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Monday: Promises, Promises or Why Does Robert Samuelson Hate America?

From Global-Greenhouse-warming.com: the ecology of snow.

There is snow in my driveway.  I thought this stuff was supposed to turn to rain.  Already, the rhythmic scraping snow shovel on asphalt is coming from my neighbors’ driveways.  I have to get out there and shovel before I’m the only one with snow in my driveway and the cul de sac shuns me for non-compliance.

Let’s get on with the news.

First up, Robert Samuelson tries to justify the stingy, selfish, hard-hearted, cheatin’ ways of the Villager class when it comes to Social Security in On Medicare and Social Security, be unfair to the boomers.  See, it’s not the wealthy’s fault.  It’s YOURS for being so demanding of your money.  But Samuelson is trying to make a case for cutting boomer benefits because to not do so would be unfair to future generations.  So, let’s be pre-emptively unfair to boomers:

If we don’t, we will be condemned to some combination of inferior policies. We can raise taxes sharply over the next 15 or 20 years, roughly 50 percent from recent levels, to cover expanding old-age subsidies and existing government programs. Or we can accept permanently huge budget deficits. Even if that doesn’t trigger a financial crisis, it would probably stunt economic growth and living standards. So would dramatically higher taxes. There’s a final choice: deep cuts in other programs, from defense to roads to higher education.

Yet, neither political party seems interested in reducing benefits for baby boomers. Doing so, it’s argued, would be “unfair” to people who had planned retirements based on existing programs. Well, yes, it would be unfair. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a worse time for cuts. Unemployment is horrendous; eroding home values and retirement accounts have depleted the elderly’s wealth. Only 19 percent of present retirees are “very confident” of having enough money to live “comfortably,” down from 41 percent in 2007, reports the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

But not making cuts would also be unfair to younger generations and the nation’s future. We have a fairness dilemma: Having avoided these problems for decades, we must now be unfair to someone. To admit this is to demolish the moral case for leaving baby boomers alone. Baby boomers – I’m on the leading edge – and their promised benefits are the problem. If they’re off-limits, the problem is being evaded. Together, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid represent two-fifths of federal spending, double defense’s share.

{{rolling eyes}}

There’s more garbage where that came from.  Samuelson does acknowledge that outside his mighty fortress of wealth and privilege, there are little people who are being crushed by this Recession and can’t put money in their tax deferred 401Ks.  But I don’t think he is getting the full picture like I am where I am literally *surrounded* by the walking dead former employed high salaried baby boomers who no longer have access to a tax shelter.

Let me count the ways that Robert and his ilk are wrong and should be strenuously resisted:

1.) In the 1980’s, the tail end of the baby boom generation, that would be people like *me*, were assured by the Reagan Administration that if we accepted higher payroll taxes on our minute, nascent post college salaries, we would be paying for our future social security benefits that required a surplus fund “because we are too menny”.  Is this not true, Robert?  We’ve already made our sacrifice.   We were promised that if we deferred our compensation, it would be there when it was time to retire.  If it is not there and we are asked to take a cut in future benefits, that would be equivalent to imposing a significant extra tax over the past 30 years on those of us in the younger cohort of the babyboom generation because people like Robert and David Broder and Sally Quinn liked their Bush era tax cuts.  Robert has a lot of nerve lecturing us about unfairness.

2.) The problem is not social security, or at least, it wasn’t until the latest boneheaded tax deal.  The problem is everything else that needs to be paid for.  It’s funny how social security recipients are always being asked to foot the bill though.  How about we end the costly wars before we ask future old people to retire in poverty?  Or why don’t we end the Bush deficit increase plan early?  I know!  Robert and his friends can volunteer to pay the taxes they’ve gotten away with not paying in the past 10 years!  That would be the unselfish thing to do.  No?  Then, shut the fuck up, Robert.

