonovaBalletRusse

            Aquifer, that’s right, and that’s why Chris Hedges has joined the “Other” Club: We the People Voting for the ONLY PERSON who’s had the guts to stand up to THEM:

            DR. JILL STEIN PRESIDENT 2012: Because WE the People WILL IT.

  25. b.

    Whoa, this is one naive screed. I sympathize, but really.

    Kuttner is beating the dead horse of “Make Him Not Do It.” Obama as the anti-FDR, stop him, not force him – brillant outlook. Another Democrit mouthpiece that has become part of the problem.

    The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party does not exist.

    No wing of the Democratic Party will lead any effort to save America from the Great Betrayal.

    All wings of the Democratic Party are either leading the effort to bring about the Great Betrayal, or are fully prepared to aid and abet.

    Clinton saying “austerity after the election is won” is hardly anything to cheer about.

    Finally, it is not a Great Betrayal. There are no promises – the shitheads are telling their voters and supporters what they intend to do – and we are not talking about feelings hurt.

    This is the Great Theft, the Heist to end all heists, wiping out huge chunks of liabilities owned to the Social Security Trust Fund that could not be paid back out of general revenue unless tax cuts are reverted, military expenditures are cut, and taxes on the wealthy are raised. The “deficit” Obama and the elites are concerned with are the deficit resulting from having to deliver back the money collected to finance “entitlements”.

    No wonder the Great Theft is heading for success, when even the best critics muddle up their position in this manner.

    1. Mary Bess

      Yes, b., let’s find out how much was stolen from the Social Security Trust Fund, including accrued interest. Anyone know how to do that?

      1. Bert_S

        Nothing was stolen from the Trust Fund.

        In 1983 they had a commission chaired by Greenspan and they re-calc’d what FICA withholding would need to be to build up a trust fund adequate for boomers and longer projected life spans. We got a big hike in our FICA withholding (and employers too).

        The “surplus” in excess over funding current SS recipients was directed to this trust fund, and by law, it was to be loaned back to the USG (rather than put in diversified investments managed by a pension fund manager). The treasury kept track of the amounts borrowed using “special” non-marketable treasuries. The treasury gives these bonds a competitive interest rate at the time issued. By law the fund holds them to maturity and redeems them with the treasury – they do not get sold in the secondary market.

        So the Trust Fund is there with about $2.5 trillion in special treasuries collecting interest.

        As boomers retire, these treasuries mature and the Treasury is to redeem these bonds with cash which will be used to pay SS claims.

        Bruce Webb at Angry Bear did get a statement from SS officials that these bonds are not subordinate in any way to regular treasuries issued by the USG. So they are just as fully backed by the “full faith and credit of the USG” as any other treasury instrument.

        So nothing was stolen. But they are trying, and the way they can legally do it is to reduce the amount we get paid. SS does estimate our benefit each year, but they do not guarantee it. So a loophole exists where the USG can reduce payments, which will have the effect of stretching out how long they can pay back the trust fund, and maybe even have FICA payments generate a surplus again, which, by law, the fund will need to lend to the USG for purposes like “The Never Ending War In The Middle East” and “The Never Ending Bush Tax Cuts”.

  26. different clue

    Perhaps other words for the “Grand Bargain” might be useful to meme-shine a true spotlight on its real meaning.

    Words like Great Theft above, or Great Betrayal, or Grand Catfood Bargain, or Grand Theft Bargain, or other such.
    Anyone who thinks any one of those is catchy should try using it and see if it catches on. Eventually one or more of them may catch on.

    “Grand Theft Bargain” might catch on with people who know the phrase “Grand Theft Auto”, for example. Worth a try?

    1. Aquifer

      dc – i think you are right and making a point i myself have tried to make – we have to use terms that folks understand and can relate to – terms that arouse the same “fire in the belly” that many of us feel already when we are faced with these absurdities, or atrocities or whatever word conjures up the indignation and anger that used to be stirred by the concept of “sin” or “vice” …

      1. different clue

        Grand Theft Catfood . . .

        ” Can the Catfood and Ban the Bullshit.
        Stop stealing Social Security.”

        worth copylefting? or working up into some version worth copylefting?

