Fix Social Security Without Cutting Benefits

“GOP Hopes to Pivot to Tax Breaks for the Rich” in the Dispatches section of your 9/15/17 issue reports a GOP resolution in the House of Representatives to fast-track Social Security reform (i.e., cuts in benefits) if Social Security’s trust fund does not meet a 75-year actuarial balance. This seems to be a repetition of an idea applied so destructively to the Postal Service’s retirement plan.

There is no need to cut benefits. The public should understand there is an alternative that would adequately fund Social Security and might even allow for needed increases in retirement benefits.

Social Security is financed by a gross income tax currently imposed on the first $127,200 of an individual’s “earned income,” so it weighs most heavily on lower income brackets. This gross income tax is separate from and in addition to the federal personal income tax on a person’s “net income.” In other words, those with up to $127,200 of earned income are exposed to double taxation of the same income stream — once for Social Security and again for personal income tax.

If the double taxation of the same income stream were fairly reconciled, a refundable tax credit would be allowed on a person’s federal personal income tax return for all Social Security taxes actually paid by that individual in a given tax year. If only a 50% credit were allowed, the Social Security tax could be increased from the present 6.2% to, say, 8% (without increasing the employer’s matching contribution). The net effect of the refundable credit would actually reduce to 4% the Social Security gross income tax burden on an individual’s earned income. In other words, funding would go up  while an individual’s Social Security tax burden would decrease below the present level.

Of course, the foregoing idea transfers part of the financial burden of the double taxation of the same income stream to the revenue derived from the federal personal income tax. But that is fair and reasonable because of the double taxation of lower income tax brackets and because federal personal income tax revenues are currently at a relatively low level of national income. 

James Van Vliet, Sycamore, Ill.

Termination of Trust

Eight hundred thousand Americans trusted our government when they registered to become “legal” under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. They believed that by following the rules, this country, into which they arrived as children and for all intents and purposes is their home country, would accept them as legal immigrants.

Now, Trump has terminated the DACA program and threatens to begin deportations within six months. The “Dreamers” who trusted are now vulnerable and at risk. All their personal information is in government files, available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) whenever it decides to come after these people, who are our people — our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends, employees and service providers.

This threat and fear extracts a cost, both on Dreamers and on all of us who believe that this injustice does not and should not represent who we are as Americans. Moreover, it destroys the possibility of success for any future government program that asks people to trust a commitment. No longer can anyone trust our government to do what it promises; anything can change whenever a self-serving, deceptive huckster or ideologue rises to power.

Bruce Joffe, Piedmont, Calif.

Charlottesville Marks Rise of Fourth Reich

The takeaway from Charlottesville: Donald Trump can wear his heart on his sleeve. Two out of three Republicans don’t object to its swastika holster.

This is the Fourth Reich and there’s no turning back. The unshakeable two-thirds support for Trump means the party is irretrievably fascist. These are sufficient numbers to leverage into perpetual victory with Republican advantages in propaganda, gerrymandering and voter suppression, and the Electoral College thumb is on the scale.

If the Democratic Party disbanded, our numbers could bring the Republicans back to hailing distance of center. This is a serious suggestion. Status quo doesn’t really need two parties anyway. It might calm the Alt Right were voices within the party to mention the status quo is plenty racist and authoritarian already.

Post-Charlottesville, Trump and the Deep State understand each other. The generals and bureaucrats can run the show, but Trump isn’t going anywhere and demands triumphs. The best thing they can do for each other is initiate a war with a Russian client state.

Trump has announced escalation in Afghanistan with specific deployments kept secret. Likely we are mobilizing to invade Iran. This is the “splendid little war” neo-cons have been peddling since the ’90s (fatally bogged down in partisan wrangling until now), a war of steady progress across rugged terrain to a decisive climax. Decision is what our military so desperately needs. Our recent track record is unbroken stalemate and quagmire. Putin, meanwhile, wants to field-test cyber weapons. In defeat his Persian proxies will send the Pentagon clear notice our forces are too cyber-dependent to take on Russia or China (or North Korea) in a war of consequence.

