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August 01, 2010

Comments

Privatizing even a part of Social Security is just as bad an idea now as when George W. Bush pushed for it.

I was comparing the notion of privatizing some of SS with the notion of devolving it to the 50 states. I wasn't advocating privatization, simply comparing two ideas and saying one makes more sense than the other.

Nate: If we put it in "safe" investments, like market index stocks, or Treasuries, or something like that, which is basically linked to the performance of the entire economy, how is that fundamentally different than what we have now, where Social Security is paid out of the larger economy anyway?

Amen, brother. I have made this point myself many times. Social Security is as diversified as a mutual fund can get. It can neither "over-perform" NOR "under-perform" The Economy, because it's backed by the government's power to tax the entire economy.

Back when Dubya was making his big push to privatize SS, then-Senator Rick Santorum appeared on Face the Nation one fine Sunday. He was asked how the federal government could finance the transition costs, if part of FICA were diverted to "private accounts". His answer -- I kid you not -- was that many people would invest their private accounts in ... wait for it ... United States Treasury bonds!

McKinney: I wasn't advocating privatization, simply comparing two ideas and saying one makes more sense than the other.

Speaking of comparing ideas: proposals to privatize Social Security are EXACTLY AS sensible (or foolish) as my oft-repeated proposal to "privatize the national debt". Anybody who touts the former while poo-pooing the latter must believe that ledgers have only one side.

--TP

"I was comparing the notion of privatizing some of SS with the notion of devolving it to the 50 states. I wasn't advocating privatization, simply comparing two ideas and saying one makes more sense than the other."

And if that idea that makes more sense is a bad idea, then the other idea is even worse, so why did you say you would have supported doing Social Security by the states?

And what is a "partial" privatization of Social Security supposed to mean? All of my critiques apply to doing it to the whole program, or part of the program (except, perhaps, the one about how it wouldn't be guaranteed, if you leave some guaranteed benefit).

What do you actually think about Social Security, and why? Is it just a reflexive distrust of the Federal Government, or do you think it would be better done some other way, and why? The Republicans want to get rid of Social Security, and have since it was made, because it's "socialism". Which didn't stop them from whipping people up to "keep big government out of my Medicare/Social Security" at various times. The Democrats want to keep it the way it is. Which policy outcome do you prefer?

why did you say you would have supported doing Social Security by the states?

I think you're confusing McKinneyTexas with GoodOleBoy here.

Hogan: Quite right. McKinney, GoodOleBoy, my apologies on confusing your arguments.

I don't think it materially affects the rest of my comment, most of which I leave open to both of them,.

T.P.--I missed your proposals for privatizing debt. Perhaps it's OT, but I'd like to hear them.

' I'm a supporter of federalism and I believe these kinds of programs should have been left to states. '

'why did you say you would have supported doing Social Security by the states?'

The question and my earlier statement don't really connect.


What do you actually think about Social Security, and why?

I think the money taken in over the last 4 decades under FICA should have been set aside and invested conservatively--Gore's lock box comes to mind. That is water under the bridge. Going forward, I don't have an informed opinion--you would have heard it by now if I did. I know it can't be dismantled. I don't know how it can be fixed fairly.

Is it just a reflexive distrust of the Federal Government, or do you think it would be better done some other way, and why?

It depends on what you mean by distrust. I don't think gov't is inherently dishonest or corrupt. I think it is inefficient, inflexible, administratively top-heavy and, at the lower levels particularly, unresponsive. My libertarian leanings favor people saving or not as they see fit and living with the consequences. My practical sense tells me too many people won't act prudently, so some minimal, gov't mandated savings program is the only other solution.

Given my preferences, FICA would be matched in private investments by the employer, but that has its own set of administrative and other issues.

The Republicans want to get rid of Social Security, and have since it was made, because it's "socialism".

This is a bit broad. I think many conservatives wish SS wasn't needed because they don't think it's the proper role of gov't. It's wishful thinking, nothing more.

Which didn't stop them from whipping people up to "keep big government out of my Medicare/Social Security" at various times.

Hypocrisy is the bipartisan Vaseline of political intercourse.

The Democrats want to keep it the way it is. Which policy outcome do you prefer?