  27. LAS

    How the unraveling of the programs happens is not actually through Obama but through exploiting human nature in the United States population at large and, in particular its susceptibility to anger and judgment. In ourselves is the problem. Everything that is said in the Koch brothers’ ads, the Rove tricks, or other Citizens United propaganda would have no resonance whatsoever if we ourselves were under critical advisement in our thoughts and feelings toward others. Instead, we are captured by the suggestion that some fellow citizens in need may be deadbeats and exploiting these programs. We are way too willing that millions of innocents should suffer in order to ferret out a few hundred or thousand and punish them. We are way too willing to deprive millions of citizens voting rights to ferret out a few hundred persons supposed to be doing voter fraud. We respond because of our tendency toward judgment and selfishness, thinking thereby we’re doing something effective to protect “our entitlements” or “our rights” when we are whipped up into anger and punitive of others. Don’t fear Obama. Fear ourselves.

    1. Some one is voting our proxy

      But based on your analysis, which is of course true — at some level — we SHOULD be afraid of Obama since he is the visible representation of our worst nature. Agreed, he wouldn’t be a problem if we wouldn’t or couldn’t vote for him. But either he or Romney will win this election, even if no one who reads this blog votes.

    2. Aquifer

      It’s interesting you should say this – i had a conversation with someone this summer around this idea ..

      The way i think of it is in the difference between innocent ’til proven guilty, which is what we claim to advocate in our justice system, and guilty ’til proven innocent which seems to be what we want to make policy around …

      So, ISTM we have a choice – we can design policy so that no one falls through the cracks which, by definition, means that some “undeserving” folks benefit as there is no way we can design parameters that catch all the “deserving” without letting some “undeserving” sneak through, or we can design policy so that only the “deserving” benefit, which, by definition, means some will fall through the cracks, as there is no way we can set parameters that keep out the “undeserving” without letting some of the “deserving” slip through the cracks ….

      ISTM that one could have a discussion whereby folks might agree that, given a choice between allowing some “undeserving” in so that no “deserving” (which might after all wind up being them) would be left out might, in fact, be desirable to a policy where allowing no “undeserving” in meant some “deserving” (which might after all be them) would be left out …. And one would never have to get into a discussion as to who was “deserving” and who was not ..

  28. Don Levit

    The government does owe the money it borrowed from the trust fund.
    It is known as intragovernmental debt, so the government acknowledges it needs to repay the SS trust fund everything it borrowed.
    Unfortunately, not all debts are created equal.
    The federal government considers there to be 4 levels of debt, ranging from Explicit Liabilities (the strongest commitment to repay) to Implicit Promises (the weakest commitment to repay).
    See a paper entitled “Federal Debt, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, An Update,” published by the GAO.
    Look on pages 65-66.
    http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04485sp.pdf.
    Don Levit

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      “Unfortunately, not all debts are created equal.”

      Don, why hasn’t Prof. Krugman or Prof. Keen calculated the U.S. “government” debt that has accumulated because of “Shock Doctrine” – “DISASTER CAPITALISM” in America “covered” by FEMA — brought to us “refigured” under “Homeland Security” auspices with Tom Ridge as first “Director” by George W. Bush, that’s right: brought to us by the folks from ENRON for Insider Private Profit to “THEM” and Disaster to the Restovus.

      Care to comment on this kind of U.S. DEBT by Shock&Awe FRAUD, Prof. Black?

  29. Brooklin Bridge

    The way one can get a grasp on where the country is at is by going to the comments section of the most widely read blogs and getting an idea of the temperament.

    Doing this on HuffPo’s copy of Bill Black’s post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-k-black/obama-austerity-social-security_b_2042876.html#comments is depressing indeed. We will vote for, “Yes we can’t” yet again and find out yet again that yes we can’t.

    It’s like playing peek-a-boo with 4 year olds. They can’t get enough of it. Four years is nothing.

  30. sharonsj

    I’ve been reading about the protests and riots in the Eurozone (since our national news generally ignores what is happening). Portuguese are marching and striking.
    Greeks are trying to burn down their government; their national health care system was disbanded at the instructions of the banks and they call the terrible results “the American health care system.” Spaniards are attacking their parliament, trying to physically rip apart politicians because their country is also in a depression.

