Tag Archives: social security

We started a revolution over this once

Do you remember voting for lobbyists to decide who pays what in taxes? We don’t.

Photo: Daniel Huizinga/flickr

On Friday night, the Senate passed their version of the #GOPTaxScam. The bill, all 479 pages of it, was presented to the full Senate just hours before the vote. The vote was along party lines, with the one dissenting vote among the Republicans coming from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

So, what was in this bill, and why did they vote on it before all the Senators could actually read through the bill? We’re glad you asked. First, what’s in it.

A lot of the bill is what you’d expect. For example:

  • The top individual rate is reduced from 39.6% to 38.5%, and the threshold at which the top rate kicks in is increased from $418,000 for a single/$480,000 for married filing jointly to $500,000/$1,000,000
  • The estate tax exemption is doubled, to $11 million for a single taxpayer and $22 million for married taxpayers.
  • The corporate rate is reduced from 35% to 20%.
  • The top rate on the income earned by owners of “flow through” businesses — S corporations and partnerships — is reduced from 39.6% to a shade below 30%.

Questions about these measure that we were forced to ask include; how is it that corporations are able to keep the tax deductions that have now been excluded from individual tax bases? Why is the corporate tax is now LOWER than the top individual rate? If corporations are people too, why is there ANY difference in these tax rates?

Then, there’s the “Why are these items in a tax bill, anyways?” parts. These include:

  • A provision that explicitly allows parents to use tax-free college savings plans, known as 529s, for a “child in utero.” This is essentially a personhood bill, setting a precedent for the legal definition of life beginning at conception.
  • The bill repeals the Johnson Amendment, which bans non-profit groups from engaging in political activism. This would mean that churches and the like could actively engage in elections without disclosing individual donors; think of it as Citizens United on steroids. This serves the purpose of blurring the lines between the separation of church and state, allowing the churches to donate and promote individual candidates in local and national elections, all while cloaked under the donation secrecy this provision allows.
  • Eliminating the individual mandate of the ACA. While this actually does deal with taxes (the fine for not being insured is paid as part of your taxes), removing the mandate means that younger and healthier people won’t buy insurance until they need it. These are the people who currently offset the cost of providing healthcare to the older and sicker people. Without this in place, premiums will rise dramatically more than the anticipated 10% over the next 10 years.
  • A provision that would open part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. While this would raise revenue, it only amounts to $2 billion over the next ten years, at the cost of almost assuredly ruining the local environment and ecosystem. Additionally, it is worded in such a way that it is actually ILLEGAL to not drill, forcing Alaska to accept ANY drilling permits and fields desired.

Of course, the individual tax cuts are set to expire, meaning that the middle class will see a tax increase. And, what’s going to pay for these? The GOP mantra’s always been that tax cuts pay for themselves, but others, such as Marco Rubio, have already admitted that the tax reform is part one of a two-step process designed to defund and eventually dismantle Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; the very programs designed to help the elderly, disabled and poorest members of American society.

Now obviously, a lot of these proposals don’t sit well with the electorate. So, why the rush to pass it? The GOP needs a victory. Even with controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, this administration’s been notably inept in getting meaningful things accomplished. Furthermore, the GOP donor class has stated that the campaign money will dry up if they don’t get the tax cuts they want.

Photo: Represent.US

So, who came up with most of the amendments? Lobbyists. Out of the 11,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, more than 6,000 said that they worked on taxes this year. That works out to 11 lobbyists for each member of Congress. Do you remember electing lobbyists to write our laws? We sure don’t.

We still have a chance to stop this. The House and Senate bills now go to a conference committee. The bill that comes out of that will need to be passed by both houses. The healthcare fiasco this summer proves that if we’re loud and persistent enough, our message gets through. And, with the bill only having 37% approval before the vote, there’s enough of us to make the message get through.

And what if it doesn’t? The last time that the GOP had won control of both houses and the presidency before 2016 was 1928. The new tax bill looks even more extreme than the policies put into place by the Republicans after the 1928 election. Does anybody remember what happened in 1929?

