Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Social Security

Trump Preframes the Budget Conversation with His “Blueprint”

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 17, 2017: 

After reading Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal, “Peter W.” wrote how “The Donald” preframes a conversation with an opponent: “When he makes an opening bid, it is far away from where his deals end. It is a poker game with high stakes, and it is up to the other to negotiate a better position.”

That is what Trump and his OMB Director Mick Mulvaney offered on Wednesday: the opening bid in the budget conversation to take place later on this year. Mulvaney was very clear about that: “This Blueprint is not the full Federal budget, [but] it does provide lawmakers and the public with a view of the priorities of the President and his Administration.”

It also serves to warn the public – the American taxpayer who is the deeply interested third party in that conversation – that the budget is going to be much larger than the one Obama left his office with in 2017, which was $4.15 trillion.

It’s called “America First – A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” and it’s Trump’s attempt to set the parameters of the conversation with Congress after his full budget is released in late May. The strategy might have worked well for Trump – he brags that he successfully closed more than 100 real estate “deals” during his career – but dealing with 535 members of the House and Senate is, to put it mildly, going to be a different cup of tea.

Said Trump:

Keep Reading…

Trump’s “Blueprint” Budget Is a Policy Statement; Real Budget to Follow

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, March 16, 2017:

English: Official portrait of US Rep. Mick Mul...

Mick Mulvaney. Trump’s OMB Director

President Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) unveiled “America First — A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” on Thursday, noting that the president’s actual budget will be released in May. President Trump and his OMB Director Mick Mulvaney joined in outlining the “blueprint” without disclosing hard numbers, revenue projections, or even an economic outlook to back it up. It was, in other words, a policy statement, with details to follow.

Said Trump:

Keep Reading…

Trump “Slump” in Gun Sales Is Only Temporary

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, March 15, 2017:  

With a decline in the number background checks being performed, the fall in the stock prices of gun makers, the cutting back of workers in the gun industry, and the bankruptcy of a major sporting goods chain, some in the media are suggesting that the boom in the firearms sector is over.

On the surface the evidence is persuasive.

Keep Reading…

Trump’s 2018 Budget Won’t Touch Social Security, Medicare

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, February 27, 2017:

English: The standard Laffer Curve

The standard Laffer Curve

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox News on Sunday that cuts in entitlement programs — i.e., Social Security and Medicare — won’t appear in the president’s budget: “We are not touching those now. So don’t expect to see that as part of this budget, OK? We are very focused on other aspects and that’s what’s very important to us.”

Trump’s budget for fiscal year 2018 (starting October 1, 2017) is expected to be presented to the House on Monday, March 13, just two weeks away. And there are a lot of moving parts that must be glued into place before then.

Those parts include

Keep Reading…

NRA Moving from Defense to Offense

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, January 31, 2017:

For eight long years the National Rifle Association (NRA) has, along with similar groups such as the Gun Owners of America (GOA), the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), largely been playing defense. The anti-gun executive orders spewing from the pen of former President Barack Obama, the anti-gun media seizing upon opportunities to promote its agenda thanks to crazed killers committing atrocities, the push to ratify the UN small arms treaty, and more have kept pro-Second Amendment groups such as these back on their heels.

No longer. Jennifer Baker, the NRA’s national spokeswoman, told The Hill on Monday:

Keep Reading…

Trump’s Regulatory Executive Order: One In, Two Out

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, January 30, 2017:

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

White House officials described President Donald Trump’s Executive Order for “Reducing Government Regulations and Controlling Regulatory Cost” as Trump’s “one in, two out” plan: For every regulation promulgated by a federal agency, that agency must “identify” two existing regulations to be targeted for extinction.

The order also sets a cap of $0 for the cost of new regulations, with the only exceptions being military and national security regulations. The president said when signing the order,

Keep Reading…

Congress Plans to Repeal Obama Rules Through Congressional Review Act

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, January 26, 2017:

To facilitated mining of a coal seam in Gillet...

