Max Headcase

Bark, bark. Bark at the moon

For a mercifully brief few hours, running from last night till this morning, the Outrage for Lunch Bunch were slightly distracted from the impending construction of Muhammad’s Death Tower in Lower Mordorhattan by news that fancy-pants rich college Harvard was selling off all of their investments in Israel and sinking the money into a chain of burqua stores called Abercrombie & Fatwa.

Since this rumor was started late on a Sunday night, conservatives from both the paranoid and the bedwetting wings decided to wait and see what Monday morning would bring as far as clarification because, if there is one thing that they don’t like to do, it’s going off half-cocked.

No. I’m just kidding. They went Full Metal Bugfuck Bonkers as usual, with April DSM IV playmate/centerfold Pam Geller leading the way in the well-reasoned way that has made her the darling of those who book serious cable shows as well as viewers who think they are watching reruns of The Nanny: The Even More Annoying Episodes :

Harvard Whores for Jihad: Harvard University Fund Sells all Israel holdings

Look at how far we have sunk. America’s once leading institution for higher learning pimps for jihad. We knew that these institutions like Harvard, Georgetown, etc., would unashamedly dance on demand when those Saudi 20 million dollar gifts began rolling in. Middle Eastern Studies departments are hotbeds of radicalism. Jewish students are persecute, harassed and physically threatened on these campuses.

If these institutions of higher learning get federal taxpayers dollars, is this not against the law? It’s one thing when jihadist frenemies violate the Arab boycott of Israel. We expect that from these players, they lie and are incapable of being honest merchants. When Saudi Arabia joined the World Trade Organization, they promised to end their participation in the Arab boycott of Israel, but they have not done so.

But this is Harvard. It is wrong, outrageous, that these tools of the stealth jihad are supported by your taxpayer dollars and private endowments (many from Jewish families). The whole moral structure is disintegrating before our very eyes. These whorehouses do not deserve one thin dime from public or Jewish coffers. This is getting very ugly. I expect Tariq Ramadan will be offered the Edward Said chair at Columbia in no short order.

This is pure antisemitism.

Well, hell yeah…. But before you get all verklempt and plotz yourself meshugeh, here comes Pam’s slightly less insane but nonetheless still pretty darn evil twin sister to clean up the mess:

Trusted sources are saying that this has nothing to do with hating Israel, but is simply due to Israel’s economic progress. The Harvard fund invests in emerging markets, but since Israel is a developed country, Harvard has shifted its money to less developed nations. And while I trust these respected sources, I’m not sold, because the timing is too advantageous to the Jew-haters, who will crow about it — and Israel is so isolated, she needs all the help she can get.

Oh, I’m not so sure Israel is the only one who needs all the help she can get (Hint. Hint. Head nodding in Pam’s direction. Making crazy rolling eyes and twirling index finger by ear in a clockwise circle) if you know what I mean.

By the way, this is not the first  recorded case as documented below:

			No, I'm not.  We were walking off the
			tennis court, and you know, he was there
			and me and his wife, and he looked at her
			and then they both looked at me, and under
			his breath he said, "Jew."

			Alvy, you're a total paranoid.

			Wh- How am I a paran-?  Well, I pick up on
			those kind o' things.  You know, I was
			having lunch with some guys from NBC, so
			I said ... uh, "Did you eat yet or what?"
			and Tom Christie said, "No, didchoo?"
			Not, did you, didchoo eat?  Jew?  No, not
			did you eat, but Jew eat?  Jew.  You get it?
			Jew eat?

			Ah, Max, you, uh ...

			Stop calling me Max.

			Why, Max?  It's a good name for you.  Max,
			you see conspiracies in everything.

Rubber room. Men in white coats. Extra strength tranquilizer dart. Muzzle.

Keith Olbermann: There is no 'Ground Zero Mosque; Eleveld on Obama's other mixed messaging problem

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And from, a good summary of Keith’s remarks (no transcript yet). A snippet:

Olbermann described the Right’s campaign as, “Yet in a country dedicated to freedom, forces have gathered to blow out of all proportion the construction of a minor community center to transform it into a training ground for terrorists, and an insult to the victims of 9/11, and a tribute to the Medieval Muslim subjugation of the West. There is in fact no Ground Zero Mosque. It isn’t a mosque. A mosque technically is a Muslim holy place where only worship can be conducted. What is planned for 45 Park Place New York City is a community center. It’s supposed to include a basketball court and a culinary school. It is to be thirteen stories tall, and the top two stories will be a Muslim prayer space. What a cauldron to terrorism that will be, terrorist chefs and terrorist point guards.”

