Jeb Bush: Next President Should Privatize Social Security

(New content has been added to “Presidential”  page under “2016 ELECTIONS”.)

International Business Times
By Ginger Gibson
6/16/15

WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush thinks the next president will need to privatize Social Security, he said at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday — acknowledging that his brother attempted to do so and failed. It’s a position sure to be attacked by both Republicans and Democrats.

Bush has previously said he would support raising the retirement age to get Social Security benefits, a common position among Republicans. And he backed a partial privatization that House Republicans have proposed that would allow people to choose private accounts.

The future of Social Security has become one of the most hotly contested issues in national politics, and both parties have accused the other of threatening its survival. Republicans argue that Democrats’ refusal to change the program will lead to its bankruptcy. Democrats say privatization would kill the program and leave elderly Americans at the mercy of the stock market. Plus, any discussion of changing the system often creates fear in older Americans beyond or nearing the age of retirement, who also tend to vote in the greatest numbers.

Republicans have split on the answer to fix the program, which could begin to pay out more than it takes in as more baby boomers retire and younger generations aren’t able to pay enough into the system to keep it going. Understanding the fear privatization proposals create, some Republicans have argued that the retirement age should be increased or means-testing established instead. Many Democrats advocate raising the ceiling for the tax that funds it.

Speaking in Derry, New Hampshire, Tuesday, Bush acknowledged that when his brother President George W. Bush attempted to privatize Social Security in 2005, he met great bipartisan resistance.

“My brother tried, got totally wiped out,” Bush said. “Republicans and Democrats wanted nothing to do with it. The next president is going to have to try again.”

Bush also said Social Security shouldn’t be called an “entitlement.” “I’ve learned that in town hall meetings,” he said, according to a video released by the pro-Democratic group American Bridge. “It’s a supplemental retirement system that’s not actuarially sound, how about that. Medicaid and Medicare are entitlements, and they are growing at a far faster rate than anything else in government.”

Medicare expected to pay for end-of-life talks

The provision recalls the “death panels” discussion during the initial battles over Obamcare (sic).

Politico.com
By Joanne Kenen
7/6/15

Advocates for better end-of-life care expect Medicare to soon announce that it will start paying physicians for having advanced-care planning conversations with patients — reviving the widely misunderstood provision that gave rise to “death panel” fears and nearly sank the Affordable Care Act.

The new policy could be part of an annual Medicare physician payment rule, which could be released any day. Advocates say they expect it to be included, but they note that it’s no sure thing and that they’ve been disappointed before.

Such a policy shift would come six years after former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s wild charges of “death panels” triggered near-hysteria that bureaucrats might begin to withhold medical care from older Americans. Polls showed that the charges stuck, and the ongoing uproar in the summer of 2009 almost derailed Obamacare. The same fears have shadowed the law ever since.

It’s not clear whether a decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to pay Medicare physicians for those difficult and time-consuming discussions with patients and families would spark another round of recriminations.

With an aging population and growing public awareness that high-tech interventions are often futile at the end of life, doctors have encouraged private insurers to cover advanced-care conversations. Some state Medicaid programs already do so.

Many states have passed laws making it easier to document end-of-life care goals in medical records, and in Congress, bipartisan bills in both the House and the Senate have called for physician reimbursement for such conversations. No bills have made it to floor votes, however.

The Obama administration tried to implement a similar policy in 2010 — after it was dropped from the ACA — but eventually reversed course in response to continued political outcry.

Advanced-care planning doesn’t mean shunning aggressive care or specifying a “do not resuscitate” order. People can also state in their care directives that they want “everything done.”

Last year, the American Medical Association developed billing codes for these consultations to nudge CMS toward reimbursement.

How Much Americans Really Pay in Taxes

How Much Americans Really Pay in Taxes
It’s more – and less – than you think

Bloomberg.com
By Ben Steverman

4/10/15

Some $1.4 trillion in individual income taxes are due to the IRS on April 15. But for many Americans, that’s only the half of it. A new report from the U.S. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation shows that looking only at income taxes misses most of what we pay to the federal government each year. 

The average American pays an income tax rate of 10.1 percent, the Joint Committee shows, although that varies quite a bit depending on income: 

Ten percent seems low, doesn’t it? The official income tax rates start at 10 percent and go all the way to 39.6 percent. The Joint Committee is also accounting for lots of income that never gets taxed, such as Medicare and Social Security benefits, employer-paid insurance, and the employer portion of payroll taxes. Also, taxpayers pay the highest rates, above 28 percent, only on earned income above $200,000 or so. The IRS takes far less from the first $200,000 earned, especially after deductions, and from investment income. Finally, as the chart shows, many poor Americans pay zero taxes and even get money back: About 32 million people benefit from that Earned Income Tax Credit. 

Just looking at income taxes can be misleading, however. All salaried workers also pay a 7.65 percent payroll tax to cover Social Security and Medicare, and higher earners owe another Medicare tax. Their employers also must pay the same amount in payroll taxes for each worker. The government collected $1 trillion from payroll taxes last year:

Wealthy Americans end up paying taxes at a lower rate than poor and middle-class Americans, because the government collects Social Security tax only on annual wages up to $118,500. 

