Now that we are firmly into the Christmas season, with Santa, Rudolph and the Grinch--I wonder which character our political leaders would most closely resemble--in other words--what's your 'Grinch' factor? More specifically, how would various corporate CEO's, congressmen, senators, members of the Deficit Reduction Commission (aka...the 'catfood commission), and the President himself rate on the 'Grinch' Factor Scale, when reviewing the proposed 'Social Security Tax Holiday' being pushed in the President's Tax Deal.
Whether you consider this tax deal of President Obama's to be a pragmatic compromise or cowardly capitulation; one thing's for sure--the Social Security 'tax holiday' contained within the package represents a sneaky end-run intended to slowly dismantle the alleged firewall separating social security funds from general revenue. Some groups like DC think tank Social Security Works, claim this is the first step to a slow 'death by a thousand little cuts.'
How the one year 'tax holiday' actually works
Admittedly, the tax deal and the controversy are confusing to quite a few people, but here is an explanation. In return for a dubious promise by GOP leaders for continued extended unemployment benefits--the President has agreed to keep previous Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. In addition, the President has injected a 'temporary Social Security Payroll Tax holiday' for a year, with workers seeing a 2% deduction in payroll taxes on their checks, from 6.2% to 4.2%, (providing they have jobs). Employers would continue to pay the full share. This single year deduction would repay the Social Security trust fund by depositing the $120 billion into the fund from general revenues.
Repayment and Restitution of Social Security Tax Rates Depends on Congress & Debt Commission
Keep in mind, this 'repayment' is dependent on the whims of congress and congressional leaders. Additionally, the reinstatement of pre-tax holiday levels (to 6.2%) is also dependent on congress, congressional leaders AND the President's UNELECTED, UNACCOUNTABLE DEFICIT REDUCTION COMMISSION OTHERWISE DUBBED THE 'CATFOOD COMMISSION.' The deficit reduction group, aka The 'National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform,' was created BY EXECUTIVE ORDER, and is controlled by known Social Security ENEMIES, such as former Senator Alan Simpson, and the man Business Week dubbed "Corporate America's Friend in the White House," in 1998--Erskine Bowles. (Source: http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/jan1998/nf80120c.htm)
'Catfood Commission created by President Obama after Public Outcry Against Conrad-Gregg
In fact, President Obama created this 'catfood commission' AFTER multiple advocacy groups fighting to defend Social Security SUCCESSFULLY DEFEATED the previous incarnation in the form of the proposed Conrad-Gregg Commission. (Source: http://littlesis.org/org/49061/National_Commission_on_FIscal_Responsibility_and_Reform)
The Conrad-Gregg commission was to be a bi-partisan group with strict procedural restrictions in congress--specifically engineered to insulate or protect politicos from public anger. In short, members of congress and the President could claim the 'Pontius Pilate defense'--washing their collective hands of any messiness--conveniently citing that all authority was placed in this unaccountable committee, feigning impartiality and operating in relative secrecy. It is no small irony that both Senator Conrad and Senator Gregg are MEMBERS of this same debt commission. All I can envision is the Grinch posing the following introduction--fox--meet henhouse.
'Catfood Committee Members
Just to let the public know--here is a list of the debt commission members:
Co-Chairs Alan Simpson* (R), Erskine Bowles* (D),
Dave M. Cole (Honeywell International),
Ann M. Fudge* (former CEO Young & Rubicam Brands),
Andy Stern (former president of Service Employees International Union),
Alice Rivlin (Brookings Institution),
HOUSE of Representatives "
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin),
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas),
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Michigan),**
Rep. John Spratt (D-South Carolina),
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-California),
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois),
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire)*,
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma),
Sen. Mike Capo (R-Idaho),
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois),*
Sen. Max. Baucus (D-Montana),*
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota).*
'Granny Bashers' Team with Political Collaborators
If you look closely, you will notice certain names are asterisked. These are members of the commission who have a certain conflict of interest for being known proponents for privatization or outright dismantling of Social Security. Here is a synopsis of their legislative and/or lobbying history regarding this subject:
1.)As mentioned before, both Senator Kent Conrad and Senator Judd Gregg attempted to create a similar commission, which after defeat by public groups was reincarnated by President Obama in the form of this new and improved 'catfood commission;'
GRINCH FACTOR: ''Grinch-in-Training";
2.)Representative Dave Camp (R-Michigan) is poised to assume the chairman's gavel controlling the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, the very group which writes the nation's tax laws. Camp has gone on record as early as November 16th, 2010 claiming more tax cuts were needed, and any restriction of tax cuts to the wealthy, was ..."a terrible idea and a total non-starter." Frankly, this is a recipe for dismantling not only Social Security--but any revenue source which benefits the public and not solely the ultra-rich. (Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-kroll/new-american-oligarchy_b_791167.html);
GRINCH FACTOR : FULL BLOWN GRINCH;
3.)Senator Max Baucus was the DINO (Democrat in Name Only) who led the charge to EXCLUDE the Public Option from the healthcare 'reform' bill. He was the chair of the committee given the task of crafting the future of our inept healthcare system and became infamous when he ordered the arrest of single-payer activists merely asking why single-payer options were omitted from the 15 member 'representative' witness group, (which included Karen Ignagi, head of the lobby group, American Health Insurance Plans). One by one each doctor asked the question, polite and stoic, and one by one, each doctor was handcuffed and arrested upon Baucus' orders. In stark contrast, Ignagi was treated like visiting royalty with Baucus fawning like a lustful schoolboy. (Source: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/05/05-9)
The utter contempt Baucus demonstrated not only for any democratic process but for his fellow citizens was beyond any conflict of interest--it was avaricious and evil. Somehow, I fail to see how Baucus could be a fair arbiter of any debate, especially after the biased privileges granted private insurance lobbyists at everyone else's expense. Baucus not only demonstrated a clear inability to conduct fair hearings--he abused his power and denied citizens their constitutional right to...redress of grievances. In short; Baucus doesn't appear to believe in constitutional rights or humanity. GRINCH FACTOR : MASTER GRINCH;
4.)Ann Fudge is, among other things--a ..."major campaign bundler." (Source: http://littlesis.org/person/1116/Ann_M_Fudge) She has been a major fixture with American banking elites for some time. A former chairman of the board of Young & Rubicam Brands, she included past Bear Stearns CEO Alan Schwartz in her circle. Presently, she is on the following corporate boards : Brookings Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, GE and Novartis Pharmaceuticals. In short--she is what could be euphemistically termed--a 'bankster lobbyist.' How will she divest her predisposed prejudice favoring Wall Street? Ironically, Fudge was one of President Obama's hand picked members.
