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December 21, 2011

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Why is extending it (the break) better than not? Or do you mean merely for the Prez and D's politically as opposed to for SS, which you correctly state can't be helped by underfunding it?

I'm probably most guilty of writing while not caring deeply enough to do so seriously, on this one. I think the initial decision to do a payroll tax break was dumb, but I tend to agree that now is probably not a great time to let it expire (and I tend to mean that personally; the extra cushion hasn't hurt), which isn't politics per se, but mostly self interest. I reiterate, though, that Social Security is not being underfunded - the rest of the government's spending is being underfunded to keep Social Security fully paid. So I guess my point is, I might oppose continuing the payroll tax break... but not for the reason you describe, but mostly because it's a dumb idea that simply adds to the debt and deficit problems we already have. And I might support the tax break... but not for the reason you describe, but mostly because it makes it easier to buy lunch each week. It's not as if the payroll tax break being ended amounts to a serious attempt to clean up our debt and deficit issues, and as political gamesmanship, it seems mostly very silly and probably means little come election time. So I come back to wondering why its worth getting especially excited about this as an issue, either way.

I understand the personal need for the extra cash now, but think we're not just robbing Peter to pay Paul; we're killing Peter to pay Paul.

The other important point you make is around the "funding mechanism" of the payroll break in which "general funds" replace those lost to the break. This deprives SS of its independence, intermingles it w/other programs and will thus make it more readily susceptible to "entitlement" cuts down the road in order to bring down "the debt."

i.e. The world in which we lived in until the payroll deduction holiday, one where SS lived apart from all other budget lined items, must be destroyed before "we can't afford it anymore," can be the "serious" phraseology used when discussing dismantling this once great component of the social safety net.

The other important point you make is around the "funding mechanism" of the payroll break in which "general funds" replace those lost to the break. This deprives SS of its independence, intermingles it w/other programs and will thus make it more readily susceptible to "entitlement" cuts down the road in order to bring down "the debt."

This strikes me as backwards: the problem I see is really the reverse: we're taking funds needed for other programs and sending them to Social Security, which simply means harder choices down the road when we will, inevitably, have to cut government spending. No one, Democrat or Republican will succeed in selling the public on gutting Social Security, even if some modest adjustments (like the retirement age, or raising payroll taxes, or possibly some form of means testing) might make some limited sense. It's much more likely that people will agree to gut Welfare payments, food stamps, unemployment compensation and Medicaid, all programs which are being funded by more debt because "general funds" are being paid into Social Security. And again, we don't, on a fundamental level disagree: the Payroll Tax Cut is a dumb idea. And I'm fine with ending it. I'm just not quite as upset about the idea that extending it another year would be such a disaster.

I disagree, as I have generally, with your doom and gloom notions that the end of Social Security is Nigh. I think there's a lot of other, more likely scenarios where government spending that actually helps people will be deeply cut. And more pointedly, a lot less enthusiasm for reforms and spending cuts that actually need to happen for government to get back to a more reasonable level of budgeting. Remember, one of the even bigger, looming disasters, should Congress fail to cut a deal is that there will be no "doc fix" of Medicare reimbursement cuts, automatic cuts that would probably cause severe problems within Medicare providers. That's a much more immediate disaster than some theoretical sense that SS is more beholden to general funding. But that issue - and the much larger issue of costs associated with health care - is just one example of what we're not discussing while Congress dithers with the Payroll Tax Cut. And I think, in some ways, you're becoming that kind of single issue liberal whose losing sight of a lot of other issues on the altar of Social Security. The liberal platform, never mind the idea of a social safety net... has to be about more than Social Security. Or we might as well just give up now.

Not really that fixated with SS as such...more with the rise of the current oligarchy, in general.

Your post seemed to be about SS though, and I was responding to the contradiction inherent within it, that you might attribute to "writing while not caring enough."

The tomfoolery with the payroll deduction holiday is merely one branch of the mess we are in...agreed.

The liberal platform, never mind the idea of a social safety net... has to be about more than Social Security. Or we might as well just give up now.

I've asked this before...but you've not really responded:
what is the liberal platform?

I'm not being snarky here; I used to believe there was such a thing as a liberal platform. Can you point to where it is currently in evidence, on display, manifested, etc?

I've asked this before...but you've not really responded: what is the liberal platform?

That, my friend, is because I take your question seriously, and though it may not seem apparent, I'm spending a great deal of time mulling over what i think and how to respond, probably in a post (this is where life, and those nearly 40 hour work weeks in coffee land don't always help).

So let me start here, and think out loud for a minute: my sense of what it is to be a liberal comes from what I was taught as a kid, what I've read since, and what I've learned. In some ways, it's the things that I think of as common sense.... only to be reminded, regularly, that it's less common than I think, and lots of people lack sense. :) I prefer "liberal" to "progressive" because I think they are somewhat different, and my views aren't necessarily as progressive as others. And I think "liberal" is less rigid or doctrinaire than, say, being socialist, Marxist or Communist. So expecting a lot of hard "rules" is, in itself, somewhat antithetical to liberalism.

Where you and I probably agree is that I think liberal and "Democrat" are not synonymous, especially not now; and like you, I think there's a terrible political mess because liberalism, as defined, is just too vague right now, and too at odds with big party, "legacy" politics. But that said, I look at being a Democrat as still the vehicle for expressing liberal views, setting liberal policies, and seeing policy move into action. I think it's a constant challenge for liberals to agree to work for change, knowing that we might not get everything we want (or what we think everyone needs), and to do it within existing political and social structures. I do believe in protest, and challenging authority and the status quo... but as I've said about Occupy, I want social protest that is action and goal oriented. And, those goals, for me, are liberal ones.

That's just off the top of my head, kind of start to the (very broad) (and fair) question you ask, and I know you want "specifics" and I'm still mulling that part over. My question to you, as always, is that I get the disaffection... but you tend not to offer much in the way of an alternative. If not liberal/Democrats,,, then what else do we have? I'm also not angry or confrontational; I'm genuinely mystified about what other options are realistic or attainable.

Regarding your last paragraph about what is realistic or attainable, I think this is where we separate.

I understand that voting for third party candidates with platforms more in keeping with my goals will not result in their elections or my goals being achieved. However, my former strategy, to vote the democratic party line, has proven ineffective in trying to engender the positive changes I'd like to see as well.

Therefore, having reached the conclusion that neither path is going to lead to "victory" in my lifetime, I suppose I choose to vote 3rd party or at least outside the two-party system in the hope that alternatives might grow and eventually yield more sway after I'm gone.

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