Auerback: Which Party Poses the Real Risk to Social Security’s Future?

By Marshall Auerback, a portfolio strategist and fund manager who writes at New Deal 2.0

Hint: it’s not Republicans.

Social Security remains one of the greatest achievements of the Democratic Party since its creation 75 years ago. Although Republicans have historically fulminated against the program (Ronald Reagan once likened it as something akin to “socialism”), they have actually made little headway in touching this sacred “third rail” in American politics. President Bush pushed for partial privatization of the program in 2005, but the proposal gained no policy traction (even within his own party) because Social Security continues to be hugely popular with American voters. It’s a universal program that benefits all Americans, not a government handout to a few privileged corporations.

Which is why it’s odd that Democrats seem almost embarrassed to continue to champion the legacy of FDR. The party frets about long-term deficits and the corresponding need to “save” Social Security from imminent bankruptcy and, in doing so, opens the gate to radical cuts in entitlements that will do nothing but further destroy incomes and perpetuate our current economic malaise. It is true that some Republicans have signed on to the idea of privatization, notably a proposal championed by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee. But only a handful of GOP lawmakers have actively embraced the measure and, in the aftermath of the worst shock to the financial system since the Great Depression, many Republican lawmakers would just as soon see the idea forgotten.

So why don’t the Democrats leave well enough alone? Why bother even setting up “bipartisan commissions” to discuss the issue of Social Security? At the risk of sounding like one of those ungrateful members of the “Professional Left”, whom Robert Gibbs recently decried, I note that it was President Obama who most recently re-opened this issue by setting up a commission on reducing long term budget deficits and dealing with the long term issue of entitlements, including Social Security. In the Commission’s remit, nothing is off the table, including Social Security and Medicare. (Of course, given that one of the members is a director of Honeywell, it’s hard to envisage any suggestions of defense cuts). I also note that according to the Washington Post, “Democrats said Simpson and Bowles are uniquely equipped to blaze a path out of the fiscal wilderness — and to forge bipartisan consensus on a plan likely to require painful tax increases as well as program cuts.” No mention of Republicans getting on board. This is self-immolation, plain and simple. And Obama wonders why voters remain unhappy?

Now that the President has opened this Pandora’s Box, it is hard for him credibly to make the case, as he attempted to do in last Saturday’s weekly radio address, that “some Republican leaders in Congress want to privatize Social Security.” In fact, it is an idea enthusiastically embraced by a number of Wall Street Democrats who are funded with huge campaign contributions from Wall Street itself. (Candidate Obama received more money from Wall Street in 2008 than Hillary Clinton.) These contributors would be the Rubinites who for decades have played a huge role in allowing for greater financial leverage ratios, riskier banking practices, greater opacity, less oversight and regulation, consolidation of power in ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions that operated across the financial services spectrum (combining commercial banking, investment banking and insurance) and greater risk. Privatization of Social Security represents the last of the low hanging fruits for Wall Street. Who better to provide this to our captains of the financial services industry than their major political benefactors in the Democratic Party?

The issue of privatization is germane when one considers the members of the Commission approved by the President. There are questions of possible conflicts of interest. As James Galbraith has noted, the Commission has accepted support from Peter G. Peterson, a man who has been one of the leading campaigners to cut Social Security and Medicare. It is co-chaired by Erskine Bowles, a current Director at North Carolina Life Insurance Co (annuity products are a competitor to Social Security and would almost certainly be beneficiaries of the partial privatization). Mr. Bowles’ wife, Crandall Close Bowles, is on the Board of JP Morgan, and she is also on the “Business Council,” a 27 member group whose members include Dick Fuld, Jeff Immelt, Jamie Dimon and a plethora of other Wall Streeters.

At the very least, these kinds of ties raise questions in regard to proposals for dealing with Social Security. Many members of the Commission stand to become clear direct and indirect beneficiaries of the privatization that the President is now warning against. It’s disappointing that these ties have not been fully explored by the press, and it is extraordinary that the President would exhibit such political tone deafness in making these kinds of appointments. It tends to undercut the message of his last radio address.

I’ll leave aside the nonsensical arguments in regard to Social Security’s “solvency,” because Professor Stephanie Kelton has dealt with them conclusively here. The only point I would add is in regard to the alleged issue of deficit spending today burdening our grandchildren. In reality, we will be leaving our grandchildren with government bonds that are net financial assets and wealth for them. As Randy Wray and Yeva Nersisyan have recently argued, even if government decides to raise taxes in, say, 2050 to retire the bonds (for whatever reason), the extra taxes are matched by payments made directly to bondholders in 2050. We can question the wisdom of whether it is right to make this political argument in favor of bond holders over tax payers. But it is a decision to be made at that time (not before) by future generations as to whether they should raise taxes by an amount equal to those interest payments, or by a greater amount to equal retirement of debt.

In the meantime, President Obama’s approval ratings continue to plummet. His scaremongering has little credibility, given the disparity between his rhetoric and his actual policies. At the risk of further upsetting Robert Gibbs, we’ll try to explain why Obama isn’t finding stronger support from his base despite having passed, for instance, a health care bill, a fiscal stimulus bill and a financial regulation bill. For a start, follow the money: with the President and leading Democrats having taken the most campaign dollars from corporate interests those bills purport to challenge, and having gutted the most progressive elements in the bills themselves (see Matt Taibbi’s latest as a perfect illustration of the phenomenon), it is clear that those signature pieces of legislation do not fundamentally challenge the structure of power at a time when that’s what Americans most want. The only “change” most Americans might experience is a reduction in their Social Security benefits from a President currently presiding over one of the most regressive wealth transfers in history. They’ll be receiving nothing but pocket change if a serious attack on entitlements is legitimized by this commission. A scaremongering radio address doesn’t do a whole lot to change that or to alter the country’s current economic trajectory. To paraphrase one of his leading political opponents, Mr. Obama would do well stop practicing the cynical “politics as usual” that his Presidency was supposed to “refudiate”.

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  1. mg

    It will be good to move past the two party facade. I often wonder if the Democrats realize they are doing as much damage to the charade as the Republicans. Soon they will have to move past the illusion and actually implement the corporate state they take such great pains to disguise.

  2. anonymous

    Agreed, absolutely. The unthinkable is unfolding before our eyes: Republicans are recreating themselves as the party of restraint and fiscal accountability. Consider what had to happen for this to occur, or rather, simply go back and do a close reading of this excellent post, which stands in stark contrast to the recent Vanity Fair puff piece.

    I’ve never been a fan of Inflate My Grades, quite the opposite. But I have to wonder just what he’s thinking, or not thinking. The notion that any issue could be more important than jobs is the first major problem. Maybe he’s never really had to look for one. I have. It’s often a degrading exercise even for those with solid credentials who are already employed. For those without work, well, I guess he and Michelle can only imagine.

    The problem, of course, is that the banksters don’t care who they pay to do the screwing, and will happily line up to cut checks for any Republican willing to take their lucre.

    Just as many will, if not more. Short of some serious regulatory hawk arriving, I’ve frankly no idea what will bring the banksters to heal. As we’ve seen here at NK, it certainly won’t be the current crop of Dems.

    Many thanks.

  3. eric anderson

    “radical cuts”

    Here we go again. Define what level of cut would constitute a radical cut. If a retiree got 10% less, would that be radical? 25% less? If retirement age was pushed out a couple of years, would that constitute in effect a radical cut? Just what do you mean when you use this term? Inquiring minds want to know.

    I must say, I am enjoying the circular firing squad the Democrats are forming. Though Obama seems to be aiming for his own feet. If Republicans continue to discredit themselves — they’ve been doing an excellent job so far — we could eventually see the best of all possible outcomes. Namely, the collapse of both political wings of the Ruling Class corporate-government complex. I suppose that’s too much to hope for. I certainly would settle for complete gridlock.