3.) In all the turmoil over stimulating the economy, I find it odd that the one thing I did not hear was giving anyone who is forced to tap into their 401ks a tax break.  There are a lot of people who have been out of work for so long that they have to use their 401Ks to pay for calories and shelter.  But they are taking a huge hit in taxes in order to do so.  How come a tax holiday on the 401K was never offered to the long term unemployed?  Wouldn’t that have had a more stimulative effect on the economy than the measly 2% break on social security, which is too small to do anything with and too large to make up for with money from the general fund?  But curiously, the 401K tax penalty was never put on the table.  Does it have anything to do with the idea that the stock market would take a hit if the long term unemployed siphoned money from the casino?  Whoa!  We can’t have that.  That would be unfair to the bonus class, not to mention the giant 401K Ponzi scheme that Robert’s business buddies forced those younger boomers into in lieu of pensions so that Robert could retire on his investments.

4.) When you issue a promissory note to people you borrowed money from, that means you are promising to pay it back at some future date.  If the rich of this country took money from future social security beneficiaries, in order to pay for the tax breaks they got so they wouldn’t have to pay for infrastructure and dirty stuff like that, they need to realize that there is a time that they will have to pay it back.  And when they do, they will have to pay for it with taxes on the wealth that they accumulated in the past 30 years while they imposed an additional tax on the 2o somethings they burdened with an additional payroll tax.  You know, like the way you stuck us younger generation boomers with this burden and now you want to stick us again so we don’t pass it on to our children?  Do we look like we fell off the turnip truck, Robert?   We’re not stupid.  You gave us IOUs, now we want our money back.

Don’t try to sell us on the idea that we can retire at a later age.  I won’t be able to use a microscope and fish crystals out of a 1 uL drop with a tiny nylon loop when I’m 70.  I’m sorry, we’re not all janitors.  Some of us will still need fine hand-eye coordination if we’re lucky enough to still have the highly technical jobs we already have.

And don’t try to make it sound like those of us with higher salaries can afford to take this hit.  As I’ve mentioned before, a high salary in Kansas means nothing in NJ.  On 100K around here, you’re barely middle class and there is not a lot of disposable income to sock away for a rainy day.  But more than that, I’ve seen people with salaries much higher than mine who a few years ago thought social security was beneath them who have now been brought low by this Recession and for whom social security is their life saver.  For them, social security is serving the purpose for which it was originally intended.  If people of Robert’s class are having an “Oh, shit! Now we have to pay back the surplus fund with higher taxes” moment, too fucking bad.  Pay up, Robert.

What we do with the money we get from social security is nobody’s damn business.  I won’t have someone asking me to account for buying a nice steak someday.  I won’t have a bench of tut-tutters asking me what I intend to do with the money.  Social security is not a welfare program.  It’s my retirement money, I paid for it and damn it, I want it back without strings attached.  I don’t ask Robert how many summer houses he owns at the shore using money he’s been stealing from the surplus fund over the last 30 years.  If he and his class pay it back by taking a modest hit in taxes, I won’t press him on the matter.  Just return the money and no questions will be asked.

Here’s the thing, Robert.  A promise is a promise.  This country made a promise to the future elderly that they would not retire in poverty.  And they took our money promising to pay for those future benefits.  And the rest of us relied on that promise so that we could plan our lives, family size, mortgages, savings accordingly.   And now that the country has fallen on hard times, through no fault of the hard working people who believed in those promises, the wealthy and well connected want to reneg on those promises in a manner that is no different than some corrupt third world country run by some petty dictator and his greedy retainers.  That’s where you’re taking us, Robert.  Why do you hate America?

We’re not just going to hang ourselves to relieve you of the burden of caring for us, Robert.  We  have every right to expect to get our money back.  So, take the austerity plan that you and your friends have cooked up for us and stick it where the sun don’t shine.  Pay up or shut up.

In other news:

Cancer is complicated.  Multiple genes and proteins are involved and then there are feedback mechanisms and the intricate machinery of a cell that, once unbalanced, is difficult to set straight.  To make it even more maddening, the cell adapts by developing resistance to chemotherapy drugs over time.  Now, researchers are asking the dying to help them figure out which mechanisms are causing drug resistance so that the next patient on therapy benefits.  In Enlisting the Dying for Clues to Save Others, the NYTimes illuminates the research process:

Lacking tumor samples from patients in the Roche trial, Dr. Lo instead sought to replicate the cancer’s resistance to the drug by feeding a steady diet of the drug to melanoma cells taken from three previous patients who had never received it. When the few cancer cells that survived the onslaught began to grow in their petri dishes, he used those, now resistant to the drug, to begin his search.

