Category Archives: 98%

It Only Looks Like Fear-Mongering on Social Security

On its face, the Biden campaign’s latest ad could reasonably be accused of fear-mongering about Social Security, doing so in the time-hallowed way that campaigns have adopted for a couple of decades–but for the fact that all of the ad’s claims are … wait for it … accurate.

Click here if the video above is not showing up in your browser.

As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman put it,

If he wins the election, Trump vowed, he will “terminate the payroll tax.” He added: “We’ll be paying into Social Security through the general fund.”


The Biden ad assumes that Trump would eliminate the employee half of the payroll tax (it’s paid equally by employers and employees), which would indeed render the program unable to pay all its benefits in just a few years.

I should say at this point that even if Trump is never going to do this, and even if Biden is being accurate in how he characterizes what Trump is proposing, this comes after years of conservative fearmongering about the fate of Social Security, in particular the inaccurate idea that in a short time it will “go broke.”

For the record, before the local troll gets excited, here’s my view on Social Security:

  1. We should start now — ideally should have started yesterday — to make plans to properly fund Social Security into the demographic future.

  2. In an ideal world, we’d actually do some form of what Trump proposed: kill the employee portion of the tax, which is regressive, and fund SSA out of general revenues, which are less regressive. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and that strategy would risk exposing Social Security to cuts as it competes with other priorities. And the GOP has long been supported cuts to Social Security to pay for the 1%’s tax cuts (under the guise of balancing the budget), so if Social Security funding falls into the general fund, its likely in trouble, and very likely in trouble if Mitch McConnel still controls the Senate, and never more so than in the coming years if and when we decide to pay off some of the Trump deficit.

  3. Thus, a second-best solution would be to lift the cap on the tax, so that wages above the first $137,700 of annual income get taxed at the same rate (or higher?) than wages to less-well-paid workers. To the extent that this wouldn’t fill the gap — an extent that would depend on how soon we start it — we should earmark some other progressive tax to make up any shortfall.

Posted in 2020 Election, 98%, Econ & Money, Law: Tax | 3 Comments

Terrific Article on the State of US Class Politics

I Spent 5 Years With Some of Trump’s Biggest Fans. Here’s What They Won’t Tell You. Don’t be put off by the tabloid tone to the headline that Mother Jones slapped on this article, there’s a lot of smarts here.

This is a key insight:

What the people I interviewed were drawn to was …. [a] deep story … —an account of life as it feels to them. Some such account underlies all beliefs, right or left, I think. The deep story of the right goes like this:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He’s on their side. In fact, isn’t he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It’s not your government anymore; it’s theirs.

I checked this distillation with those I interviewed to see if this version of the deep story rang true. Some altered it a bit (“the line-waiters form a new line”) or emphasized a particular point (those in back are paying for the line-cutters). But all of them agreed it was their story. One man said, “I live your analogy.” Another said, “You read my mind.”

A related insight is this:

How wary should a little-bit-higher-up-the-ladder white person now feel about applying for the same benefits that the little-bit-lower-down-the-ladder people had? Shaming the “takers” below had been a precious mark of higher status. What if, as a vulnerable blue-collar white worker, one were now to become a “taker” oneself?

Trump, the King of Shame, has covertly come to the rescue. He has shamed virtually every line-cutting group in the Deep Story—women, people of color, the disabled, immigrants, refugees. But he’s hardly uttered a single bad word about unemployment insurance, food stamps, or Medicaid, or what the tea party calls “big government handouts,” for anyone—including blue-collar white men.

In this feint, Trump solves a white male problem of pride. Benefits? If you need them, okay. He masculinizes it. You can be “high energy” macho—and yet may need to apply for a government benefit. ….

But in another stroke, Trump adds a key proviso: restrict government help to real Americans. White men are counted in, but undocumented Mexicans and Muslims and Syrian refugees are out. Thus, Trump offers the blue-collar white men relief from a taker’s shame: If you make America great again, how can you not be proud?

It fits.

Posted in 2016 Election, 98% | Comments Off on Terrific Article on the State of US Class Politics

In Which I Engage in a Pointless Farce

Today President Obama unleashed the kraken: he emailed everyone on his email list encouraging them to contact their elected representatives to ask them to sign the discharge petition about extending the Bush tax cut earnings less than the top 2%. I decided to make a call, even though I knew, given who my representative is, just how pointless that is.