To facilitate mining of a coal seam in Gillette, Wyoming, blasting was used to loosen the coal after the overburden was removed. Approximately half a million tons of coal in a seam 80 feet thick was loosened by this single blast.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy explained in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday just how Congress is planning to roll back numerous egregious and harmful rules promulgated by the Obama administration: the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA was included in the “Contract With America Advancement Act of 1996” and allows Congress to review, and to cancel by majority rule, new federal regulations issued by federal agencies. There’s a window of 60 “legislative” days to disapprove, which explains some of the Trump administration’s haste in pushing to repeal them. Once passed by both houses, repeals then become effective with President Donald Trump’s signature.

There are plenty of targets, but McCarthy focused on just three: the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule impacting the coal-mining industry, new methane gas regulations that would cost up to $1 billion and force many small energy developers out of business, and the Social Security Administration’s new rule that states that if a S.S. recipient needs a third party to manage his finances, he will be added to the gun background check list.

The CRA shouldn’t be necessary. If Congress hadn’t unconstitutionally allowed power it alone possesses under the Constitution to make laws to pass over to the executive branch’s various and sundry regulatory agencies, the problems with the Obama administration’s overreach wouldn’t exist in the first place. Those agencies have grown into Leviathan, issuing rules, regulations, and mandates far beyond those imagined by Congress. Now Congress is in the backward position of having to limit the regulations pouring out of that unconstitutional “fourth branch” of government. The child is now threatening its parent.

Parsing the language of the Interior Department’s rules on its expanded regulation of coal miners proves the point:

Under [the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977], the regulatory authority may not approve a permit application [from a coal mining company] unless the application demonstrates, and the regulatory authority finds, that the proposed operation would not result in material damage to the hydrologic balance [i.e., streams and rivers] outside the permit area.

How does a coal mining company, in its application, “prove” a negative? How does it satisfy a bureaucratic unelected unaccountable and invisible agency that it will cause no harm, or at least not enough harm to avoid trespassing on that agency’s environmental sensitivities? What assurance does a coal mining company have that said agency won’t change the rules arbitrarily and capriciously in the future? Would not such future uncertainty tend to dampen said coal company’s interest in developing its reserves?

Similar charges could be levied against the federal agency issuing its rules on methane emissions, but the best example of egregious overreach is the Social Security Administration’s new rule that allows it to “deem” who shall have his or her name entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) based on whether or not they receive third-party assistance in managing their finances. Here’s what the SSA says it will do:

We will identify, on a prospective [in the absence of evidence of any proclivity towards criminal activity] basis, individuals who receive Disability Insurance benefits … or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments … who meet certain criteria, including … a finding that the individual’s mental impairment meets or medically equals [various] requirements.

And just how, pray tell, would such “identification” take place? The SSA responds:

If we have information that the beneficiary has a mental or physical impairment that prevents him or her from managing or directing the management of benefits, we will develop the issue of capability.

And just how is that “issue of capability” to be determined? Again, the SSA provides the guidelines its bureaucrats should follow in making that determination:

Does the individual have difficulty answering questions, getting the evidence or information necessary to pursue the claim, or understanding explanations and reporting instructions?

 

If so, do you think this difficulty indicates [that] the beneficiary cannot manage or direct the management of [his or her] funds?

If the answer, by this nameless, faceless unaccountable bureaucrat, is yes, his or her name is entered into the NICS.

The agency then condescends to tell the soul who just had his Second and Fourth Amendment rights under the Constitution obliterated that they have just done so, and that if he cares to contest this arbitrary and capricious decision by said unnamed bureaucrat, he is free to hire an attorney and seek redress. Guilty until proven innocent.

Where is due process? Where is the beneficiary allowed to defend himself or explain himself or offer an explanation? What happens to the right to face his accuser in a court of law?

When Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislation Action (NRAILA), learned of McCarthy’s plan of attack to repeal this particular rule, he was delighted:

Congress’ decision to review the Obama administration’s back-door gun grab is a significant step forward in restoring the fundamental Constitutional rights of many law-abiding gun owners.