Actually, the Dems don't want or intend to keep Medicare the way it is--they want to cut physician reimbursement rates significantly. They will find that this won't work. Doctors cannot make ends meet today on Medicare reimbursement rates. Cutting them will just put doctors out of business.

Further, I don't see it as an either/or situation, i.e. either do away with Medicare or leave it as is. More importantly, I don't have a sufficient understanding of the details to express an informed opinion, other than the reimbursement rate issue and that only because one of my best bud's an orthopedic surgeon. He and his hospital are not taking any new Medicare patients. They can't break even, much less earn any money.

Here is something that seems to get overlooked in some of these questions regarding whether Social Security, for example, should have been a federal program or left to individual states. A debate on administrative efficiency and/or effectiveness is not enough.

Anyone here knows what a political hot potato Social Security is. Any politician holding or seeking federal office, including the POTUS, must be very careful when touching this subject. When I make a comment or suggestion regarding my preference that matters like Social Security be handled by states, the issue is not confined to the program administration. I actually dream of an environment where those making decisions about national defense, national security, immigration, domestic and international commerce, and other subjects the proper purview of the federal government could do that more limited job with a better chance to get it right. Would some of these responsibilities be executed more effectively if many of the domestic programs run out of Washington were at state levels instead? Consider the reduction in the number of issues that candidates for federal offices would need to address.

In national elections today, Florida is considered by some to be THE key to the election, representing ten per cent of the needed electoral votes, and not recently having been one of those states any candidate can consider in their pocket. Would Florida have this same position if Social Security were not a federal program? What if, OTOH immigration were handled very effectively by the feds? Would this make a difference in Florida, Arizona, or Texas?

I do have one more point for the administrative side of the issue. Social Security benefits are the same regardless of where one lives. The feds could change and make adjustments for geographical cost of living differences, but these would probably be built in if the states were doing it. This would be for the welfare component, not the retirement component.

McTx: The last time I explained my modest proposal was in the "Career Opportunities" thread.

--TP

Hypocrisy is the bipartisan Vaseline of political intercourse.

Just wanted to say, that is a great line.

LOL

TP, I like the idea. It won't ever happen, but I the concept is intriguing. If I understand it, it is not too dissimilar between (A) capping spending at current levels and (B) raising taxes on the over 250K crowd (e.g me) but use that money only for deficit reduction and also any surplus revenues only for deficit reduction. When I say cap spending at current levels, I mean cap aggregate spending--congress would be free to allocate more money on SS or whatever, and less on defense or crop subsidies or whatever, so long as next year's budget equals last year's budget.

Russell, if I ever start my own blog, that will be the title: Political Intercourse. I even registered the domain name. I couldn't believe that someone hadn't already taken it.

GOB, The feds could change and make adjustments for geographical cost of living differences, but these would probably be built in if the states were doing it.

The states can't do SS. People are too mobile, the administrative costs would increase dramatically. It's a nonstarter.

Further, adjusting benefits geographically would be even worse for a variety of reasons. Older people can and do move to communities where the cost of living is reduced. That's how they stretch their retirement savings and SS. Adjusting, i.e. reducing benefits on people who relocate to live better, doesn't seem like a good idea at all.

Further still, how do you estimate cost of living in NYC vs. upstate NY. Isn't one more expensive than the other? Shouldn't we do it by city? Or neighborhood?

Conservatives should do what they can to make the system viable, hopefully with minimal additional taxes, and let individuals decide how to manage their retirement.

My libertarian leanings favor people saving or not as they see fit and living with the consequences. My practical sense tells me too many people won't act prudently, so some minimal, gov't mandated savings program is the only other solution.

Oh, brother.

You know, there are actually people in this country who, quite literally, after meeting their monthly required expenses -- housing, food, electricity, gas, transportation -- don't have anything to save. Many of them don't have enough to completely meet those each month.

They aren't irresponsible. The money just doesn't exist. Particularly since real wage growth has been stagnant for three decades.

It's nice to blame it on imprudence -- doing so certainly allows one to feel superior!! -- but let's try to live in the real world when we have these discussions, shall we?

Some people can't save for retirement, because the money just ain't there. Some people are never going to get to retire anyway, because due to their life histories, their household obligations, becoming caretakers for their elderly parents, etc., they just can't afford it.