It could have been straightforward. Many researchers believed the answer would be that the gene whose mutation initially made the protein that drove the cancer’s uncontrolled growth had mutated again, as had happened in other cancers. In a few cases, a new drug tailored to the new mutations had lengthened remissions.

But Dr. Lo found no evidence of this. Nor did he find the smoking gun in several other genes linked to the growth of other cancers.

Instead, he began the painstaking process of measuring the activity of hundreds of proteins that might have driven the cancer’s uncontrolled growth. The experiments required modifying the levels of each protein in the drug-resistant cells, dosing them with the drug and checking every few hours to see how fast they were growing. With only two junior scientists and a technician in his laboratory, Dr. Lo performed much of the work himself.

Even so, he knew, nothing he found in the cells whose resistance he had artificially bred in the lab would matter unless he also found it in the patients who had relapsed.

It’s a painstaking process of trial and error and careful observation.

Last but not least, the vaginal steam bath:

Pungent steam rises from a boiling pot of a mugwort tea blended with wormwood and a variety of other herbs. Above it sits a nude woman on an open-seated stool, partaking in a centuries-old Korean remedy that is gaining a toehold in the West.

Vaginal steam baths, called chai-yok, are said to reduce stress, fight infections, clear hemorrhoids, regulate menstrual cycles and aid infertility, among many other health benefits. In Korea, many women steam regularly after their monthly periods.

There is folk wisdom — and even some logic — to support the idea that the carefully targeted steam may provide some physiological benefits for women. But there are no studies to document its effectiveness, and few American doctors have even heard of it.

“It sounds like voodoo medicine that sometimes works,” said Dr. Vicken Sahakian, medical director of Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles.

Niki Han Schwarz believes it worked for her. After five steams, she found she had fewer body aches and more energy. She also became pregnant eight months ago at the age of 45 after attempting to conceive for three years.

So, there you go!  Sit over a vaginal steam bath, get pregnant!  And my health teachers used to say such things weren’t possible.

Oh, those crazy Koreans.

What are you finding around the web?

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75 Responses

  1. I think I’ll pass on the chai-yok

    I might accidentally boil my won ton

  2. Millions of workers will see their take-home pay rise during 2011 because the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 provides a two percentage point payroll tax cut for employees, reducing their Social Security tax withholding rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent of wages paid.

    This reduced Social Security withholding will have no effect on the employee’s future Social Security benefits.

    horse sh*t!

    http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=232590,00.html?portlet=7

  3. Obama used to make me very nervous when he was on the campaign trail… he always had that snide thing going on about boomers…

    and while he was only a little bit late for the generation by about a second and a half, it always creeped me out.

    I’m so worried about my retirement now, it makes my face go numb… I don’t have that many more years that I will be able to work.

    • Yeah, well I’m on the cusp between the boomers and the gen Xers. You know, Obama’s cohort? My generation of boomers didn’t get the generous pension plans. No, we got stuck with cash balance plans and 401ks. Without social security, we’re screwed.
      God, I HATE people like Samuelson and his selfish, shamless ilk. Hangin’s too good for them. They need to be put on a plane and flown to Gabon or some other miserable place on earth.

      • Yes. You guys are really in the crushed position.

        30-some odd years ago when I started working, company pensions were the only thing offered. We had never heard of “401k” and investing in the stock market was for people with Big Money.

        But we got on the investing train, but later… (and now that is pretty much gone).

        California is so broke and I’m a public employee with a public retirement… and I’m pretty sure the State is going to come after those funds…

        So when SS gets cut and my pension gets cut and my investments are gone… and my health insurance costs go thru the roof… I’m can’t even guess what I’m going to do…

        Very Scary.

        • Yes, it is very, very scary Old Coastie. And no time to make any of it up. Try being in your 60’s (or 70’s) and get through this. It leaves one filled with insecurity.

