VSPs Get Their Way With Budget Deal: Social Security Benefits Are Cut

Lambert here: VSP = Very Serious People (coined by Paul Krugman). Let’s just hope this Little Bargain now isn’t a dry run for a Grand Bargain later — say in the lame duck session next year?

By Barkley Rosser, Professor of Economics and Kirby L. Cramer, Jr., Professor of Business Administration at James Madison University. Published at Angry Bear.

All the Very Serious People are jumping up and down and cheering. We have a budget deal in the House and the debt ceiling is being raised and there will be no more artificial budget crises until after the new president is in office, hurray hurray hurray! Not only that, all the Dems in the House voted for it, with everybody gushing gratitude to John Boehner for making it possible by resigning as Speaker to turn it over to reasonable Paul Ryan once Boehner could get this deal through the House, thwarting the evil Tea Party/Freedom Caucus bomb throwers who want to have a big crisis with the government shut down and indeed bankrupt outright. We are saved!

Well, indeed there certainly are these benefits. But without much publicity, Paul Ryan is reported to be behind slipping into the deal something that he has long supported, entitlement benefit cuts, which have been heavily featured in past budgets he has proposed. The particular cut is the ending in Social Security of the ability of couples to “file and suspend” with this being replaced by “deemed filing.” File and suspend allowed someone to get Social Security benefits prior to retiring, while not having to accept the lower benefits one gets if one retires at 62 or 66. One can get the higher benefits later. This will now not be allowed, so one must accept the lower benefits if one starts getting benefits early. This has only been possible for married couples with this involving one getting spousal benefits and then their own through some semi-complicated maneuvers that have been allowed since 2001.

So, while most commentators have simply ignored this item, or focused on some other changes that have involved propping up the disability part of Social Security (which has needed some propping), this is indeed a benefit cut and one that will affect people who are on the verge of retiring (those already doing it I think are grandparented in), not non-voting Gen-Xers or millennials down the road, as would be the case for most of the proposals being made by the GOP presidential candidates (e.g. gradually raising the retirement age as has been going on for several decades thanks to the 1983 Greenspan commission). Most of those who have noted this, particularly the VSP types, have applauded it, saying this has been sort of a scam and has been available mostly to higher income people. There is something to this, but there is no doubt it is a benefit cut, and we did not see any cuts to any other programs, when in fact defense spending being allowed to rise. Even though Cruz claimed this deal would raise the deficit during the latest GOP debate, it will not. The bottom line is that Social Security benefits are being cut while DOD spending is increasing, and this was unanimously supported by Dems in the House, and probably will be also be in the Senate. What a farce.

Regarding Ryan, Paul Krugman and Dean Baker have done a good job of pointing out how off the wall the budgets he has proposed in the past have been, filled with asterisks, while he has somehow been praised over and over as this responsible Republican in the House. Of course he has national recognition due to being Romney’s VP candidate, and he has some favorable qualities, including even his desire to spend time with his family. He looks like a reasonable person until one looks too closely. However, it is a bit ironic that the VSP crowd is so enamored of him. Their fave commission was the failed Bowles-Simpson one, with the long favored VSP deal being cutting entitlement benefits in exchange for a tax increase. It should be remembered that the reason it failed (and its “report” was simply a document issued by Bowles and Simpson themselves, not the whole commission) was that some of the Republicans on the commission voted against its recommendations. One of those who did so was Paul Ryan. Why did they do so? Because it proposed tax increases. So, Paul Ryan is just great on cutting Social Security (and Medicare and Medicaid) benefits, but he is not in favor of that crucial other piece of the VSP deal, tax increases. But that has not restrained their enthusiasm for him.

Oh, and WaPo in particular has continued to look like itself earlier today in a column by Charles Lane. He mostly wastes time blaming Obama for all the failures of the VSP dreams to come true, “kicking the can” down the road, although he mostly focuses in particular on Obama’s “failure” to implement cuts to Social Security and healthcare, shame on him. Lane mentions in passing these cuts in Social Security in the budget deal, but basically dismisses them, “too little, too late.” Only near the end does he mention in passing the unwillingness of GOPsters to raise taxes, with his focus overwhelmingly on the “need” to cut those darned entitlement benefits, gosh darn it!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. Larry Mulcahy

      You know, I still think Clinton I was the best president for the far right of the Republican party. We got war, he killed welfare as we knew it, foisted NAFTA upon workers, worked against single payer healthcare, repeal of Glass-Stegall, etc, etc. Obama seems far less accomplished when up against the record of Slick Willie. Obama just follows the mold, but hasn’t been as much of a legislative force.