Olbermann pointed out that since 9/11 Muslims have been at greater risk of being victims of US terrorism than non-Muslims. After he debunked Newt Gingrich’s fear mongering over the name Cordoba House, which he called a figment of Gingrich’s imagination, and the MSNBC host pointed out that the community center will be open to all New Yorkers.

He also knocked down the falsehood that the community center is located on Ground Zero, “This place Park 51 is not even at Ground Zero, not even right across the street. Even the description of it being two blocks away is generous. It is two blocks away from the northeast corner of the World Trade Center site, from the planned location of the 9/11 Memorial, it is more like four or five blocks even.” Olbermann showed that there is no view of the World Trade Center visible from the community center.


On a related note, Kerry Eleveld’s latest column in The Advocate points out that “Obama’s mixed messaging on the mosque proposed near Ground Zero leads one to wonder why the White House is so unwilling to touch other hot-button issues.”

Like “The Homosexual Agenda“?

Well, he sure likes taking our money, huh? Just doesn’t like to step on that third rail (other than to send David Axelrod out to bleat out incoherent messaging about equality and marriage).

Obama’s position – that he defends the right to build without supporting the project – mirrors national polling numbers. While one poll found that about 64% of voters believe proponents should be able to build, another poll found that 68% oppose the plan itself.

The situation brings several questions to the fore.

First, what exactly is the administration’s communications team doing? They either miscalculated the national mood or they misjudged how the president’s words would be received on Friday. But they unquestionably should have seen flashes of the firestorm to come from Sarah Palin and her cronies eons before they sent the president out to carry the torch for democracy.

Or is it possible that the president and his advisers understood exactly where this was headed but just couldn’t take the heat once they stepped into the pit? No matter what the answer, the White House squandered the president’s most precious commodity: his word – his compact of trust with the American people.

And here’s another stumper. The same CNN poll showing that more than 2/3 of Americans opposed the project was also the very first poll in history to find that a majority of Americans (52% to 46%) believe gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.

Now marriage polls do see-saw even as they continue to trend toward equality and a Public Policy Poll late last week found that 57% of voters still think same-sex marriage should be illegal. But the fact remains that both of those polls show less opposition to marriage equality than to the Mosque project, and I can’t help but puzzle at the White House’s willingness to broach one subject while they continue to run away from the other as if it’s too hot touch.


Foggy Bottom (of the priority list)

At the risk of tackling a topic I’ve talked about before (a couple times), something stuck out to me in the Gates-a-palooza of the last few days. From Fareed Zakaria’s Op-Ed in WaPo:

Gates likes to point out that there are more musicians in U.S. military marching bands than members of the Foreign Service. In fact, the Pentagon has 10 times as many accountants as there are Foreign Service officers.

And from Fred Kaplan’s excellent profile in Foreign Policy:

In an almost unprecedented move, Gates also called repeatedly for more funding for the Pentagon’s traditional bureaucratic rivals in the State Department, warning of the “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy.

This is nothing new, Gates included this idea in an excellent essay in Foreign Affairs in early 2009. (Subscriber only, but Ackerman readers are all subscribers, right?):

The military and civilian elements of the United States’ national security apparatus have responded unevenly and have grown increasingly out of balance. The problem is not will; it is capacity. In many ways, the country’s national security capabilities are still coping with the consequences of the 1990s, when, with the complicity of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, key instruments of U.S. power abroad were reduced or allowed to wither on the bureaucratic vine.

Unfortunately, this part of Gates’ crusade to reform the whole national security apparatus has mostly fallen on deaf ears. It is a deeply unsexy topic, and doesn’t have a natural constituency. In today’s deficit hysteria, an increase in the least popular part of the federal budget is not a winning issue. But something needs to be done. Embassies the world over are understaffed. Many of the “nation-building” tasks being done in Afghanistan and Iraq are the exact tasks that FSOs are trained for. There was a lot of talk about a “civilian surge” to go alongside the military surge in both wars, but where do the aid workers come from?