On top of individual income and payroll taxes, the federal government collects $93.4 billion in excise taxes on such things as fuel, cigarettes, alcohol, and plane tickets. The feds take 7.5 percent of every airline fare, plus $4, for example; the gas tax is currently 18.4¢ per gallon.

Add up all the categories of taxes paid by individuals—income, payroll, and excise—and this is what each income group will end up paying this year, the Joint Committee estimates: 

The tax burden rises progressively with income, with the wealthiest paying a third of their income to the federal government. One exception to the tax rate’s steady rise through the income brackets: Americans who earn less than $10,000 per year, who don’t get enough from their earned income tax credits at tax time to make up for the payroll and excise taxes they pay all year. 

Downsizing the Federal Government

Cato Institute
Cato.org

The federal government is running huge budget deficits, spending too much, and heading toward a financial crisis. Without a change of direction in Washington, average working families will be faced with large tax increases and a lower standard of living.

This website is designed to help policymakers and the public understand where federal spending goes and how to reform each government department. It describes the failings of agencies and identifies specific programs to cut. And it discusses the systematic reasons why government programs are often obsolete, mismanaged, or otherwise dysfunctional…
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House and Senate Budgets “…envision a significant campaign to cut spending, with much of the savings coming from Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and welfare…”

REPUBLICANS PUSH CONSERVATIVE BUDGETS IN BOTH HOUSES

Associated Press
By David Espo and Andrew Taylor
3/18/15

WASHINGTON (AP) — Making good on last fall’s campaign commitments, Republicans advanced conservative budgets in both houses of Congress on Wednesday, setting up a veto struggle over the fate of the health care law and promising a whopping $5 trillion in spending cuts to erase deficits by the end of the coming decade…

…Both budgets envision a significant campaign to cut spending, with much of the savings coming from Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and welfare…
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The federal debt debate: Boomers vs. millennials

Welcome to the generational wars of the budget debate coming this month in Congress.

Politico.com
By David Rogers
3/11/15

Economist Laurence Kotlikoff told the Senate Budget Committee last month that the U.S. government is flat broke. The very next night, he was on “PBS NewsHour” teaching upper-income professional couples how to claim tens of thousands in extra spousal benefits from a Social Security system he had just said was worse off than Detroit.

Trying to reach out to younger voters, Republicans are hitting hard on the theme that the federal debt is an undue burden on the new millennials. But the GOP’s lead witness in this case is also preaching how baby boomers can profit by standing the history of Social Security’s spousal benefit on its head…
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President’s 2016 Budget in Pictures

National Priorities Project
By Jasmine Tucker
2/9/15

President Obama recently released his fiscal year 2016 budget proposal. Budgets are about our nation’s priorities: What are we going to spend money on? How are we going to raise the money we want to spend?

Though the budget ultimately enacted by Congress may look very different from the budget request released by the president, the president’s budget is important. It’s the president’s vision for the country in fiscal year 2016 and beyond, and it reflects input and spending requests from every federal agency.

These pictures tell the story of the priorities found in the president’s budget.


President’s Proposed 2016 Budget: Total Spending

This chart shows how President Obama proposed allocating $4.1 trillion* in total federal spending in fiscal year 2016, an increase of more than 5 percent over the total 2015 spending level. This includes every type of federal spending, from funding for discretionary programs like infrastructure improvements and job training to mandatory spending programs like Social Security and Medicare, as well as interest payments on the federal debt. Social Security and labor, Medicare and health programs, and military spending will make up 76 percent of the total budget, leaving just 24 percent, or $957 billion of the $4.1 trillion total, to spend on all other programs.

* Spending on Government (administration) is less than zero and omitted in the total spending pie chart. Lower than zero spending can occur when segments of government have surpluses from previous years that they return to the federal government.

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Rep. Jackie Walorski was illusive and not forthright

(The two previous articles, “The decline of local news is threatening citizen engagement” and “Pravda on the Plains: Indiana’s New Propaganda Machine” pointed out that elected officials increasingly are wanting to control the message and the way it is transmitted. This is even more true among incumbents. Any candidate for office including incumbents should be willing to commit to periodic town hall meetings with questions from their constituents, not just from reporters. – Russ Phillips)

At the Wabash, IN debate October 21, 2014 between Joe Bock and Rep. Walorski (Indiana 2nd congressional district) the following was asked of both candidates: “In your campaigns both of you have mentioned ‘Social Security’ and ‘Medicare.’ What needs to occur, if anything, regarding these programs for both current and future recipients of these benefits?” Questions had to be submitted in writing in advance. 

Bock was agreeable to responding, however, Walorski was not. As a result, according to the debate rules, the question was not asked since it was required that both give the “okay” for questions from the audience. 

Unfortunately the debate was cut short about 20 minutes from its intended length due to only six audience questions receiving the “okay.” Following the debate both campaigns were asked how many questions were submitted by the audience. Walorski’s did not respond. Bock’s was reluctant to respond because an exact count was not kept although eventually said, “probably 50 or so.” 

Four years ago Walorski supported privatizing Social Security and referred to it, Medicare and Medicaid as going “bankrupt.” During her most recent campaign she commented, “Social Security is a sacred commitment we’ve made to our seniors” and “I’ll oppose any cuts in Social Security or Medicare.” Where does Walorski stand? 

Social Security and Medicare are not only an interest of current recipients but also of all who currently are making contributions from their paychecks. 

– Russ Phillips