  4. Stelios Theoharidis

    You must esteem the PR machine that has been passing this and other memes around for its high level of sophistication. If anything we have to look at how the dialogue has been framed and how consistent politicians and their lobbying/pr/and potentially think tank counterparts have become in regard to the message that they have been broadcasting to the public. Once you have delineated the boundaries of the dialogue it isn’t that wasteful politicians ruined social security surpluses or that marginal increases in tax rate or progressiveness would resolve the issue into perpetuity, it is that the system is insolvent. Really banks and asset managers want a crack at that piece of the pie just as they want a crack at a US carbon exchange market (why I support a tax instead).

    I think certain individuals have been carried away by the framed dialogue others are following in its slipstream of political opportunism. When the campaign funds get passed around no one wants to miss their place on santa clause’s lap.

    I am continually reminded that the biggest enemy to any country is itself. All this talk of terrorism, immigrants, and drugs is a distraction from the fact that political elite in this country appear to be cannibalizing it from within and have been for quite a while. This syphoning has been done with the general approval of the public, hell we installed most of the piping ourselves.

  5. eric anderson

    It was said, “Only Nixon could go to China.”

    Perhaps only Democrats can harness and pull back from the unsustainable promises they have made to the entitlement class. I suspect when push comes to shove there will be a lot more talk about deficit reduction than actual deficit reduction. The people want it, but the Ruling Class is obviously not listening to the people anymore.

    1. sgt_doom

      Are you referring to the “Geo. H.W. Bush failed at NAFTA, so bring in Clinton to get it done?” school of debauchery?

      Since Bush failed at privatizing Social Security for Wall Street, bring in Team Obama to get it done?

      If so, I agree with you, but Nixon went to China for David Rockefeller and his ilk, and primarily that’s the only reason.

      Fantastic post, Mr. Auerbach.

      Impossible to add anything to, but being a cretin I will nonetheless:

      Obama has appointed many from the Hamilton Project (Robert Rubin’s creation with the Brookings Institution); their primary agenda being the privatization of Social Security, Medicare and public education.

      ‘Nuff said…..

  6. attempter

    At the risk of tooting my own horn, I was the first commentator I saw call this an only-Nixon-can-go-to-China phenomenon. Now everybody does it.

    That’s the basic role of Obama in the entrenchment of kleptotcracy as it gears up to attempt the medieval feudalization of America. His administration is dedicated to normalizing what under Bush was thought by many to be aberrational right-wing extremism in the realms of corporate looting, institutionalized cronyism, creeping police statism, Permanent War enshrinement.

    Meanwhile the normalization of 20%+ unemployment will get to be Obama’s alone.

    And best of all from his psychopathic point of view, he’ll succeed where Bush failed in achieving the most Reaganesque goal of all – gutting Social Security. This will be especially sweet since in his mind Obama consciously sees himself as the heir of his hero Reagan; he sees himself as really a Republican who identified as a Democrat for purely careerist reasons.

    Meanwhile the Republcians will again get to have the best of both worlds. The health racket bailout took corporatism to a new level. It’s slated to be an extreme, vicious combination of corporate looting and government coercion. The Republicans couldn’t have asked for a more Republican bill, and yet they got their reactionary bill while the Democrats took 100% of the political responsibility for it. The Reps will actually get to run against it.

    And now the Dems are volunteering to repeat the feat by voting to rubber-stamp the corporate diktat of a literal secret, unconstitutional, anti-democratic cabal. Reid and Pelosi want to guarantee a vote during the lame duck session. That’s in order to be able to lie to voters before the election, saying “we’re not going to touch Social Security, that’s what the Republicans want to do!” But they also want to be able to take full responsibility for the crime, just in case the Reps win one or both houses.

    Unfathomably, the Dems have promised Wall Street they’ll take the full burden of voting for this and let the Republicans get away with not having to vote for it. And that’s even if the Reps win in November.

    It looks like Obama’s probably not the only nominal Democrat who’s looking to flip to the Republicans. It’s looking more and more like the Obama administration is a version of a PE fund taking over a company, gutting it, looting its assets, loading it up with debt, and abandoning it. That’s obviosuly the way both parties and all corporate rackets view America. But it seems like this administration and the Congressional leadership view the Democratic party itself that way.

    That organized crime runs the government couldn’t be made more clear.

    1. anonymous

      I disagree completely, much as I often you enjoy your sharp comments. Social Security is not at risk because most Americans still want Social Security.

      For all the talk of corporatism, much of which is true, the fact is America is still a democracy and extremely likely to remain so for a good long time. Therefore, the will of the people counts. The people, of course, are tired of being screwed, but recognize that a little screwing is part of the deal, whatever the party.

      What folks want and expect is a little competence and that’s about all we’re seeing: ‘little competence.’ People want and rightly demand more, certainly in terms of employment.

      My own view is that virtually all our problems will improve temporarily, at least, simply be electing a whole bunch of Republicans this fall, and then seeing a push-back in 2012, that places a Republican like Christie in the WH, provides representative government for the rest of the political spectrum.

      1. skippy

        Yeah…the dumb advertised to death, un-initiated, machismo, hyper-dopamine, sheeple.

        Skippy….I sleep good at night knowing democracy is at work…cough republic.

        1. skippy

          The Republic was supposed to work cause the nobility would hold their end of the contract…well we know now the truth of contracts with out bite…corpoxuray.

      2. Tao Jonesing

        Sorry, attempter wins.

        Obama put Social Security on the table during the primary season against Clinton, which actually comes as no surprise when you actually review the CVs of Obama’s economic advisors at the time.

        Obama is carrying through on his implicit promise to attack Social Security, and he has proceeded in fine fashion by stacking his “deficit commission” with unelected anti-Social Security elites like Pete Peterson. Where’s the democracy in that?

        Prediction: Obama will successfully sell gutting Social Security because only a nominal “Democrat” can do so.

        Everything Obama says is a lie, which you can confirm by simply comparing what he actually does to what he says he is going to do. (And, yes, I voted for the guy, but only because McCain is close to death and Caribou Barbie is incapable of governing her own behavior, let alone a nation; until the week of the election, my stated plan was to not vote for Obama because I feared he would gut Social Security.)

        1. attempter

          Well, I don’t call it “winning”.

          But America most definitely is not a real democracy. The fact that Anonymous above thinks anything either kleptocratic party does has anything to do with democracy rather than its subversion just provieds an example of how far the brainwashing has gone. (Chris Christie of all people, a run of the mill cronyist, fiscal terrorist, and borrow-and-spender, is the hero you look to? This New Jerseyan doesn’t think so.)

          As for Americans wanting Social Security, Americans also wanted to smash the banks, they want to end the war, and they vehemently did not want the Bailout or the health racket mandate.

          The “democracy” has sure been responsive in those cases.

          1. anonymous

            Women don’t have the right to vote in many countries in the world. Men and women don’t have the right to participate in free elections in many parts of the world, so we clearly employ different metrics to describe ‘real’ democracies.

            Real democracies would be those that are real, in the sense that they can realistically measured against real things, not the perfect vision of an idealized democracy.

            I know, personally, a number of people who have lived in places that do not have elections, or where the elections have no meaning. The trite dismissal of the right to vote and other freedoms fought for and won by generations of workers, men and women, is one of the more revolting features of the so-called cynical and wise.

            Your facile analysis and casual attitude towards fundamental freedoms, freedoms denied most of the people on the planet, is most welcome, however. I’m forced to change my mind and withdraw my earlier complimentary remarks regarding your perspicacity.

            According to you a nation that extends universal franchise to all its citizenry, enshrines the rights to free speech, private property, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion is not a democracy.

            I’ll take my chances with western democracy and count myself grateful.

          2. DownSouth


            Free elections, of an by themselves, do not a democracy make. Nor does a constitution that, as you put it, “enshrines the rights to free speech, private property, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.”

            One has to look no further than Mexico to debunk your political theory. “The perfect dictatorship,” the Peruvian poet Mario Vargas Llosa called it. It has all the trappings of a democracy—-free elections and a consitution modeled after that of the United States—-but in´practice is a plutocracy.

          3. aet

            No surer way to lose a democracy than to say it does not work ; and then insultingly blame the “sheeple”, huh?
            I think you’re the one who discounts democracy….