        • It makes you wonder if there will be a rash of crimes by older citizens just to receive the plush life of a prisoner?

          Heat, food, a bed, and cable tv might look like luxuries even if packaged with an orange jumpsuit.

          Saw a doc last night about a man who lost everything, then lost his wife, and eventually robbed banks. A couple of friends interviewed said sadly he was probably better off as a result.

          Recently I had a conversation with a friend who has a Calpers pension and she seems to have drank the kool-aid on this one. It is her own retirement and suddenly everyone else is the problem. I was too shocked in her change of heart to ask about her own pension. Was she complaining because her pension was on the line and scared like the rest of us, or did she truly go from one of the nicest women I know to Glen Beckistan?

          • Circumstances in Japan comes to mind.

            It would have made for great comedy, had it been just fiction and not heartbreaking reality.

          • Wow that is sad. I thought their society had a better handle on respecting the elderly than we did. You would think there would be more places for them to go. Even if family wasn’t available.

            Here is a nice little review about the above doc, “This is Not a Robbery” about J.L. Roundtree.

            http://www.suite101.com/content/this-is-not-a-robbery-a77969

          • Agree Pips. It’s likely to get ugly real soon.

          • Thaks for the link, Karma. It sounds like exactly the kind of documentary, I relish watching. And the description of “Red” makes you wish you had met him, doesn’t it:

            “[A]n immensely likable, cantankerous old geezer possessing great humor who had it all and lost it all before waking up one day and deciding that he just really hated banks.”

          • You’re welcome Pip. It was on the Sundance Channel this morning and had an unusual way of presenting the story with some graphic art and a timeline wall of photos they went back and forth along to tell the life story.

            I agree. He was definitely a character that would have fun to get to know. I laughed when “Red” said how much he hated banks, he even leaned in for emphasis.

            And really no one said a bad word about the guy from where I channel surfed into the doc. He seemed universally loved by his friends.

  4. Righteous and necessary rant on the Samuelson piece RD. Here’s an interesting new piece on disease genetics to go with that Times article about cancer research.

    • On disease genetics, I’m right there in the heart of it. Biology is exploding. It is very exciting.

      • Agree. You’ve made the right move. When did you get so clever. :)

        • Cleverness had nothing to do with it. It was either jump or get laid off.
          I chose to jump.
          Still could get laid off.

          • I’ve been hearing the same from both locals and school chums, the chem types jumped to bio. Around here it’s all biotech.

            Surf where the waves are biggest if you can.

          • It helps to be open to learning new things. Not everyone wants to do that though.
            But you know, it’s only a matter of time before the bios are outsourced too. I give it a couple of years, max.

          • Yep. The sand is running out of the hour glass. These, are the days of our lives. Sorry, had a TV watching as a kid while sick flashback.

  5. Interesting article on Obama’s insular White House

    He sounds very rigid and programmed.

    • The single biggest reason why it was a gigantic mistake to elect Obama- from the article:

      This is a president who doesn’t like surprises.

      No duh.
      I think that was obvious when he was running in the primary. He is risk averse in personality. And there are a couple reasons why a person is risk averse.
      1.) They are naturally anxious. I know people like this. They are dear to my heart. But their inability to make big decisions because of their anxiety drives me up a wall.
      2.) They don’t know what they’re doing. Example: you’re new to the job, people have shown you how to do things and run through some steps with you. Then they leave you alone and tell you to start a new project and finish it on your own. That’s where Obama is. He is the least experienced president we’ve had in my lifetime. Even George Bush had the benefit of having previous white house experience through his father. Obama has none of that.
      Obama is the quintessential corporate climber who used his charisma to play the masculine game of getting to the next level without really doing the work. Now, he’s a CEO sitting on top of this giant company that he knows nothing about because he’s never been one of the essential elements to getting anything in government done. He has no idea how to work the machinery.
      No wonder he doesn’t like surprises.
      I blame the Obots. They forced him on us.

    • What a remarkably weak and inexperienced leadership team. All they know is campaigning. No wonder they’re so out of touch.