I think America is waking up to the fact that the military can’t solve every problem. While FSOs are far from a silver bullet, they can help with development in countries that need it. Preventing countries from falling into the chaos that reigns in places like Somalia or, increasingly, Yemen is a much more proactive way of fighting terrorism than trying to root it out once it has already become enmeshed in the country, as it is in Afghanistan.

Secretaries Clinton and Gates are fully in support of beefing up the foreign service, but there’s no congressional leadership on the topic. Senator Lugar, Senator Kerry, this sounds right up your alley.

Which Party Poses the Real Risk to Social Security’s Future?


Marshall Auerback

Hint: it’s not Republicans.

Social Security remains one of the greatest achievements of the Democratic Party since its creation 75 years ago. Although Republicans have historically fulminated against the program (Ronald Reagan once likened it as something akin to “socialism”), they have actually made little headway in touching this sacred “third rail” in American politics. President Bush pushed for partial privatization of the program in 2005, but the proposal gained no policy traction (even within his own party) because Social Security continues to be hugely popular with American voters. It’s a universal program that benefits all Americans, not a government handout to a few privileged corporations.

Which is why it’s odd that Democrats seem almost embarrassed to continue to champion the legacy of FDR. The party frets about long-term deficits and the corresponding need to “save” Social Security from imminent bankruptcy and, in doing so, opens the gate to radical cuts in entitlements that will do nothing but further destroy incomes and perpetuate our current economic malaise. It is true that some Republicans have signed on to the idea of privatization, notably a proposal championed by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee. But only a handful of GOP lawmakers have actively embraced the measure and, in the aftermath of the worst shock to the financial system since the Great Depression, many Republican lawmakers would just as soon see the idea forgotten.

So why don’t the Democrats leave well enough alone? Why bother even setting up “bipartisan commissions” to discuss the issue of Social Security? At the risk of sounding like one of those ungrateful members of the “Professional Left”, whom Robert Gibbs recently decried, I note that it was President Obama who most recently re-opened this issue by setting up a commission on reducing long term budget deficits and dealing with the long term issue of entitlements, including Social Security. In the Commission’s remit, nothing is off the table, including Social Security and Medicare. (Of course, given that one of the members is a director of Honeywell, it’s hard to envisage any suggestions of defense cuts). I also note that according to the Washington Post, “Democrats said Simpson and Bowles are uniquely equipped to blaze a path out of the fiscal wilderness — and to forge bipartisan consensus on a plan likely to require painful tax increases as well as program cuts.” No mention of Republicans getting on board. This is self-immolation, plain and simple. And Obama wonders why voters remain unhappy?

Now that the President has opened this Pandora’s Box, it is hard for him credibly to make the case, as he attempted to do in last Saturday’s weekly radio address, that “some Republican leaders in Congress want to privatize Social Security.” In fact, it is an idea enthusiastically embraced by a number of Wall Street Democrats who are funded with huge campaign contributions from Wall Street itself. (Candidate Obama received more money from Wall Street in 2008 than Hillary Clinton.) These contributors would be the Rubinites who for decades have played a huge role in allowing for greater financial leverage ratios, riskier banking practices, greater opacity, less oversight and regulation, consolidation of power in ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions that operated across the financial services spectrum (combining commercial banking, investment banking and insurance) and greater risk. Privatization of Social Security represents the last of the low hanging fruits for Wall Street. Who better to provide this to our captains of the financial services industry than their major political benefactors in the Democratic Party?

The issue of privatization is germane when one considers the members of the Commission approved by the President. There are questions of possible conflicts of interest. As James Galbraith has noted, the Commission has accepted support from Peter G. Peterson, a man who has been one of the leading campaigners to cut Social Security and Medicare. It is co-chaired by Erskine Bowles, a current Director at North Carolina Life Insurance Co (annuity products are a competitor to Social Security and would almost certainly be beneficiaries of the partial privatization). Mr. Bowles’ wife, Crandall Close Bowles, is on the Board of JP Morgan, and she is also on the “Business Council,” a 27 member group whose members include Dick Fuld, Jeff Immelt, Jamie Dimon and a plethora of other Wall Streeters.