          4. attempter

            Yup, leave it to a process liberal to make a fetish out of the act of pulling a lever, and never mind that the election was long before bought and stowed away.

            This exaltation of form at the direct expense of substance is at the core of the betrayal of democracy.

            (I wasn’t trying to insult you, anonymous, and if I was a little sharp it was meant to be just the cold, hard facts. But it’s funny that the moment you encounter that, you evidently renounce a whole body of opinion.

            I have to admit, I’m intrigued about what you could possibly have agreed with me about previously, if we differ so completely on something this basic. When have I ever expressed anything but rejection of the system? And I’ve said a hundred times democracy is lost under this system.)

            Both parties have long been criminal gangs, nothing more. This place has “elections” in the same way the Soviet Union did. It’s a terminal kleptocracy.

            So are you two actual members of these criminal organizations, or just, yes, sheeple?

            News flash – most Americans already see the truth, unlike you two. It’s just that most of them don’t know what to do next, yet.

            So to deplore the willfully ignorant and terminally bainwashed is not to criticize the majority, but just a woeful minority.

            As for representative pseudo-democracy, we now know it failed, and belongs on the trash heap of history with the rest of the failures.

            The only thing left, which has been proven to work wherever it wasn’t violently destroyed from without, is direct, participatory council democracy and worker control of production. Positive democracy.

          5. NOTaREALmerican

            I’m not sure if we have a democracy or not.

            On one hand:

            I don’t see how anybody can claim that our political system – with entry points at the local politic level, which is based purely on a pay-to-play system – can result in representative democracy. It obviously represents the wealthy people purchasing the politicians, but the peasants voting for candidates nominated by a Kleptocracy isn’t exactly a “functional” democracy. (Disclaimer: I have fractional ownership of two local counsel-persons in my limousine-liberal college town).

            On the other hand:

            The peasants don’t really mind. They believe (generally) that “money talks” and people with more money are more deserving citizens (humans). So, we have the government that a majority of people actually DO want – and keep voting for. So, perhaps we have a democratically supported oligarchy.

        2. anonymous

          Everything Obama says is a lie is much closer to a lie than most of what Obama says, and I’m far from a fan. Obama is no worse than most of the members of his class.

          Obama utters platitudes that almost always contain caveats that permit him to straddle any issue. You’re wrong to call that a lie, IMHO.

          He has lied, of course, as I have and everyone I know. I’ve no clear idea why anyone would expect any politician to tell the truth. I’m happy enough with basic graft, nepotism, and pork, as long as the economy provides jobs and the opportunity to live a decent life.

          You voted for the wrong candidate, therefore, IMHO. The foreign policy goals of McCain and Obama are virtually identical, and on domestic policy I’m now convinced McCain would have been much, much better. Sarah Palin is worse than Bush.

          Bush looks a prudent steward compared to the current occupant of the Oval office, although very few will acknowledge their nostalgia for Bush as openly as I.

          1. DownSouth

            And I too recall Bush and Republican rule with nostalgia.

            At least with the Republicans you know where you stand. After the rape they beat you to a bloody pulp, just to let you know who’s in charge.

            With Obama and the Democrats, on the other hand, the rape is followed by kisses and hugs. Rape comes cloaked as true love.

          2. greg b

            “And I too recall Bush and Republican rule with nostalgia.

            At least with the Republicans you know where you stand. After the rape they beat you to a bloody pulp, just to let you know who’s in charge.

            With Obama and the Democrats, on the other hand, the rape is followed by kisses and hugs. Rape comes cloaked as true love.”

            I’ve had this same sentiment in my more melancholy moments.

            Then I sit there and wonder WTF was I thinking. What I really want is someone who knows the rape is wrong and wont do it. The repubs DONT EVEN THINK ITS WRONG!! This is not something I want honesty and clarity about. At least the democrats (as you describe them) wish to soothe the victim, because they know how they must feel. While the democrats can be accused of simple human messiness and hypocrisy which we all fall into at times, the repubs are pure sociopaths incapable of knowing that rape is WRONG. It must be right because it makes THEM feel powerful and good.

            The only place we will find people who know that rape is wrong and wont do it is in the democratic party.

          3. NOTaREALmerican

            Re: The only place we will find people who know that rape is wrong and won’t do it is in the democratic party.

            Perhaps, but voting for Democrats who will make the government bigger and bigger AND – simultaneously – assuming that the Republicans will never get re-elected – and (therefore) the next “rape” session won’t be even worse – is insane.

            The true-believes in both Parties seem obsessed with implementing their fantasy of big-government AND simultaneously ignoring that the OTHER guys will use the bigness for bad purposes.

            We now have a near surveillance-happy police state (but yes a VERY friendly one, currently) and we have a nearly complete central-planned economy (corporate crony-capitalism). The Republicans keep expanding the government to alleviate their paranoia (destroying the constitution in the process) while the Democrats keep expanding the government to alleviate their guilt (destroying other parts of the constitution).

            Different clowns, same circus. For the last 50 years.

      3. sgt_doom

        Negative, Social Security (that $2.7 trillion fund) is highly at risk as it’s about the last tax fund left……

    2. John

      I agree with your analysis but don’t understand what you are saying with this sentence:

      But they also want to be able to take full responsibility for the crime, just in case the Reps win one or both houses.

      1. attempter

        Well, as things are now they seem intent on voting for it themselves while letting the Republicans refrain even though the Reps want it as well. They seem intent on doing this even if the Reps win in November.

        I don’t understand why they want to do it any more than I understand why they wanted to take sole responsibility for the health racket bailout.

        My semi-facetious theory that Obama (and I guess the Congressional leadership as well) is a closet Republican seems ridiculous, but it still seems to fit the facts better than any other explanation. While my opinion of his intelligence has plummeted, I still can’t imagine he’s that stupid, that he really thinks this is good politics for the Democrats going forward. Same for Pelosi, Reid, etc.

        1. sgt_doom

          He’s not stupid if he’s got a Goldman Sachs partnership awaiting him.

          Was Clinton stupid? Shortly after vacating the White House he’s worth over $100 million.

          Perhaps you think that all derived from his speeches????

          The only neolib/neocon Obama has yet to appoint is….Dickless Cheney…..

          1. attempter

            Sorry, but I can’t fathom it ever getting better than “President of the United States”, if one is into power in the first place.

            Do you really think Clinton would rather party with Kazakh gangsters than be president again, even though the former is no doubt more lucrative?

            (Though I suppose it’s possible Obama’s idea of literal heaven is to fetch glorified coffee for Goldman honchos. He seems small and mean enough for that.)

          2. JTFaraday

            Clinton might have been more interested in the Presidency, but arguably Clinton was gradually debauched by Treasury Department gangsterism. Not to mention, by the end of his Presidency, he was going to be in deep to his lawyers due to “the politics of personal destruction.”

            With Obama, there is no need for this process of discovery. Both sides are already clear on what they can do for each other.

            Along with his big historical First, which he no doubt thought would carry his legacy, arguably Obama IS out to get rich off the presidency just because he already knows he can. And, don’t neglect that Michelle’s last job was in hospital administration–he took care of that first!

            I don’t think Obama needed to trash his political legacy in order to get rich off the Presidency, but I guess he’s more ambitious than merely selling still more autobiographies to the adoring canaille.

            That’s chump change. Our First Narcissist already has two of those.

          3. JTFaraday

            Meanwhile, Obama is very much like Clinton with his Third Way, Triangulating, bi-partisan schtick.

            But I don’t think Obama is actually educated enough to understand why the country can’t take another Clinton presidency.

            He’ll just tell himself it’s his equal right to follow in Bubba’s footsteps and continue running the country in his own personal narrow self interest, while making snide comments about drug addled professional left perfectionists.

            Honestly, have we ever heard anything come out of Obama that would suggest he’s capable of thinking anything more profound than that?

