Shooting The Salesman
Re: Bush's Snake Oil Plan by Roger Hickey
Ironically, Bush's proposal to means-test Social Security is the one element of his proposal that is on the right track. Social Security IS an income security insurance program, and not a pension. Its success is measured by its ability to guarantee that all that have earned their livelihood through work during their lives can survive their old age.
The tax itself is highly regressive. There is no "standard deduction." Every dollar of earned income is taxed at 12.6 percent, up to $90,000. Those that earn more than $90,000, pay a functionally lower percentage of their income in tax. No one that receives their income from capital gains, dividends, interest, etc. is comparably taxed. Only those that work are taxed (like the remainder of the tax system is becoming structured).
The best course of action on Social Security would be to reduce the tax itself and to means-test Social Security proceeds through a highly progressive repayment structure, administered through the IRS. It needn't be called or considered a tax.
An example would be to require reimbursement (net of any witholdings on Social Security proceeds) to the federal government at double the individual's marginal tax rate. So, a person that receives $1500/month in Social Security benefits, but is in the 30 percent tax bracket otherwise, would reimburse 60 percent of the Social Security proceeds. Someone that has less than $8,000 income and is covered by the standard deduction (0 percent marginal tax rate) would reimburse nothing.
The goal of income insurance, program solvency and possibility for reduction of a regressive tax on only working people, with only moderate administration required, would be achieved. That is a progressive perspective. The whining about "middle-income people losing their benefits" ("middle-income" functionally defined as those that earn between $100,000 - $175,000/year) is petty.
Richard Witty, CPA
Re: Butt Out, Jeb in Uncommon Sense
About the 13-year-old pregnant child in foster care: I haven't read about any outrage from Governor Jeb about identifying the father, and the consequences of his impregnating a kid. Come on, Jeb, get after that bozo and let him pay for his sexual bullying.
Among all the other sad facts of this case is that, while Jeb's DCF fears that this 13-year-old "might" suffer detrimental effects from having the abortion she has chosen, they are apparently ignoring the definite detrimental effects she will suffer by bearing a child at 13. First, and foremost, of course, is being forced to carry a pregnancy to term against her will.
I am finished with listening to anti-abortionists fashion themselves as "pro-life". They are no more pro-life than I. What they are is pro-slavery. They actually think they should be entitled to control other people's bodies—something they would never tolerate for themselves.
Secondly, there are well-documented negative effects on a girl's body when she has a baby before she has completely gone through puberty. These include the effect that pregnancy hormones have on the development of a young girl's bones. Girls who deliver babies before they are full-grown themselves suffer from arrested development. Their bones stop growing before they normally would.
Jeb and his DCF will be causing this child permanent physical damage—as opposed to the ephemeral possible damage they are sanctimoniously howling about.
No Nukes In Sight
Re: Iraq: When Was The Die Cast? by John Prados
An excellent piece. However, it might have been worth mentioning that Iraq posed no threat to the United States even if it had possessed nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S or our military assets abroad. Saddam was aware that launching such an attack would have been suicidal. If an ICBM was fired at the United States, the location of the launch site could be pinpointed almost instantaneously and devastating retaliation would be assured. This explains why even a workable national missile defense system would at best address a remote or non-existent threat. For similar reasons, Saddam eschewed use of nerve gas, anthrax or other CBI agents during the Gulf War.
There is no question that the Bush administration aware of this. Biennial National Intelligence Estimates (NIE's) repeatedly concluded that an ICBM attack was the most remote threat we faced. At the same time, the NIE's stated that a more likely threat would be a terrorist attack using ships, trucks or suitcases containing weapons of mass destruction.
Martin D. Gensler
Foreign Policy & Defense Aide to Sen. Paul Wellstone (1992-2002) and retired CIA analyst.
Finding The Anti-Warriors
Re: Where Have All The Anti-Warriors Gone? by Todd Gitlin
One of your articles is about a non-anti-war movement, asking why there isn't one as there was during the Vietnam conflict. One reason is patently obvious: To date, there has been no draft. You can bet your boots that if a draft were to be resumed, there would be as virulent an anti-war movement today as there was in the '60s.
In his article "Where Have All The Anti-warriors Gone?" Todd Gitlin compares today's anti-war movement with the Vietnam era anti-war movement and finds today's movement wanting. He offers several reasons for this: 1) "the crushing results of November," 2) "the sense of urgency is weak," 3) "the base is full of ambivalence." I would like to discuss each of these in turn.
1) "The crushing results of November." The election results have been subject to many analyses. My own feeling is that in terms of Iraq, the miniscule difference there was between Bush and Kerry lay in the latter's attempt to outdo Bush in his warlike rhetoric. Perhaps this was his way of warding off the "softness" label the right-wing tried to cast on his shoulders. But in any case, he was not an anti-war candidate. Those anti-war activists who supported the Kerry candidacy did so only because he was not Bush. We may have been lucky Kerry didn't win: both before and after the election he has been at least as hawkish as Bush. Finally on this point, whatever crushing there was took place long before November, when the anti-war voices of Kucinich, Dean, Braun and Sharpton were crushed by the party stalwarts.