At the very least, these kinds of ties raise questions in regard to proposals for dealing with Social Security. Many members of the Commission stand to become clear direct and indirect beneficiaries of the privatization that the President is now warning against. It’s disappointing that these ties have not been fully explored by the press, and it is extraordinary that the President would exhibit such political tone deafness in making these kinds of appointments. It tends to undercut the message of his last radio address.

I’ll leave aside the nonsensical arguments in regard to Social Security’s “solvency,” because Professor Stephanie Kelton has dealt with them conclusively here. The only point I would add is in regard to the alleged issue of deficit spending today burdening our grandchildren. In reality, we will be leaving our grandchildren with government bonds that are net financial assets and wealth for them. As Randy Wray and Yeva Nersisyan have recently argued, even if government decides to raise taxes in, say, 2050 to retire the bonds (for whatever reason), the extra taxes are matched by payments made directly to bondholders in 2050. We can question the wisdom of whether it is right to make this political argument in favor of bond holders over tax payers. But it is a decision to be made at that time (not before) by future generations as to whether they should raise taxes by an amount equal to those interest payments, or by a greater amount to equal retirement of debt.

In the meantime, President Obama’s approval ratings continue to plummet. His scaremongering has little credibility, given the disparity between his rhetoric and his actual policies. At the risk of further upsetting Robert Gibbs, we’ll try to explain why Obama isn’t finding stronger support from his base despite having passed, for instance, a health care bill, a fiscal stimulus bill and a financial regulation bill. For a start, follow the money: with the President and leading Democrats having taken the most campaign dollars from corporate interests those bills purport to challenge, and having gutted the most progressive elements in the bills themselves (see Matt Taibbi’s latest as a perfect illustration of the phenomenon), it is clear that those signature pieces of legislation do not fundamentally challenge the structure of power at a time when that’s what Americans most want. The only “change” most Americans might experience is a reduction in their Social Security benefits from a President currently presiding over one of the most regressive wealth transfers in history. They’ll be receiving nothing but pocket change if a serious attack on entitlements is legitimized by this commission. A scaremongering radio address doesn’t do a whole lot to change that or to alter the country’s current economic trajectory. To paraphrase one of his leading political opponents, Mr. Obama would do well stop practicing the cynical “politics as usual” that his Presidency was supposed to “refudiate”.

Marshall Auerback is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and a market analyst and commentator.

(Cross-posted from New Deal 2.0).

The Unemployables Aren’t Unemployable; Shame On You, Mainstream Media For Even Suggesting Such A Thing

The geniuses in the White House and the so-called economists are calling it "Structural Unemployment". That’s their moniker for the record number of people (6.55 Million ) who have been unemployed for twenty-seven weeks or longer as of July, 2010,according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. And that number doesn’t even include the number of people (8.5 Million) who have been forced to work part-time because their hours were cut or they can’t find full-time employment.

Of the long-term unemployment, economist John Lott, a FoxNews contributor, had this to say:

"While most discussions assume that the long time that people are unemployed shows the need for longer benefits, there is another possibility: the unprecedented benefits are the cause, not the cure, for the current long-term unemployment."

You would expect nothing less from a fervent Free Trade proponent and Trickle-Down, anti-regulation-of-anything advocate. But that’s not the point. His assertion that long-term unemployment benefits cause long-term unemployment is bunk. Lack of demand is what causes long-term unemployment, pure and simple. The idea that a fellow on unemployment receiving $300 a week would rather keep receiving that than earn twice to three times that amount while working is ridiculous to even suggest.

The Economist said:

"In the latest employment report, the number of long-term unemployed rose again, as did the share of all unemployed who fall into that category—now nearly half.And then there are other issues that seem intuitively likely to be causing labour market problems. Skills mismatch between the unemployed and the jobs being created is one."

Skills mismatch? And people take this magazine seriously? Nevertheless, "skills mismatch" is the very demon behind our "structural" long-term unemployment, according to just about every mainstream media outlet you go to. I wish I had been logging all of the times I’ve seen some serious economist discussing structural unemployment with some serious talking-head-with-perfect-and-curiously-non-receding-hair. The list would be biblical.