  7. KFritz

    IMLTHO:re Obama’s compromises

    Obama’s entire Presidency is tinged, colored, perhaps dominated by his relentless (self-)image building as “Great Conciliator at the Head of a Team of Rivals in the Mode of the Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln.” This while assiduously overlooking or (possibly?) missing the fact that the Republicans stand foursquare against every intelligent policy he claims to espouse.
    Earth to BHAPOTUS:
    There is no room to compromise w/ these resolutely blinkered reactionaries.
    Honest Abe was an excellent conciliator at the head of a team of rivals–while he was waging a vicious, winner take all conflict against part of his nation willing to go to war to protect a feudal-capitalist amalgam that Grant, to paraphrase, called ‘the worst cause one could fight for.’

    D’ya think you could do that, in imitation of Abe, Mr President? Please knock off the compromise rhetoric already, if you can.

    1. KFritz

      Above is not a call for armed conflict against Republicans. Merely a question to POTUS: does he think he could have filled Lincoln’s shoes? I don’t think so, he oughta give it up and do what he can.

      1. skippy

        Come on poli words are just that…words. Armed conflict with republic-rats really. Abe is dead, his time is gone, aboriginals in this country have a thing about it, why?

        Geez for some one that can’t coincide a point when it lands on their face ie: Iraq…you do opine, with out facts or is it just agenda?

        Skippy…all I’ve ever seen is cheep rhetoric.

        1. skippy

          It’s hard to take any thing you say into consideration, you de-miss common knowledge or better yet bring in other contentions with out addressing the previous.

          I can commit error and have, difference is I admit it.

          Plenty of KFritz’s out there, I had a stab, further investigation would necessitate actions that go against my ethical standards.

          1. skippy

            The surprise invasion that was not one, yet you peddle it, possible events discussed are not…a surprise.

            Your inability to accept this simple fact discounts every comment you make.

          2. KFritz

            You are a TRUE EXPERT. That’s always good for a laugh or a cry. A laugh if I’m an opponent or a cry if I’m an ally, General Sedgwick, sir!


            And this very, illustrious blog had a detailed article on the kind of expertise you embody, the ‘I was an official, ergo I KNOW’ variety.


            This article is a takedown of exactly the kind of ‘knowledgeable authority’ that’s your SHTICK. you make lots of comments here, and I’ve linked to several sections where readers can examine some of your your ?comments/howlers? w/ my commentary.


            skippy helps 30, yes 30! w/ mortgage problems


            skippy invokes service and difficulty to try overawe ‘amateur’ on policy issues


            skippy claims malady as excuse for lousy writing. skippy uses this and ‘Tourrette’s ‘ criticism of lousy writing in shameless ad hominem display. skippy goes off topic fr/ what, hurt vanity? Refusal to acknowledge him as ‘master biped?’ (hat tip Rex Stout/ Nero Wolfe!) skippy continues to make all kinds of claims about service to nation, to make a point against somebody in a blog forum?

            Scroll down and see skippy ?brilliantly? confuse a 60 yr old left of center male w/ history degree and working brain w/ newly minted female right wing blogger. Demonstrating, that if he actually was an intelligence op, he embodies the reason the US isn’t too swift @ the business. Then see him claim to be an accomplished ad executive to finish up his brilliant analysis.

            You make lots of claims to accomplishment and expertise in an attempt to impress and overawe. Readers who have come this far are invited to consider all this information in light of another article, linked fr/ this very blog.


          3. skippy

            The issue is simple, why cloud it, deflect from it.

            Again conversations prior to the invasion preclude the adjective *surprise* in your context ie deception on Iraqis side (they put out feelers/asked to the US government’s thoughts) or ignorance on the US side (we had that conversation).

            The rest of your comments are conjecture of the worst sort, foam attack.

            Skippy…hard to have discourse when the other side never sticks to the ONLY point of contention, a simple black and white one to boot.

            PS. Ever wonder why IOTBP de-missed you so backhandedly?

          4. skippy

            PSS. your link to Dr. Robert D. Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak was discussed here ages ago. I left the world of large vertical authoritarian structure based largely because of what they study and empirically define and my issues with psychopaths. Maybe it would be better if you pointed that psychological gun at Wall st. and the political class in DC.

            This world will never allow me the time to learn, digest, understand all that is available, improve myself and try to be human again after what Ive seen and done to my masters bidding. I was raised a neocon, my family are neocon’s and I have to scrub my mind every day to rid myself of its infection…so yes I freely admit to being defective, how about you…wanna share.

            By the way if your into labels, hows Pantheist Humanist, and in that order. BTW Yves holds the ultimate power here, not you, or myself, I defer to that.

      2. Tao Jonesing

        Obama’s raison d’etre is to gut the Democratic party of any last vestige of political power and thus pave the way for a single-party fascist state. That’s the surest way of ensuring his vision of a post-partisan America . . .

        For all practical purposes, Obama is George W. Bush, and that is by design and not through an error in judgment.

        1. sgt_doom

          Don’t be so absurd, dood!

          Whomever is in the White House is simply another agent, either knowingly or unknowingly, of the multinationals or bank-oil cartel, or whoever it is who is actually running things.

          The multinationals use the US military to smooth things out and keep the resources flowing to their factories, production facilities, mining operations, etc., etc., etc.

          Hence, the US military is protecting the Chinese companies mining copper in Afghanistan, and the gas and oil pipelines across Afghanistan will end in India, supplying their production facilities, etc., there, and the oil from southern Iran goes to China to keep their multinational infrastructure going.

          And the taxes from the US taxpayer, one way or the other, e.g., USAID Development Credit Authority, goes to building the infrastructures in foreign countries, so that evermore multinational factories and production centers can be housed there, for further offshoring of American (and Euro and Japanese) jobs, and newly created jobs their through FDI…., etc., etc., etc.

          Starting to get the big picture, I hope…..

    2. KFritz

      Several years ago when still subscribing to The Atlantic, I read an article: one of their reporters covering Obama found him making sketches, as in pencil drawings, of himself. As I recall it, the future POTUS was drawing and erasing, reworking the sketch. I’ve never forgotten this, but also have never been able to find it online. That’s the basis of the analysis. What does it have to do w/ Iraq?

    3. Glen

      There does seem to be a certain irony in comparing Obama to Lincoln. Obama seems to be perilously close to undoing Lincoln’s freeing the slaves by putting over 95% of the country on the path to debt/wage slavery to the financial elite by slaughtering the middle class.

      Not exactly a legacy anyone would want.

      Or as Letterman would put it:

      Bailing out the Wall St banksters that wrecked the country and world economy – 9.1 trillion dollars and counting.

      Destroying the middle class – priceless!

  8. koshem Bos

    The Democratic primaries of 2008 symbolized the total collapse of the old Democratic Party. Obama won by using the race card against the “first black president” Bill Clinton and with the support of the pretend progressives who are full of hate for the GOP and the Clintons along Glenn Beck lines. The result is a novice, very much like W Bush, lacking vision, political instincts and commitment to the vision of the old Democratic Party. In particular, Obama is not committed to social security, single payer health care and temporary nationalization of the bankrupt new robber barons, the big banks.
    Thus, we have a dysfunctional president, threatening SS with the ill-advised deficit commission with enemies of SS as heads, Bowles and Simpson. God help the people of this unfortunate land.

    1. David


      Agree. Obama is a lot like an American Tony Blair in that just like Blair killed off “old Labor” with his so-called
      “third way” which was really “Thatcherite-lite”, Obama wants to kill off the Democratic party with his “third way” which he calls “bipartisanship”. Despite the rhetoric from both, Blair’s “third way” and Obama’s “bipartisanship” are essentially plutocracy with a human face. That is, there may be a few crumbs for the masses, but behind it all, the game is rigged for the plutocrats.

  9. Michael Fiorillo

    Obama was hired to begin the process of gutting Social Security, and will do so as a matter of political expediency and fealty to his patrons in Finance.

    The corporate media will call him “statesmanlike” for having “made the tough decisions” to put “fiscal responsibility” ahead of “special interests” and “greedy Baby Boomers.”