      1. Ishmael

        You are too kind to Clinton. First the financization got rolling under him. The housing bubble started inflating and also the stock market bubble. He and Newt with probably Robert Rubin thrown in came up with a deal where there became no accountability by the financial service industry or accountants and lawyers for basically selling scams through the open markets. Then do not forget the deal to give a $250,000 tax break if you live in a house for two years and sell it — flippers anyone. On top of this we also had the free trade agreement with China which basically ripped the guts out of manufacturing. I do not know how many of you know this but our markets were opened up in China and they in turn allowed the US financial service industry start opening up in China. So how many US jobs do you think this generated.

        1. Veri1138

          The financialization started by Bill Clinton started with a him, a Democratic Congress, and a certain North Carolina bank (BofA, IIRC) and legislation sponsored by a NC Senator; back in 1994. Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994.

          Not to mention Robert Rubin and Larry Summers being his key men over at Treasury. And, now… somehow is advising Hillary Clinton along with uber-Wall Streeter and 1-percenter, Alan Blinder.

        2. Procopius

          I thought the protection of lawyers and accountants from liability for accounting fraud at the companies they service was done by the Supremes, not by legislation. I only know the story from Yves book, ECONned, and maybe I’m remembering it wrong. I thought the SCOTUS ruled that auditors’ certifications and legal opinions were exempted from prosecution as fraud because they are opinions protected by the First Amendment.

  1. cwaltz

    Meanwhile I’m waiting for the day that instead of reading “US government pledges 100 million to Syria” that we’ll read that “US government pledges 100 million to the citizens who employ it.”

    1. abynormal

      i love you cwaltz…never miss a comment. let me share a story you may or may not be aware of…Schindler’s List interviews after the movie. One particular survivor stood out for me…she explained how slow everything took place.
      paraphrasing…’You read a book in two weeks or view a 2hr film of the Holocaust, and don’t understand why or how so many people were ’rounded-up’. The fact is the process was years slow. At first I remember standing in line with my father for new driver licenses. Anther year or so we stood in line to verify property ownership. There was nothing out of the ordinary and no adjustment made to documents. When taxes were raised it was across the board so know one was the wiser, yet’.

      my point: every slight of shaving adds up and it’s always made to look small…only effecting a few ‘for the better good’.

      You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.

      1. fresno dan

        That is a very good point – we’re all frogs in a pot slowly getting hotter
        My ?favorite?…or most notable scam is chained CPI

        The thing that gets me is all the “progressives” who worship the FED and say that there is no inflation…Its funny how the reform is always less money for the bottom 90% because the data prove there is no inflation. Of course, these are the same people who believe that the unemployment numbers accurately reflect people’s ability to get a job…

        1. sharonsj

          Do not assume that “progressives” worship at the FED. I would bet that most don’t. And none of us believes the government’s figures re unemployment and inflation.

      2. Teejay

        I had to google Pirsig/ZAMM; when I did a knowing smile came across my face. It’s been decades since I read it. Thanks for the reminder.

    2. Llewelyn Moss

      Cwaltz, agreed completely.
      But aren’t we’re really talking about carpet bombing Syria to the tune of $Billions, not $Millions. And I can’t wait to NOT hear any serious media people mention that the insane Military budget continues to expand even as the US spends more on Military than the next 7 countries.
      Chart here.

      And if you include DHS, NSA and other ‘Terra’ fighters which also feed the MIC, the number is far worse.

      Military is the 800 Pound Bloodsucker gorging to the Taxpayer’s Jugular Vein.

        1. Llewelyn Moss

          Yes, support the troops. Get them the hell out of the middle east where: 1) we have nothing to gain except stealing oil for the OilCos; 2) we are only making things much much worse; 3) we will never win.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            1) we have nothing to gain except stealing oil for the OilCos;

            Taxes don’t fund military spending. Gain or loss vs. ability to spend much as the government approves.

            2) we are only making things much much worse;

            Taxes don’t fund military spending. If all else fails, we can always use military spending to buy hearts and minds. Carrot, instead of stick, to get our way.

            3) we will never win.