In essence, what the Mainstream media is attempting is to package a convenient description for a phenomenon they can’t explain or understand. If there is long-term unemployment, it must be because the unemployed are undesirable hirables as they stand, or "unhirable "unemployables".

But one blogger put it perfectly:

"Another thing the economists focus on is the idea of a skill mismatch. Structural unemployment, they say, occurs because workers don’t have the particular skills demanded by employers. While there’s little doubt that there’s some of this going on, again, I think this issue is given way too much emphasis. The idea that if we could simply re-train everyone, the problem would be solved is simply not credible. If you doubt that, ask any of the thousands of workers who have completed training programs, but still can’t find work."

That’s only part of the overall answer, but a very necessary part.Instead of asking thousands of people, why not just ask yourself why there are almost six unemployed applicants for every new job created? Surely you can come up with an answer that is better than "workers don’t have the particular skills demanded by employers." After all, if that were the case, we’d expect to see the proportion of applicants to openings to be much lower.

Now some stats and sources, so you can see and understand what the real structural problem has been and is.

"For example, furniture manufacturing has been transformed by offshoring in recent years. Imports have surged from $17.2 billion in 2000 to $30.3 billion in 2006, with virtually all of that increase coming from low-cost China. And the industry has lost 21% of its jobs during the same period.

Paul B. Toms Jr., CEO of publicly traded Hooker Furniture Corp., (HOFT ) recently closed his company’s last remaining domestic wood-furniture manufacturing plant, in Martinsville, Va. It was the culmination of a wrenching process that started in 2000, when Hooker still made the vast majority of its products in the U.S. Toms didn’t want to go overseas, he says, but he couldn’t pass up the 20% to 25% savings to be gleaned from manufacturing there.

The lure of offshoring works the same way for large companies. Byrne of Accenture is working with a "major transportation equipment company" that’s planning to offshore more than half of its parts procurement over the next few years. Most of it will go to China. "We’re talking about 30% to 40% cost reductions," says Byrne.

Yet no matter how hard you look, you can’t find any trace of the cost savings from offshoring in the import price statistics. The furniture industry’s experience is particularly telling. Despite the surge of low-priced chairs, tables, and similar products from China, the BLS is reporting that the import price of furniture has actually risen 6.7% since 2003." Newsweek, June, 2007

Twenty to thirty percent savings in costs, but the prices have gone up? That would explain the corporate profits. But that leads to another conclusion: Demand precludes cost. In other words, if demand for a product or sector is high, that demand will bear significant cost increases, within reason. That’s just one example of why high corporate taxes, historically, have not led to job losses. It’s also why even though costs were reduced when jobs were outsourced, corporations felt confident enough to raise prices within that sector. Demand, it turns out, is even more important than we thought.

You might like this little tidbit from six years ago:

"If one thing illustrates the kind of year the Bush administration has stumbled and bumbled its way through in 2004, it was the comments earlier this week by the president’s chief economic adviser, Greg Mankiw.

Mankiw wrote that the movement of U.S. jobs overseas due to cheaper labor costs – "outsourcing" he dubbed it in a remarkable display of political tone deafness – would prove "a plus for the economy in the long run," and was simply "a new way of doing international trade." "

My, my, my, how the chickens have come home to roost. Here’s a confirmed list of companies exporting American jobs overseas. And here’s something from The Economic Policy Institute:

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that between 1993 and 2000, our lopsided trade policies, reflected in the explosive increase in the U.S. trade deficit, cost Americans a net 3 million jobs and job opportunities. The growth in the NAFTA trade deficit alone is associated with nearly 900,000 lost jobs and job opportunities through 2002.