My mother will be 62 this winter. She works a 40 hour week, every week. She gets no sick time and one week's vacation each year. If she misses even one hour for a doctor's appointment -- one frigging hour -- she loses a $100 "bonus" that her employer gives for perfect 40-hour attendance. (He's one of those oh-so-noble Small Businessmen whose praises McKinneyTexas can't sing frequently enough around here.)

Mom has a bad knee. She's had to see an orthopedist several times this year. Since she gets no sick time, she either has to burn a vacation day to go to the doctor, or get docked the time she's at the doctor's and lose the "bonus" hundred bucks.

In addition, her mother -- my grandmother -- has Alzheimer's disease. It's bad, and getting worse. Mom used to just stop at Grandma's before work every morning and after work every night. Now she's taken to sleeping over 3-4 nights a week. So she pays for a mortgage and utilities at a house she's barely at. (Well, half of it. She lives with her boyfriend, who pays the other half.)

And, of course, my grandmother has a lot of doctor's appointments. A LOT. She just spent 4 days in the hospital with a terrible case of shingles. She has ongoing coronary problems -- I think she's had three stents inserted in the last ten years. Mom and her three siblings try to split up taking her as much as possible, but every time my mother takes her to an appointment, she has to burn a vacation day, or get docked.

Mom will almost certainly never, ever get to retire. Ever. She can start collecting SS at age whatever, but it will of course be decreased because she'll still be working. She has to.

When my parents were married, she didn't have to work. Amazingly, throughout the 60s and 70s, an Army NCO could support a family of four on his wages alone. (Thanks, in part, to the socialized medicine that exists in the Army, but let's not get into that right now.) So she didn't have the opportunity to sock away a nest egg for herself.

Once they divorced, and she did work to support herself, my sister and me, she saved where she could. That savings ebbed and flowed, grew and shrank over the years for various reasons, but Mom has always been a responsible spender, and good household budgeter/manager. She's the one who handles Grandma's bills now, since she's the best at it among her siblings.

I won't say her situation is typical . . . but it's not atypical, either. I can't find the statistic right now, but a surprisingly large percentage of women over 40 work full-time, take care of a minor child (or children), and also take care of an elderly parent (or parents). They work for small employers like my mother does, who do things like denying them sick time. For any number of reasons, they don't have big retirement savings.

You can call my mom a lot of things, pal, but "imprudent" better never be among them. Not if you know what's good for you.

Next, I'll get into the story of my mother-in-law, who spent more than fifteen years doing backbreaking work at another Saintly Small Business, a bookbinding factory. She never made more than $12 per hour.

When, after all those years of service, she really couldn't stand up for 8+ hour days anymore, and her arthritis began to get unbearable, she asked them for one of two things: A change of jobs to one where she could sit down all day instead of standing, or a 25-cents-per-hour raise. They said "no" to both.

You can call my mom a lot of things, pal, but "imprudent" better never be among them. Not if you know what's good for you.

No one is calling your mother anything other than someone who's been dealt a very tough hand. And, it's a fair point that many who might save, can't. My point was more directed at those who could save, but don't. I could have been clearer.

So, to rephrase more clearly, because many people won't or can't put back enough for retirement, it makes sense to have a minimal, gov't mandated program.

Final note: I don't care much at all for any business that treats its employees in the manner your mother and mother-in-law are being treated. In your mother-in-law's case, I'd suggest consulting an ADA-qualified attorney. She's legally entitled to a reasonable accommodation.

McKinney,

ADA was only passed in 1990 and doesn't apply to companies of less than 15 people. So if this was more than 20ish years ago AND/OR the company has less than 15 employees it doesn't matter.

And considering the amount of screaming I go to read about ADA breaking small businesses when I googled "ADA+Small Business+Apply" I'd guess folks aren't thrilled with it.

And getting a lawyer means having time, money, and energy.

DFS, after re-reading about Phil's mother-in-law, it looks like she may have left her employment some time back. I can't tell when, if she did. You're correct, there is a size threshold as to which companies are subject to the ADA. So, that is an assumption too. ADA lawyers typically work on contingency. Also, if her arthritis was caused or aggravated by her work conditions, there is also the avenue of a worker's compensation claim. Again, she'd have to consult an attorney who specializes in that area of the law. Typically, comp lawyers work on a contingency (although not so in Texas anymore, and it's hurt injured workers).

The Working Poor, by David Shipler.