            Taxes don’t fund military spending. Money can buy a lot of things, and the government can spend as much as it wants, in theory. Besides, the objective may not be about winning, but exercising one’s monetary sovereignty.

        2. Charles Fasola

          Sort of like supporting the last place team in a division. They’ve had a losing record for quite a long time in spite of having the highest payroll and every possible advantage.

  2. Steve H.

    “The bottom line is that Social Security benefits are being cut while DOD spending is increasing…”

    Rinse and repeat.

    1. participant-observer-observed

      And while innocent black people are gunned down execution style without due process in broad daylight across the un-united states!

      For the 1%, by the 1%; the rest are left to feed off of eachother/kick the dog!

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It is mainly a distribution problem when it comes to government spending.

      And this deal is scalable – more cuts to SS benefits and more DOD spending increases – to infinity, theoretically.

    3. Charles Fasola

      Absolutely correct, Steve. What do you think could be done if for the next two years their budget was cut from the $550 billion, a conservative estimate which certainly doesn’t take into account the black budget budget. To $275 billion? Considering waste, fraud and ineptitude that’s about all they actually receive. Those dollars could fund many constructive endeavours; that would not end up in the hands of criminal CEO’s, politicians and generals.

  3. jgordon

    Let’s all remember that our sprawling social security system is ultimately funded by the empire’s world-wide resource looting operation–not by fancy monetary theories (though those do admittedly play a role in enabling and enhancing the looting).

    I do think it’s sad that elderly and disabled people are going to have the suffer once the empire finally falls, but a system that is as intrinsically unsustainable and unstable as ours isn’t a system that was bound to hang around for very long in any case. I think people should be seriously planning for retirement outside of the current economic/social system. Our living arrangements don’t have to be absolutely horrible and terrifying in the future (though they seem to be heading that way for most people), but they are definitely not going to resemble anything like today. In the future I believe that social security will be as alien and unfathomable a concept as something like the divine right of kings is now.

    1. participant-observer-observed

      Looks like drunken with the kool aid !

      Social security will continue in the world where a humanistic civilization is considered valuable and attainable, i.e., in countries that don’t consider unending wars of death and destruction more valuable expenditure than the human well being of its residents.

      Can there really be any society for the “social” of “social security” without a culture of humanistic civilization? USA is morally derelict. The public never comes out on the street to object to these politicians that vote for billions for war and banks etc and never-ending cuts for the poor! Another name is barbarians!

      1. Ishmael

        “without a culture of humanistic civilization” — Now granted the MIC is sucking this country dry but do you think that Europe is going to have their entitlement programs. Better think again. All of these systems have been pay as you go or in other words ponzi schemes. Draghi is not printing money like crazy because these countries are in good financial shape. Now you might think Northern Europe is in good shape but when the south starts defaulting the debt will soar in the North as the govt has to step in and save all those companies going teets up. The people of western civilization have been suckered by the semi-marxist BS. They have bought Whimpe a burger and he promised he will pay you back next Tuesday. This is what happens when you put your trust in big brother. The problem is the majority of the people of this country are willing to become serfs because they think they will get some bread crumbs as some time in the future.

      2. jgordon

        I absolutely agree that social security is humane and moral. It’s the right thing to do.

        It also can not be supported by the resource base of the planet earth, as it is currently configured. In fact, our affluent, middle class society can not be supported for long, and trying will stripmine what’s left of the earth’s natural resources.

        Go ahead and square those two facts and see what comes out the other side.

        1. Ishmael

          My point here is through out history you can never never trust govt to do what they say. They are driven by goals that do not look after the general population and are dishonest about it. I do not think there has been a policy since the 60’s which has not screwed the American population. When you turn money over to these entities and think they are going to look after you then you are setting yourself up to be screwed!

          In addition, the various policies of central banks have created an artificial sense of wealth which has caused the world population to soar.

          The powers that be’s goal is to turn all of us into serfs and they are the aristocracy!

          One other thought! Paul Ryan — what a loser!