That’s eight years ago. If that number doubled over the next eight years, it explains the 6.55 Million Long-Term Unemployed in America. And that’s just NAFTA. We haven’t even begun to count the effects of exporting jobs to China and India. These fellows try:

  • Forrester Research Inc. predicts U.S. employers will move 3.4 million white-collar jobs and $136 billion in wages overseas by 2015. The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas estimates the number of service-sector jobs moving overseas each year will hit 588,000 by 2005. A University of California at Berkeley report finds 14 million jobs are at risk of being sent offshore, and predicts job losses will exceed the Forrester study’s projections.
  • Gartner Inc., a high-tech forecasting firm, estimates 10 percent of computer services and software jobs will be moved overseas by the end of this year, while a study by Meta group projects 40 percent of corporate tech operations will move offshore by 2008.
  • A survey by Deloitte Research found the world’s 100 largest financial services firms expect to shift $356 billion worth of operations and about two million jobs to low-wage countries over the next five years. Another Deloitte survey of 42 global telecom operators projects 275,000 jobs in the sector will be sent off-shore by 2008.
  • (2002 AFL-CIO)

That last section was all taken from The AFL-CIO’s website in 2002. Where are we today? Right where they predicted, and headed right where they said we would go. You can’t move 40% of one sector’s jobs and 10% of another’s and millions more from a third and not expect long-term unemployment. That there is even a mystery over this is as frustrating as it is mind-boggling.

But don’t count on hearing the why and how from Anderson Cooper, Bill O’Reilly, or Chris Matthews. They either don’t understand it, or don’t want to. I’m guessing it’s the first one. Our Mainstream Media won’t talk about this and you sure as hell can’t count on your elected official to comment on it, except to say what politicians have always said: "We ought to do something about that." Yup. We ought to. But to even suggest "protectionist" policies to anyone in Washington or on the Conservative side is akin to being a bomb-carrying leprechaun in Buckingham Palace.

They’ll tell you that tariffs and taxes are protectionist and evil!

Since when has protecting American jobs been evil? Will someone please answer that question for me?

The unemployables aren’t unemployable. They’re just the victims of a vicious policy of exporting American jobs and wealth to foreigners. ?

Late Night: Pouting Baby Doesn’t Understand Why Markie H. Protects Mr. O

Pouting Baby doesn't understand Markie H. (photo courtesy of Jim White)

Pouting Baby is talking to us again.  –JW.

I was watching the television earlier today.  I can’t understand why Markie H. is protecting Mr. O even when Mr. O does bad things.    Mr. Cenk talked slowly for Markie H., but Markie H. still thinks the bad things that Mr. O is doing are nice things.

Why does Markie H. think it is good for medicine companies to get extra rich even when more people die if they can’t buy their medicine?  Why does Markie H. think it’s important to say people are crazy if they want to help poor people not get sick?

Markie H. thinks that everybody should be happy about everything Mr. O does. Mr. Cenk thinks that when Mr. O is doing the same things that Georgie Bush did, we should be mad. I think Mr. Cenk is smart. Maybe if he talks to Markie H. just a little bit slower Markie will understand.

Why is Mr. O getting more and more like Georgie Bush?  I didn’t like Georgie Bush.  Mr. O said he would change what Georgie was doing.

Mr. O, I really need change!  This stinks a lot! (more…)

DCCC’s Chair Van Hollen Won’t Commit to Protecting Social Security from Cuts/Higher Retirement Age

MSNBC host Cenk Uygur gave Chris Van Hollen, the Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), multiple opportunities to state clearly that Democrats would oppose any cuts in Social Security, including in the form of delaying the retirement age. Van Hollen dodged and weaved, then cynically failed every test.

Cenk correctly asked whether van Hollen would commit to oppose such cuts, even if the President’s so called deficit reduction ("let them eat cat food") commission recommended them. Van Hollen refused to commit, implying instead that if cutting Social Security were part of a larger package of reducing deficits, he and other Democrats might support the commission’s recommendations.

Thanks for the warning, Chris. So if it wasn’t clear before, we can now place the Chairman of the DCCC, the body that allocates your campaign contributions to House Democrats, in the same column as John Boehner and Alan Simpson when it comes to [not] protecting Social Security. That’s the list of clowns who wrongly insist we have a deficit/debt crisis (we don’t), that Social Security’s finances are a contributing factor to that crisis (they aren’t), and that cutting Social Security benefits can and should be part of the debt crisis solution (wrong again). Wrong on all counts, Chris, and thanks for making the DCCC’s principles clear.