  6. Dip Schitt does’t have to accept medicare, he can send it back to them, and Robert can refuse to be a part of the program.

  7. IT is very SNEAKY of Samuelson to list Social Security along with other government programs as if it is just one more program that depends on government funding. Social Security bears NO resemblance to other government programs in that it is, by law, a SELF-FUNDING program and does NOT use federal budget funds and it does NOT add to the federal debt.

    People like Samuelson need to STOP lying to the American people about Social Security, and Samuelson needs to STOP clouding people’s minds about Social Security.

    Social Security has never added even one cent to the federal deficit or to the federal debt, and Social Security funds should NOT be used to make tax cuts for the rich possible.

    The rich have had enough tax cuts over the past three decades; it is time for the rich to start paying higher taxes AND to stop cheating on their taxes AND to stop off-shoring their businesses to avoid paying taxes.

    It is time for the rich to pay back to the Social Security fund the money they have been stealing form the Social Security fund ever since the Reagan years.

  8. Bizarre “Most admired list from Gallup: Obama beats W, Hillary #1 for 9 years

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/145394/Barack-Obama-Hillary-Clinton-2010-Admired.aspx

  9. This just really pisses me off. I mean really. And I’m really laid back and mild mannered. I’m not sure the moneybags people really want to continue down this road.

    • Doesn’t it make you want to crash one of their cocktail parties with our smelly working class bodies and say rude and impolite things like “Where’s the Iron City? Is the beer ball on the deck?” and “I really like Velveeta and chili dip”.

    • I don’t understand why you don’t want to be shafted again after 30 years of extra taxes.
      Where is your sense of shared sacrifice?

      Damn, Brooke had better score a scholarship before these assholes completely clean me out.

    • These weasels are too much. Steal the country blind and expected continued applause for it,

  10. There is a ridiculous amount of snow in my driveway and once again, the snow plow went counterclOckwise around the cul de sac and dumped the accumulation of the street at the foot of my driveway.
    This is incredibly unfair. It’s going to take me two more shoveling sessions before I can get out.
    I am not amused.

  11. Don’t try to sell us on the idea that we can retire at a later age. I won’t be able to use a microscope and fish crystals out of a 1 uL drop with a tiny nylon loop when I’m 70. I’m sorry, we’re not all janitors. Some of us will still need fine hand-eye coordination if we’re lucky enough to still have the highly technical jobs we already have.

    It’s always been my contention that it was people doing manual labor are those who should get an exception and be allowed to retire at 65 while the rest of us could retire later. But silly me, I actually know and respect people who have earned a living by the sweat of their brow and I know they work harder than I ever did.

    • I get what you’re saying there, Teresa, but I feel like I should point out that given the level of fine hand-eye coordination likely involved in fields like RD’s, she’s probably also got to be be aware of the effects of aging. Some jobs are easy to do into old age. Manual labor? Not likely. Highly cerebral jobs? Not necessarily, given the cognitive changes that come with age. And some of us are lucky enough to be disabled, and will likely have to retire at 45.

    • Close, Sandra. I do have a cerebral job but it also has this manual component that requires fine manual dexerity and good eyesight. I think my dexterity is pretty good and will be for some time. But by the time I’m 70, in Samuelson’s brilliant retirement scheme for the rest of us, it will be much harder for me to do it.
      And dagnabbit, I don’t want to work until I’m dead. Unlike Europeans, we don’t get enough vacation time in our working lives to really enjoy our families. I don’t think it’s too much to ask, teresainpa, to be able to stop working before I’m too stiff to move around. Even the thinker people need a fricking rest.

    • By the way, teresainpa, I appreciate the work that manual laborers do. I waited tables throughout my college years and I’ve painted oil tanks during summer vacations.
      But I think you seriously diss people who spend their time in labs for most of their working lives. It might not be as physically taxing as a construction worker but when we’re in the lab, we’re on our feet usually the whole day. We lift a lot of heavy things and it’s not exactly the safest work environment, what with hazardous chemicals, biohazards, liquid gases and radiation.
      Where in hell do scientists fit in the most deserving category anyway? We’re too brainy to be considered laborers and too manual to be considered business people.
      How about we don’t try to separate the worthy from what is perceived to be unworthy. That’s what Glenn Beck would try to do and make us fight with each other. How about we all hang together as working class people and get back what we worked for?
      Together.