And, it's a fair point that many who might save, can't. My point was more directed at those who could save, but don't. I could have been clearer.

I appreciate that. You know us liberals, always striving for fairness -- it's easy to overlook that life is a lot more complicated than any of our ideologies sometimes allow for.

As for mom-in-law, well, faced with a losing hand, she simply folded, and quit, some time ago. She couldn't start collecting SS at the time, so she and her husband lived solely on his income for several years. (He was working as a project manager at an architectural firm at the time.) Unfortunately, after a series of layoffs, several years taking care of his now-deceased mother, and other bad situations, they've burned through all their savings, he's unemployed, her SS can't support them both and they're about to lose their house.

Yeah, but Phil, to conservatives people earning below a certain level are simply not really seen - much as some men don't see women who aren't sexually attractive to them, so some well-off people don't see people who are too poor to matter. McKinney isn't calling your mom "imprudent". He isn't able to think of your mom, or anyone else at her income level, as really existing at all.

To a certain extent to be a conservative, you must be either rich and sociopathic, or poor and stupid. That there are numerically more poor conservatives than rich ones - at least, I never met a conservative yet who wasn't poor in their own estimation - only goes to show that most people are of below-average intelligence...

Unfortunately, after a series of layoffs, several years taking care of his now-deceased mother, and other bad situations, they've burned through all their savings, he's unemployed, her SS can't support them both and they're about to lose their house.

Jesus.

He isn't able to think of your mom, or anyone else at her income level, as really existing at all.

This may be a bit strong, Jes. My problem was lack of clarity, not lack of awareness. What I do find astonishing is an employer who would treat his/her employees in that manner. I see a lot of workplaces, few as bad as what Phil describes. I don't doubt Phil at all, rather I am struck by the employer's cruelty and indifference.

My problem was lack of clarity, not lack of awareness.

"My libertarian leanings favor people saving or not as they see fit and living with the consequences. My practical sense tells me too many people won't act prudently, so some minimal, gov't mandated savings program is the only other solution."

I think that makes your comment even creepier, if you were perfectly aware that you were dismissing so many people below the poverty line to utter invisibility, rather than just being blithely, aristocratically ignorant that so many of them exist.

Jes, your comment of 08:12pm was over the line. You're capable of effective snark without going ad hom; don't be lazy.

The conversation has moved on, but I can't resist:

Give me a 4-letter Anglo-Saxon word that ends in "k" and means "intercourse".

I apologize in advance if this question comes too close to violating the posting rules. I acknowledge that some people are more sensitive than I am about mildly offensive talk.

--TP

I see a lot of workplaces, few as bad as what Phil describes. I don't doubt Phil at all, rather I am struck by the employer's cruelty and indifference.

In my experience, more small employers are like my mom's than not. Just sayin'.

And not to tweak unnecessarily, since you're trying to be a good guy about this, but you have threatened to fire your entire staff if your personal marginal income tax rate should happen to return to what it was 10 years ago.

"Overestimating Soviet strength was a hobby of the CIA, but the Team B folks did it professionally, putting the CIA to shame. (And weirdly, didnt lose a shred of credibility- exaggeration of enemy resources in the defense of the defense industry is no vice)."

Well, yeah; It's a question of which sort of error you want to make. Overestimating your opponent's strength leads to you winning at a higher than necessary cost. Underestimating your opponent's strength leads to you losing, and nobody gives a damn that you brought the defeat in under budget. So military planners have a built in incentive to over-estimate the foe's capabilities, and quite properly so. Because the costs of underestimating them are so much higher.

"But I've never understood attaching a strong ideological preference to this sort of thing. That is, I don't understand how someone could be totally opposed- in principle- to a federal retirement program but seemingly ok with a state-run one."

It's a rule of law thing: The federal government lacks constitutional authority to do that sort of thing, the states have it. Therefore the federal government is violating the Constitution in doing it, where the states wouldn't be.

This isn't going to matter much to people who don't value having a constitution, or having government by people who don't violate their oaths to uphold it. Personally, I think having government bound to the rule of law, and run by people whose first act isn't to forswear themselves, would be a good idea. We ought to try it some time.