GRINCH FACTOR : GRINCH AND 'major campaign bundler' FOR GRINCH CENTRAL;
5.)Senator Dick Durbin is the president's former colleague in the US Senate. When asked about any privatization or diversion of monies paid into Social Security by Project VoteSmart's 'political courage test;' he responded with the following:
"I oppose any efforts to privatize Social Security by diverting payroll taxes to individual accounts." Durbin did go on record with VoteSmart adding that he supports 'incremental reforms,' ..."to extend their solvency without imposing extraordinary burdens on seniors who can least afford it." (Source: http://www.votesmart.org/npat.php?can_id=26847#11504)
Now, even this week, 12/10/10, Durbin publicly announces how he will push for an immediate vote on the President's 'tax deal' package--presumably with the payroll tax holiday intact. Durbin did not exclude the payroll tax holiday, nor did he mention it at all. His office did not return any calls on this subject.
GRINCH FACTOR : Cowardly Grinch-in-Training;
6.)Billionaire Pete Peterson is not on the commission, yet he is the invisible elephant in the room. Peterson launched a $6 million ad campaign which is geared on both national and regional levels to paint Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid as the cause of our economic woes. Peterson claims the campaign will
..."educate Americans about the consequences of our soaring debt and deficits."
Peterson has been characterized as one of the major 'granny bashers,' for his lifelong attack on ....guess what---Social Security. He has had a long career on Wall Street, has been a CEO of Bell & Howell, the co-founder of Blackstone Group (a private equity investment firm), and was previously the head of LEHMAN BROTHERS. (Source: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/04/pete-petersons-anti-entitlement-juggernaut-gets-fueled-obama)
So, Peterson is one of the accused 'banksters' involved in the failed Lehman Brothers firm, in an industry which was ironically bailed out by the very taxpayers he holds in such disdain.
GRINCH FACTOR : GRINCH EMPEROR;
7.)Debt Commission Co-Chair Alan Simpson is the most obvious 'granny basher' of all. He was quoted on the PBS Newshour explaining his position on 'saving' Social Security AND MEDICARE. Here is the quote :
..."You have two (sic) choices...you either raise the payroll tax or decrease the benefits or start affluence testing. The rest of it is B.S. And if the people are really ingesting B.S. all day long, their grandchildren will be picking grit with the chickens. This country is going to go to the bow-wows unless we deal with entitlements, SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE." (Source: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/04/pete-petersons-anti-entitlement-juggernaut-gets-fueled-obama)
Does this man sound the slightest bit impartial or fair minded? (Rhetorical question). Why don't we start with axing Simpson's pension entitlement?! On a note which would be humorous if not sounding insane--Simpson once cursed out a reporter who asked for his views on Social Security. (Source: http://www.youtube.com/BTZ7BN22vM&feature=player_embedded)
GRINCH FACTOR : Chairman of the JOINT 'GRINCH' CHIEFS;
8.)Debt Commission Co-Chair Erskine Bowles is a frequent flyer in both Wall Street and political circles. He is also a director of failed Wall Street Bank/investment firm, Morgan Stanley. After that comment regarding his fitness for this commission--enough said. (Source: http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/erskine-bowles-conflict-of-interest-why-is-the-nyts-tobin-harshaw-ups)
GRINCH FACTOR : GRINCH BANKSTER;
9.) President Obama came into office on a campaign of 'hope.' Unfortunately, due to unknown factors, he has failed to deliver hope, accountability, transparency or even backbone. Staffing his economic team with Wall Street pirates like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers--we see what has become a third Bush term. This president is confusing diplomacy with leadership.
Rather than capitulate to the GOP and Wall Street raiders--he should be using his vast rhetorical gifts to marshall in a return to real democracy and a fair deal. When it comes to Social Security, which is the ONLY retirement most Americans will ever see; President Obama should defend the payroll tax from slick maneuvers designed to destroy any firewall against the thieves populating Wall Street CEO offices.
GRINCH FACTOR : Baby Grinch Needing a Major Jiminy Cricket Epiphany;
Here is a great explanation of the need for continuing the payroll tax:
..."We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors A LEGAL, MORAL AND POLITICAL RIGHT TO COLLECT THEIR PENSIONS AND THEIR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS. WITH THOSE TAXES IN THERE, NO DAMN POLITICIAN CAN EVER SCRAP MY SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAM. THOSE TAXES AREN'T A MATTER OF ECONOMICS, THEY'RE STRAIGHT POLITICS."
To those who would scream 'SOCIALIST,' the source of the quote was none other than President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941, addressing--a Treasury official. President Obama--are you listening?