    It’s like the movie “Crash,” where a black woman is the one to tell Matt Dillon’s character that his father’s cancer treatment will not be covered by insurance; the power elite has the absolute diabolical genius to have a black man be the face of attacks on Social Security.

    It’s been largely forgotten that David Halberstam intended the term “The Best and the Brightest” to be ironic. Perhaps we should keep it in the forefront of our minds.

  10. DownSouth

    42% approval rating

    It looks like Obama may hit the 30s quicker than Bush.

    Now that’s an accomplishment.

  11. DownSouth

    From the Matt Taibbi link: “Do we admit that control over the economy in the past dec­ade was ceded to a small group of rapacious criminals who to this day are engaged in a mind-­numbing campaign of theft on a global scale?”

    Until a majority of Americans figure this out, that the United States is private plantation owned by a cabal of criminal thugs, that there is precious little difference between Russia (where Taibbi lived) and Mexico (where I live) and the United States, then there is really no chance for substantive reform.

    American exceptionalism needs to be laid to rest, endemic problems acknowledged, and American politics turned on its head.

    1. Siggy

      I generally agree. I would focus on a beginning that discards this misuse of the word democracy. Our contract for government calls for a federal republic. Would that we would have honored the contract. What we have morphed into is a form of social democracy and it sucks in that it gets to mediocracy very quickly. Which given the size of the population would be very hard to avoid under any political system.

      As to social security, its an income transfer payment tax system that generally works. Is there a better way, probably so but it would/will be very expensive to get there.

      What is abundantly wrong and abundantly apparent is that we have massive fraud being perpetrated in the banking industry and the frauds are being done by the banksters as well as the Fed.

      The latest finanical regulation legislation is farcial. Critically, the Justive Department can’t seem to field a referral and when it does it seems to be incapable of mounting a sound prosecution.

      As we are on the road to becoming a banana republic, the answer to the query, ‘are we there yet? is a resounding yes.

  12. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

    Let’s see … since a self-proclaimed member of the “Professional Left” who happens to be a portfolio strategist and fund manager opines on which political party threatens Social Security more – Republican or Democrat – and renders his verdict that it’s the latter – no surprise there – the in-fighting here then began. Of course, that he refers to Social Security as an entitlement testifies to just how far “right” the professional left has moved in 40 years. How many portfolio strategists and fund managers on Wall Street contributed to the Obama campaign? Tell me again Marshall?

    Ask yourself, which political party opposed Social Security from its inception? Which political party has advocated neoliberal policies – tax cuts and globalization – with policy wonks the likes of Milton Friedman, no friend of Social Security, and Grover Norquist in an effort to “starve the beast” – literally bankrupt the federal government because social programs like Social Security and Medicare are deemed entitlement programs akin to welfare notwithstanding OASDI? It wasn’t the Democrats – at least not the “old Left” democrats. Conservative SOUTHERN Democrats – RIDs [republicans in drag] – smarting from civil rights legislation and their REPUBLICAN counterparts have dominated American politics for the past 40 years. Their ascendance in 1968 with Nixon’s election signified the “death” of the Democratic Party – the end of the New Deal Coalition. This is the history I remember… but I could be wrong. And that’s not to say the Democrats haven’t made mistakes aplenty along he way.

    In any case, let’s cut to the chase because what Marshall really wants to know is, come this November, what y’all gonna do? The entire electoral cycle will come down to one word – DISAFFECTION. How many independent and ‘left-wing’ Democrats have become so disaffected/disillusioned with the Obama Adminstration/Democrats that they will defect, crossover to Republicans, or not vote at all with the result that the Republicans will gains seats in Congress by electoral default that enable them to kill any legislation rescinding the Bush Tax cuts and additional stimulus spending for job creation? To say ‘NO’ emphatically for another two years. Then too, the only pieces of the New Deal left – Social Security and Medicare – will be emasculated under the guise of reform and deficit reduction. While the Obama administration has stumbled and leaves much to be desired, not voting for it/DEMOCRATS is a sure vote for AUSTERITY. Make no mistake about it.

    To some this will sound like an apology for the incumbent administration. So be it. But recall that the American electorate “voted” for less government and less regulation, free trade and globalization, and the policies implemented to promote them in their gallop to the RIGHT over the course of the past 40 years. To believe that any Democrat – the election of one person – was going to undo this rightward gallop in the course of 4 years is incredulous and naïve, if not STUPID – unless you bought into the media hype generating such expectations. I voted for Obama in the hope that the right-wing bullet train to AUSTERITY “might” be slowed down. That’s it. Nothing more. Call it reduced expectations…

    Moving 300 million Americans in another direction is going to take time. The electorate, its representatives in Congress, significant actors in the Executive Branch, as well as the SCOTUS all have to be on the same page to unwind this “flirtation” with neoliberal political/economic policies. And this unwinding isn’t going to happen in 4 years, if ever. Get over it! This is political reality in these United States as of Aug 17th, 2010. Dig in for the long march…
    And for those inclined to believe that by not voting or voting Republican – electoral immiseration – will make conditions worse so as to bring on ‘the revolution”, if you are not likely to suffer the consequences directly for such behavior or going to let someone else take to the streets for you out of desperation/frustration/hunger while you watch events unfold on TV or the PC, STOP now. Such irresponsibility and hypocrisy is so evident as not to warrant further comment. Marxist immiseration theory has been so discredited, particularly in the United States, that it cannot be taken seriously. Moreover, the forces of repression – law and order – are already in place, increasing their influence daily, and only too willing to mete out repression once “ordered” to do so. And the ‘REPRESSION WILL BE TELEVISED’. Count on that! What will the prospects for change – violent or otherwise – then be?

    Yes, I find myself tormented by the prospect of voting for the lesser of two evils – again and again. Stuck on stupid perhaps. But 40 years ago many of the “New Left” refused to compromise and watched this debacle begin with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, consigned to the political wilderness with their “integrity” intact. [I was only 17 in Nov 1968.] The subsequent pain and suffering, hollowing out, and oppression of everyday life in a world turned upside down have “sobered” me to the shortcomings of idealism absent practical application in the real world. Let’s not make the same mistake again. Please think of the consequences of your DISAFFECTION before doing anything this November and then “vote” your conscience.

    So what y’all gonna’ do?

    1. DownSouth


      As always, a lot of good stuff there.

      But I think your analysis is off a bit.

      I agree with attempter above when he said:

      “As for Americans wanting Social Security, Americans also wanted to smash the banks, they want to end the war, and they vehemently did not want the Bailout or the health racket mandate.”

      I think 300 million Americans already have moved in a different direction.

      Powerful currents (the American people) are buffeting the aircraft carrier, trying to change its course. But the captains of the ship (Democratic and Republican politicos) are struggling mightily to keep it on the neoliberal straight and narrow.

      There needs to be a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. Until that happens, the only choice Americans have is between Republican and Republic lite.

      1. DownSouth

        I would further argue that the “old left” is where the Democratic Party needs to be.

        The “new left,” I would further argue, with its almost exclusive emphasis on cultural issues and disregard for bread and butter issues, is as much to blame for the demise of the Democratic Party as RIDs (Republicans in Drag—-conservative Democrats).

        1. NOTaREALmerican

          Yup. Very true.

          (Not that I think we’ve actually got two Parties now, but if there is another Party lurking in the Blue Team someplace…)

          They’ve got to stop talking about the noise issues and deal directly with the class-warfare issue. The “right” has been successful with shutting-down this argument with the “THAT’S CLASS WARFARE” line and (humorously) the Democrats discomfort with the “Professional Left”.

          It IS class warfare. Time for somebody to deal with.

    2. greg b

      BRAVO Mickey !!

      A quite concise post on where the politics of the day leaves us. There is little (if any) of the true left around in American politics (Sanders, Feingold maybe, Franken maybe) but the only place you will find it is in the democratic party. It still can rise up and yell from the democratic side. It has no voice in republican politics.

      I’m disappointed with Obama but I sure as hell dont want any of the sociopaths pretending to be statesmen from the republican side.

      I agree with Downsouth that 300 million have already moved in a different direction unfortunately 100 million are following Palin,Huckaby and Gingrich.