Another annoying historical factoid that you may wish to remember at a time like this: 244 years ago, a group of people decided that they weren’t going to pay taxes without proper representation, and what became known as the Boston Tea Party took place. This in turn led to a revolution, and the founding of this country.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana


Trump Tax “Hoax” Would Blow $5 Trillion Hole In Budget Over Next Decade: Analysis

‘The idea that this plan would help average Americans instead of the wealthy and big corporations has been a hoax all along.’

Mick Mulvaney press conference about President Donald Trump’s budget plan. Screenshot: YouTube

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-26-2017

Trumpcare may be dead again (for a while at least) on Tuesday, but Republicans now want to get serious about what they call “tax reform,” but which critics are resolute in saying is just a major push to give the nation’s corporation and wealthiest individuals another massive giveaway they don’t need and certainly don’t deserve.

A day ahead of the Trump administration’s scheduled release of what it says will be a “detailed” tax plan, progressive policy groups are again warning the American people not to be fooled by rhetoric as they highlight estimates showing the likely proposal will cost the government trillions of dollars in revenue over the next decade and lead the way towards massive cuts in key social programs that help insulate low-income and working Americans from an economy already “rigged” in favor of the wealthy and powerful. Continue reading


Disabled, Sick or Poor? Trump’s America is not for You

Trump’s contempt for disabilities became apparent early in his campaign. Now echoed by Ryan’s budget and the GOP’s pushing of a healthcare plan whose success depends on Americans with illness dying to save billions over the years in lowered medical costs, many are losing hope.

Written by John Benedict

Photo: fionao71/tumblr

I’m angry.

As an American who works for a company whose owner is disabled; as a coworker of a person who is disabled; as the son and nephew of disabled American Veterans; and the spouse of a person who receives RSDI income due to a disability; I’m sickened by the proposed 2018 Federal Budget put out by the Trump White House.

The current administration shows no regard for Americans with disabilities. Nor do they appear to care about anyone with a “pre-existing” medical condition. Nor do they care about anyone else who will lose their healthcare coverage when the Republicans figure out a way to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Oh, did I mention that they also plan on slashing spending on Medicaid,  the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Childhood Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Social Security Disability Insurance, Social Security Benefits, and other programs?

Since when do we care so little about our fellow Americans that we would be willing to let them suffer and even die so that “we” can build up our already enormous stockpile of military weapons and be able to give each of the millionaires in the United States a nice $50,000 tax break (round numbers- if you happen to be a millionaire -your slice of what is left of the sick / disabled /or poor may be slightly different)?

I have paid taxes for 39 years to fund these programs. Now this administration tells me and the rest of the American taxpayers that we don’t need any safety nets. If you can’t work, well then , you don’t deserve to eat. If you are unfortunate enough to get hurt on the job, well then, it sucks to be you. You don’t deserve a “hand-out” from the insurance fund that you have paid into your entire working life. If your child has cancer that is being treated under your current insurance policy, and your employer decides to change insurance providers, well sorry about that, but that is a ‘pre-existing’ condition now and your new insurance won’t cover it, or it will up to a limit that you will surpass in a short amount of time, we can’t worry about that, because this country needs more bombs and missiles, and a tax cut for the millionaires who REALLY don’t care if that child of yours dies or not. Suck it up buttercup and get with the program. You and your well being JUST DON’T MATTER.

I love my county. I believe  the politicians that “We the People” elect are supposed to represent  all of us that comprise”We the People”. Not the Corporations (no matter what SCOTUS told us in the ‘Citizens’ United’ decision), and NOT just a small amount of “citizens”who have filled their campaign coffers. We need politicians who have the gumption to stand up against this budget which is nothing more than a vile attack on those who are poor, sick or disabled.

We as Americans deserve better. Much Better.

Related Article: No country for people with disabilities

About the Author:
John Benedict grew up in white, middle-class America when there still was such a thing. He has worked blue collar jobs for nearly 40 years. He grew up in a home where one parent who had a disability. He also is now married to a disabled spouse.



Trump Administration Considering ‘Back-Door Way’ to Cut Social Security

‘If Trump proposes this Trojan horse, it would be the newest shot in the ongoing Republican war against Social Security’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-11-2017

Social Security Works president says latest proposal is “a Trojan horse: It appears to be a gift, in the form of middle class tax relief, but would, if enacted, lead to the destruction of working Americans’ fundamental economic security.” (Photo: Tama Leaver/flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise not to cut Social Security, is reportedly considering a plan to eliminate much of the payroll tax that funds the critical safety net program.