 

The NRA has been fighting this unconstitutional government overreach since it was first discussed, and we look forward to swift congressional action to overturn it.

Those in the energy industry will likely be equally ebullient once Congress has righted the wrongs imposed by federal agencies on its businesses. Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chair of the House Energy Committee, told Reuters that using the CRA will not only wipe out entire regulations but forbid them from writing new versions in their place.

In effect Congress’ use of the CRA will be equivalent to hacking off some of the branches of the Fourth Branch’s tree, but leaves the trunk and the root intact. It’s a start, but only a start.

Trump Pick for Management & Budget Talks Raising Retirement Age

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, January 25, 2017:

Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C., shown), President Donald Trump’s pick to head up the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), touched the famous “third rail” of American politics during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Testifying before the Senate Budget Committee, Mulvaney was pressed hard for his views on Social Security by Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.): “Do you think we need to look at adjusting the [retirement] age yet again because we live longer?”

Replied Mulvaney, “I do, yes sir.”

His response was unsettling to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who declared,

Keep Reading…

IG Report on Social Security: Dead People Still Reporting Wages

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, January 6, 2017:

Seal of the United States Social Security Admi...

The latest report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) overseeing operations at the Social Security Administration has “identified 1,074 individuals who were at least age 85 in 2009, [who had] about $145 million in wages posted to their earnings record” over the next five years.

In addition inspectors identified another 7,949 people who had $57 million in wages posted to their Social Security accounts whom the agency knew were dead.

Keep Reading…

Social Security uses “Nuremberg Defense” to Explain Why it Wants to Add Beneficiaries to the NICS

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, December 26, 2016:  

The defendants at Nuremberg Trials

The defendants at Nuremberg Trials

The Nuremberg Defense was developed following the Second World War in an attempt to reduce the sentences of those convicted of heinous crimes ordered by their superiors. The Social Security Administration (SSA) used a variation to deflect criticism over its “final” rules regarding adding names of certain beneficiaries to the NICS – the National Instant Criminal Background Check System:

Keep Reading…

Social Security Issues Final Rules Removing Beneficiaries’ Gun Rights

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Saturday, December 24, 2016:  

Thank God for Mental Illness

The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced on December 19 that it had “finalized” its rules regarding who will have their names added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This was after the proposed rules published in April received more than 90,000 responses, mostly negative, from the public. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposed the proposed rules for numerous reasons and urged its members to protest them.

The new rules now allow the SSA to

Keep Reading…

Civilization’s Thin Veneer

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, December 14, 2016:  

The dictionary defines civilization as “an ideal state of human culture characterized by a complete absence of barbarism and non-rational behavior.” Rich Galen thinks a better definition is living in a “constant state of positive assumptions.”

Many of those assumptions are coming into question, with many more already proven to be false. One of them is that pension plans are safe, that promises made will be kept, and that the assumptions underlying those plans regarding rates of return on invested assets are reasonable and that they virtually guarantee predictable results.

Those positive assumptions vanished last summer in Athens when

Keep Reading…

Boomers Are Retiring, Draining Pension Plans

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, December 12, 2016:

Roosevelt Signs The : President Roosevelt sign...

President Roosevelt signs Social Security Act, at approximately 3:30 pm EST on 14 August 1935.

In a moment of surprising candor, Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former advisor to the Federal Reserve, said in a Real Vision TV interview on Saturday that “the Baby Boomers are no longer an actuarial theory. They’re a reality. The checks [from their retirement plans] are being written.”

For years commentators have repeatedly asserted that “when” the Baby Boomers (that generation born between 1946 and 1964) start to retire, they will start using up funds set aside in pension plans, putting those plans into crisis. According to Booth, that day has arrived.