      1. sgt_doom

        Franken??? Puhhlease…..Mr. “let’s invade Iraq” Franken?

        Mr. “Michael Moore’s a traitor for not supporting President Bush’s need to invade Iraq” Franken?

        Sanders? A likeable sellout!

        Feingold, Kucinich, DeFazio, Captur, Grayson.

        Five….that’s all, just five….

    3. i on the ball patriot

      People who vote are the problem.

      When you play in a KNOWN rigged game you only serve to validate and legitimize that rigged game with your good name. When you sit down to play in a rigged game you DESERVE to lose. Voters are losers.

      Don’t opt out silently. Write a letter to your supervisor of elections demanding your non vote be counted as a ‘vote of no confidence’ in this crooked government.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      1. JTFaraday

        “Validate and legitimize”? You mean, like THIS:

        “recall that the American electorate “voted” for less government and less regulation, free trade and globalization, and the policies implemented to promote them in their gallop to the RIGHT over the course of the past 40 years. To believe that any Democrat – the election of one person – was going to undo this rightward gallop in the course of 4 years is incredulous and naïve, if not STUPID”

        Also, let’s can the upcoming 2010-2012 Obamapologiafest by rejecting the idea that Bam and the D-Party under Bam merely failed to completely turn the aircraft carrier when it’s clear to anyone passing the drug test that Bam and the D-Party slammed on the gas.

        I guess they panicked and forgot where the brakes are. They’ll try to remember next time, I guess.

    4. Tao Jonesing

      About the only way that I can see to thwart Obama’s designs on Social Security is to vote a straight Republican ticket in November and make sure that I tell Obama (who I voted for), Boxer (who I voted for and still like), Eshoo (who I voted for) and Pelosi (who I voted for when I lived in her district) exactly why I voted that way. Heck, I’ll even write to DiFi, who I have voted for since the beginning. FYI — I detest Carly Fiorina. She’s a fop.

      You don’t have to be part of either party to yell and be ignored. Maybe if enough of the center, center-left and left cast a protest vote, the Democratic party will start listening to us again.

    5. Stelios Theoharidis

      We watched as PR funded shock troops came out to town hall meetings with crocodile tears and raised voices. There aren’t any rules here, you are dealing with a bunch of sociopaths that have no issue with utilizing propaganda, deception, eliminating voters from rolls, creating absurd narratives with everymans, assassinating and bombing abortion clinic doctors, and starting wars over fabricated evidence. This obviously isn’t a single entity but a loosely connected alliance.

      What is problematic is they have the perfect affinity group, a bunch of old retired individuals with quite a lot of time on their hands, that were easily manipulated by threats to their security and engrained notions of socialism.

      Whereas the left has been mainly silent. We have been bought off with middle management positions and suburban culdesacs. The poor are too busy trying to survive to show up to a town hall meeting. The young too wrapped up in a cult of personality due to the intrinsic meaninglessness of consumer culture. People 18-30 are too busy getting wasted if they can afford it to get out and yell over a bunch of grey hairs at a town hall meeting.

      We have failed ourselves in this avenue, failed to organize and failed to work towards securing our children’s future because it is easier to secure their immediate desire for consumer goods.

      I am not making excuses for the democrats or Obama. They succeeded in mobilizing but failed to produce anything meaningful out of it over a election victory. Clinton and Obama may both be moderates but more stalwart centrists were swayed but the organized masses. We forgot about a generation that spilled blood in the streets in order to have decent wages, benefits, and security. People in the USA haven’t gotten anything that was given to them, they mobilized in order to obtain civil rights, bans on child labor, womens suffrage, an end to vietnam.

      Our generation has just failed to mobilize to protect social security, to work towards efficiency and equity in healthcare, to end the hubris of US imperialism.

      Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.

    6. Doug Terpstra


      Great observation about Auerbach’s reference to Social Security as “an entitlement”. How easily the “professional left” uses Big Brother’s own language.

      Thanks too, for your heartfelt defense of Democrats. But that was then, this is now. That party has turned , well past its sell-by date, and bribery now rules DC. I agree with Attempter and DownSouth, that democracy is effectively dead, and with patriot, that a vote for Dems in their current form is pointless.

      As Attempter said on his blog:

      “A big part of the consumer indoctrination program the kleptocracy is using to boil the frogs is to string them along with their faith in the cult of technology…” [or in hope and change]

      “…People stupidly say, “Orwell was wrong”, when we’re really 99% of the way there. All that’s lacking is for the elites to intentionally use the technology that way [supression]. Today everywhere we look we see this will to use ‘progressing’.”

      Technology is now a major part of Orwellian pseudo-democracy and Chomsky’s “manufacturing of consent”. The right to vote is not to be confused with democracy.

      Auerbach’s question is clearly rhetorical, but TPTB have played the game to convince us that we have no alternative—the hopeless lunatic fringe or the Great Appeaser. The GOP has degenerated into a cartoon caricature, now suitable only as a theatrical foil for the Trojan-horse Democratic Party to achieve their real goals:

      Escalating war and new ones (for Israel)
      Stepping up Latin American “drug” wars
      Welfare “reform” (disassembly)
      Rigged trade…SHAFTA
      Corruption and cooptation of unions (GM/UAW)
      Corporate Insurance Wealthcare
      Financial [de-]Regulation
      Consumer “Protection”
      Wall Street supremacy and immunity from fraud
      Preservation of off-shore tax havens
      Neutering of climate change legislation, and…

      …drum roll…the piece de resistance…

      Social Security “Reform”

    7. JTFaraday

      “Republicans will gains seats in Congress by electoral default that enable them to kill any legislation rescinding the Bush Tax cuts and additional stimulus spending for job creation? To say ‘NO’ emphatically for another two years. Then too, the only pieces of the New Deal left – Social Security and Medicare – will be emasculated under the guise of reform and deficit reduction…

      So what y’all gonna’ do?”

      I think you missed the part where Auerbach posited that the D-Party will enact its OWN social security legislation in a lame duck session, as promised by Pelosi and Reid. The D-Party’s OWN deficit commission is stacked with cutters and privatizers.

      In other words, you missed the part where Auerback posited that Pelosi and Reid just stole your cherished “election” and SS is already toast–DESPITE the fact that Bam intends for the D-Party to run on exactly the same phony “save Social security from the Republicans!” issue you just went on about in your thoroughly CONDITIONED fashion.

      Fourty years of this D-Party dissimulation is a long time. We’re ordering up drug tests all around.

  13. Bates

    Only one who stands to gain by one party or the other winning an election has reason to enter into a discussion of ‘which will do the most harm’. It is an infantile pursuit, since all is stage managed theatre for the FIRE sector plus multi-national corporations that are ‘persons’.

    Since these elected officials will make no decisions that matter; ie, economic decisions, what difference does it make who is elected? We have had a string of grade b actors and crooks so what damage could Palin do that Regan did not? I used to think that Palin was a joke. Now I think that why not have Palin with the fiddle while the country burns? At least she would provide entertainment…more than I can say for the current misadmistration. Disclosure…I don’t give a damn who presides over the collapse.

  14. giggity

    I’ve been saying for YEARS that it’s going to take the Democrats to dismantle SS. And once Obama was elected, I knew it was in the bag. Not news, but valuable insight nonetheless. I wasn’t aware just how many conflicts of interest the members of the “Commission on Deficits” were involved.

  15. Bob Falfa

    So we elect pols so they can appoint blue ribbon commissions from their real constituent$ to do the real dirty work under the guise of “saving the future generations” – a phrase that is a sure signal to bend over. Doesn’t matter if it’s an R or D behind the name, they’re both gonna sell you down the river at the next $1000/plate dinner they attend.

  16. Jim Haygood

    ‘I’ll leave aside the nonsensical arguments in regard to Social Security’s “solvency,” because Professor Stephanie Kelton has dealt with them conclusively here.’