Here’s the note I got:

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2012 11:13:07
From: “Stephanie Cutter,”
To: A Michael Froomkin < >
Subject: Help the President with just one phone call
1 OK ~127 lines Text
2 Shown ~218 lines Text

Obama – Biden
A. Michael —

Who will decide if your taxes increase in just 22 days? A few dozen members of the House of Representatives, that’s who.

Cutting taxes for the middle class shouldn’t be difficult, especially when Republicans claim they agree with the President on the issue. But some Republicans are still holding middle-class tax cuts hostage simply because they want to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires.

Here’s what’s going on right now: President Obama is asking Congress to move forward on a plan that would prevent 98 percent of American families from paying higher taxes next year. The Senate has passed that bill, and the President is ready to sign it — but the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives won’t even bring the bill to the floor for a vote. House Democrats have filed a petition that would force a vote if it attracts 218 signatures.

If a bill has enough votes to pass, Congress should vote on it and pass it. It’s a pretty simple proposition. And every Member of Congress who hasn’t signed on to keep taxes low for the middle class needs to hear from you.

Call your representative today and ask them to sign the petition in support of a vote. According to our records, here’s who you should call:

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
(202) 225-3931

Not your representative? Call the switchboard operator at 202-224-3121. Not sure who your representative is? Click here to look it up. []

Here’s a suggestion on what to say — feel free to improvise and let your representative’s office know why you’re personally supporting the President’s plan:

“Hi, I’m A. Michael. As a voter from your district, I support the President’s plan to extend tax cuts for 98 percent of American families — $2,000 a year means a lot to me and to middle-class families here in Florida. I urge Representative Ros-Lehtinen to sign the petition forcing the House to vote on the Senate-passed bill, and to vote “yes” if it reaches the floor.”

Once you’ve called your representative’s office, please report back and let us know how it went:

Let’s get one thing straight: If your taxes go up, Republicans will have made a conscious choice to let that happen. They’ll have missed the opportunity to prevent it, just to cut taxes for the wealthy.

Republicans need to stop using the middle class as a bargaining chip. If they fail to act, a typical middle-class family of four will see a $2,200 tax hike starting in a few short weeks. Middle-class families could face some tough financial decisions simply because Republicans didn’t want to ask the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay their fair share.

That’s not what President Obama and you campaigned on, and that’s not what millions of Americans voted for just one month ago.

We know we can affect change in Washington when we raise our voices together. So pick up the phone and make a call — your representative needs to hear from you.
Here’s who to call, one more time:

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
(202) 225-3931



Stephanie Cutter
Deputy Campaign Manager
Obama for America

P.S. — Don’t forget to tell us you made your voice heard. Report back here.

As the folks at Daily Kos correctly note, campaigns like this don’t win friends in Congress as they don’t like to be inundated with phone calls … which suggests that the private talks with Speaker Boehner are not going well — hardly a surprise.

So here is how it went. I said my piece, not following the Obama script, and was politely thanked for my views by “Chris”. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls about this issue today,” he said.

What, I asked as if I didn’t know, was Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s position on the discharge petition. My feigned ignorance met equal ignorance (also feigned?) on the other side of the line: ‘I don’t know.’

How might I find out when the Congresswoman decides, I asked. ‘When the vote happens I guess,’ Chris answered.

Now, since I was calling about signing a discharge petition that wasn’t a very good answer. So I asked if he knew what a discharge petition was, and Chris claimed not to know. So I explained what a discharge petition is, and asked my question again.

‘I don’t know her position on this, I don’t work on those issues,’ said the dogged and still polite Chris. If he’s just an intern, he’s a real find. Everyone knows Ros-Lehtinen’s position: Hell will suffer from water solidification before she bucks her leadership and signs this discharge petition. But why risk annoying a constituent by telling him that?

In the end he offered me the email address of Ros-Lehtinen’s senior Legislative Aide, who I’m sure would just be delighted to hear from me. I don’t know that I’ll even bother.

Very hard to see what all that achieved. But I have to give props to Chris who, while being clueless or faking it well, was totally polite.

I submitted a very abbreviated version of the above to the Obama response site, and was oddly disheartened to be rewarded with an invitation to send him money.

Posted in 98%, Econ & Money | Comments Off on In Which I Engage in a Pointless Farce