2) "The sense of urgency is weak." I don't know to whom Mr. Gitlin has been speaking. My contacts are extremely frustrated and angry because of the lack of responsiveness of both Republicans and Democrats on the issues related to the war. The latest absolutely unanimous bipartisan endorsement of spending billions upon billions of dollars to create permanent bases in Iraq makes their activist blood boil. The administration, of course, goes much further than the Democrats: it acts as if we didn't exist. Invisibility makes for demoralization. It is not lack of urgency in the anti-war movement; it's the bipartisan lack of responsiveness of the politicos.
3) "The base is full of ambivalence." This, I think, is true. There has been much debate within the anti-war movement about whether "for the sake of the Iraqi people" "we" should stay there. Personally, I believe that as people come to realize that it is the U.S. presence in Iraq which is the major destabilizing factor, the anti-war movement will lose its ambivalence on this question, just as the country as a whole is shedding its ambivalence about Bush's lies to justify going to war. As Mr. Gitlin himself says, "even those who couldn't bring themselves to favor unequivocal withdrawal from Vietnam in 1965 were drawn to that position by 1969 or 1970." In four or five years from now I daresay most Americans will want the U..S troops out of Iraq (and/or Syria and/or Iran) if they are still there then.
Speaking of Vietnam, Mr. Gitlin is at pains to emphasize that "history doesn't repeat" —that Iraq is not Vietnam all over again. This is, of course, true. But Mr. Gitlin doesn't carry his argument far enough. In the 1960s it took many years before large numbers in our country were mobilized to attack the war. The war in Iraq has only been going on for a couple of years. Since the Republicans and the Democrats seem united in allowing the Administration to keep wrong-headedly going in Iraq for a long time to come, it is quite possible that the size of the anti-war movement will reach Vietnam-era proportions by the end of the decade.
Finally, I want to conclude by reiterating that it is the lack of responsiveness of the powers that be which is inhibiting the growth of the movement. During the 1960s, Senators Morse and Gruening were steadfast in their opposition to the Vietnam adventure. Eventually they were able to bring others, such as Sen. Fulbright, into their camp. Nowadays there is no one, except, perhaps, for Senator Byrd, who speaks for us in the Senate. This has led many people with whom I have spoken while handing out leaflets to say, "What's the use? They just do what they want no matter how many of us object." This inability of our elected representatives to represent the views of their constituents is, I believe, a major factor in preventing the anti-war movement from growing.
In A Fix
Re: Proof Bush Fixed The Facts by Ray McGovern
Regarding proof that Bush took the country to war on manufactured evidence, this latest revelation will mean absolutely nothing. If anything has become apparent in the last 4-plus years of this presidency, it is that the press, the Republican-controlled congress, and even many Democrats care little for the truth, integrity or accountability. This latest revelation will make many on the left's blood boil yet again, but nothing will come of it. The right-wing media machine will bury it, discount it and reverse the charges as they usually do. Our democracy is on life support and the right has got a pillow over its face. The ugliness continues with no end in sight.
Regarding "Proof Bush Fixed The Facts" by Ray McGovern, it was obvious by the late winter of 2003 that Bush was bent on an invasion of Iraq. Cheney started setting the stage the previous summer. As the P.R campaign progressed that fall in the face of very credible objections, what I found shocking was the lack of opposition within the government, particularly the Congress. When an administration claims facts that no other independent source has asserted, hinted at, alleged, rumored or suggested, there is good reason to be skeptical. Yet skepticism was limited to the usual lefties. It was frightening to see so many people line up unquestioningly behind the administration considering the obvious thinness of its justifications.
The greatest fault lies with the Congress. I thought that maybe the administration might be nuts, but the Congress, being independently elected and beholden to their constituents and not the White House, would know irrationality when they saw it and step in and oppose the madness. Instead it behaved in the most craven, shameful manner imaginable. The cynicism of their reasoning was painfully transparent: "If I oppose the war and it turns out I am wrong, I will look bad; but if I support it and it goes bad, I can blame Bush for misleading me and I will not look bad." It was one of the lowest points the legislative branch has ever sunk to.
When protests from other governments, ex-U.S. government officials, the United Nations, the American people, and even, reportedly, his own secretary of state failed to sway Bush, anyone could see that he simply wanted to go to war and nothing was going to change his mind.
This turned into a longer letter than I had intended. Thanks to Ray McGovern and the anonymous leaker, even though to my eyes the facts were already self-evident. I hope this revelation will change some minds, but I think it is already considered ancient, irrelevant history.
So why am I not seeing this headlined on every newspaper and news channel (with the possible exception of FOX, of course—I don't expect miracles)?
How long are the supporters of this administration going to be able to get away with their deceptions before the voters are finally convinced they're being manipulated into backing strategies based on out-and-out lies that in the long and short term are dangerous to our country?