According to the Associated Press on Monday, the proposal is being floated as the Trump administration goes “back to the drawing board in a search for Republican consensus behind legislation to overhaul the U.S. tax system.” Continue reading


Defenders of Social Security Mobilize Against GOP Attack on Retirees

On “Valentine’s Day for millionaires,” U.S. Senate confirms safety-net opponent Mick Mulvaney for head of Office of Management and Budget

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-16-2017

“Between the end of their payroll taxes for the year, and [Mick] Mulvaney’s…confirmation, Thursday could turn out to be an especially pleasant day for millionaires,” Campaign for America’s Future senior fellow Richard Eskow wrote in an op-ed. (Image: Social Security Works)

On the same day that U.S. millionaires stop paying into Social Security for the rest of the year, President Donald Trump’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—who wants to slash the safety net program—was confirmed to that post by the U.S. Senate.

Citing his support for cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, lawmakers and advocacy groups took to social media on Thursday to denounce Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s (R-S.C.) nomination to head OMB. During his confirmation hearing last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voiced concern that Mulvaney’s views were “way, way out of touch with what President Trump campaigned on.” (Sanders elaborated in a tweet storm highlighting several instances in which the Tea Party Republican went on the record as wanting to slash funding for the programs and raise the retirement age.) Continue reading


Older Americans Pushed Into Poverty as Feds Garnish Social Security for Student Debt

‘Hard-earned Social Security checks should not be siphoned off to pay interest and fees on student loan debt,’ says Elizabeth Warren

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-21-2016

“We could have hundreds of thousands of American seniors living in poverty due to garnished Social Security benefits if this trend continues,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. (Photo: Kate Gardiner/flickr/cc)

The federal government is garnishing Social Security checks to recoup unpaid student debt, leaving thousands of retired or disabled Americans below the poverty line and setting the stage for an even bigger problem, according to a new report.

The data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), compiled at the behest of Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), showed that people over the age of 50 are the fastest-growing group with student debt, outpacing younger generations—and compared to younger borrowers, older Americans have “considerably higher rates of default on federal student loans.” This leaves them open to having up to 15 percent of their benefit payment withheld, in what’s called an “offset.” Continue reading


Paul Ryan vs. the People

The GOP’s new House speaker says he “trusts the American people,” but his budget takes direct aim at them.

Written by Richard Kirsch. Published by Common Dreams on 10-4-2015.

'The real conflict isn’t Washington vs. the people. It’s the super-rich vs. the rest of us. And Republicans are rallying behind a House speaker who’s built his career representing the rich and powerful.' His name Rep. Paul Ryan. (Image: DonkeyHotey / Flickr)

‘The real conflict isn’t Washington vs. the people. It’s the super-rich vs. the rest of us. And Republicans are rallying behind a House speaker who’s built his career representing the rich and powerful.’ His name Rep. Paul Ryan. (Image: DonkeyHotey / Flickr)

Paul Ryan paints himself as a champion of “the people” over “Washington.”

But the “people” the new House speaker defends are corporations. And the “Washington” he attacks is the one that does deliver for real people.

For the past five years, Ryan has authored the budget passed by the House of Representatives. His imprint is so great that each document is commonly known as the “Ryan budget.”

Every year, those budgets reliably propose sharp cuts to social services alongside steep tax discounts for the rich. His caucus demands these cuts, Ryan claims, because “we trust the American people.” After all, he adds, “Who knows better? The people or Washington?”

But when you look beyond these sound-bite politics at the actual choices Ryan makes in his budget, it’s easy to see whom he really trusts — and whom he really works for.

How, for example, does cutting $89 billion in Pell grants for college — as his budget last year did — put more trust in working families who are struggling to give their children a college education?

Then there’s his $125 billion in proposed cuts to food stamps for the upcoming fiscal year. Isn’t Ryan breaking the trust we have as people — through our government in Washington — with a mother who relies on food assistance to feed her children because her employer pays her a poverty wage?

Ryan pretends that the heroes in his story are “the people,” but his budget takes direct aim at them. And when he makes “Washington” the villain, he’s covering up for the super-rich campaign contributors bankrolling the assault.