    That is the result of continually bailing out the banks to the detriment of people’s survival. If similar austerity is implemented here, why shouldn’t we expect even the stupidist of our citizens to react in the same way?

    1. Aquifer

      sharon – the only analogy i can think of that might explain the difference is that the Europeans found themselves dumped from a pond into a pot of boiling water and are promptly doing all they can to hop out. We, on the other hand, have been sitting in a pot which TPTB have slowly been heating up over the last several decades – we don’t realize how hot it’s getting (with CC denial being a wonderful real time metaphor) and we might not until we are too boiled to hop out … The Europeans are getting boiling mad, we are just getting boiled …

    2. Mark P.

      @sharonsj

      Regarding the difference between the European situation, the short answer is that, more than the social differences Aquifer points to, the U.S. owns the global reserve currency — and the military that both supports that currency and is supported by dollar seigniorage — and so far, since we’re top dogs, things simply haven’t got anywhere as bad here as they have in Greece and some of other parts of Europe.

      But they’re going to get worse here.

      This is a global systemic failure like the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in the early 1970s and the Great Depression some thirty years earlier. Thus, besides systemic elite fraud by Wall Street-Washington, the problem is that the system is intellectually and imaginatively bankrupt: all the ideas the elite have invested in have failed, but they cannot move beyond them.

      So eventually, yes, the stupidest of our fellow-citizens will get the idea.

  31. steelhead23

    Dr. Black, Let’s harken back about 2 decades. GHWBush had attempted to end AFDC and failed. Then came Clinton, a leadership Democrate and AFDC was eviscerated. I do not recall a debate within the party as regards welfare, but ever since Reagan and the influence of George Gilder, the right had had a stiffy for welfare but when in the White House, were unable to effect their desires. Basically, they ran into the spines of the Dems, like Tip O’neill and the optics of being fat cats throwing the poor out in the street. So, if the past is any indicator of the future, those interested in preserving social security should vote for Romney. Yeah sure, Romney would like to dismantle SS, but chances are that he would not dare try during his first term. Obama would be a lame duck and how many dems can we count on to stand against the Grand Bargain?

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Gridlock is a deceptively simple but effective strategy. People are so wound up with allegiance to teams or tribes that such a solution seems perverse when the real perversity is actually just how self destructive such tribal allegiance is in the first place.

  32. LeonovaBalletRusse

    The “Democratic Party” is dead, Prof. Black. The Blue Dogs under the tutelage of BigPharma Profiteer Billy Tauzin, Mary Landrieu, et al. killed it.

    Prof. Black, you and Michael Hudson will serve our nation and the cause of JUSTICE and HUMANITY more yet, if you dare to declare your commitment to vote for and promote the election in 2012 of:

    DR. JILL STEIN PRESIDENT 2012: BECAUSE WE THE PEOPLE CAN.

      1. Aquifer

        In the meantime Stein is on enough state ballots to collect enough EC votes – we really have run out of excuses why it “can’t be done” …

  33. Tom Denman

    As long as Democratic presidents like Obama, and Clinton before him, continue to do the Republicans’ work for them (e.g. Democrats volunteering to cut Medicare and Social Security, and their complicity in Wall Street’s past and continuing frauds), the G.O.P. has no reason NOT to feed its base by going further to the right and in the process taking the center of political gravity with it. Really, the President’s conservative policies leave the opposition party with no choice but to get worse.

    If Mr. Obama is re-elected this awful dynamic will only intensify.

  34. casino implosion

    Obama’s likely going to win the election and liberals will be on a brief sugar high of partisan gloating. It’ll be nice to rub it all in the faces of those ‘baggers who spent so much time screaming about how they were going to “take their country back” in 2012.

    Then the high will wear off and it’ll be a cold hungover morning after as liberals wake up to the fact that Obama is going to take another whack at the Grand Backstab which the teabag congress was too hysterical to accept in 2011–thus driving such Republicans as Brooks and Frum nearly to madness.

    It can’t even really be properly called a backstab, since he flat out admits it in his ads, part of his 5-part program.

    I predict that the wailing and gnashing of teeth will be heard far and wide.

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