Since returning the federal government to the role the Constitution actually delegates it is a non-starter, maybe we ought to just amend the Constitution to actually give the federal government most of the power it's currently exercising. Then we could have government run by honest people, because you wouldn't have to agree to a lie to hold high office. We could have an honest judiciary, because being willing to perpetuate a lie wouldn't be a job requirement.

I personally think that the Constitution is pretty nifty as written, but what's the point of a nifty constitution that's being ignored? A substantially worse constitution that's actually enforced would be better.

you have threatened to fire your entire staff if your personal marginal income tax rate should happen to return to what it was 10 years ago.

I am pretty sure you have this wrong. What I have consistently said is that if the tax rates begin to approach 50% (not 39.6%, which I would go along with if the delta between 36% and 39.6% was used for deficit reduction), then I would have to look at lay offs to make it worthwhile to stay in business. It is a fact that I can make well more than I need to live on with virtually no employees. The point is that higher taxes on small operations increase the cost of doing business and produce layoffs.

Another point worth making: no one, including me, is obliged to employ someone else. Or, having extended employment, to keep it in force into perpetuity. My obligations to my employees stem from the fact of employment, i.e. having entered into the contract, I have obligations to my employees, as they have to me. Some (many, all?) Progressives would levy punitive taxes on "the rich" as a matter of ideological imperative, i.e. as a redistributive measure. In at least part of the Progressive world, employers are simply supposed to nod in acquiescence and go on with their lives, grateful I suppose that the People have left the employer something.

Vilifying employers, businesses, etc. is a subset of Progressive thinking. It is counterproductive, to say the least.

Bad use of italics. sorry.

"Another point worth making: no one, including me, is obliged to employ someone else."

Similarly, no business is owed any particular profit margin, or indeed any profit at all. But the fastest route to protecting the margin you want is to cut costs, obviously, and the fastest way to do that is to fire people. Which is a fact of business, and one that sucks, since the person being fired is rarely in any way directly responsible for the failure to meet desired profits.

"Vilifying employers, businesses, etc. is a subset of Progressive thinking. It is counterproductive, to say the least."

Neither should they be immune from vilification when they do, well, nasty things. You often seem reluctant to criticize employers and businesses for anything at all short of actually getting caught murdering someone. People's thresholds for "nasty things" obviously varies. I think my mother's employer should, obvs, be beaten with a sack of doorknobs just for being a jerk.

Employers and entrepreneurs are not some sainted, superior class of people worthy of our worship. They're just people. We're all just people.

"What I have consistently said is that if the tax rates begin to approach 50% (not 39.6%, which I would go along with if the delta between 36% and 39.6% was used for deficit reduction"

I the interest of pedantry, returning from 36% to 39.6% is an approach towards 50%.

'It's a rule of law thing: The federal government lacks constitutional authority to do that sort of thing, the states have it. Therefore the federal government is violating the Constitution in doing it, where the states wouldn't be.'

It's gratifying to have at least one here recognize the underlying principle guiding my thought process. Amending our Constitution probably would not occur to most of our elected officials since they consider it not relevant or appear not too even know it exist.

'Since returning the federal government to the role the Constitution actually delegates it is a non-starter, maybe we ought to just amend the Constitution to actually give the federal government most of the power it's currently exercising.'

This I also agree with, so anyone concluding that I think Social Security should be changed from a federal program to a state program can stop.

McK, I think it was the prior comment that had an open tag. I'm not sure I can fix it.

But as to this: Vilifying employers, businesses, etc. is a subset of Progressive thinking. It is counterproductive, to say the least.

No more counterproductive than the equally overgeneralizing unquestioning worship of small business on the other side.

As Phil points out (and as the book I referenced, "The Working Poor," makes amply clear from the stories of the people the author followed for several years), many many small businesses, never mind big businesses, do not in fact treat employees well.

You say you do, and there are others who do. But if employers refuse to "redistribute" to the tune of a living wage, then sooner or later people are going to get sick of it and try to change the situation, whether via unions, the community in the form of the government, armed revolution, or whatever.

"Mine" is not a concept cast in stone tablets by an impartial deity.

Heh. Italics fixed. That never worked for me before.

