Friday, August 31, 2012

Social Security in the Great Jambalaya

Further thoughts on the program in peril.

Is there a Social Security crisis or not?  To hear some tell it, the Social Security Trust Fund* is insolvent, nothing but a collection of “worthless pieces of paper.”  To hear others tell it, the Social Security Trust Fund has a surplus of 2.5 trillion dollars (and growing), composed of “good as gold” US-government issued securities.   

These positions are usually associated with “conservative” and “liberal” camps, respectively, although, as usual in American politics, these labels are not particularly helpful.  Whether one supports or opposes Social Security is a matter of principle, and does not depend on the value of the securities presently in the Trust Fund.  Those who oppose Social Security will do so if the securities are “good as gold,” and those who support it will, or should, do so even if those securities are “worthless.” Whatever political challenge it might pose for the side we favor (and here, that is definitely supporting Social Security), an honest evaluation of these securities is necessary in its own right, in order to help us prepare effectively for whatever political challenge we face.  Politics is not the art of making people think it will be easier to achieve their goals than it actually will be.

Since it is the value of these “securities” about which the two positions on the Social Security “crisis” so vehemently disagree, in order to understand how they are both right, and all wrong, one must take a careful look at the specific economic and political characteristics of the securities in question.  It is also necessary to understand the hijinks that have been happening with the Trust Fund over the past 30 years.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

No Account:
The Social Security Hope-a-Dope

There’s an email petition appeal going around from firedoglake (FDL), encouraging us to “Hold The Obama Campaign To Its Guarantee of 'No Changes' to Social Security". It lays out very nicely how, on the one hand, “Joe Biden 'guaranteed' the president would not touch Social Security if re-elected,” and, on the other, “the president again voiced support for ‘tough spending cuts’ to programs like Social Security and Medicare... and complains he doesn't get enough credit for his own willingness to cut benefits.” [FDL’s emphasis]

FDL has been good on a lot of issues, especially healthcare reform, where they campaigned for single-payer relentlessly.  But how, exactly, are they going to “make sure the Obama administration honors this commitment”?  With a petition?  Really?  Isn’t it obvious, from their own experience, that Obama is going to talk out of both sides of his mouth during the campaign, and do whatever he wants after the election?  And what he wants is to be remembered as the fiscally-responsible Democrat who cut Social Security.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Too Many Cooks: The Syrian Demise

With Syria at full boil, it’s becoming clearer who exactly will be burned once this pot finally explodes: everybody.

The Assad/Alawite regime is cooking in a stew of its own penchant for brutality, which has been folded into the cleverness of the United States and Saudi Arabia in crafting a strategy for hijacking “Arab Spring” anti-authoritarian uprisings for counterrevolutionary purposes. 

To be clear: This is not a critique based on some notion of pacifism or national purity.  Non-violent resistance is a powerful tactic that can be quite effective in broadening political support, but revolutionary movements do not have to abjure the use of force to maintain their ethical legitimacy.  It is virtually impossible to imagine a successful revolution that does not use force to defend its gains and to advance its objectives.  Nor are revolutionary movements (or besieged governments) obliged to abjure foreign support in order to maintain national legitimacy.  Whether foreign support undermines a movement’s national legitimacy depends on the political content and consequences of that support – for our purposes, whether it advances or derails the purported objective of creating a renewed national polity that radically increases the democratic power, social well-being, and fundamental rights of the people.  This, in turn, depends on whether foreign allies accept the limits of their supporting role, and refrain from taking over or directing the course of the movement they claim to support.  Seen from the outside, in the course of frantic struggle, how this is unfolding can only be a judgement call, based on what one knows about the relative power, political cohesion, and the actual consequences of past and present actions, of the various players.