She pointed to the crisis in Dallas that threatens to put the city into bankruptcy, and the report from Calpers (the California Public Employees Retirement System),

Keep Reading…

There is No “Permanent” Fix for Social Security

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, December 12, 2016: 

Social Security Poster: old man

Social Security Poster:

There’s no doubt that Texas Representative Sam Johnson means well. He and his constituents are concerned about their financial futures and about the viability of Social Security as an important part of those futures. So on Thursday he offered his plan “to permanently save Social Security.” He calls it the “Social Security Reform Act.”

The plan doesn’t deserve a close look.

Keep Reading…

Texas Congressman Proposes “Permanent” Fix for Social Security

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Saturday, December 10, 2016:  

Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee, presented his plan, the “Social Security Reform Act,” on Thursday, which he called “a plan to permanently save Social Security.”

His proposal involves the same solutions often proposed by others trying to keep Social Security from going broke: cutting benefits, raising the retirement age, adding “means” testing, and cutting or eliminating altogether the COLA — Cost of Living Adjustment.

According to Michael Linden, an associate director at the liberal Center for American Progress, the cuts to benefits would be severe — between 11 percent and 35 percent — and they would include those already receiving Social Security benefits. Social Security actuaries who analyzed Johnson’s plan (at his request) came up with different numbers: Cuts would range from 17 percent to 43 percent but over a longer time period and with the same conclusion: everyone in Social Security (with the exception of the lowest-income participants) would take a hit under Johnson’s plan.

Nowhere in Johnson’s plan is any mention of privatizing the program, which is surprising, as it was a topic of discussion during the Republican presidential debates. Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, and Ted Cruz all expressed their support for privatizing Social Security as the best way to solve its myriad problems.

Here are some of those problems:

Keep Reading…

The Tax Foundation’s Big Surprise: Trump’s Tax Plan is Better Than Hillary’s!

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, October 21, 2016:  

English: The standard Laffer Curve

The standard Laffer Curve

The Tax Foundation, founded nearly 80 years ago, considers itself non-partisan, guided by what it calls “the principles of sound tax policy, simplicity, transparency, neutrality, stability, no retroactivity, broad [tax] bases and low [tax] rates.” It has steadfastly opposed tax increases of any kind: income, corporate, or excise. Especially annoying are tax “preferences” (i.e., subsidies) for the housing industry and tax credits for certain constituencies (which the Foundation calls “picking winners and losers”).

So it’s no surprise that in its study of Trump’s and Clinton’s so-called “tax plans” the Foundation concluded that Trump’s was vastly superior to Hillary’s:

Keep Reading…

Tax Foundation Rates Tax Plans of Trump and Clinton: Trump’s Plan Wins

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, October 20, 2016:

Tax Foundation

Tax Foundation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Analysis by the Tax Foundation of all that is currently known about the tax plans proposed by presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton concludes that, if enacted, Clinton’s plan would expand government at the expense of a shrinking economy. On the other hand, Trump’s plan would grow the economy, shrink government’s revenues, raise wages, and expand employment.

But it’s not tax “reform,” claims the study’s author, Kyle Pomerleau,

Keep Reading…

Candidates Silent as Government Spending Jumps, Deficit Increases

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, October 17, 2016:  

On Friday, the Treasury Department published the final revenue and spending numbers for the federal government for Fiscal Year 2016, which ended on September 30. According to Treasury’s report, spending increased significantly (by nearly five percent) over the previous year, to more than $3.8 trillion, while revenues remained essentially flat from the year before, at $3.25 trillion. That left a shortfall of approximately $600 billion, forcing the government to borrow 15 cents of every dollar it spent last year. And the two presidential candidates have remained disturbingly silent about the issue.

