Listen to the People

No matter what Bush is trying to shovel, America already seems to have a consensus on what to do about Social Security:More than two-thirds of 1,010 adults contacted from Friday to Sunday said it would be a good idea to limit benefits for wealthier retirees and for higher income workers to pay Social Security taxes on all their wages.

Currently, the cap on wages taxed for Social Security is set at $90,000.

Other options to change Social Security fell far behind -- 40 percent of respondents said reducing benefits for early retirement is a good idea; 37 percent said increasing the tax for all workers would be a good idea; 35 percent said the government should increase the age at which people could receive full benefits; and 29 percent said reducing benefits for people under 55 was acceptable.

The margin of error for the poll was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

About 55 percent of respondents thought Bush's proposal that would allow wage earners to invest some of their Social Security taxes in private investment accounts in the future is a "bad idea" -- the same percentage as a month ago before the president began his campaign for the plan.

Forty percent said it was a good idea in both polls.

You can read more about the poll here. Personally, like 67% of the country, I think ending the wage cap sounds like a good idea. Would it be so hard Bush? Would it be so hard, Congress? Let's just do what the people want.

Right-Wing Christian Power Grab

First, we find out that Bush used Faith Based Initiatives as a thinly veiled means of winning votes and rewarding supporters. Then, we discover the overt bias of the administration against non-Christian religious groups. Now, the Christian right wants to amend the tax code to allow religious organizations to actively coordinate with political parties:Bill to Allow Campaigning by Religious Organizations Back in House

On Jan. 4, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) introduced H.R. 235, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act of 2005. The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow religious congregations to support or oppose candidates for public office and conduct partisan campaign activities without losing their tax-exempt status, as long as the activity takes place in the context of a religious service or gathering. While narrower than previous proposals, the bill still unfairly favors religious organizations over other nonprofits and allows tax-deductible contributions to support partisan activities.

The bill is the latest in a series of attempts by Jones, who introduced the first version of the bill in June 2001 (The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act or HOWPSPA). Congress has consistently rejected the proposal, which has been opposed by nonprofits, clergy and campaign finance reformers. Currently, tax law prohibits all religious, educational, charitable and other organizations exempt under section 501(C)(3) of the tax code from opposing or supporting candidates for office. H.R. 235 would change that for religious organizations.

H.R. 235 is narrower than earlier versions of the bill in that it limits the type of activities permitted, but it is more expansive in that there is no ceiling on the number of activities that could be permitted. Under H.R. 235, the permitted campaign-related activities would have to occur in the "content, preparation, or presentation of any homily, sermon, teaching, dialectic, or other presentation made during religious service or gatherings," but any amount of these activities could be conducted provided they were part of the presentation at a religious gathering. However, religious organizations would be precluded from making campaign contributions or paying for advertisements in newspapers.

Since this language would permit any activity that could be deemed part of a sermon or other presentation during a religious service, it allows for the express endorsement or opposition to a candidate for public office during a sermon. Religious leaders could request that contributions be made directly to the candidate's committee or other political organizations or even individual contributions of services to political campaigns. They could appeal to their congregations to vote for particular candidates.

This is not just a power grab by the right-wing over the left wing nationally, but it is also an attempt by the Christian right to consolidate power over the Republican Party and to force large donors to funnel their political donations through religious organizations. While right wing bloggers like Instapundit hold up strawmen as the face of the left, they seem gleefully oblivious to the rising domination of their own party (oh, that's right, Reynolds is an independent / libertarian, not a Republican) by the Christian right. He can blog about how opposing the war means you are a traitor all he wants, but even among his own peeps he is becoming an increasingly irrelevant liberal elitist.

When Good Reforms Go Bad

There is way too much money in politics, and looking at just how ineffective it was is even further proof its status as an abomination. McCain-Feingold can be understood as a start, but it was not perfect by any means. Sure, it helped us begin to take back our party, but it also limited the influence of labor over the Democratic Party. Another of the main problems with McCain-Feingold was a compromise in the legislation that raised the individual campaign donation limit to $2,000, and recently to $2,100. Considering the demographics of Bush's donor base, this almost doubled his warchest overnight. In fact, it doubled the warchest of many other Republicans as well.

In short, as much as I support campaign finance reform, all campaign finance reform is not worth supporting. This is particularly true if the "reform" is little more than a naked attempt to defund the left. The latest McCain campaign finance proposal is a case in point:

Picking up new allies in his push to limit political spending, Senator John McCain proposed new restrictions on Wednesday for some independent political groups that poured more than $400 million into last year's elections. The proposal includes a measure to cap donations at $25,000.