          1. tegnost

            I guess on the one hand I agree with jgordon that we are basically spending down our savings as if there were an unlimited amount and resource constraints without being attended to, or even possibly having been attended to but not earnestly enough will undoubtedly be a problem in the possibly not too distant future. There is a sense of futility too it all, I agree, ishmael, however, the current cuts are to programs that were put in place by gov’t bodies, so while you’re likely correct on the timeline that since the 60’s they’ve pursued what we like to refer to as neoliberal ideology. It is not inevitable that gov’t always and everywhere does bad things, while certain ideologies are purposely making sure gov’t can’t do good in order to prove that it (gov’t) is always bad. It’s likely, in my view, that some things only the gov’t can do, the c suites are filled with people who are going to do for themselves first, then maybe a little more for themselves second, and then of course it’s thanksgiving month now so thirds just to make sure then the same courses for their grandchildren and gee sorry theres nothing left, you know, the banker/worker/immigrant and the plate of cookies parable…Greed has a good track record for sowing chaos across the eons, that is probably more inevitable than good governance, indeed look at how verklempt they are trying to undo what gov’t has done.

            1. susan the other

              It’s true we should never have embraced “free market capitalism” as the solution to all our problems. It only brought them to a crisis decades earlier. But we would have come to this place eventually. So now we have arrived in droves. And the millions of refugees are the visible proof. The world is a complete mess, to quote the Donald, but not to embrace his economic ideas. Nor Paul Ryan’s, that idiot. One useful governmental innovation would be to create a new Department of Global Sewage. That would benefit us all more than all the nonsense-palliatives combined.

              1. JTMcPhee

                Re “Paul Ryan.., that idiot.” Not an idiot, just another evil little man… albeit in one of those positions where he gets to jerk on the levers of power.

                Interesting how “the process” selects for these types — I guess it is because like shading parasite weeds in my little garden, it not only keeps what I consider the good plants from photosynthesizing, it also emits toxins to which it and related species are immune…

    2. flora

      social security system is ultimately funded by the empire’s world-wide resource looting operation

      Wrong. SS is funded by each of us paying 12% of our earnings into the SS fund every pay period – 6% from our checks and 6% match from employer, deferred compensation. We have paid for SS out of our earnings. Beginning in the mid-80s younger workers began paying a higher rate to prefund their ‘baby boomer’ retirements 30 years later (now). At that time the retirement age was raised for people retiring now from 65 to 66 0r 67. That’s a reduction in benefits right out of the gate. The pols used that trust fund as a slush pool to cut taxes on the top 1%. Now it’s time to start redeeming the govt bonds and the 1% don’t want to pay back the ‘loan’ they took from SS in the form of tax cuts. They don’t want to see their taxes raised to pay back in order to cover the bond redemptions.

      1. flora

        shorter: if SS benefits are cut and the top 1% keep all their tax breaks, that means that for the past 35 years workers have paid an enormously high income tax rate (income tax + SS deductions) and were fooled into thinking we were paying into our retirement fund — we thought the 12% was going to prefund SS, but it went to fund a tax cut for the top 1%.

        I see the carry interest loophole for billionaire hedgefund managers is still in place.

      2. Larry Dallas

        It is imteresting that two women can draw SS on one mans earnings. I bet that allowing women to draw on a man’s earnings will be the next to fall.

        1. flora

          I know men who are drawing on their wife’s earnings. The lower earner, or the currently unemployed earner, draws on the higher earners salary in general. Usually the man is the higher earner or currently employed earner, but not always.

          1. cwaltz

            Yep, and it’s done that way because many of us defer any sort of income while raising the children. As it is women end up with the short end of the stick with earnings since we get paid less, often as a result of the idea that we’ll leave the workplace when we have children or that we’ll be primary caretaker.

            I personally think one of the best things women could do is support the idea, not of maternity leave, but of parental leave. Men SHOULD bond with their children too and it shouldn’t be a forgone conclusion that only women are primary caretakers leaving the work environ to care for kids.

      3. jgordon

        There is a bit of a misconception at work here that is common in our society/civilization so I wouldn’t disparage anyone for it. But it should be addressed:

        Our monetary/economic system is a purely arbitrary human invention that only occasionally and imperfectly accords with the natural world. Our systems, not to mention our very existence, are only possible thanks to the grace of mother nature. If our ways of doing things are too out of step with the natural world, then mother nature will take us to the woodshed and beat the tar out of us, and will not shed a single tear over the fact that all of our heartfelt beliefs and hopes and feelings of entitlement were kicked into the garbage like trash.

        So go ahead and write eloquent essays describing in loving economic detail exactly how much all of us have paid into Social Security and how much we deserve. Such palliatives might after all bring some psychological comfort in the short term. They will not however bring you bread and gasoline when you take your Social Security check to the market and the shelves are all empty.