"Similarly, no business is owed any particular profit margin, or indeed any profit at all. But the fastest route to protecting the margin you want is to cut costs"

True, no business is owed a profit. You either earn one or you don't. Your second sentence is accurate, but only up to a point. You staff per the needs of the operation. If business falls off, you have to cut costs. It's arithmetic. But what we are talking about is adding to the cost of business by imposing additional taxes. If enough people vote for that, then it's the law and everyone has to go along. But, in voting for higher taxes, people need to do so with eyes wide open: there will be layoffs. There will be cutbacks in discretionary purchases, reducing demand for some products and ancillary services.

You are correct that employers are not saints nor are they or should they be a protected class. But, they do provide the jobs and you can only spend a dollar once. You can spend it on taxes or on payroll or on expansion. The latter two are better, in the aggregate, for everyone.

Amending our Constitution probably would not occur to most of our elected officials since they consider it not relevant or appear not too even know it exist.

Meanwhile, at stately Wayne Manor . . .

We talked a few weeks ago about the right's approach to the U.S. Constitution, specifically, its desire to fiddle with it, adding more amendments while scrapping some old ones. As the GOP's interest in giving the 14th amendment a touch-up intensifies, let's take stock of where we are.

By my count, Republican leaders, including George W. Bush, endorsed six different new amendments to the Constitution over the last decade: (1) prohibiting flag burning; (2) victims' rights; (3) banning abortion; (4) requiring a balanced budget; (5) prohibiting same-sex marriage; and (6) allowing state-endorsed prayer in public schools. Jon Chait runs a similar list today, and notes a few I missed, including amendments to require legislative supermajorities to raise taxes, a "parental rights" amendment, a term-limits amendment, and in one instance, an amendment to give Washington, D.C., a single voting representative.

Taken together, that's 10 constitutional amendments proposed, endorsed, and/or introduced by leading Republicans over the last decade . . .

On top of the new amendments the right has requested, there's also the existing amendments the right wants to "fix." That means scrapping the 17th Amendment, repealing the 16th Amendment, getting rid of at least one part of the 14th Amendment, and "restoring" the "original" 13th Amendment.

But what we are talking about is adding to the cost of business by imposing additional taxes.

Changes in the top marginal personal income tax rate are irrelevant to "the cost of doing business" except to the extent that the business owner takes the firm's profits as salary.

. . . you can only spend a dollar once. You can spend it on taxes or on payroll or on expansion. The latter two are better, in the aggregate, for everyone.

Well, now, that depends on what the additional tax revenue is being spent on, doesn't it?

'Meanwhile, at stately Wayne Manor . . .'

Is there a point here related to my comment?

I the interest of pedantry, returning from 36% to 39.6% is an approach towards 50%.

In the same vein: I am approaching 100 years of age. It's not a close approach as yet, but with every passing year I come closer...

Jes, your comment of 08:12pm was over the line. You're capable of effective snark without going ad hom; don't be lazy.

Fair enough. The whole thing was meant to be effective snark, not ad hom: I thought the line about "most people are of below-average intelligence" would cue that in. I apologize to anyone who felt ad-hommed, including McKinney*. *sighs, goes back to the School of Thullen Humor to take fresh lessons*

*Said apology of course does not change the fact that McKinney will be second against the wall when the revolution comes. (First against the wall, as any fule kno, are the entire Marketing Division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.)

Just to follow up on JanieM's post, I'd like to add comment on redistribution.

As McK mentions, Phil's mother and mother-in-law are getting a crap deal from their employer. They are paid poorly and work under crap conditions.

A simple solution for this is *to pay them better and provide them with better working conditions*.

This is not a question of redistribution, it is a question of distribution.

It's a question of more of the value that people's labor create coming to them in the form of wages and other workplace benefits.

It is, in fact, a point of great contention in this country whether employers should feel any obligation to pay their people well, or provide them with a safe or comfortable work environment.

For reference, see Wal-Mart.

Many of the issues of redistribution -- the need for and extent of a social safety net -- go away or are significantly mitigated if people are paid well in the first place.

First against the wall, as any fule kno, are the entire Marketing Division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

*golfclap*

Is there a point here related to my comment?

Only if you can explain to me why the Republican Party has spent so much time and effort attempting to amend a document that, according to you, they don't even know exists.

"It's arithmetic. But what we are talking about is adding to the cost of business by imposing additional taxes."

Raising the marginal tax rate on the highest income groups doesn't change "the cost of doing business".