    She most certainly does not! After grappling with the privatizers’ assertion that the return on Social Security trust funds could be boosted from 3% to 7% by allowing equity investment, Kelton sets up a straw-man case by using a plan proposed in 2005, which may or may not have been a sound proposal. Then, using no mathematics at all, she claims that this plan would leave many participants worse off than they would have been before.

    How does a 7% ROI leave you worse off than a 3% ROI? Kelton’s implication that Wall Street fees could wholly nullify the advantage is never stated explicitly, or substantiated quantitatively.

    Marshall Aeurbach — dude — you need to do some homework, buddy. Got Math?

    1. curlydan

      Thank you, JIM!!!! This is the key to the article, and the way to battle the true one-party system established in Congress. Soc Sec has few problems that raising the cap on the payroll tax can’t fix. Dumping the money in equities will make the system Social Insecurity.

      Also, Marshall, Soc Sec does not “benefit all Americans” or at least does not provide benefits to all Americans…it only provides benefits to wage earners or spouses who paid into the system.

      Dean Baker is right.

  17. Friedman's Ghost

    Agree with the many who see no difference between the two “parties”. Both are bought and paid for and I think more and more “average” Americans are starting to see that.

    As someone who teaches undergraduate students, I can tell you most of them do not expect to every get a SS check. Also, most of them are not happy they are paying into a system which is basically a tranfer payment. Do not be surprised if the millineals dismatle SS for you.

      1. JTFaraday

        Yeah, that’s the other reason the Obama-tot dragging D-baggers need to do it. If the R-baggers do it, the Teabaggers will have a sh*t fit.

        This way, everybody stays all nice in their proper camps and columns.

    1. Wyrm

      And people will just keep working longer and longer since they can’t retire -(further reducing the jobs avaiilable for the young) and the young will have elderly dependents, and yet the Right (I include Obama in that group) will still be able to convince enough people to destroy social security.

  18. Jim Haygood

    By the way, those who want actual, mathematical facts about Social Security’s byzantine system of internal redistribution can refer to Peter Ferrara’s magnum opus, Social Security: The Inherent Contradiction. Here is the Google book link:

    The last major revision of Social Security payroll taxes, recommended by a committee headed by Alan Greenspan, occurred in 1983 during the Reagan administration.

    Attempting to label Social Security a Democratic or Republican program is silly. Both parties have collaborated in bringing Social Security to its present condition of insolvency (negative net worth of $7.677 trillion, or 3-1/2 times Usgov’s annual revenues).

    Promoting the anachronistic two-party spectrum as a framework for analysing Social Security’s woes is as juvenile as teenaged boys on bicycles, too young to drive, passionately arguing the merits of Chevy vs. Ford. This is just a smokescreen for kiddies who want to keep playing in the bipartisan sandbox.

    Grown-ups can refer to Peter Ferrara’s books and the Financial Report of the United States for the inconvenient facts.

  19. Mark

    Although I think social security must be changed to stay solvent, this is another racial issue.

    Cutting social security to older european americans in exchange for allowing an invasion from the southern boarder ,not to mention fly ins with one way tickets, is not going to go over to well with the rest of white american that hasn’t jumped ship already.

  20. Tom Shillock

    Marshall Auerback poses a question, answers it then proceeds as if he forgot or did not realize that he answered it. For the Democratic Party the legacy of FDR era reforms and the social progress of the post WWII to middle 1970s is a historical artifact. It has no more to do with the current Party than the grin of the Cheshire cat has to do with the Cheshire cat. Democrats and Republicans get their campaign money largely from the same sources. As Auerbach points out Obama received more money from Wall Street than Hilary Clinton. Indeed, politicians of neither party can afford ideologies or principles. Those are positioning subterfuges, poses, pandering in their quotidian quest for more campaign funding or votes. Their preeminent goal is self-perpetuation in office and, of course, financial and political self-aggrandizement. Obama is no different, just another dishonest opportunist politician. Obama’s “bipartisan commission to discuss the issue of social security” is nothing more than an attempt to outmaneuver Republicans by seeming to embrace their concerns and issues. This is just what Bill Clinton did. And just as Clinton signed into law bad legislation to deflate Republican campaign issues so too will Obama. The health care legislation was largely aimed at preserving the heinous medical insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and the financial legislation is legislative effluent crafted to preserve the financial industry’s racketeering and practices that global economy. Voting cannot change anything because viable candidates require financial backing that precludes democratic reforms of the FDR era kind.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Astute comment. Witness the leader of the “Democratic Senate”—willowy, invertebrate weathervane, Harry Reid.

      Some of us were suckered for the last time to invest hope in the wrong place. The current reality you define is what we must face in order to reinvest intelligently.

  21. i on the ball patriot

    Its not racism its hateforprofitism!

    Instead of calling racism what those who created it want you to call it — and thereby reinforcing their ploy each and every time you use their word — why not call it what it really is — hateforprofitism!

    Then define hateforprofitism as: intentionally magnifying natural and false differences so as to; belittle, disparage, demonize, and stigmatize others to exploit them and cause intentional divisiveness for personal gain.

    This puts the emphasis on the creator of the hateforprofitism where it belongs, the wealthy ruling elite, and not the victim(s).

    Hateforprofitism hurts everyone, and WE ALL ARE victims. We all deserve reparations, clawed back from the creator(s) of the hateforprofitism, and divided amongst all, fairly and proportionally to harm done, to rebalance the situation.

    Then you can get on to the global orchestration of propaganda, the false constructs of nation states (another fine example of hateforprofitism) and work to unify the masses globally for election boycotts to dump these over the top corrupt governments.

    You are either drinking the Kool aid or selling it.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. Tao Jonesing

      What is “hateforprofitism?”

      Is that your word for enshrining rentier/monopoly profits in the FIRE sector through a combination of subsidies (e.g., the health insurance mandate), ponzinomics (i.e., Chicago School economics as implemented by the Fed and Wall Street), and privatization (e.g., giving away natural monopolies to for-profit entities)? Yeah, that’s a crime and we’re all victims, but it’s all about corporate profits over people’s livelihoods.

      Corporate feudalism is a better term, or neofeudalism, which appears to be the real goal of Friedman, Mises, Hayek, et al.

      1. i on the ball patriot

        Regarding ‘hateforprofitism’ …

        Mark @ 1:55 raised the issue of ‘racism’ with his comment which I repeat here …

        “Although I think social security must be changed to stay solvent, this is another racial issue.

        Cutting social security to older european americans in exchange for allowing an invasion from the southern boarder ,not to mention fly ins with one way tickets, is not going to go over to well with the rest of white american that hasn’t jumped ship already.”

        … and so I responded, but in the wrong spot and broke the context a bit.

        Social security is NOT a ‘racial’ issue, it is a rich against poor issue, with the rich dismantling the social security benefit system for their own gain.

        Further, ‘racism’ is in reality a scam construct of the wealthy ruling elite created to demonize individuals and groups to exploit them and create intentional divisiveness. So I suggested to Mark that he might start calling scam racism what it really is — hateforprofitism — which I did define, as: intentionally magnifying natural and false differences so as to; belittle, disparage, demonize, and stigmatize others to exploit them and cause intentional divisiveness for personal gain.

        Mark has been drinking the racism scam Kool aid, or he is selling it.

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. Tao Jonesing

          Thanks, iotbp. Not only do I now get what you were trying to say, I fully agree. I should have dug deeper into the comments (I find what Mark said to be shocking, although I guess I shouldn’t).

  22. Chester Genghis

    I just don’t buy the author’s –and most respondents– opinion that Obama (and the Dems) want to dismantle Social Security.

    Social Security is not insolvent or anywhere close to it. More importantly, it is the Dems most singular achievement of the 20th Century. If the Dems run away from SS, they destroy their own brand.

    I don’t care how much their Wall St. benefactors may be salivating over it, Social Security is part of the status quo, and Wall St. won’t mobilize to unseat the Dems for maintaining the status quo. They have ample opportunities to make money elsewhere.

    It’s a non-issue. Another distraction from the things that really matter. The Dems electoral fortunes will depend on their perceived efforts to create jobs. Pure and simple.