I can’t think of a single reason why any caring American should contribute a dime to the DCCC. But if you think dissemblers like Van Hollen and the Blue Dogs to whose campaigns he distributes your dollars are good for America, let alone America’s seniors, what can I say?

As Dean Baker, the EPI, Paul Krugman and others have noted, extending the retirement age to 70 would constitute an effective 19 to 20 percent cut in benefits to future seniors. But far too many Democrats are trying to obscure that point by not calling an age eligibility extension a "cut" in benefits, or, like Van Hollen here, they deflect attention to Republican efforts to "privatize" Social Security. [Update: Logically, if you reduce a future retiree’s benefits by 20 percent, that means to stay even then, they’d have to start socking away part of their incomes into private savings account now — stocks, 401k, 457 accounts etc. Isn’t that the equivalent of "privatizing" social security?]

From Krugman’s column today, Attacking Social Security:

But the program is under attack, with some Democrats as well as nearly all Republicans joining the assault. Rumor has it that President Obama’s deficit commission may call for deep benefit cuts, in particular a sharp rise in the retirement age.

Social Security’s attackers claim that they’re concerned about the program’s financial future. But their math doesn’t add up, and their hostility isn’t really about dollars and cents. Instead, it’s about ideology and posturing. And underneath it all is ignorance of or indifference to the realities of life for many Americans.

About that math: Legally, Social Security has its own, dedicated funding, via the payroll tax (“FICA” on your pay statement). But it’s also part of the broader federal budget. This dual accounting means that there are two ways Social Security could face financial problems. First, that dedicated funding could prove inadequate, forcing the program either to cut benefits or to turn to Congress for aid. Second, Social Security costs could prove unsupportable for the federal budget as a whole.

But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger. Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 — and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come.
. . .
It would be easy to dismiss this bait-and-switch as obvious nonsense, except for one thing: many influential people — including Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the president’s deficit commission — are peddling this nonsense.

And having invented a crisis, what do Social Security’s attackers want to do? They don’t propose cutting benefits to current retirees; invariably the plan is, instead, to cut benefits many years in the future. So think about it this way: In order to avoid the possibility of future benefit cuts, we must cut future benefits. O.K.
. . .
The currently fashionable idea of raising the retirement age even more than it will rise under existing law — it has already gone from 65 to 66, it’s scheduled to rise to 67, but now some are proposing that it go to 70 — is usually justified with assertions that life expectancy has risen, so people can easily work later into life. But that’s only true for affluent, white-collar workers — the people who need Social Security least.

Pakistan Flood Assistance

Pakistan is having a really rough time. Promenient NGOs have upped their concern to urgent need, citing nearly 1500 deaths and 2000 injuries, with doubtless more to come. The UN is trying desperately to intervene, trying to corral member nations into providing much-needed monies and aid to assist the thousands of people displaced by the seemingly endless flooding. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is continuing to appeal for aid on behalf of Pakistan as well.

“This has been a heart-wrenching day, and I will never forget the destruction and suffering that I have witnessed,” Ban told reporters Sunday after visiting some of the flood-hit areas.

The number of people affected by the disaster has reached nearly 20 million, Ban said.

“I have witnessed various disasters across the world, but nothing like this, as the scale of this disaster is so large that one out of every 10 Pakistanis has been affected,” he said.

“I am here also to urge the world community to speed up assistance to Pakistan.”

Ban said only 25 percent of the estimated $459 million in aid needed for initial relief efforts has arrived so far.

Ban announced an additional $10 million for the relief efforts, to come from the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund, bringing the total U.N. assistance to $27 million.

And to top it all off, over the weekend the first case of cholera was confirmed in Pakistan as well. Should the disease spread, it could further devastate an already suffering nation.

The Washington Post offers a resource on how to help. By all means do so.

Petraeus vs. Obama? Nope, Just Part of the Plan

A very interesting interview on Russia Today with contributor Wayne Madsen about General David Petraeus supposedly going against President Obama in the troop withdrawal deadline.

[Petraeus] wouldn’t be making these [comments] without some sort of a wink and a nod, a nudge nudge from the White House.

Like the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ outburst, looks like this is another example of Obama channeling his views through his officials, that way the base’s anger isn’t directed at Obama, but at the officials who supposedly go "rogue".