"It's a rule of law thing: The federal government lacks constitutional authority to do that sort of thing, the states have it. Therefore the federal government is violating the Constitution in doing it, where the states wouldn't be."

Oh, what a load of crap. The goals of the Constitution are clearly laid out in the Preamble: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." (ref)

Social Security is a matter of "establish[ing] Justice", insur[ing] domestic Tranquility", promot[ing] the general Welfare", and "secur[ing] the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." It would not work as a state program, for reasons I mentioned above, both ethical and practical. Pretending to stick to the letter of the Constitution when it suits you, while ignoring the explicitly states reasons for having the Constitution is pretty weak tea. It handily lets you paint your political opponents as liars, hypocrites, corrupt, not caring about the Rule of Law, or whatever crap you want to add, but it is a complete lie. It's very bad faith arguing.

Also, Article 1, Section 8: "The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; ..." There's that general Welfare line again.

Also, Brett, GOB, how often have you guys been in opposition to say, cruel and unusual punishment? Or Habeas Corpus? How about the "limited time" of copyright? Have you guys ever pushed for the Post Office to be privatized, even though it's directly enumerated in Section 8? What do you guys think about standing armies, since Congress is only supposed to be able to appropriate money for an army for 2 years? The way it's done now pretty much contradicts that.

I know there's plenty of lawyers here, who are trained to argue the letter of the law, but when you are arguing that the letter of the law directly contradicts the expressed spirit of the law, then there is either a problem with the law, or with your argument. You would probably say there's a problem with the law, I think the problem has more to do with your arguments, and your attempts to read the Constitution to make your opponents look as bad as possible and to support the policies you prefer. This is called "interpretation", and it's something that happens with any written document.

"Also, Brett, GOB, how often have you guys been in opposition to say, cruel and unusual punishment?"

I'm on record favoring the re-legalization of drugs, opposition to felony inflation, and complaining about the lack of jury trials when they pull that "We promise not to sentence you to more than 364 days on each charge." trick the Supreme court authorized in defiance of with the 6th amendment actually guarantees.

"Or Habeas Corpus?"

I've said that the point of this was to allow the Congress to deal with situations where the courts are shut down by a war on our own territory, and that this obviously does not apply to the people we're holding at Gitmo, who are entitled to a trial. Too bad your guy Obama doesn't agree...

"How about the "limited time" of copyright?"

I don't recall commenting on this, but, yeah, I think it was a constitutional violation to extend copyrights beyond their original terms at the time they were granted.

"Have you guys ever pushed for the Post Office to be privatized, even though it's directly enumerated in Section 8?"

Just because the Constitution says the federal government CAN do something, doesn't mean it has to do it, if it's bad policy. Congress has the authority to create a post office, (But not a postal monopoly.) not a mandate to do so.

"What do you guys think about standing armies, since Congress is only supposed to be able to appropriate money for an army for 2 years?"

I think it's a bad idea, though reauthorizing it every two years does nominally comply with that clause. I'd rather we much downsized the Army, and restored a militia system. I've also said that the appropriate response to the militia movement would have been to appoint their officers, as the Constitution clearly permits...

I think you've got me confused with Sean Hanity...

I've also said that the appropriate response to the militia movement would have been to appoint their officers

I've got nothing in particular to object to in your comment here, but I'm curious about why we need a militia movement when there is already a national guard.

Do militia guys consider the guard to be something other than what the Constitution means when they say "militia"?

The National Guard is what replaced the militia. It is not the institution the founders were referring to in the Second Amendment (and in Article I, Section 8). We kind of let that one lapse without updating our paperwork.

If we go to a true militia (whatever that is) as some believe the Founders conceived, would they have to get in shape, or would it be a bunch of overweight, nearsighted guys hiding in duck blinds, garbed in acres of camouflage like a bunch of right-wing Divines, fiddling with two-way radios and having a little sotto-voiced vote to decide the secret password?

Tough Guy #1: How about "potato" as the password.

Tough Guy #2 (fairly barking this out): We're not having a tuber as the password. Come up with something a little more martial.

Tough Guy #3: Shhh! Geez, keep it down! They'll hear you! (Pauses, then whispers). Speaking of tubers, Harry, did you get the potato salad out of the car? I'm famished.

Harry (codename: Tough Guy #1): Damn, I forgot that. It wasn't on the official checklist. I brought the alatle, the Swiss army barcalounger, and the whistle, for what that's worth.

