Front and Center

Politics, society, and other random randomness

Monthly Archives: January 2011

Doom and gloom for Social Security, but folks aren’t serious about a fix

The latest report out regarding the fiscal health of Social Security is out:

New congressional projections show Social Security running deficits every year until its trust funds are eventually drained in about 2037.
This year alone, Social Security is projected to collect $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it pays out in retirement, disability and survivor benefits, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. That figure swells to $130 billion when a new one-year cut in payroll taxes is included, though Congress has promised to repay any lost revenue from the tax cut.
Read more: Social Security fund will be drained by 2037

The problem is, agreement on a fix is a hard thing to pin down. Democrats want to fix the problem by simply eliminating the top end contribution cap. Currently, 6.2% of an earner’s income is deducted for Social Security until that person reaches $106,000 in income. Republicans (as well as members of the Debt Commission) recommend increasing the retirement age for future beneficiaries. Previous proposals from Conservatives involved privatization of a portion of Social Security. The concept had promise–an individual would have the choice (emphasize choice to put 3% of their Social Security contribution into a private account–but it never gained traction with the American population, due in no small part to the left painting a picture of a poor individual losing their entire Social Security account to a market crash or due to some unscrupulous bankers.
Even with the warning sounded of rough seas ahead for Social Security, I predict finding common ground between the two parties on the issue will be difficult. As it stands, the Social Security trust fund is nothing more than a myth, a figurative box of IOUs from the government to the tune of $2.5 trillion. And since the government is already borrowing money (to the record tune of $1.5 trillion projected in 2011), paying those back will be challenging.
President Obama stated in his State of the Union Address that he wanted “strengthen the program while protecting current retirees, future retirees and people with disabilities,” which seems to translate to “find some more money from somewhere but don’t touch benefits.” With ideas like that, it’s no wonder there are countless Americans who figure the return on investment made into Social Security from their paychecks will end up being a big fat zero.

What to expect from the State of the Union speech

Well, we’ve come to that time of the year again where we get to hear the pleasant present state of our Union. A quick history:

Seal of the President of the United States

Image via Wikipedia

  • The first SOTU address was by George Washington on January 8, 1791 in NYC.
  • Thomas Jefferson started mailing it in in 1801.  Literally.  He began th e practic e of writing the speech and having it read to Congress by a clerk.
  • Woodrow Wilson restarted the read-in-person tradition in 1913.

So, what can we expect this evening from President Obama?  Well, one would have to assume (and hope) that the most important topic of discussion will be jobs and the economy.  No doubt he will say that the previous stimulus was a success (though there is a lot of debate about that), and maybe even mention again that if not for that, the unemployment rate would be worse.  But I’m sure there will be some discussion of bipartisan efforts to get the economy really moving.

We should also hear something about debt reduction.  This will be a tricky area for the President and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t address it at all.  The response to the report from his Debt Commission was predictable–Republicans were upset about talk of tax increases and cuts to defense, while Democrats were opposed to spending cuts and eliminating tax deductions, not to mention making changes to Social Security (even though those changes would kick in around the time today’s 4 year olds will draw retirement).  If he steps up and emphasizes that people will need to buck up and take the pain, I’ll definitely give him props.  Especially since the bulk of the criticism would come from his own party, still mad at him for caving to Republicans on the extension of the Bush tax rates and on cutting payroll taxes.

With the recent shootings in Arizona, President Obama will definitely spend some time addressing the tone of rhetoric in the political sphere.  He will probably avoid pointing fingers at one party or another, but the topic can’t be ignored.  The aide to Gabby Giffords who helped save her life is supposed to be there so expect that to be one of the bipartisan applause moments.

Speaking of bipartisan, many members of Congress, in an effort to show unity, are crossing the aisles to mix with members of the opposing party.  Some are simply sitting with members of their own state’s delegation, while others are reaching out to colleagues they have known for years.  It will be an interesting visual, especially during those times during the speech when the President tends to make a comment that one party (or the other) stands and applauds.

So, lets get the popcorn ready.

This picture is priceless!

Chinese president Hu Jintao is on an official visit to Washington this week. While they were giving a joint press conference, this picture was taken:

There are so many possible captions for this one, I don’t know where to start.  President Obama looks like he is about to backhand President Hu for talking about his mom or something!

Michael Moore on why people own guns

Here comes Michael Moore again.  The last time we saw him, he was telling us how great health care is in Cuba.  Now he is explaining to us that the reason people own guns is because they are scared of a poor person or a black person breaking into their houses.  I always love it when people use verbal slight-of-hand to denigrate a group of people.  And in this case he managed to not only throw in some class warfare (don’t let them poor people steal my stuff!), he also managed to label gun owners as bigots.  Gotta love him!
Why people REALLY own guns

MLK: “How Long? Not Long!”

