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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 22, 2013/ 12 Iyar, 5773

Social Security, 21st-century style: Dems call Obama a traitor

By David Shribman




JewishWorldReview.com | Can it be that the Democrats are succumbing to the same sorts of intra-party tensions that have bedevilled the Republicans since the November election?

Ordinarily it's the party that loses an election that dissolves into factions, with party members hurling intemperate charges against their putative allies, calling into question their colleagues' integrity and questioning their loyalty to long-standing party values. That's why no one was surprised when the Republicans started throwing tea cups at each other after former Gov. Mitt Romney lost the presidential election.

But fighting among the victors? Seldom happens. They're usually content to build a new administration, or to consolidate gains made after a president is re-elected.

Not this time, though. In the past 10 days the Democrats have been at each others' throats, and at the president's, all over a concept that almost none of them can describe but many of them deplore.

That concept is the chained consumer price index for all urban consumers, which insiders call the C-CPI-U, not that that helps explain things. Also known as the chained CPI (there's no end to the horrifying jargon in the entitlement world), it's a different way to calculate cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security payments, essentially assuming that changes in prices produce changes in consumer behavior. It smooths out the peaks of consumer spending, the effect of which likely would be cuts in increases in Social Security checks by one quarter of one percentage point.

That's the economics. The histrionics are quite different.

True to its definition, the histrionics in this case are indeed deliberate displays of emotion for effect. Cries of betrayal. Moans of despair. Plus this: Complete blindness to the peril that Social Security poses to the nation's economy.

The fundamentals of Social Security, 21st-century style, are well known: Too few people contributing funds to support too many people drawing benefits. The response of many Democrats to changes in Social Security is well known, too: Oppose it.

Social Security is what is known as a pay-as-you-go system. Remember all those times you read about the Social Security Trust Fund? There isn't one. The money comes in from payroll taxes and goes right back out in payments. You can't go to Washington or Fort Knox and see the little drawer where the government keeps the money that's been withheld from your paycheck week after week. It's been spent already, and there isn't any little drawer.

The great political sin, or miscalculation, is that it is a Democratic president who is at the head of the chain gang to change cost-of-living adjustments which, by the way, weren't even made in 2010 and 2011 because inflation was so low. Barack Obama floated this idea in his budget proposal and immediately the lions pounced, proclaiming him an apostate, saying he had broken faith with the elderly, claiming that he had betrayed a glorious line of Democratic presidents going back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Hold it right there. Social Security was President Roosevelt's brainchild and perhaps his most precious child. But when Social Security went into effect, there was no talk of cost-of-living adjustments, chained or otherwise. In fact, the first cost-of-living adjustment was implemented under a Republican president, Gerald R. Ford. (It was a whopper -- an 8 percent increase. The cost-of-living increase implemented this January was 1.3 percent.)

The Social Security Act was a radical departure in American life but its features were far more modest than its current incarnation. In fact, when FDR signed the legislation in 1935, he had this to say:

We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.

Ironies abound in the Social Security debate, none of them redounding to the credit of those at the center of the dispute.

Consider the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, who described the Obama plan as a "shocking assault on seniors." That was a beaut; chairmen of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee have grown accustomed since 1982 to defending themselves against charges that they were mounting shocking assaults against seniors. In fairness to the GOP, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio praised the Obama plan, which bore remarkable similarities to the speaker's own initiatives.

Now, consider some of the Democrats who rushed to criticize the president's proposal, many of whom would be the very first to criticize as monstrously regressive any taxation scheme like the very one that underwrites Social Secuity, which exempts income above $113,700 from taxation. Where are the cries of outrage over that?

Otherwise, the usual suspects are behaving in the usual ways. The AARP is complaining that applying the chained CPI would cut $146 billion in benefits, which if you think about it is the whole point. "AARP believes that Americans deserve better than shortsighted cuts to their hard-earned benefits," the group says.

It used to be that Social Security was one of the great bargains in American life. Back in the early Reagan years, when a bipartisan committee set out to create the first comprehensive overhaul of Social Security, a two-earner couple making an average wage would pay an estimated $192,000 in lifetime taxes and reap $452,000 in lifetime benefits. The situation is reversed now. That couple today would pay more than $611,000 in taxes in exchange for $560,000 in benefits, according to the Urban Institute.

So any plan to rein in benefits is going to increase that imbalance. But this whole subject is an exercise in colliding fairnesses. Is it fair for the rich to pay so much less proportionately than the poor? Is it fair for the payroll taxes of the poor to underwrite as much as $37,000 a year in Social Security benefits for a wealthy family?

Then there's this one: Is it fair for today's elderly and baby boomers to rake in billions from the young, endangering the economy and fostering a massive inter-generational transfer of wealth?

Politics, said Bismarck, the original architect of old-age pension plans, is the art of the possible. Mr. Obama's onetime allies are trying to make an overhaul of Social Security impossible. But the president, the Republicans and some Democrats know the truth. It is imperative.

Comment by clicking here.