The campaign finance law championed by Mr. McCain in 2002 stopped political parties from collecting the unlimited soft money contributions that grew to dominate presidential races in the 1990's. But it did not restrict groups known as 527 committees from collecting six- and seven-figure checks, allowing those like Swift Vets and P.O.W.'s for Truth and America Coming Together to become prime political players.

Mr. McCain and others sponsoring the legislation say they are determined to stop such spending before the 2006 Congressional elections get under way. While the bill contains numerous regulations, some quite complex, its overriding goal is to stop donations like the $24 million that the financier George Soros contributed last year to defeat President Bush.(...)

Though the bill's prospects are uncertain, it has drawn early backing in unusual places. Mr. Bush has expressed support for regulating 527 groups. Senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican who opposed the 2002 law, is co-sponsoring this legislation and will hold hearings in the Rules Committee, which he leads.

The mention of George Soros, as well as the alliance with Trent Lott, are obvious red flags that indicate this bill is not a piece of good government legislation. Specifically targeting 527's while leaving other groups alone is, like Bush's tort "reform," an attempt to defund the progressive cause, not to clean up money in politics. Granted, I have not read the legislation, but it appears to not touch unlimited donations to C3 and C4 organizations that form one of the main pillars of the Republican Noise Machine. Because "think tanks" have either "non-profit" or "intellectual" tax classifications, not only are they allowed to receive billions of dollars every year in the form of unlimited donations from uber-rich Republicans, unlike 527's they are allowed to actively coordinate with both specific candidates and the Republican Party under the false guise of non-partisanship. Unless the billions that are funneled into the right-wing message machine are also challenged by this legislation, which the article seems to clearly indicate they are not, I see no reason to support it, and no reason to consider it anything except another in a long series of Right Wing Power Grabs. The hypocrisy of this legislation is clear: The bill would not affect groups that work exclusively on nonfederal elections, or those raising less than $25,000 a year. Nonprofit organizations operating under Section 501(c) of the tax code are also not covered.

Mr. McCain himself works with a nonprofit group called the Reform Institute, which promotes changes in campaign finance. The group has collected from scores of donors, including about a dozen who gave more than $50,000, some with ties to communications companies. The Senate Commerce Committee, which Mr. McCain once led, has jurisdiction over communications issues.

Any campaign finance legislation that targets progressive, liberal and labor strongholds while leaving the river of conservative money to flow freely must be defeated and called out to be the power grab that it is. McCain will use his "reformer" cloak and the extensive publicity given to 527's by the Right Wing Noise Machine as a means of making this simply look like good government legislation. However, his own personal hypocrisy in not proposing legislation that would also impact the organizations he works with needs to be Democratic talking point number one. Clean it up on both sides, or don't clean it up at all.

Bush: Social Security Will Be Bankrupt in 1988

From Talking Points Memo:According to a July 28th, 2000 article in USA Today, back in 1978 when President Bush was running for congress in Texas, "he predicted Social Security would go broke in 10 years and said the system should give people 'the chance to invest money the way they feel' is best." From the Texas Observer in 1999 concerning Bush's failed 1978 campaign:According to Gary Ott, who was then a reporter for the Plainview Daily Herald, Bush stopped by the paper's little office "maybe five or six times. He'd sit down at my desk; he was a fun guy. He was very outgoing, very friendly, and we would argue politics since I was a liberal. We'd argue over Carter policies." Bush criticized energy policy, federal land use policy, subsidized housing, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("a misuse of power," he said), and he warned that Social Security would go bust in ten years unless people were given a chance to invest the money themselves." Back then, he was completely wrong. Now, he is just lying.

Shorter Krugman

Rolling Stone has a good Q & A out with Krguman about Social Security. This is perhaps the most useful Krugman piece on Social Security yet, because he provides answers to common questions about Social Security that everyone can use. For example:What would you say to college students and young workers who are convinced they'll never see a dime of the money they put into Social Security?

You've been sold a scare story. Right now Social Security has a large and growing trust fund -- a surplus that has been collected to pay for the surge in benefits we'll experience when the baby boomers start to retire. If you're twenty now, you'll be hitting retirement around 2052. That's the year the Congressional Budget Office says the trust fund will run out. In fact, many economists say it may never run out. If the economy continues to grow at an average rate, the trust fund could quite possibly last forever.

And: Why do they want to dismantle it?

It's hard to understand why anyone would want to return us to the days before the New Deal, when millions of elderly people lived in poverty. But if you really dislike the notion that the government provides a safety net for the poor, then Social Security is the prime target. The U.S. government is a big insurance company, with a side business in national security. Social Security is the biggest social-insurance program that we have. It's been highly successful, and it's extremely popular. It's one of the things that makes people feel somewhat good about government -- and so, therefore, it must go.

It's good stuff that should help anyone willing to save Social Security from destruction know what to say. Give it a read.

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