        1. cwaltz

          If the shelves are all empty then NOTHING would bring you bread and gasoline, not even the gold standard. Zero supply means zero supply. So your point is?

          1. jgordon

            Uh, gold standard? Why are you talking about the gold standard? As a student and aficionado of the English language I do think that non-sequiturs can be cool and artistic, but I simply don’t understand what you are trying to say there.

            Of course I’ve been saying all along that zero means zero. Like in every post I do. That is the point. Even if some monetary theory or feeling of entitlement informs us that there is milk and honey for everyone if only practice some monetary/political ideology or another, in fact we are almost certainly heading for economic collapse, horrific suffering and a mass (human and otherwise) population die-off no matter what anyone does. Expressing opinions about how entitled we are to our social security checks has little usefulness or relevance to surviving in the future.

            1. cwaltz

              Oh it’s a “the sky is falling, we’re doomed” post.

              Those are a great deal of fun, not overwhelmingly useful mind you, but lots and lots of fun.

              You’ll forgive us while we continue to talk all the way up until we actually become extinct since the end has been nigh for decades now and some of us don’t want to eat cat food up until the date of “horrific suffering.”

              1. jgordon

                Well you’re mischaracterizing/misinterpreting what I say, but that’s fine.If it’s simply impossible to deal with reality, living in denial isn’t a bad option for some people who are especially fragile. It’s definitely one way to maintain some psychological equilibrium–temporarily.

  4. Schnormal

    The lame duck session is the Friday afternoon of the presidential term — the best place to dump all the nasty stuff

  5. roadrider

    Why is anyone still shocked at Democrats voting to cut Social Security or any other part of the safety net? The only reason Obummer didn’t get his “Grand Bargain” is that the Republicans wouldn’t take yes for answer.

    1. participant-observer-observed

      Nobody shocked at that around here!

      It is possible to be outraged without being shocked at Democrats! Public voted for Republican House and Senate because of preferring GOP to pseudo-poser-GOP!

  6. TarheelDem

    Both “before” and “after” version look like elements of a “retirement planner full employment act”.

    When did the provision that was removed get put in in the first place?

    How many people who are eligible for the provision actually take it?

    Who knows about this arcana?

    Who will actually notice that it is now gone if no news media tell them?

    How much money is on the table with this provision?

    Little clauses in huge bills can indeed do a lot of mischief; that’s why we are having these artificially created crises with multi-thousand page bills.

  7. verifyfirst

    Are you sure this was the only thing re: Social Security? I heard something on the radio about a commission being set up to look at Social Security Disability?

    1. Ishmael

      The social security disability fund is broke next year. Flat out of money! For those who are not paying attention this is what is happening in all parts of our govt. The reason for this is the people allowed into this fund has gone through the rough and it has basically become a welfare slush fund.

      Now the solution is to start making the disability payments out of the social security fund which will basically cause the social security fund to run out of money quicker. This will result in anyone who has paid into this fund will get far less than they thought they would. So ultimately because Obama wants to pay welfare out of somewhere it will cost the average working person who has paid into social security his whole life to get far less.

      Welcome to Amerika! As I said above, once you start handing your money to the govt expecting them to take care of you plan on getting bent over!

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        No, the United States is sovereign in its own currency. Hence, “broke” is just wrong, although private entities who would love to charge fees for “managing” that money would love to have you believe that bullshit.

        And no, Social Security is not “welfare.” It’s social insurance (first implemented by that well-known Communist Otto von Bismarck). The same people peddle the bullshit above peddle this bullshit, too, and for the same reason: “Welfare” is unpopular.

        As far as “bent over,” yes in the sense that malefactors of great wealth have impunity; no, in the sense that both Social Security and Medicare are both necessary and popular. Enough with the winger talking points, please.

        1. Charles Fasola

          Thanks Lambert. As far as the terms welfare and entitlements go, I seem to recall while reviewing my last pay stub the 6.8% deduction in my pay which goes toward funding Social Security.

        2. Ishmael

          Lambert – you obviously did not read what I said.