  12. Obama calls Eagles coach to congratulate him on hiring dog torturer Vick.

    *Gag*

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Obama-calls-Eagles-owner-to-congraulate-him-for-?urn=nfl-300632

    • Very classy of him. What a wonderful example he sets for the kids. Winning really is all that matters. Jerk.

    • To be fair, isn’t it possible for people to become rehabilitated? I’d hate to think something like that would haunt me for the rest of my days. It’s kinda unfair.
      He’s done his time.

      • Of course it’s possible for “people” to be rehabilitated. But crimes that involve the deliberate inflication of suffering on others for power or profit fall into a different category than, say, car theft. Sexual predators are required to register and are subject to certain restrictions after they get out of prison, having done their time and being, presumably, “rehabilitated.” It seems to me that other abusers fall into the same psychological category and should be subject to the same limitations.

        • It sounds like you know better than I do.

          • John W. Smart has a post up that puts it more plainly still. It’s accompanied by a photo of one of Vick’s victims.

            WARNING: Picture is extremely graphic.

  13. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to step down?

    • I didn’t think she’d be around after her four years were up but this is short notice.
      I dunno. It could mean anything. I doubt she’s going to end up his VP though.
      Unless he’s planning to step down…

    • Well that is a weird article…

      Didn’t Richardson just come back from Korea? And suddenly they have some big scoop on Hillary’s intentions….’citing several sources’.

      ‘Abandon her role’…uh no that was Obama.

      • “Didn’t Richardson just come back from Korea?”

        Sure, after having singlehanded prevented war between the two Koreas. Or something. ;)

        • LOL…goes rogue on a private trip with cameras in tow.

          “That’s why Richardson brought Wolf Blitzer and a CNN camera crew along with him. Because the trip was private and unofficial, and Richardson and the United States government wanted it to stay that way.”

    • Both the WH and Hillary have laughed this off as ridiculous apparently. I’d say it’s not even close.

      I’m hearing that Hillary will finish out the full first term, at least. But I’m not sure I believe that either. I think when Gates is gone, she may start feeling the need to be free herself.

      • She’s really good at her job. I doubt that any one is going to force her out.
        But anything is possible these days. Who knows what’s going on, er, except for the fact that we’re stuck with the Lightbringer for 2 more, long, endless years.

        • I think the plan from the powers that be (of both parties) is to have Obama there for the full 8 years. He’s a win-win for them. Well, a win-win for the owners of both parties. Of course sometimes the people don’t go along with those plans (e.g., ’92).

          My take is that Hillary would like to stay for the whole first term. But it’s a really stressful and fast paced job. It’s pretty hard to last that long. At least if you’re, you know, actually doing the job. And if Obama continues to be a Reagan wantabe, the frustration might be a bit too much though. Who knows.

          And of course there are other factors, namely internal politics. It must rub people the wrong way that Hillary is so popular. So it’s possible that she could get the cold shoulder, have her power usurped, etc. Reassigned to Siberia so to speak. I think if she even got the beginnings of that kind of crap she’d just walk though.

          • Meaning no disrespect to Big Dawg, and YMMV, but I’d say the two main reasons the fat cats didn’t get what they wanted in 1992 were (1) an uncooperative economy and (2) rogue fat cat Ross Perot. Perot gave citizens who were sick of the GOP but weren’t ready to vote Dem yet a place to go.

  14. Righteous, RD! Have you thought of leaving a comment at the WP pointing out the fact Mr. S ignores? A lot of people do not know SS does not add to the deficit and that us BB’s paid extra since the 80’s.

    (Hard to type with cat on my hands.)

    djmm

    • Never mind — 550 comments to Mr. Samuelson’s article and most of the writers are clueless. They could all benefit from your clear explanations, but it would be lost in the noise.

      djmm

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