    So why are they working so hard to make their greatest asset a liability? Beats me. Why are the Republicans working to distance themselves from the 14th Amendment (arguably their greatest achievement of the 19th Century)? Ditto.

    They (the Dems) are reflexively defensive. (And Obama still harbors the illusion he can be the Great Conciliator.)
    They’re whipped puppies –cringing instinctively. They’re stupid. I don’t know….

    1. Doug Terpstra


      You are right on in saying that “Social Security is not insolvent or anywhere close to it. More importantly, it is the Dems most singular achievement of the 20th Century.” Indeed, the ‘dire emergency’, the ‘looming cliff’ of 2037, is obviously and easily solved by reducing or eliminating the regressivity of payroll taxes—raising or eliminating the income threshold. Which is why Obama stacked the commission with plants (analogous to Max Baucus) who have vowed to never allow the most sensible solution to take a breath, let alone a seat at the table.

      But just as the GOP has become a cartoon caricature, this is not your father’s Democratic Party. DC has become a duopoly snake pit that runs on naked bribery.

      Thus, the partisan drama is not as it seems, and Auerbach’s title question is clearly shown to be rhetorical. The Great Conciliator, who has estranged his own base in conspicuously appeasing the Palin-drones and mad tea-potters who call him an illegal alien Marxist-fascist, is no fool. This is the high-wire version of “don’t-throw-me-into-that-briar-patch” strategy, and the winger rabble provides a noisesome foil for his true coroporate agenda.

      It’s time to see Obama as he really is—a self-serving winger ringer like Clinton before him. He is decidedly not who we desperately hoped he might be, a transformative change agent.

    2. Tao Jonesing


      Let me try to explain why I believe that Obama and the Dems want to dismantle Social Security.

      Simply put, they believe that it is in their best interest to do so, and they’re right so long as they accept the core tenants of neoliberalism (which Yves describes as “unenlightened self interest”,) which economically is best expressed by the Chicago School of Economics (which I call ponzinomics).

      Because our politicians sell securities (treasury bonds) to finance their operations, they are just as much subject to the rules of the ponzinomic game that Wall Street has dictated as are the management of publicly traded companies. Hence, the famous statement by Bill Clinton about being held hostage by “a bunch of fuckin’ bond traders.”

      Your job as management of a publicly traded company is to maintain at all times the illusion of perpetual, exponential growth that outstrips inflation, but there are only so many levers you can pull to accomplish this: (1) organic growth; (2) merger and acquisition; (3) cost cutting/arbitrage; and (4) “cheating” (anything from playing stupid accounting tricks to outright fraud, e.g., Enron and Lehman).

      Although the options manifest themselves differently in government than they do in the private sector, the options are basically the same.

      The problem that this country faces today is that it has been captured by a completely unproductive and, indeed, parasitic segment of the economy known as the FIRE sector (finance, insurance and real estate). And the manufacturing sector has been killed off. As a result, the money multiplier of a manufacturing-based economy is no longer available to us, and organic “growth” can only be achieved at the levels necessary to maintain the target by securing rentier profits that benefit the FIRE sector at the public’s expense.

      By privatizing Social Security, Obama would force all Social Security funds through the private banking system, which would result in fees and profits that accrue to the bankers ABOVE AND BEYOND the social security taxes we already pay. ERISA essentially did the same thing but arguably on a smaller scale.

      The payment of these rentier profits will serve to give the illusion that the economy is growing as required to meet Wall Street’s goals while at the same time charging us more and more for less and less. Debt peonage is the inevitable result, but hey, this is all about promoting personal liberty and defeating socialism.

      Unless something happens to convince Obama and the Dems that the Washington Consensus (forged by Milton Friedman) is the true road to serfdom, that is where Obama and the Dems will take us along with the Republicans (and their unwhitting Tea Party accomplices).

      This is my analysis, at least.

      1. Chester Genghis

        Doug & Tao-
        Thank you both for thoughtful responses. I agree with most everything you both say.

        Obama has indeed turned out to be a Clinton-style “triangulator” (though Clinton was dealing with a Republican Congress and never triangulated away something as important as social security).

        The comments re: the pressure exerted by a FIRE dominated economy and its rapacious need to find ever more, ever bigger bubbles to inflate are very astute. And I am heartened to see there is at least someone out there you understands the tragic, destructive, neo-feudalist implications of the demise of our manufacturing-based economy!

        Perhaps you are both right about Obama. I just don’t think the politics (of privatizing social security) makes logical sense for the Dems. Come election time, they still need votes to stay in office. To win votes, each party needs a base narrative, an overarching message that connects with voters. The Republicans have been far more effective with their message (“Government is the problem, not the solution”). The Democrats have been muddled and sometimes contradictory in their messaging, but in Social Security they have an eloquent statement of what they have been unable to articulate for themselves: “Sometimes Government is the solution”. Undermining that message when they control the White House and both houses of Congress would be monumentally stupid.

  23. RichFam

    A few fears: means testing, first payment at 75, currency debasement…all likely in my opinion. You can say whatever you want but I expect the feds to do all of this to my precious social security payments. I’ve paid the max and will get nothing being at the tail end of the boomer confiscation of all resources period. If I could pull out today and never pay nor receive a penny of social security I would, mostly because I expect nothing or its equivalent… Every year I pay more and expect less from this joke. Once again, like so many other programs meant to help, I’m getting screwed. Charlie Rangel, can I have one of your rent controlled apartments? on and on….its sad because I’d like to believe but I know the painful truth.

  24. mark

    The changing demographics make this a racial issue not a generational conflict.

    Older Americans are white. Young immigrants are not.

    Younger white americans will view it as stealing from their inheritence to pay for social benefits for the immigrants who came later. Most of whom they know are not paying their fair share of taxes that go to support their own childrens government support systems.

    I said years ago, “failer to privatize social security will lead to racial conflagration”

    Now it’s basically too late. Austarity must be across the board to prevent blood shed.

    1. i on the ball patriot

      What about short people, with blues eyes, pug noses, bad breath and big feet? Won’t they be getting screwed by tall people with wavy hair, long noses, green eyes and hang nails?

      You are drunk on the Kool aid or selling it.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      1. Tao Jonesing

        And what about the sneetches, especially the star-bellied sneetches? (Even Dr. Seuss understood “hateforprofitism.”)

        This story offers varied lessons. It portrays the senselessness of prejudice and discrimination, and also a lesson of materialism and entrepreneurship.

        Sneetches are a group of vaguely avian yellow creatures who live on a beach. Some Sneetches have a green star on their bellies, and in the beginning of the story the absence of a star is the basis for discrimination. Sneetches who have stars on their bellies are part of the “in crowd”, while Sneetches without stars are shunned and consequently mopey.

        In the story, a “fix-it-up chappie” named Sylvester McMonkey McBean appears, driving a cart of strange machines. He offers the Sneetches without stars a chance to have them by going through his Star-On machine, for three dollars. The treatment is instantly popular, but this upsets the original star-bellied Sneetches, as they are in danger of losing their method for discriminating between Sneetches. Then McBean tells them about his Star-Off machine, costing ten dollars. The Sneetches formerly with stars happily pay the money to have them removed in order to remain special.

        However, McBean does not share the prejudices of the Sneetches, and allows the recently starred Sneetches through this machine as well. Ultimately this escalates, with the Sneetches running from one machine to the next, “until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
        whether this one was that one… or that one was this one
        or which one was what one… or what one was who.”

        This continues until the Sneetches are penniless and McBean departs a rich man, amused by their folly. Despite his assertion that “you can’t teach a Sneetch,” the Sneetches learn from this experience that neither plain-belly nor star-belly Sneetches are superior, and they are able to get along and become friends.

  25. sgt_doom

    Important point: Erskine Bowles is also on the board of directors of Morgan Stanley who, together with J.P. Morgan Chase (wife on BoD of that one, as you said) would love to get their hands on the Soc.Sec. $2.7 trillion fund.

    Reminder: Social Security is a pay-ahead tax, which is why some people are already vested in it.

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