“How long?  Not long!  Because no lie can live forever!”

MLK: “We Shall Overcome”

MLK’s Last Speech

Dr. King’s last speech.  The next day, he was assassinated.

MLK “I Have a Dream” Speech

Martin Luther King, Jr and his “I Have a Dream” speech from the march on Washington.

Hmmm, more clear evidence that its only the consevatives that are violent

It seems I’ve spent a good bit of blog time this past week trying to show that yes, lefty rhetoric is at least equal to that from the right.  It also seems that many on the left will never accept this, no matter how much evidence is shown to them.  That’s ok.  After a while, one either accepts it or just continues to look out of touch.  Just a few more bits of how nice and polite the gentle left is…

From Big Journalism:  someone posts a nice, pleasant message on Twitter about Palin, then gets upset that it gets publicity and asks youtube to take it down due to “privacy issues.”

The result was this video, Twitter Users Wish Death on Sarah Palin, originally posted at YouTube. It’s since been cross-posted on Vimeo because of a takedown notice they received from YouTube in response to a privacy complaint. That’s right, one of the haters who was brave enough to publicly tweet her yearning for the death of a former Governor and Vice Presidential candidate is now suddenly concerned for her Twitter privacy.

A politician says new Florida gov Rick Scott should be put up against a wall and shot. Guess which was a Dem and which was a Repub:

“That Scott down there that’s running for governor of Florida,” an Oct. 23 Times-Tribune story quoted Kanjorski as complaining. “Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him.”

Ok, we can safely say “point proven” and move on.

Via OCD3 and CNN: Palin ain’t Reagan

Much debate has been had about Sarah Palin and pinning blame on her regarding the Arizona shootings.  I’ve had an interesting time with this–balancing my opinion that she shouldn’t be blamed the way the left is applying blame to her and the right, while trying not to come across as a Palin fan, which I am not.  Still, I appreciate different perspectives, and my good friend (and Front and Center contributor OCD3) caught this article on CNN and recommended I post it.  In it, Paul Begala explains how “Palin is no Ronald Regan:”

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Image via Wikipedia

When she first burst on the national scene, I watched her convention speech an

d could not imagine Ronald

Reagan delivering it. She was sarcastic and caustic and harsh — everything Reagan was not. I felt the same thing watching her post-Arizona video presentation. The Gipper was a tough partisan and a strong conservative, but he had a sunny, optimistic worldview and a resilient, Teflon manner that slipped

punches, drawing in even those who disagreed with him, and driving Democrats to distraction.

Reagan understood the biblical wisdom that “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” Palin seems hell-bent on using the most grievous words (including the calumnyblood libel“) to stir up still more anger: the one thing we already have a surplus of.

Palin’s Map or when crosshairs aren’t really crosshairs

Interesting article on Townhall from Neal Boortz.  Whether or not you like him as a host, he actually makes an interesting comparison.  While members in the Palin camp say that the marks on her infamous Facebook map were not crosshairs (and Boortz backs this up), there are other maps that do depict bullseyes with politicians as targets–and they were created by Democrats:

OK … just what map are we talking about here? Several months ago during the heat of the 2008 midterm elections Sarah Palin put Giffords on her “target list” of Democrats in vulnerable districts who voted for ObamaCare. The list included a map featuring what the media and those on the left are calling telescopic sight images placed over vulnerable districts. Somehow, the liberals have construed that to mean that Sarah Palin literally wanted to “target” Giffords to be shot.

More on the shooting in AZ of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

From the UK Daily Mail, “America’s elite hijack a massacre to take revenge of Sarah Palin:”

History shows how dangerous it is to try to second-guess the motives of political assassins.

John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan because he was obsessed with the actress Jodie Foster, not because he hated Right-wingers.

Likewise, Lynette Fromme tried to shoot Gerald Ford because she revered the cult killer Charles Manson.

But those lessons from ­history won’t stop some Democrats exploiting the shooting of a nine-year-old girl and five others at the weekend with precisely the sort of foam-flecked over-reaction for which they love to condemn their opponents on the Right.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1345952/Arizona-shooting-Americas-elite-hijacked-massacre-revenge-Sarah-Palin.html#ixzz1Aq64ytkB

From Reason.com, “The Extreme Rhetoric about Extreme Rhetoric:”

But this debate about the “tone” of American politics is ideologically unidirectional, designed not to elevate debate but to vilify a political enemy. The call for calm—with its frequent invocations of Tea Party “fascism”—is stupid partisan politics dressed up as incoherent moral politics.