          First the fund has a balance. Yes we can print more money into it but book keeping wise the fund has ran out of money! Now what I said is that the fund basically ran out of money far quicker than it should of is because over the last 8 years many people who would have not qualified for disability were allowed to get on the disability roles and receive money thus causing the disability fund to basically become a welfare fund. If these same people are then allowed to draw on the social security fund then the social security fund will be sucked dry by people who really did not qualify. I do not know why you are arguing about this. It is pretty much established fact that the enrollment of the disability fund has soared since 2008!

          1. flora

            SSDI is not welfare. Nor is SS survivor benefits paid to a deceased SS qualified person’s family welfare. These are qualifying events for the insurance payments. The injured person paid premiums at the rate of 12% per pay period, then became too injured to work, a qualifying event. A successful claim for SSDI benefits can require 2 or more years to complete. Not easy.
            If you pay for car insurance and have a fender bender, a qualifying event, you make an insurance claim. The insurance company’s payment on your claim is not welfare. The insurance company is not being generous; it is fulfilling its legal obligation.

          2. flora

            It is pretty much established fact that the enrollment of the disability fund has soared since 2008!

            The question is why? You jump to the conclusion that people are malingering. “because over the last 8 years many people who would have not qualified for disability were allowed to get on the disability roles and receive money ” How do you know they would not have qualified for disability, since clearly they have qualified in this rigorously difficult program?

            Instead of assuming malingering and freeloading, it’s more likely that the financial crisis that caused lots of layoffs left the remaining employees with twice as much work, physical work in many cases, and companies ignoring more safety regulations to save money has increased injuries and disabilities.

          3. cwaltz

            Your statement that people are willy nilly being qualified for disability sounds crazy to anyone who knows someone on disability. It took TWO YEARS for my old neighbor to qualify, during that time she had to live off her retirement fund. In order to qualify she had to have lots and lots of documentation.

  8. Synoia

    I do wish those who believed taxes fund spending on this thread would read Chapter 1, not the while book, of Modern Monetary Theory. Twice.

    The movement of payments from SSI to the MIC is VSP dogma, who simultaneously believe the poor diserve nothing, while living off the rents from the poor, and then complain about the poor performance of their Walmart stock.

    Go and explain whenever you can that the VSP subscribe to an inconsistent dogma designed to level the 99%’s income accross the globe.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The scary part about chapter 1 is that taxes don’t fund DOD/military spending.

      Not patriotic to question the cost of defending (you name it).

      1. Synoia

        If the VSP choose to increase the general welfare through defense spending, then go with the flow. Even the little people benefit from defense spending, as it get their kids through college, pays their student loans, can provide a pension and lifelong health care.

        It is the best welfare system in the US.

        I’d prefer infrastructure, because we can use that for many years. However the defense industry has better lobbyists (the complete staff of the DoD).

        1. JTMcPhee

          I would really like Synoia to offer some objective support for the claims above, assuming they are not just a little snarky: “Even the little people benefit from defense spending, as it get their kids through college, pays their student loans, can provide a pension and lifelong health care. It is the best welfare system in the US.” Particularly the stuff that shows who and how many of “us” get any benefit from the largesse poured out like blood on the ol’ altar of Ares or was it Moloch… The High Priests get the good meat that the rest of us SACRIFICE… http://christianity.about.com/od/oldtestamentpeople/a/JZ-Aaron.htm

          1. Synoia

            Read the benefits packages passed out by the DoD recruiters. For example, a Child my Daughter babysat attained an Associates Degree, and is now enlisted in the US Army as a PFC, with the promise of paying her student loans, provides the opportunity for a Bachelor’s degree as a part of her enlistment package, all of which is on pre-printed forms.

            If you can identify any other US based organization which pays off student loans, provides a pension after 20 years, will fund further education, and has a full healthcare package, please identify it.

            All of this is public domain information.

        2. jrs

          Oh goody it gets their kids through college if it doesn’t end up killing their kids, paralyzing them, or mentally or spiritually destroying them first, which is what war does to actual human beings. What a deal!

          1. Synoia

            Combat kills, true. The Tip to Tail ratio is 9 to 1. For every person in combat there are 9 others in support.

            One can get the benefits and not be in combat.

            I did not state that this is my preferred system. I did state it exists, and did state it the best welfare system in the US today. Do I believe this should be the case? No.

            However, it is what is, and I do not not confuse what is, with an ideal, not does it discourage me from seeking an ideal.

      2. susan the other

        For all that money we should give the military specific goals. Provide decent living conditions around the world. Coordinate distribution networks. Maintain equity and equality. Promote good health care. And clean up this enormous goddamn mess we have created.

