Thursday, January 2, 2014

Last Call For Rand Paul Meets Annie Hall

Remember this classic scene from Woody Allen's Annie Hall?

As Steve Benen points out, Rand Paul got the Marshall McLuhan treatment on his idiotic insistence that cutting federal unemployment benefits is a good idea.

This week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had a McLuhan Moment of his own. The Republican senator continues to argue that extending federal unemployment benefits to jobless Americans would be bad for those already struggling, and cited economist Rand Ghayad to bolster his claim. 
Ghayad didn’t literally say, “You know nothing of my work,” but he came awfully close.

Oh it gets worse.  Ghayad's response in part:

So why does [the senator] want to end unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work for 6 months or longer? Well, Paul cites my work on long-term unemployment as a justification – which surprised me, because it implies **the opposite** of what he says it does
Now, we clearly have a long-term unemployment problem. The question is why. Paul says it’s all about incentives. He thinks extending unemployment benefits does a “disservice” to the unemployed by encouraging them to stay unemployed for too long. And as a “big-hearted” member of a party that cares about the jobless, he wants to protect them from making such mistakes – by cutting their benefits, of course. 
But Paul misreads my work to try to back up his argument.


"You know nothing of my work," indeed.

PS, here in Kentucky the unemployment rate is 8.2% for November 2013, significantly higher than the national average.  Perhaps Rand Paul might want to take his constituents into account and do his job rather than trying to lie his way into being a presidential "contender" in 2016 at our expense.

Rick Scott Fails The Test

Sorry Governon Batboy, you lose big time.

A federal judge in Orlando, Florida ruled Tuesday that the state’s law requiring drug tests from all applicants for public assistance is unconstitutional. According to the New York Times, Judge Mary S. Scriven found that the law — Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott (R)’s signature piece of legislation — violates the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. 
The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” Scriven wrote. 

Note the key word there: "suspicionless".  Subjecting people to drug testing just because they are poor enough to need government help is criminalizing being poor.  Requiring a drug-free workplace is one thing, but requiring a drug free private home is unconstitutional, period.

The decision made permanent an earlier temporary hold she placed on the law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Scott in 2011. Scott is refusing to back down, saying in a statement on Tuesday that the law was designed to ensure that children aren’t being raised in homes headed by drug users. 
“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child,” read the statement. “We should have a zero tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families — especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children. We will continue to fight for Florida children who deserve to live in drug-free homes by appealing this judge’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.”

Only one problem with that:  the rate of drug use is higher among people who aren't on assistance.

Reuters reported in 2011 that — during the short time it was allowed to proceed before courts put a stop to it — the testing found a much lower rate of drug use among applicants for public assistance than in the population at large. Less than two percent of applicants tested positive for drugs. 
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that around eight percent of the general population ages 12 and older report using illicit drugs. The high cost of testing applicants and low rate of denial of benefits ultimately meant that Scott’s plan cost the state more to implement than it saved.

Less than two percent.  Gosh, it's almost like people on public assistance are too poor to afford illegal drugs or something, and are just working class people trying to survive, and not all junkie criminals or something, but actual human beings.

Not to Rick Scott and Floridia Republicans they aren't.  To him, they're potential customers to the chain of medical test providers he used to own and divested to his wife when he became Governor.

Funny how THAT works, huh.

Retire Your Way Of Thinking

The Associated Press takes a look at retirement for those of us not in the top 1%.

Many boomers expect to work the rest of their lives because they have little cash put away for their old age and they worry Social Security won't cover their bills. Some hope to move to jobs that are less physically demanding. 
The share of U.S. workers who are 55 and older is expected to continue growing, according to the "The Oxford Handbook of Retirement 2013." The group comprised 12.4 percent of the workforce in 1998. The share jumped to 18.1 percent in 2008 and is expected to be almost 25 percent by 2018
The book is edited by Mo Wang, co-director of the Human Resource Research Center at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business Administration. In an interview, Wang said it's a misconception that lower-wage workers are slackers in preparing for retirement.
"People don't have adequate earnings," Wang told The Associated Press. "It's not because they don't want to save. It's because they just can't.
Many people don't save enough for their own retirement because they lack financial literacy skills, Wang said. Also, he said it can be incorrect to assume that people with lower incomes have more financial concerns than people with higher incomes. Psychologically, the important thing is the ratio of life earnings to wealth - how much money a person earns in a life span, compared to how much of it she gets to keep. 
"Whether they have the 401(k) is not the decisive factor in influencing how well they live," Wang said. "Whether they have their own house is a big factor."

The reality of most Boomers working until they die is here, now.  For my generation it'll be far worse.  Nobody my age, in their thirties or younger, believes we will ever see a dime of Social Security or Medicare, only that we'll be paying in payroll taxes on what we earn for 50+ years and get nothing in return. These are not "entitlements".  These are programs we will pay into all our adult lives that are being plundered by the wealthy.

The biggest single change we must make is to eliminate the cap on earnings taxed for Social Security.  If you earn more than $117,000 in 2014, you don't pay any Social Security taxes on income above that.  Not a single dime.

It's the definition of a regressive tax.  Our system would remain solvent for decades with this change.  But it won't happen for the same reason Social Security is a mess now:  Boomers vote, the rest of us don't give a damn.

That will only become more true as the years progress.


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