The final message of Charlottesville: The street brawling indicates another generation ripe for one of our pointless wars of imperial aggression. It’s time, is all. We can never get off this treadmill, nor get past our history of slavery and genocide. The root cause of all strife in a land blessed with abundance, enlightened foundation, and mostly wise leaders, is our fetishizing of order, i.e. hierarchy. And the explanation for that is this country’s actual Original Sin, the unholy marriage of democracy with capitalism.

M. Warner, Minneapolis, Minn.

Nazis in Virginia Should Wake Us Up

I think this Nazi event in Virginia was really about Trump testing the waters to see how fast he could go to destroy freedom in America. Everything he has done, from okaying physical attacks upon journalists to his ban on Muslims and beyond, has really been done to test the waters to see what he could get away with. Now he wants to know how fast he could move to destroy freedom in America altogether.

Where were the FBI and the Department of Justice? All hate groups are kept a careful eye on by the FBI. Or at least they were before Trump took power. Every time one makes a telephone call, that call is electronically checked for certain key words that might have the FBI wanting to know more about that conversation. If one bank robber called his partner in crime to slip up the money, how long do you think it would take for an arrest based on that telephone call?

Here you have thousands of people, using modern means of communication, and the FBI was caught off guard and unprepared? Well, I am not buying it. The Nazi event went the way it did because that’s the way Trump wanted it.

When David Duke tells us in so many words that he and Trump are on the same team, believe him. Duke’s job was to test the waters to see how far and how fast to move to destroy America, so Adolf Hitler could still win World War II from the grave. That’s the key behind everything Trump has done so far and wants to do in the future. We really need to see this Nazi event as a wake up call, and do it fast, before it’s too late.

David Raisman, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Nashville Evangelical Hypocrisy

The Preamble to the Evangelical’s “Nashville Statement” [denouncing same-sex marriage] says it all: nn“Know that the LORD himself is God; it is he who has made us and we are his.” Psalms 100:3

And how did the gays get here — were they made by some other god? If God made gays also, then they are his — just like the rest of us.

And the New Testament — God’s word — says don’t judge others:

“Then let us no more pass judgment on one another [and this includes gays], but rather decide never to put a stumbling block in the way of a brother.” Romans 14:13

The Christian Right has a nasty habit of dipping into the Old Testament to find an excuse to hate “others,” a powerful emotion that makes their followers feel “better” than someone else. This is not Christ’s teaching. True Christians should demand the so-called Christian Right, the Evangelicals, stop calling themselves Christian.

Lee Knohl, Evanston Ill.

Trump: ‘Talking is Not the Answer’

Donald Trump has declared that “Talking is not the answer,” in response to North Korea. Donald Trump, of course, has several options for himself, but the Friends ‘ dictum, “War Is Not The Answer,” has been a by-word for  American peace and justice groups for decades.

Much has been discussed about the Kim Jung Un response to the intended US war exercises off the North Korean coast, but we do not have a clear concept of what comprises those exercises which so alarm that small country. Donald Trump needs to provide a full public accounting of all military materiel planned for them — all  ships and destroyers, planes, tanks, missiles, including nuclear-bearing or nuclear-capable delivery missiles. His report should include their numbers, and, where permissible, describe the tests.

This matter has global ramifications.  We have a right to know.

Jean G. Braun, Cleveland, Ohio

Robots Don’t Buy Goods

Re: “Amazon Buys Out Whole Foods Market,” by Jim Hightower [8/1/17 TPP]. Here’s a riddle for our age: nnIf all the stuff Americans use is made by computers and robots, then delivered to the stores by driverless computerized trucks, and the stores where all that stuff is sold is checked out by computers — all of this rather than the people who used to work making stuff so they could buy stuff that other people made — who will now buy all the stuff that only robots and computers make?

The answer, of course, is: Nobody — because nobody can find work making stuff to buy stuff.

David Quintero, Monrovia, Calif.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2017


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