Said Robert Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan group that favors reducing the deficit,

Keep Reading…

Frederic Bastiat Wouldn’t Approve of Social Security

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, October 12, 2016:  

Frédéric Bastiat

Frédéric Bastiat

Frederic Bastiat was a “classical liberal” who lived briefly in the first half of the 19th century in France. But his legacy, including his development of the fallacy of the broken window through his Parable of the Broken Window continues to resonate today. He is perhaps best known for his definition of “legal plunder”:

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

When it was enforced at the point of a pistol by a government bureaucrat, Bastiat opposed it:

I do not dispute [politicians’] right to invent social combinations, to advertise them, to advocate them, and to try them upon themselves, at their own expense and risk. But I do dispute their right to impose these plans upon us by law – by force – and to compel us to pay for them with our taxes.

There’s little doubt, then, that Bastiat would support the philosophy of The Bastiat Society, founded a dozen years ago:

Capitalism is the only economic system to produce widespread peace and prosperity. But if those in the private sector do not understand the intellectual and cultural institutions that make entrepreneurship and peaceful trade possible, what chance do they have to withstand a steady series of attacks from those who desire to bring capitalism and personal freedom to an end?

One of the battles that freedom lost was Social Security. Enacted as part of FDR’s Great Society, it remains a fixture that appears to be immovable. Today the only conversation heard is how to keep it from going bankrupt.

All manner of “fixes” are proposed. Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform came up with ten fixes while The Motley Fool proposed 15:

  1. Cut benefits across the board right now;
  2. Change the COLA;
  3. Raise the earnings cap;
  4. Allow beneficiaries to invest in the stock market;
  5. Do nothing and cut benefits when the [trust fund] is depleted;
  6. Do nothing and enact payroll tax hikes when the [trust fund] is depleted;
  7. Offer a buyout [to the wealthy, removing them from the program];
  8. Link life expectancies to benefit levels;
  9. Means-test [to qualify] for benefits;
  10. Raise the full retirement age;
  11. Use the Estate Tax to cover Social Security [shortfalls];
  12. Freeze the purchasing power of benefits [i.e., eliminate COLA altogether];
  13. Freeze the … benefits on a sliding scale;
  14. Transfer [some] costs to [the] government [now]; and/or
  15. Increase the payroll tax on everyone right now.

Social Security has the peculiar characteristics similar to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme: eventually it is exposed and it ends in bankruptcy. The difference is that Social Security is enforced by people with guns and badges: everyone must be covered and forced to support everyone else, or else.

No one questions the math: the program’s “trust fund” is slowly being liquidated to cover the annual shortfalls between revenues and benefits. Thanks to the Baby Boomers, the liquidation is increasing more rapidly: those Boomers have developed the nasty habit of living longer, far beyond the original mortality tables predicted back in the mid-1930s. There’s also the declining birth rate, which is reducing the number of new entrants into the system whose taxes are needed to support it.

It’s the ideology: freedom versus force. So-called conservatives want to fix it, as do liberals. Conservatives, when pressed, question the intergenerational conflict that requires young people to contribute to a plan paying benefits to seniors. They question the use of resources: tax and spend now, or save and invest for later. Conservatives even argue over who should control the money. They never question its morality.

Liberals think it’s a proper function of government, going along with the Supreme Court’s decision in Helvering v. Davis that the program is constitutional, the Tenth Amendment notwithstanding.

As economist Herb Stein noted: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” With Social Security it will continue as long as it can be patched up with temporary fixes. Eventually the mathematics and the bond market will end it.

Social Security to Announce Tiny Increase in Benefits for Next Year

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, October 11, 2016:  

Seal of the United States Social Security Admi...

Next Tuesday the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will announce Social Security’s COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) for 2017. It is widely anticipated to be between nothing and $3 a month for the average beneficiary.

But Medicare premiums (retirees are often expected to pay a monthly fee for coverage) for seniors receiving Social Security retirement benefits are expected to jump nearly $30 a month. That premium increase would reduce the average retirement benefit by about $25 a month, except that Congress had inserted a “hold harmless” provision into Medicare law. Instead, the premium increase will be funded by Medicare, thereby hastening the day when that part of Social Security runs out of money.

The statistics reflective of the current gradual liquidation of Social Security’s so-called Trust Fund are familiar to most recipients:

Keep Reading…

Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.