Ryan’s latest budget would slash $759 billion from infrastructure, medical research, and virtually every other service and investment ordinary people rely on to help provide security and opportunity. Are there any real people who don’t need good roads, bridges, and health care?

On health care, Ryan’s proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act would end regulations that stop insurance companies from denying care because of pre-existing conditions. Are “the people” that Ryan puts his trust in health insurance executives?

On taxes, Ryan would eliminate tax credits for 13 million working families, including 25 million children, by an average of $1,073 a year. At the same time, instead of ending tax breaks for corporations that ship profits overseas, he’d make them permanent.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There actually are representatives in Congress who do work for working families, not CEOs. This past May, 96 House lawmakers voted for the People’s Budget — and against Ryan’s proposal.

Developed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the People’s Budget invests in infrastructure, renewable energy, and schools to create 8 million jobs in the next three years.

Instead of cutting back on vital services for families, it helps families secure debt-free college, child nutrition, and affordable housing. Instead of more money for Pentagon contractors and less for veterans, it reduces spending for outdated weapons and increases support for vets. It ends tax giveaways for corporations that ship jobs and profits overseas, and it taxes Wall Street speculation.

The People’s Budget also includes a small-donor campaign finance system, so members of Congress could run for office without taking any large contributions from the super-rich or corporations. That might help put real people back in charge of “the people’s house.”

The real conflict isn’t Washington vs. the people. It’s the super-rich vs. the rest of us. And Republicans are rallying behind a House speaker who’s built his career representing the rich and powerful.

Americans need to rally behind a different kind of politician — the folks who will really stand up for people.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

About the Author:richard_kirsch-105x140
Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and the author of Fighting for Our Health: The Epic Battle to Make Health Care a Right in the United States, published in February 2012 by the Rockefeller Institute Press. He is also Senior Adviser to USAction and an Institute Fellow at the Rockefeller institute.


ABLE Is Ready

"A bunch of artificial limbs" by Nadya Peek - originally posted to Flickr as More uncanny piles of discarded prothetics. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_bunch_of_artificial_limbs.jpg#mediaviewer/File:A_bunch_of_artificial_limbs.jpg

“A bunch of artificial limbs” by Nadya Peek – originally posted to Flickr as More uncanny piles of discarded prothetics. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Across America, over 37 million people begin their day much different than the rest of our society. Some need to put on a limb or two. Others need to go through their shower, breakfast and trip to their job in a wheelchair. Still others confront obstacles that would cause most of us to give up.

  • Just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire.1
  • Over 37 million Americans are classified as disabled; about 12% of the total population. More than 50% of those disabled Americans are in their working years, from 18-64.2


Yet our continued open discrimination of disabled people remains not only legal, it causes some to think we are too lenient with those that have “different abilities” than the rest of us. When workers have weekly or monthly payroll deductions taken from their paychecks, it includes disability insurance, referred to as a FICA (Federal Insurance Contribution Act) tax. This is not an entitlement program, it is an insurance program. The scrutiny and processes used by the SSA to determine eligibility is not easy to navigate, and IF you manage to qualify, your monthly benefit amount becomes a political football whenever budget discussions take place in Washington.

Our labor laws allow corporations to pay a disabled worker far less than minimum wage. We make it nearly impossible for many disabled people to live independent lives by keeping them in economic poverty. We don’t allow recipients of disability benefits to have savings accounts in excess of $2,000. We ask every job seeker in the country if they are one of “these people” on job applications.

In what some think of as an often “disabled body” in and of itself, Congress is poised to be ABLE to do something about a portion of the hardships these people face. The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act would ease the financial burden for individuals with disabilities by creating tax-free accounts that can be used to save for disability-related expenses. These accounts can be created by individuals to support themselves or by families to support their dependents.

The ABLE act was introduced by Ander Crenshaw [R-FL4] in the House and by Robert Casey [D-PA] in the Senate. Together, the two bills have over 400 cosponsors.

The bill would create tax-exempt, state based private savings accounts to fund disability-related expenses to supplement benefits currently provided by Social Security, Medicaid, employers, and private insurance. The account shall be treated in the same way as a qualified tuition program, such as a 529. A 529 account allows families to save money for an individual’s education without being disqualified for certain aid programs and prevents tax penalties on the money saved and any income earned from it.