David Shribman, a Pulitzer Prize winner in journalism, is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Previously:



04/15/13 49 years, four months, 25 days: Today's America is as far removed from JFK's era as his was from World War I
04/08/13 The Senate as it once was
04/01/13 Connections and coincidence: History is full of mysterious relationships, including clusters of greatness
03/25/13 Where portraits tell the story of America's greatest conflict
03/18/13 A former president's correspondence reveals the power of letters, and the powerlessness of aging
03/11/13 Outrageous spectacle lead to a rational resolution on the budget? A nation can dream, can't it?
02/25/13 The one big thing Democrats and Republicans can actually agree on
02/18/13 Obama is wrong to make young people think college is mainly about making a living
02/11/13 The war inside the GOP
02/04/13 Presidential politics, frozen in place
01/28/13 Speech invokes past for present and future
01/14/13 If Obama's inaugural address is to be remembered at all
01/21/13 Identity crisis in the GOP
01/07/13 History meets firearms
12/31/12 In search of our better angels
12/24/12 Wounded in war, Inouye just kept serving his country
12/10/12 President as change agent
12/10/12 Another overtime election
12/03/12 Defining the Obama presidency: Our re-elected chief executive has the whip hand now, but how will he use
11/19/12 New Hampshire 2016
11/12/12 Obama's second chance
11/05/12 America's first martyr to free speech
10/29/12 Making hay in Iowa
10/15/12 When two men confronted each other from afar as civilization hung in the balance
10/08/12 If you look at the election a certain way, things don't seem so terrible
10/01/12 Debating the debates
09/24/12 Pessimists R Us
08/20/12 Obama remains a puzzle even as he asks the American people for a second chance
08/13/12 With Ryan, Romney upends the conversation
08/06/12 The real Romney remains hidden behind other people's opinions
07/30/12 What summer is for: How August can matter, and how Romney might use it
07/23/12 The Independent son of independent Maine promises to shake up Washington
07/16/12 The Rambler American
07/09/12 The Telstar revolution: Fifty years ago, a 3-foot orb was sent aloft and spawned a new era in communications
07/02/12 It's got only four electoral votes, but Romney and Obama will be fighting for them
06/25/12 A little noted rebellion over a lonely stretch of land helps tell the American story
06/18/12 You're nothing special: Luck is what you make of it . . . and what it makes of you
06/11/12 Anybody can talk authoritatively about the presidential election. Here's how
06/04/12 Candidates love to ally themselves with admired presidents, in sometimes unexpected ways
05/29/12 Americans aren't in a new burst of patriotism but they are in a new burst of appreciation for the military
05/21/12 Inside out: Almost nothing about this year's presidential election conforms to conventional analysis
05/14/12 Lugar grew into an elder statesman, which is why he'll be leaving the Senate
05/07/12 50 years later, MacArthur's farewell to arms continues to inspire
04/30/12 The likability factor: We're going to find out how important it is in these troubled times
04/23/12 Romney's four battles: With the nomination essentially in hand, he must turn to new challenges
04/16/12 For GOPers, expect the frustration to build, not abate
04/09/12 The political battles you cannot see
04/02/12 Romney's roadmap: Doing better in Democratic states may complicate his fall campaign
03/26/12 Romney struggles with same GOP forces his father faced long ago
03/19/12 The writer and the president
03/12/12 Romney could learn from his rivals after Super Tuesday
03/05/12 The GOP race continues, and Republicans continue to grouse about their choices
02/27/12 The turnout threat: when voters vamoose
02/20/12 The Winter's Tale: Republicans are engaged in a 'problem play,' full of psychological, and real, drama
02/13/12 Which Ike to like?
02/08/12 A tale of two elections: Voters today are making their most profound choice since 1912
01/30/12 Whither the GOP establishment?
01/23/12 The Democratic coalition is breaking up
01/09/12 The verdict that wasn't
01/02/12 These are the keys to who will persist
12/19/11 Another Gingrich rebellion
12/12/11 A defining fight for the GOP
12/05/11 A distinct lack of enthusiasm
11/28/11 For GOPers, the winds are beginning to pick up, the horizon is darkening
11/21/11 Today's polarized politics . . . blame FDR and the political scientists
11/11/11The sporting life
11/07/11 Ron Paul, true believer
10/31/11 Why Cain isn't able
10/10/11 GOP starting over
10/03/11 The Forgotten War of 1812
09/26/11 The way we live now
09/19/11 The crisis this time
09/11/11 But what will it mean?
09/05/11 A horse race column: Who might win the GOP nomination and how it might unfold
08/29/11 The vacuum calls
08/22/11 Passion and politics: How Barack Obama and Mitt Romney got crowded into the same dangerous corner
08/15/11 Eleanor's little village
08/08/11 The agony of August
08/01/11 The politics of the impossible: What a country this might be if the political class served the broad interests of the majority
07/25/11 Pennant fever grips 'Burgh
07/18/11 Exemplar of an era
07/11/11 On summer
07/04/11 The soul of the party
06/27/11 What the Secretary said
06/20/11 Romney has big advantages over his rivals, but they will be coming after him
06/06/11 One question each
05/30/11 The 14-week challenge
05/23/11 Delay tactics
05/16/11 Republicans are waiting
05/09/11 Bin Laden is dead. What does it mean?
05/02/11 From nobodies to nominees
04/25/11 The founders left slavery for future generations to settle, and we still haven't fully come to terms with it
04/18/11 From audacious to cautious
04/11/11 Dreaming of space
12/12/10 The GOP takes control
12/06/10 DECEMBER 7
11/29/10 GOP presidential hopefuls already are lining up local supporters in what is now a red state
11/22/10 Burning down the House
11/15/10 Institutions of higher learning are finally beginning to teach important lifeskills
11/04/10 The war has just begun
11/01/10 Echoes of a speech 40 years ago this week still resonate today
10/25/10 50 years ago America chose between two men who were dramatically different --- and eerily similar





© 2011, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Universal Uclick, as agent for UFS.

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