Monday, April 18, 2011

Will the Gang of Six Receive the Gang of Four Treatment?

I won't say that great minds think alike but I had to laugh when I saw a link to this from HuffPo's Ann Stark. Beyond Teddy Partridge's Firedoglake post from Sunday night "Anti-gang Enforcement Needed On Capital Hill," Ms Stark's tweet about the Gang of Four rather crystalized for me some thoughts about how easily the Beltway Village Idiots Pundits fall into their usage of short hand terms without really any apparent understanding of the genesis of those terms. Whether it is the "Gang of Fourteen" or either of the two "Gang of Six" in the US Senate, I wonder if they want to remind people of the fate of the "Gang of Four."

From Time Magazine Gang of Four On Trial:

After many delays, the "evildoers "finally enter the dock

The long parade of limousines and buses knifed through Peking's wintry smog just before 3 p.m. As police and soldiers kept away curious bystanders, sober-faced men and women emerged from the cars, strode through the gates of the public security compound at No. 1 Zhengyi (Justice) Road near Tian'anmen Square and entered a large, brightly lighted courtroom. After taking their seats, the 35 judges and 880 "representatives of the masses" looked on impassively as the ten defendants were led into the court by bailiffs to hear the charges against them.

Thus began the long-awaited trial of China's notorious Gang of Four and six other high-ranking "evildoers." The carefully orchestrated courtroom drama, which is expected to last for several weeks, is the most important show trial to take place in the 31 years that the Communist Party has ruled China. The most celebrated defendant is Jiang Qing, 67, the widow of Mao Tse-tung, who, along with her allies in the Gang of Four,* led Mao's reckless and violent Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. They were arrested four years ago, shortly after Mao's death in 1976. Also on trial are a group of senior military officials who allegedly plotted with the late Defense Minister Lin Biao to assassinate Mao in 1971 and seize supreme power for themselves.

Now I am not advocating that the current "Gang of Six" from the US Senate be subjected to a "show trial" for their zeal in dismantling the social safety net under the guise of "saving" it. But when these men have to next face the voters, they probably will not want to highlight their participation in cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, all while preserving tax cuts for the top of the income chain.

In this post from January, I described what my monthly benefits will be under Social Security depending on if I retire at 62, 66, or 70. If I start collecting Social Security at 62, I will receive $15.8k per year. If I can somehow hold off until I'm 70, I will collect $27.5K per year. In neither instance am I going to be able to do much more than survive. And all this presupposes that I manage to maintain some semblance of good health. Yet all the "Very Serious People" are going to continue to do their great "harrumph harrumph" about how it is critical to DO SOMETHING!

It doesn't matter that Social Security officially has a surplus that the government has been borrowing from for decades in order to fund the Reagan/Bush/Obama tax cuts. Social Security is not part of the budget and when pressed on this, even the members of the Catfood Commission (four of whom are also part of the current "Gang of Six") understand that Social Security is not the problem but they seem to feel this impetus to do something because they can.

Yesterday, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia declared:
Asked by host Bob Schieffer to clarify that the group will take on Social Security, Warner said, "Part of this is just math: 16 workers for every one retiree 50 years ago, three workers for every retiree now."

With President Barack Obama proposing new talks after laying out his vision on the issue last week, and House Republicans passing their own plan, Warner said he hopes the "Gang of Six" will stake out the middle-ground.
The problem with Warner's "middle-ground" is that his "middle" will still be destructive to the programs for the people most in need.

But of course, Warner also recognizes the work of other "Serious People" (via HuffPo):
Warner credited House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for producing a "serious" budget plan but criticized him for not proposing any way to raise revenues while transferring "more responsibility onto our seniors in terms of paying for health care."
In today's (Monday, April 18) Washington Post, Robert Samuelson, though declares that neither the Democrats or the Republicans are serious enough for his taste:
We won’t make much progress until (a) Democrats concede that spending control requires genuine cuts in Social Security and Medicare, which now total $1.3 trillion annually and represent 35 percent of federal outlays; and (b) Republicans acknowledge that, even after significant spending cuts, tax increases will be needed to balance the budget. Last week, there was little sign of either. President Obama rebuffed Social Security and Medicare cuts. Most Republicans held fast on taxes.


One is: the Bush tax cuts for the rich. The trouble is that Obama’s budget already assumes higher rates (39.6 percent) on incomes exceeding $200,000 (individuals) and $250,000 (couples). Suppose we get tougher on the very rich. One proposal would raise rates to 45 percent on incomes from $1 million to $10 million, with rates increasing to 49 percent on incomes of $1 billion. Over a decade, tax revenue would grow about $900 billion, says the advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice. Assuming the money materialized, it’s a lot — but only a tenth of the decade’s deficits.

Another liberal villain: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve cost $1.26 trillion from 2001 to 2011, reckons the CBO. Again, a lot of money. But it, too, pales next to all spending ($29.8 trillion) or deficits ($6.2 trillion) over the same period. Here, too, Obama’s budget already assumes big cuts.

Our budget problem is conceptually simple. Government’s spending commitments, driven by more retirees and uncontrolled health costs, vastly exceed the existing tax base. There is an argument about how fast changes should be made to protect the economic recovery. There should be no argument over the need for changes to prevent a debt crisis: Too many Treasury bonds frighten investors and drive up interest rates.
It continually amazes me that people like Samuelson are so gung-ho to see the social safety net destroyed to show how "serious" they are about deficits yet are so very supportive of the tax cuts that have helped cause (along with unconstrained spending on wars) so much of the deficit. If he wants to address "uncontrolled health costs" then maybe some support for an economy wide single payer system might work.

In my estimation, the "Very Serious People" and the Beltway Village Idiots Pundits who extol the virtues of the "Very Serious People" bear striking resemblances to the clowns from the circus. Which is most likely how they will avoid being treated like the original "Gang of Four" were treated in China.

And because I can:

No comments:

Post a Comment