Expenses would qualify as disability-related if they are for the benefit of an individual with a disability and are related to the disability. They include education; housing; transportation; employment support; health, prevention, and wellness costs; assistive technology and personal support services; and other expenses.

The only problem we could find with this piece of legislation is the clause that explains what happens to the savings account in the event of the disabled person’s death:

‘Subject to any outstanding payments due for qualified disability expenses, in the case that the designated beneficiary dies or ceases to be an individual with a disability, all amounts remaining in the qualified ABLE account not in excess of the amount equal to the total medical assistance paid for the designated beneficiary after the establishment of the account, net of any premiums paid from the account or paid by or on behalf of the beneficiary to a Medicaid Buy-In program, under any State Medicaid plan established under title XIX of the Social Security Act shall be distributed to such State upon filing of a claim for payment by such State. For purposes of this paragraph, the State shall be a creditor of an ABLE account and not a beneficiary. Subsection (c)(3) shall not apply to a distribution under the preceding sentence.'”

Occupy World Writes questions why the state gets the savings account of these people, while all other people are allowed their assets to be inherited by designated beneficiaries after their death. Even with the best of intention, we still can’t recognize that these people are PEOPLE, not a sub-human class less deserving of the rights, liberties and freedoms granted all “other” able-bodied people.

Is Congress ABLE to pass ABLE?

    1. U.S. Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet February 7, 2013
    2. U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2011

Senior Class Failures

The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved. Photo By Burim (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved. Photo By Burim (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Seniors Alvin and Eva Johnson spend most their time these days figuring out tough choices instead of the traveling they dreamed of when they retired a few years ago. They decide between going to doctor’s appointments, filling prescriptions or purchasing food. Their mortgage has been paid off, as well as their 27 year old car, leaving them only their daily living expenses to contend with.

But Alvin and Eva, like many seniors these days, have seen their fixed incomes not go far enough. They are able to live independently in their modest 938 square foot home, but the monthly checks leave little for the unexpected. “Our furnace broke two years ago,” Eva says. They were able to get the needed repairs before winter, but still have not finished paying for them. “It’s a good thing George (the repairman) knows us,” Alvin explains. “He sees us at church so knows we are doing the best we can.”

There is little chance that things for the Johnsons and other seniors will change for the better any time soon. Washington seems to have little interest in including these people in the discussion about poverty, entitlements and income inequality – and especially in the conversation about increasing the federal minimum wage.

In the discussion of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, we often hear all the advantages this will bring.Here are what the experts are saying, after conducting their research and studies on the issue:

  • 27.8 million workers would see their wages go up as a direct or indirect result of the boost
  • The growth in the U.S. economy would result in about 85,000 new jobs
  • 4.6 million people would rise above the poverty line
  • The increase would reduce the ranks of the nation’s poor by 6.8 million

These forecasters and economists, together with their commentators and pundits, have left completely out of the discussion a very important segment of America’s population if this plan is adopted in its present form. In all the discussion there has been no inclusion mentioning how this segment will be brought up income levels that do not threaten their survival even more.

By Woodennature (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Woodennature (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Have you stopped to think about the effects this will have on those who live on social security or disability benefits? The monthly benefits for these groups are figured using a COLA formula on an annual basis. As COLA remains relatively consistent compared to fluctuations in wages, this formula will not automatically adjust benefit amounts to recipients of the programs, resulting in an even wider gap between the bottom wage earners and those living on social security or disability fixed incomes.

This move will widen even more the gap these two vulnerable groups face in their struggle to manage day-to-day life on limited incomes. Here are a few more facts for you to consider:

  • One in seven seniors live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau
  • 4.8 million Americans over 60 are food insecure, doubling since 2001
  • Approximately 3.5 million seniors live in poverty, according to Census figures, but that number rises to about 6.2 million when health care costs are factored in
  • Homeless rates among the elderly will climb by 33 percent within a decade’s time

Until the national discussion takes into account our seniors and vulnerable, any talk of raising the minimum wage will result in even more impoverished conditions for these people. The great tragedy of the failed “trickle down economics” theory is still making grandma live without basic needs, while we talk about “family values” and our “Christian” nation. The war on the poor needs no ammunition or uniform – just a public with blinders will suffice.

Macro economics, anyone?