        1. Synoia

          The military has specific goals: Preserve a stalemate to make the enemy’s economy collapse before the military’s host country’s economy collapses..That is called winning.

          What is unclear is the political goals behind the military’s actions. Especially against so called “asymmetrical warfare.”.

          Which is only asymmetrical in terms of expense. The goal remain the same, economic collapse of one of the parties..

  9. Virginia

    Why people get the idea that wishing to spend more time with your family makes you somehow more humane and likable baffles me. Mom and apple pie values while he ensures thousands of people really suffer. Ryan’s values are utterly twisted. He’s just another Wisconsin right wing Xian patriarchal zealot. One of many.

    And I don’t think as a leader *cough* he’s gonna last too long. He’s full of spite and the games he runs are going to land him in some real hot water with people — who shall get even eventually.

  10. Steven

    These Social Security shell games – and the deterioration of civil society in the US and elsewhere throughout Western civilization – will continue until the 99% achieve a better understanding of money; specifically:
    1. the realization that money is DEBT, not wealth. It is a claim on the wealth – and hence a debt of – of the entity on whose behalf it is issued;
    2. ‘value’ can not be stored in a Social Security “lockbox” (i.e. as an entry in the government’s accounting ledgers), in gold bullion or other more potentially useful commodities.

    The only way you can preserve Social Security and, more generally, the value of a nation’s money is insuring that when it comes time to pay up – to permit the holder of monetary claims against a nation’s real, usable wealth – that wealth is available to be exchanged for the debt a nation creates when it collects Social Security taxes or other forms of explicit and implicit (like ‘printing’ money) debt.

    So instead of being used to reduce taxes for people who already have more money than they could use in several lifetimes or to pay for (at least the interest on) gratuitous wars that undermine rather than enhance the nation’s security, I propose that Social Security taxes (if we continue to collect them at all instead of funding ‘social security’ with genuinely progressive income and estate taxes that counteract the evil ‘ magic of compound interest’) be used to fund things like:

    the education of the labor force – think particularly medical personnel – that will be required to produce the wealth you are going to need when it comes time to cash in all that ‘value’ you (think you) have been storing;
    the public health, transportation, energy, etc infrastructure

    you are going to need now and even more when you are no longer able to obtain or provide them for yourself.

    And since those who are lucky enough to still have a job that hasn’t been off-shored or automated out of existence will be paying for infrastructure they will sooner or later need we could even let them use it now.

  11. Oregoncharles

    You know, my wife and I are both on SS; I took retirement early because I wasn’t earning much. But we didn’t even know about file-and-suspend; I suspect that’s only for those with fancy financial advisors or lawyers.

    In other words, I suspect that Ryan, ironically enough, gets credit for slipping a little more justice into the system. I think those people were cheating, ultimately at my expense.

    1. flora

      SS and Medicare can’t advertise. So a lot of information isn’t widely known. Their websites are pretty good but a lot of detail is down in sub-sub-sub-links. “File and suspend” is on one of those deep links. Area Social Security offices have really helpful people in my experience. (of course Congress is trying to close local offices.) I’ve gone in with some older friends who, before retiring, wanted to ask about their retirement options – as in, how to I and my spouse maximize our SS income? – and the local SS office people have been great about knowing all the options. For anyone not yet retired but thinking about when and how to collect SS I recommend finding and contacting your local SS office (the social security website has a search function for that) and setting up an appointment and going in for a consult. It’s a free service!

      Also, since this is Medicare enrollment time, the Medicare.gov online site has great info on Advantage Plan vs plain Medigap insurance, what policies are offered in your area, and a great online Medicare Part D (drug insurance) website. You can enter all the prescriptions you take and the site will find all the plans in your area that include your meds in their formulary and the premium costs. Makes it easier to decide what to do.

      Part D info: https://www.medicare.gov/part-d/index.html
      area plans : https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx

      Here I have to give kudos to NC and particularly Lambert’s ACA and insurance reporting for having tipped me to these resources.

  12. Lyle

    It should be noted that file and suspend only worked between full retirement age and age 70. That is currently 4 years, but will start shrinking in 2020. by 2026 it will be down to 3 years so instead of a potential 32% bonus for file and suspend it will be a 24% bonus (Plus this also applies to those who choose to wait to file in the regular way).

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