From the Huffington Post, Rev Jesse Jackson weighs in on “Hate Speech in Arizona:”

In Arizona, the kindling was there. The economy has been hit hard by the financial collapse, with employment opportunities for young people particularly limited. With families losing jobs or homes, fear and depression are inevitable. Add to this a venomous, racially charged debate on immigration and health care reform, as well as some of the worst gun-control laws in the country.

And a good one from David Harsanyi at RealClearPolitics, “A Phony Climate of Hate:”

The always-civil Jacob Weisberg of Slate was more forceful in this regard, claiming that “at the core of the far right’s culpability is its ongoing attack on the legitimacy of U.S. government.”

Which, as you know, should not be confused with those heady times liberals claimed that George W. Bush was “not my president” or that we needed a “regime change at home.” That kind of talk strengthened the legitimacy of government. Just as the “far right” — and I will assume this consists of anyone not named David Frum — could probably make the case that demanding government honor its constitutional limits is a demand for legitimacy.

We can argue about those things, I know. We can cobble together stupid remarks by radio talk show hosts or union activists or members of Congress and smear half the country. We can play tit for tat with tea party banners and anti-war bumper stickers and dig up some figurative rhetoric that sounds over-the-top retroactively and blow it out of proportion.

Five myths about why the South wanted to secede.

Crazy man shoots congresswoman–and its Palin’s fault??

By now most people have heard that a crazy lunatic, Jared Loughner, showed up at an event being hosted by Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and not only shot her in the head, but killed 6 and wounded others.  People who knew the guy describe him as being mentally disturbed.  He’d been kicked out of school due to his behavior.   As far back as 2007, a person in a class he was taking described him as being a “left-wing pothead.”  Another said he was the type of person one would see on TV who shot up a classroom at school.  In general, he is a guy whose brain is not firing on all cylinders.

Evidently, that doesn’t matter to supporters of the left anxious to find an explanation.  Who is to blame for all of this?  Why, Sarah Palin, of course!

Palin posted on her facebook page a number of congressional districts that were to be targeted by Republicans, and they were put in crosshairs.  In spite of no evidence that the shooter had even seen this, left-leaning bloggers and journalists immediately blamed Palin and her webpage (along with the harsh level of political rhetoric flying around these days) for the shooter’s behavior.  Logic would say that this is a reach.  But who says folks are logical?

The behavior is totally opposite to the call for calm that came after the Fort Hood shooting in 2009:

On November 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire at a troop readiness center in Ft. Hood, Texas, killing 13 people.  Within hours of the killings, the world knew that Hasan reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar!” before he began shooting, visited websites associated with Islamist violence, wrote Internet postings justifying Muslim suicide bombings, considered U.S. forces his enemy, opposed American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as wars on Islam, and told a neighbor shortly before the shootings that he was going “to do good work for God.”  There was ample evidence, in other words, that the Ft. Hood attack was an act of Islamist violence.

Nevertheless, public officials, journalists, and commentators were quick to caution that the public should not “jump to conclusions” about Hasan’s motive.  CNN, in particular, became a forum for repeated warnings that the subject should be discussed with particular care.

“The important thing is for everyone not to jump to conclusions,” said retired Gen. Wesley Clark on CNN the night of the shootings.

“We cannot jump to conclusions,” said CNN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell that same evening. “We have to make sure that we do not jump to any conclusions whatsoever.”

So, let’s get this straight.  A person that can be tied to those we all consider terrorists goes and shoots up a base, and people are saying “let’s not jump to conclusions.”  A person with no obvious ties goes and shoots a Democrat member of Congress, and we get “it’s Palin’s fault.”  Yes, that makes a whole lot of sense to me.

Very interesting start to the Republican takeover

The fun has begun. The 112th Congress has been sworn in, signaling the start of what folks on the right hope is a successful effort to take over DC in 2012. But things are getting off to a very wacky start.
First, the decision was made to hold a vote to repeal the healthcare reform bill, aka “Obamacare.” The chance of this going through is somewhere between zero and minus ten percent. But as is the case when the new team takes power, they have to make an immediate splash, and this is it.
But, wait! Hold the phone!
Shortly after the votes were held, its discovered that 2 members who participated in votes had not been sworn in with the rest of the House members, rendering their votes invalid. To their credit, House Dems didn’t use the opportunuty to call for a re-vote. But who forgets to come into the chamber for the swear-in? (Both members were out in the lobby with constituents and said the oath, but rules say they basically have to be in the chamber.)
On top of all that, after changing the rules for how bills are debated and amended, they then bypassed their own new rules.
This is going to be interesting to watch.