Tough Guy #2: Did you bring the alatle AND the arrows? And, by the way, who is going to hear us?

Harry: Wait a second, I thought the alatle was the arrow. Are you telling me the alatle is the bow? Hey, how about "alatle" as the password?

Tough Guy #3 (handing out Moe-slaps to the assembled tough guys, one of whom named his eldest daughter "Malisha", for obvious reasons) They can't hear us. THEY, and we know who THEY are, are in town plotting against us at the local Starbucks, and undergoing core-strength Pilates training for when THEY are going to make their final unconstitutional move and confiscate our precious bodily fluids.

Another tough guy, I can't remember which one: Shouldn't we move this here bivouac into town and confront the enemy directly, before they corrupt our essential lattes?

Tough Guy #2: I heard a noise. What was that?

Tough Guy #7 (sheepishly): Sorry, I farted.

Scene ends: Big wide guys heading in all directions into the shrubbery, tucking and rolling, some just rolling and cursing.


The National Guard is what replaced the militia.

Not according to the US Code, it's not:

TITLE 10 - ARMED FORCES
Subtitle A - General Military Law
PART I - ORGANIZATION AND GENERAL MILITARY POWERS
CHAPTER 13 - THE MILITIA

-HEAD-
Sec. 311. Militia: composition and classes

-STATUTE-
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are -
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the
Naval Militia.

Sure, neither the states nor the Federal government have ever actually had to muster the unorganized militia, nor is it likely they ever will unless we're actually invaded by a large army, but it does exist.

US National Debt in 1980: ~$1 trillion (33% of GDP)
US National Debt in 1992: $4 trillion (64% of GDP)
US National Debt in 2000: $5.6 trillion (58% of GDP)
US National Debt in 2008: ~$10 trillion (69% of GDP)

That's enough of a reason. The "Democrats are fiscally irresponsible" meme seems to either be deeply outdated, or have come out of thin air.

Sure, neither the states nor the Federal government have ever actually had to muster the unorganized militia, nor is it likely they ever will unless we're actually invaded by a large army, but it does exist.

On paper, yes. But it's not a functioning institution; there is no leadership structure, no training, no one even keeping a membership list. No one mustered me in when I turned 17, or mustered me out when I turned 45. It's like being a registered voter in a country that never has elections.

@Thullen: Apparently in the 1820s and 1830s it was a lot like that, only with more corn liquor.

Sorry, I forgot this:

Tough Guy #4: Permission requested to water the tree of liberty, sir.

Tough Guy Numero Uno: O.K. But do it far enough from us so we don't step in it like last time. Someone cover him.

Copied from the "Vote Republican" thread, by "popular" "demand":

Jonathan Schwartz summed it up nicely:

Almost all political conflict, especially in the US, boils down to a fight between the Sane Billionaires and the Insane Billionaires. It generally follows this template:

INSANE BILLIONAIRES: Let's kill everyone and take their money!

SANE BILLIONAIRES: I like the way you think. I really do. But if we keep everyone alive, and working for us, we'll make even more money, in the long term.

INSANE BILLIONAIRES: You communist!!!

So from a progressive perspective, you always have to hope the Sane Billionaires win. Still, there's generally a huge chasm between what the Sane Billionaires want and what progressives want.

" No one mustered me in when I turned 17, or mustered me out when I turned 45."

I always wondered why you still had to register for the draft 30+ years since we had one, now I know.

Damn, I was in the militia for 28 years and never knew it.

Casey L, I've quoted you on my Facebook, and my friend wants to pass it on. Since I'm kind of a newbie here, is there a blog or some way you'd like to be credited?

Thanks,

scyllacat
...as seen on fine social-networking sites everywhere

Brett: No, I was asking seriously, because those are some of the many things that most of the Republicans who claim to fetishize the Constitution have no problem supporting. You seem to be more consistent than most.

But. If you are arguing that the Constitution doesn't permit something, in opposition to years of settled jurisprudence, legislation, and custom, then the onus is on you to prove that your interpretation of the Constitution is correct, and that what you're saying is unConstitutional actually is. Which you haven't done. And given the numerous references to "the general Welfare" in the Constitution, as I cited, it helps if your interpretation jibes with the stated purpose of the Constitution, as well.

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